Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster updates.

**It may be true that the government that governs best, governs least. Unfortunately, the same is also true of the government that governs worst.**
Jane Elizabeth Auer

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or larger.

Yesterday, 8/17/15 -

California Probably Isn't in the Midst of a Quake Swarm - Early Monday morning, a significant chunk of the Bay Area's population was shaken out of bed by some seismic action, a window-rattling 4.0 magnitude quake. The short, sharp earthquake rattled the San Francisco Bay Area, breaking picture frames and cracking plaster without prompting reports of injuries or major damage. This is barely a week after another earthquake struck a few miles away, just offshore on the San Andreas fault. That quake probably had nothing to do with Monday's Hayward shaker. But that doesn't mean the quake risk is over.
Video - Dogs reactions to the quake.
Video - Weatherman's on-air reaction.

Nearly half of Americans live in areas prone to earthquakes - U.S. Geological Survey research indicates 143 million Americans live in earthquake-prone areas. California still tops the list of states most at risk of an earthquake.
"The new exposure estimate is nearly double the previous 2006 estimate, based on population growth and advances in science." Researchers looked at how populations have grown in earthquake-prone areas, and they say improvements in data collection provide a more accurate estimate than in years past.
The study looked at ground shaking, which is caused by the passage of seismic waves. This shaking causes most property damage during an earthquake and can range from weak and barely noticeable to violent or extreme, with catastrophic damage. As you might expect, California tops the list of states most at risk, but others may surprise you. Based on this new assessment, states in the eastern United States have a greater chance of having a damaging quake than was previously thought. A lot was learned from the magnitude-5.8 earthquake that hit Virginia in 2011; the quake caused considerable damage and forced the Washington Monument to close for repairs, which were just completed in May 2014.
The New Madrid earthquake zone in the central United States has more potential for a larger quake than previous estimates suggested. The zone could have a devastating earthquake that would be felt in nearly a dozen states, researchers say, threatening large cities such as St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville and Atlanta.
The magnitude-9.0 earthquake that hit Japan in 2011, triggering a Pacific-wide tsunami and causing a series of meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant, along with the 8.2 earthquake that hit Chile in April 2014, have given scientists valuable data and insight into the U.S. Pacific Northwest earthquake zone. Scientists say they think that a quake with a magnitude as high as 9.3 is possible, a number previously thought to be impossible for the region.
The USGS' new assessment of California's earthquake risk was mixed. More faults were discovered, raising the earthquake threat for cities like San Jose and San Diego, while the estimated threat decreased for Santa Barbara and Oakland. Hazard probabilities increased for parts of San Francisco and Los Angeles, but they decreased in other parts of the cities, based on the new data.
The new USGS earthquake hazard map continues to show the highest threat levels in the western U.S. But other areas of the country, such as the central states surrounding the New Madrid fault, and Charleston, South Carolina, also show a high risk.

Video - New Eruption of Turrialba Volcano in Costa Rica.

The Japan Meteorological Agency on Monday remained on high alert for a major eruption at Mount Sakurajima. One of Japan's most active volcanoes could be headed for a much bigger eruption than the locals are used to seeing.
Mount Sakurajima erupts hundreds of times a year in small blasts, but scientists have studied the trends and history of the mountain and believe a big eruption could come soon. There are fears that it could be as large as the 1914 eruption that killed 35 people and was the most powerful in Japan in the 20th century.
Over the past few days, seismic activity began to ramp up at the mountain. A level 4 warning was issued Saturday by the JMA, and all residents within a 3-kilometer radius of the mountain were told they should prepare to evacuate. The alerts remained in place Monday despite a large decline in earthquakes at Sakurajima.
This is the first level 4 warning issued for Sakurajima since the 5-level scale was developed 8 years ago. "Right now that [evacuation possibility] is limited to 4,000 people on the same island as Sakurajima, but ash from any eruption (depending on the winds) could impact Kagoshima (population 600,000), located only 10 kilometers from Sakurajima."
The reason for the concern is that this activity is very similar to what happened in the days leading up to past major eruptions at Sakurajima. Scientists have installed sensors all over the mountain, which have relayed information in the past few days that suggests magma could be rising up the volcano, and that may lead to a large eruption soon. There is also a nuclear plant in Sendai, just 31 miles from the volcano.


* In the Eastern Pacific -
- Tropical Depression Eleven-E is located about 930 mi...1495 km W of the southern tip of Baja California

* In the Western Pacific -
- Typhoon 16w (Goni) is located approximately 678 nm southeast of Kadena Air Base.

- Typhoon 17w (Atsani) is located approximately 670 nm east-northeast of Andersen AFB.
Chance of cyclone developing near Cape Verde - A low pressure area near the West Africa's Cape Verde islands has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours. That gives a moderate chance that the Atlantic could see its 4th tropical cyclone of the season this week. A tropical depression will likely form by the middle of the week while the system moves westward or west-northwestward across the Atlantic.

Hawaii - Viral Wind Models Showing Cyclone Hitting State. The latest Central Pacific Hurricane Center update puts chances of formation slightly higher at 50% as of the 2:00 p.m. update.
Recently, the wind model to the right has been going viral on social media, with several inquiries about whether it’s a hoax or reality. Readers are asking what exactly this model is showing and if they should be concerned.
A forecaster at the National Weather Service Honolulu office addressed the issue in his latest forecast discussion. "The computer models remain fairly bullish about developing a tropical cyclone in the monsoon trough far to the southeast of the islands. As far as local effects go, this is climatologically an area of some concern for the Aloha State. However, by the weekend, there is a spread of over 600 miles among the various models in where this future system would be IF it develops. Also, the models have an especially difficult time with the tracks of tropical cyclones that have not yet developed, as well as with the various factors that steer them in the long range. We will keep a close eye on this area in the coming days and should get a better idea of what will actually happen as time goes on."
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center released this update at 8:00 a.m. for an area of potential development. "Showers and thunderstorms associated with a broad area of low pressure located about 1200 miles southeast of the Big Island of Hawaii remain disorganized. Environmental conditions support development over the next couple of days as the low remains nearly stationary. Formation chance through 48 hours is medium at 40 percent. Elsewhere, no tropical cyclones are expected through Wednesday morning."
"If a tropical cyclone even develops we don’t know where it may end up. There is a lot of uncertainty that far out. But at the same time there’s that convective activity down around 140°W, down in the area where we typically look for possible development, so we are closely monitoring it right now. There’s no indication that anything has developed yet but we are raising the awareness of that and that’s why we went 40%. There are models that show tropical cyclone activity near the state and there are others that don’t. There’s a spread of 600 miles on the various models. We just want to make sure that people aren’t latching onto one particular solution and rather just being generally prepared."
For the public it’s good to be prepared for a hurricane, especially in this active season that they’re having. Be prepared for potential future hurricane threats, not specifically for one particular day, but prepare early and remain prepared throughout the season.


Hikers terrified as massive debris flow rumbles down Mount Rainier - A glacial debris flow rushed down Tahoma Creek on Mount Rainier Thursday, August 13. The distant rumbling sounded like a train at first, but then hikers saw a river of trees and boulders advancing toward them. The hikers at Mount Rainier, Washington, captured the accompanying footage last Thursday while walking on a trail that’s now closed for obvious reasons.
“This is crazy. I’m scared. Get back, I’m scared … The ground is shaking!” The hot and dry conditions this summer created a series of “glacial outbursts” Thursday on the western flank of the volcano. These glacial flash floods, of sorts, swept up fallen trees and rocks and rumbled with such ground-shaking force that they registered on seismographs.
The Mount Rainier National Park conducted aerial patrols after event and accounted for all hikers in the affected areas, and said nobody was hurt. “The rumble was getting louder and trees were falling down and it looked like a big pile of rubble was raging down the dry creek bed. We saw huge boulders, half the size of a Volkswagen bug, just raging down and falling over each other.” As he videotaped, a park employee came running down the trail, urging all the hikers on the trail to evacuate.
The debris flows, caused by the melting and dispersal of glacial ice, originated at 6,800 feet on the South Tahoma Glacier. They were the first such outbursts in more than 10 years. A ranger said, “Based on the summer we’ve had, and based on the recession of the glaciers, I was telling [colleagues] that this is the year when we’re going to have a debris flow.” (video at link)


U.S. Army troops mobilized to help fight Western U. S. wildfires - First time since 2006. (Video)

'Godzilla El Niño' looms as a possible drought buster for California - The developing warm-water event is already stronger than the 1997-98 El Niño, which caused severe rain and flooding.

Central Asian glaciers shrinking fast - Central Asian glaciers have melted at four times the global average since the early 1960s, shedding 27 per cent of their mass, according to a new study.


RECORD-BREAKING TOXIC ALGAE BLOOM worse than feared - The razor clam closure in Washington as a result of historic toxic algae bloom has impacted the local economy by millions of dollars. A record-breaking toxic algae bloom that began in May along the West Coast is denser, more widespread and deeper than scientists originally feared, and it has expanded into the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.
Algae blooms are not uncommon in the Pacific Ocean but the size and duration of this one, stretching from Southern California to Alaska, is historic, according to NOAA, and it continues to impact marine life and local economies to the tune of millions of dollars. The toxic algae bloom is up to 40 miles wide and 650 feet deep in places. “It’s UNPRECEDENTED.”
Toxic algae blooms are usually limited to one area of the ocean or another and disappear after a few weeks. This one has grown for months and it isn’t going away. “It’s been incredibly thick, almost all the same organism. Looks like a layer of hay. It’s really working its way into the food web and we’re definitely seeing the impacts of that.”
In the past month, 21 humback and fin whales have been found dead in southeast Alaska, and in July the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association received reports of dead and dying whales, gulls and forage fish in the Aleutian Islands. Samples are being tested for algal toxins. Extremely high levels of the algal toxin called domoic acid has led to the closures of recreational razor clam digging in Oregon and Washington, along with large portions of the Dungeness crab fishery in Washington, and the sardine and anchovy fisheries in California.
Coastal communities in Washington lost an estimated $9 million in revenue in May alone as a result to the razor clam closure. “Algal blooms in the ocean are made up of microscopic marine plants known as phytoplankton. Not all phytoplankton are dangerous, but certain species produce dangerous neurotoxins. Shellfish and some fish eat the toxic algae as part of their normal diet, which can then expose their predators — including marine mammals and humans — to the neurotoxins in amounts that can cause illness and, in extreme cases, death.”
The algae bloom coincides with sea surface temperatures that are well above average across the North Pacific and West Coast. “The primary reason they are above normal is a strongly positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), which is a horseshoe pattern of warmer-than-normal waters along the coast of western North America. Though SSTs will drop some through the fall and winter, as it typically the case, the positive PDO and El Niño will remain, or even intensify, and as such, so too will the above- normal water temperatures. El Niño does not play a direct role, but generally speaking, El Niños are more likely to occur during a positive PDO.”
If this El Niño is the Godzilla of El Niños, then this toxic algae bloom is the king of all toxic algae blooms. (photo and map at link)


Scientists say the grime which clings to urban surfaces "breathes out" nitrogen gases when hit by sunlight. The dark muck is known to absorb such gases from the air, but it appears the nitrogen does not stay locked away.
In rooftop experiments in Germany, the researchers tracked the content of grime in both sunshine and shade. They say sunlit grime releases nitrogen in two forms: the toxic pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2), plus nitrous acid - a key driver of smog formation. The findings may explain a "missing" source of smog-producing gas in the skies of London.
"Rather than being a permanent sink for nitrogen oxide gases... grime exposed to sunlight can re-release some of these gases back into the urban atmosphere." In a laboratory, artificial sunlight can strip the nitrogen component from grime - which is essentially a cocktail of chemicals belched into city air by exhaust pipes and chimneys. In the latest experiments he worked with colleagues in Leipzig, Germany, to shift the work outside.
Two large trays of grimy glass beads - one shaded and one sunny - were exposed to the city air for six weeks "The ones which were exposed to sunlight showed 10% less nitrate than the ones which were shaded, suggesting that there is a photochemical loss [of nitrogen] consistent with what we saw in the lab." That 10% drop may seem like a small effect, but it reflects a "steady state" difference: as the sunshine eats away at the grime's nitrogen content, fresh nitrogen-rich grime is constantly being deposited.
"The amount of nitrogen oxides (NOx) given off by exhausts in the centre of a city will probably be much higher than what grime can take up and then give back off again. But if some of it is transformed into HONO, then that really is important." Why? In part, because it might explain a puzzling gap in observations of polluted London air.
"If you put into a model all the known sources of HONO, from my work in London there's about 30% missing compared to the quantity of HONO that you can measure directly." This missing source is "very significant" for predicting ozone quantities - which the Met Office does as part of air quality forecasts. Some parts of London have levels of NO2 that are well above safety limits. The sheer quantity of grime in London could make it "a big potential source of pollution". "If grime is contributing, then we need scientists to tell us how much [gas] is coming off and what health effects it has."
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