Monday, April 5, 2015

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster updates.

**There is no greater loan than a sympathetic ear.**
Frank Tyger

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or larger.

Yesterday, 4/5/15 -

Hawaii - Shaking, no tsunami after largest quake in Kona area for decades. 4.5 magnitude quake struck at 3:24 am Sunday. This is the 23rd earthquake reported offshore of Keahole Point within the last 30 year, and the largest recorded in that immediate area since November 1969. "Generally, the west side of the island is a little less dynamic than the south side. Volcanoes are older and there's less volcanic activity."
Kailua Kona sits on the slopes of Mount Hualalai which hasn't erupted since the 1800's. But the quake was purely tectonic, with no ties to the volcano. "We want to make sure people are aware that this is not a volcanic event. We see these types of quakes off the south flank of Kilauea and they're not directly related to any sort of change in volcanic activity."

Turrialba Volcano spews more ash over Costa Rica's Central Valley in Easter eruption - Update 2:31 p.m., April 5: Police are evacuating tourists in areas surrounding Turrialba Volcano. Police were forced to evacuate a group of tourists that had attempted to approach the volcano to watch the explosion.
Geologists reported another ash eruption from Turrialba Volcano starting at 11:24 a.m. Sunday and lasting for an hour. The eruption is the latest in a string of blasts since October from the active volcano, located 50 kilometers northeast of the capital San José. The column of ash reached 500 meters into the sky over the volcano and rained large quantities of ash onto nearby farms.
As of 1:30 p.m. the volcano was still emitting large quantities of gas and vapor though very little ash. Winds have carried the volcanic dust southwest where it has reached the outskirts of the capital. There are reports of large quantities of ash East of San José in Tres Ríos and San Pedro as well as in the western suburb of Escazú. Equipment also registered a small, three-minute tremor at the time of the eruption.
In March, a similar eruption shut down the Juan Santamaría International Airport stranding thousands of travelers, while eruptions in October and November of last year caused severe damage to the crops and livestock surrounding Turrialba. (video at link)

Siren blasts created great concern in the southern Chilean town of Pucón on the afternoon of Easter Sunday. The residents feared that a second eruption of Mount Villarrica, a large glacier-covered volcano close to the town, would occur at any moment.
The dramatic lava flows and enormous ash clouds from the first eruption on March 3 were fresh in their minds. And other events Sunday morning—noisy explosions, a large new ash- cloud—had put residents on edge. This volcano has erupted a number of times over the centuries, and is well-known as one of the most active volcanoes in Chile. The glaciers that form the ice cap on its summit create significant risks. This ice cap, about 40 square kilometers in area, could release large volumes of water if lava reached it directly, sending large flows of ash, mud and debris rushing down the mountain to nearby agricultural areas and towns.
Two hours after the alarm, the municipality of Pucón issued a statement that “the sirens that were activated in Pucón were only providing a preventive measure, and were not intended to evacuate the town, but only to alert residents, because of the greater activity of the volcano.” The officials went on to say that one national agency has retained its warning level at yellow, and another at orange, as they both have for some days, so that circumstances had not changed in any serious way. The sirens, they said, were simply a reminder to stay alert in case there was a shift in the risk.
The official statement stated that there was little risk of a serious eruption of lava. They offered the comment that the globs of lava that were shooting from the crater were traveling at most 200 meters, a distance which they deemed safe. They based their assessment on recent visual observations of the volcano and on the reports of OVDAS, the Volcanic Observatory of the Southern Andes.
This agency maintains 8 seismographs on the volcano, as well as 4 GPS stations, 2 instruments to measure sulfur dioxide concentrations, 4 webcams, a microphone to record sounds and other instruments to measure surface movements. There was little change in the level of seismic activity, the most important precursor of eruptions, though the volcano was unstable, the situation could change, and scientists were closely tracking the data that came in from their instruments.
These comments might not have provided much assurance to the town officials and residents, who heard the loud booms of explosions and saw the ash clouds. A number of the town’s residents resented what they felt was a false alarm on the part of the official who sounded the alarms from the fire station. They provided ample testimony of their views on the municipality’s Facebook page. Several described how restaurants and supermarkets closed, how the staff at the local prison did not know what to do, and how the parents of children who board in Pucón during the week and return home to outlying villages on weekends were also uncertain whether to send their children back to school.
Several people mentioned the story of the boy who cried wolf (in Chile, this boy is named Pedro). “But your official procedures state that the sirens sound to tell people to EVACUATE, how can we know if it’s a preventive alert or real? Be serious, don’t break your own procedures, with that you only confuse people and alarm them unnecessarily.” “What a way to confuse people! The few tourists who were around rushed from Pucón, and the local people were panic-stricken. HORRIBLE management of the situation.”
Perhaps the two agencies, ONEMI and OVDAS, will follow the suggestion of another resident, to come to an agreement on the level of the alert. It seems more likely that local residents and national agencies alike will continue to scrutinize the multiple and changing signs of the volcano, each forming their own judgment.


* In the Western Pacific -
- Tropical depression Haishen is located approximately 111 nm northwest of Chuuk, Micronesia.

* In the South Indian Ocean -
- Tropical cyclone Twentyone is located approximately 535 nm west of Cocos Island, Australia.

- Tropical cyclone Twentytwo is located approximately 460 nm northeast of Port Louis, Mauritius.
New Method for Forecasting Hurricane Season - A better method for predicting the number of hurricanes in an upcoming season has been developed by a team of University of Arizona atmospheric scientists. The new model improves the accuracy of seasonal hurricane forecasts for the North Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico by 23 percent.
Hurricanes are storms with maximum wind speeds in excess of 73 mph and are among the most damaging natural disasters in the U.S. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30. The UA model can provide its forecast by the start of hurricane season, which allows people to prepare better for the upcoming season. "Tens of millions of people are threatened by Atlantic hurricanes. It affects their properties, it affects their lives."
The team developed the new model by using data from the 1950 to 2013 hurricane seasons. They tested the new model by seeing if it could "hindcast" the number of hurricanes that occurred each season from 1900 to 1949. "It performed really well in the period from 1949 to 1900. That’s the most convincing test of our model."
Other investigators have estimated that damages from U.S. hurricanes from 1970 to 2002 cost $57 billion in 2015 dollars — more than earthquakes and human-caused disasters combined for the time period. Better seasonal predictions can help cities and governments in emergency management planning. Good forecasts of hurricane seasons have been around only since the early 1980s.
The historical average in the 20th century was six hurricanes per year. Until about the late 1990s, the existing models did a good job of predicting how many hurricanes would occur each year. However, in the 21st century the number of hurricanes per season became more variable, with 15 occurring in 2005 but only two in 2013. The other forecasting models relied heavily on the state of the El Niño climate cycle, a three-to- seven-year cycle that affects weather all over the globe.
One of the UA team’s innovations was using the state of a longer-term climate cycle called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation to judge how much influence El Niño has in a particular year. The AMO affects ocean temperatures, cycling from colder to warmer and back over a time scale of approximately 40-70 years. The AMO was in a warm phase from the late 1920s to the early 1960s and started cycling back toward warm in the late 1990s. Warmer sea surface temperatures generally generate more hurricanes.
They suggested also including the force of the wind on the ocean — an innovation that, to the best of the team’s knowledge, no other statistical model used. Strong winds reduce sea surface temperatures because they mix the ocean layers, thereby bringing cooler, deeper water to the surface.
The model developed does a better job of forecasting the Atlantic hurricane season by incorporating the force of the wind on the ocean and the sea surface temperature over the Atlantic. The model includes the effect of El Niño only for years when the AMO is in the cool phase. Compared with the other models, the UA model de-emphasized the role of El Niño when the AMO is in the warm phase, as it has been for the past 15 years.
Next the team plans to examine the forecasting models for the eastern Pacific hurricanes — the ones that hit Baja California and the western coast of Mexico and Central America.


Midweek Severe Weather Outbreak to Strike Central US - The worst severe weather outbreak so far this year will threaten lives and property across the Central U.S. Wednesday through Thursday. A "potentially volatile" event is shaping up for the middle of this week. Lives and property will be threatened as this outbreak will yield destructive tornadoes and numerous thunderstorms with damaging winds, large hail, blinding downpours and frequent lightning.
Latest indications point toward the worst of the outbreak targeting parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, eastern Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and southern Iowa. This includes Des Moines, Iowa; Springfield, Illinois; Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, Missouri; Topeka and Wichita, Kansas; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; Little Rock and Fayetteville, Arkansas; and Dallas. The potential for the danger to shift northward to Chicago will have to be monitored.
Now is the time for residents and motorists planning to travel in the threat zone to review tornado safety tips and the difference between tornado/severe thunderstorm watches and warnings. Some residents will first have to deal with isolated, yet still potent severe thunderstorms in the days leading up to the outbreak. The danger for such thunderstorms Monday afternoon and evening stretches from south-central Kansas to central Texas.
While any severe thunderstorm later Monday will be very isolated, AccuWeather warned that instability (fuel for violent thunderstorms) will be extreme. "Any thunderstorms that do manage to form Monday will be severe with large hail and isolated tornadoes." A line of violent thunderstorms will follow later Tuesday in the vicinity of central and eastern Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City.
The more widespread severe weather outbreak will then target the Central U.S. Wednesday through Thursday as the storm system set to return welcome rain and mountain snow to California early this week emerges from the Rockies. Some communities could face violent thunderstorms and potential tornadoes both days.
Wednesday's threat zone stretches from Missouri to north-central Texas. "The highest chance for tornadoes that day looks to be from south of Topeka, Kansas, through Wichita, and south to Oklahoma City." How quick the storm from the Rockies tracks across the Plains will determine the precise threat zone for Thursday, but the corridor from Illinois to north- central Texas has been put on alert.
"As of right now, the highest tornado potential on Thursday looks to be across eastern Oklahoma into northern Arkansas, western Missouri and far southern Iowa. This is a very complex and evolving storm system and the forecast will need continuous refinement the closer we get to Wednesday and Thursday."
North of the severe weather outbreak, the storm system will be responsible for unleashing a soaking rain that could present its own issues to residents. "A secondary threat to the severe weather potential at midweek will be heavy rain and perhaps flooding across parts of the northern Plains into the upper Mississippi Valley. This system will be packing plenty of moisture and, with some rivers running high due to snow melt, flash flooding is not out of the question."
Valentine, Nebraska, and Watertown and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, are among the communities at risk for the soaking before the storm tracks eastward and ends the week on a wet note across the East.

Bangladesh - More than hundred villages in Meghalaya's South West Garo Hills district adjoining Bangladesh have been affected by a storm that hit the region last night. Strong winds accompanied by rains bearing hailstorm damaged houses and some crops in at least two villages in the district. As per initial reports, around twenty villages under Betasing block, including New Chondonpara, Chondon Nokat, Godalgre and Arenggre had been fully damaged.
But after actual assessment of the ground situation, altogether 139 villages were only partially damaged and the total number affected households is 247. Most of these households had their rooftops blown away by the strong winds. Meanwhile, Salmanpara, Dinapara, Nachilpara, Banangpara and Chapahati villages were some of the worst affected by the cyclone under Zikzak block. However, the extent of damages and affected villages may increase after detailed survey. The cyclone has also affected households in South Garo Hills and South West Khasi Hills district since last Friday. Assessment of the affected families is on-going.


California - San Luis Obispo County's heat records are falling faster; 38 percent of daily heat records in Paso Robles and 25 percent in San Luis Obispo have been set over the past 15 years. Winters full of record-breaking heat have become a pattern in San Luis Obispo County, a look at recent temperature statistics shows.
Since 2000, Paso Robles has set 45 daily heat records in the primary winter months of January, February and March. Over those same months since 2000, San Luis Obispo has set 35 record highs. Curiously, that trend does not extend as significantly to the summer.
In the months of July, August and September, Paso Robles has seen 25 heat records since 2000, while San Luis Obispo has recorded only eight. Some particular recurring trends are the cause.
In the winter, offshore winds created by a persistent ridge of high-pressure over the United States have created a greater occurrence of northeasterly Santa Lucia winds. That’s kept the storm track mostly north and created more record-breaking temperatures in California in recent years. Meanwhile, in the summer, the sun heats the Central Valley, warming the air and causing it to rise, creating a low-pressure area called a thermal low.
When high-pressure areas form offshore over the eastern Pacific Ocean, nature works to establish balance between those two areas and onshore winds increase, flowing from high pressure to low and cooling the beaches and coastal valleys. As a result, summers have been a bit cooler and are not setting as many records as have occurred during the winters. “It’s a complete hypothesis, but the numbers seem to speak that.”
Across the entire year, heat records have been falling at an unusual rate. Nearly 40 percent of the daily record highs dating to 1948 have come in the past 15 years — a total of 136 new highs. In San Luis Obispo, where temperature statistics date to 1893, 25 percent of the daily record heat measurements have been set since 2000 — a total of 89 new highs.


Coronal Mass Ejection - A CME hurled into space by the 'canyon of fire' eruption could sideswipe Earth's magnetic field on April 7th. A filament of magnetism stretching halfway across the sun erupted during the late hours of April 4th (22:00-23:00 UT). The eruption split the sun's atmosphere, hurling a CME into space and creating a "canyon of fire." The glowing walls of the canyon trace the original channel where the filament was suspended by magnetic forces above the sun's surface. From end to end, the structure stretches more than 300,000 km - a real Grand Canyon. Fragments of the exploding filament formed the core of a CME that raced away from the sun at pproximately 900 km/s (2 million mph). Most of the CME will miss Earth, but not all.
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