Friday, December 4, 2015

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster updates.

**One does not fall in love; one grows into love, and love grows in us.**
Karl A. Menninger

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 12/3/15 -

Earthquakes in the U.S. breadbasket? Understand the risk. (Hazard map at link, article by insurance company)

No current tropical storms.


India - Floodwaters recede as Chennai rain eases. More than 7,000 people have been rescued so far, but many are still stranded, reports say. More than 260 people have died in the floods in the state after the heaviest rainfall in a century.
A depression in the Bay of Bengal has triggered rains in coastal areas. Last month, non-stop rain for nearly a week brought the city to a standstill. Three days of fresh rains have again led to massive flooding, inundating homes, hospitals, roads, railway tracks and the city's airport. Forecasts of more showers remain in place. Reports say there has been no rain in Chennai on Friday morning and water levels are receding in some parts of the city.
Schools, colleges and factories are shut, exams postponed and power supply suspended in most parts of the city. An oil refinery has stopped operations. A naval air base at Arakkonam, 70km (43 miles) from the Tamil Nadu state capital, is now being used as a makeshift airport with seven commercial flights expected to operate on Friday and Saturday. Train services will remain suspended until Saturday, officials say.
Flood affected people queued up for food. Some areas are still badly affected and remain cut off. Rescue teams are now focusing on these neighbourhoods while trying to get food and medicines to thousands of people who have been affected. Shops and markets have opened as well and people are queuing up to buy food and fuel, although there are shortages of essentials supplies such as milk. But the airport and the main railway station are still closed - a naval air base outside the city has been cleared for a limited number of civilian flights.
Although the rain is part of the normal monsoon, Chennai received AS MUCH RAIN IN TWO DAYS AS IT DOES IN A COUPLE OF MONTHS. A massive rescue operation is continuing to reach stranded people. Some 5,000 houses are still under water with many people trapped inside them, reports say. Troops have set up 25 shelters and community kitchens for the flood victims. Officials said they were investigating the deaths of 14 patients on life support after a power failure at a private hospital in the city.
"The hospital was flooded and it was adjacent to the river. The patients have died over a period of three days. 57 other patients who were also on ventilator support have been shifted to other hospitals in the city. The deaths have definitely not occurred due to power cuts. They were all critical patients. This will in any case be a matter of investigation."
Many people were queuing at bus stops to leave the city. "There are people who haven't eaten for days. They have seen their possessions float away from the house. Food, clothes - all gone." The federal weather office has predicted two more days of torrential rain in the southern state, where nearly 70 million people live. A total of 269 people are now known to have died in floods in Tamil Nadu state since last month.

'Unnatural disaster' - How human folly has contributed to the Chennai deluge. Many parts of India suffer flooding every year during the annual monsoon rains from June to September. The northeast monsoon has been particularly vigorous over southern India and more so in Tamil Nadu state, of which Chennai is the capital.
Last month was the WETTEST NOVEMBER IN A CENTURY in the city of 4.3 million people. And, at 490 mm, rainfall on 1 December was the highest in 100 years. The floods are a wake up call for India's teeming cities that were built with the expectation that the environment would adjust itself to accommodate the need for the city to grow. (PHOTOS AT LINK)

Twisters Give Nation a Pass in 2015: LOWEST DEATH TOLL ON RECORD? Amid all the genuinely awful news making the rounds in recent days, here is one bright spot: the year 2015 may end up with the lowest number of U.S. tornado fatalities in at least 141 years. As of December 2, preliminary numbers from the NOAA Storm Prediction Center show only 10 tornado-related deaths nationwide. If this number holds through the end of the year, it will beat the 12 deaths reported in 1910 to become the lowest annual total on record.
The U.S. nation has indeed seen a remarkably safe year tornado-wise in 2015. The year is not done, though: 5 of the last 10 Decembers produced at least one tornado fatality, with the highest total of that period being 9 in December 2010. Part of the story this year is sheer good luck. The strongest tornado of 2015 so far occurred on April 9: a violent EF4 twister that tracked over 30 miles of northern Illinois just west of Chicago.
Just a small shift in that tornado’s track could have produced far more havoc. And the unseasonably late tornadic swarm of November 16 over the southern Great Plains produced three large EF3 tornadoes but comparatively little damage. Apart from these two outbreaks, the year’s crop of tornadoes was generally on the weak and short-lived side. A single outbreak can make an otherwise quiet year devastating, but in general, “a low number of tornadoes correlates to a low number of tornado deaths."
After the horrific tornado season of 2011 (with 553 fatalities, the nation’s deadliest since 1925), the U.S. has seen four consecutive years with below-average activity, if we count 2015 in advance. For this quietude, we can thank the same predominant upper-level pattern that’s stoked four years of intense drought in California and shunted a large fraction of hurricanes away from the East Coast.
“The stagnant large-scale pattern of generally northwest flow that has dominated central North America for the past few years has certainly played some role in suppressing conditions more supportive of tornado outbreaks. whether this shift to more tranquil conditions is part of some longer-term oscillation, a result of climate change dynamics, or both, or just a random occurrence, is hard to say.”
An uptick in tornado deaths over the last decade - There is the possibility that a quiet stretch could soften people’s resolve to keep themselves and their loved ones safe from tornadoes. The decade from 2005 to 2014 produced a total of 1092 tornado-related deaths. That’s roughly double the death rate that prevailed over the three prior decades (1975-84, 1985-94, and 1995-2004). Clearly, the numbers for the past decade are skewed by the huge death toll in 2011, but a total of six of the ten years in 2005-2014 produced at least 50 deaths. That wasn’t the case in any of the three previous decades.
“The annual death toll in the modern era is likely influenced more by the number of tornadoes than by our improved ability to predict them. The conditions to support a widespread killer tornado outbreak can come together in a matter of 2-3 days. We need to maintain vigilance!” (photos and charts at link)


Migratory birds are losing ground. Study cites key areas needing protections. Migratory birds are at risk from increasing habitat destruction of stopover points, especially in North Africa, Central Asia, and the coast of East Asia.

Radiation from Japan nuclear disaster spreads off U.S. shores - Radiation from Japan's 2011 nuclear disaster has spread off North American shores and contamination is increasing at previously identified sites, although levels are still too low to threaten human or ocean life, scientists said on Thursday.
Tests of hundreds of samples of Pacific Ocean water confirmed that Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant CONTINUES TO LEAK RADIOACTIVE ISOTOPES more than four years after its meltdown. Trace amounts of cesium-134 have been detected within several hundred miles (km) of the Oregon, Washington and California coasts in recent months, as well as offshore from Canada's Vancouver Island. Another isotope, cesium-137, a radioactive legacy of nuclear weapons tests conducted from the 1950s through the 1970s, was found at low levels in nearly every seawater sample tested.
"Despite the fact that the levels of contamination off our shores remain well below government- established safety limits for human health or to marine life, the changing values underscore the need to more closely monitor contamination levels across the Pacific." In March 2011, a massive earthquake triggered a tsunami that struck the Fukushima nuclear plant, 130 miles (209 km) northeast of Tokyo, causing triple nuclear meltdowns and forcing more than 160,000 residents to flee from nearby towns. It was the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Last year, there wa reported detectable radiation from about 100 miles (160 km) off the coast of northern California, and in April radiation was found off Canada's shores. The latest readings measured the highest radiation levels outside Japanese waters to date some 1,600 miles (2,574 km) west of San Francisco. The figures also confirm that the spread of radiation to North American waters is not isolated to a handful of locations, but can be detected along a stretch of more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) offshore.

Arctic Sea Ice Is ‘Well Below Average’ for November - Sea ice on both sides of the Arctic Ocean was well below average in November, according to an update released Wednesday by the United States National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
According to the center, sea ice covered 3.9 million square miles of the Arctic Ocean at the end of November — an area 351,000 square miles smaller than the 1981 to 2010 average extent, although 230,000 square miles greater than 2006’s record low. “At the end of the month, extent was well below average in both the Barents Sea and the Bering Strait regions,” the center reported. “Extent was above average in eastern Hudson Bay, but below average in the western part of the bay.”
The low growth of winter sea ice is a continued signal that climate change is rapidly transforming conditions in the Arctic, which are important drivers of climate and weather conditions around the Northern Hemisphere. Sea ice is also crucial to the survival of polar bears, narwhals,ice seals, and other species. U.S. federal wildlife officials declared polar bears a “threatened” species in 2008 because of diminishing Arctic sea ice, and gave similar protections to populations of Arctic bearded and ringed seals in 2012.
The Pacific walrus is also being considered for endangered species protections. For the past several years, the walruses have been turning up in unprecedented numbers during early autumn on shorelines around the Chukchi Sea, in Alaska and Russia, as the loss of Arctic sea ice forces them to come to land.
Above-average air temperatures above the region contributed to the slow growth of winter sea ice, reported the snow and ice data center. “The area north of the Barents Sea, between Svalbard and the Taymyr Peninsula, was unusually warm, at 11 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit above average,” and 2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit above average in other parts of the Arctic. The absence of sea ice around Svalbard this fall could affect the region’s pregnant polar bears, which need the ice to reach traditional denning sites in the archipelago’s eastern islands.


SIGMA HYDRID METEORS - Last night, Dec. 3-4, NASA's network of all-sky meteor cameras recorded 8 fireballs from the sigma Hydrid meteoroid stream. These meteoroids come from an unknown comet or asteroid. Earth passes through the sigma Hydrid stream every year in early- to mid- December. Typically, the shower produces no more than 1 or 2 faint meteors per hour. The detection of 8 bright fireballs in a single night suggests that sigma Hydrid activity could be higher than usual.
On Dec. 4, the network reported 32 fireballs. (22 sporadics, 8 sigma Hydrids, 1 Geminid, 1 Puppids-Velid)

GEMINID METEOR SHOWER: Earth is entering a stream of gravelly debris from "rock comet" 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. On the night of Dec. 2-3, NASA's network of all-sky cameras detected three Geminid fireballs over the USA.
The Geminid hit Earth's atmosphere traveling 36 km/s (81 thousand mph) and disintegrated completely 47 km (29 miles) above Earth's surface. These values are typical of Geminids. Meteor sightings will increase in the nights ahead as Earth plunges deeper into the debris stream. Forecasters expect peak rates to occur on Dec. 13-14, when dark-sky observers in both hemispheres could see as many as 120 meteors per hour. Observing conditions will be nearly ideal because the shower peaks just a few days after the New Moon.

VAST HOLE OPENS IN SUN'S ATMOSPHERE: A vast hole in the sun's atmosphere - a "coronal hole" - has opened up in the sun's northern hemisphere, and it is spewing a broad stream of solar wind into space. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed the coronal hole during the early hours of Dec. 3rd. Coronal holes are places where the sun's magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape.
Hot plasma flows outward at speeds exceeding a million mph. Solar wind flowing from this coronal hole will reach Earth beginning ~Dec. 6th, and our solar wind environment will be dominated the stream for days after first contact. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.


Chipotle-Linked E. Coli Outbreak Widens to Three More States - Restaurant chain announces new food-safety measures in wake of reported illnesses. The illnesses in Illinois, Maryland, and Pennsylvania bring to nine the number of states affected by the outbreak. The CDC said a total of seven more people over the past two weeks have reported becoming sick in the outbreak, for a total of 52 — though all fell ill in October and November.
The outbreak was first detected just over a month ago in Washington and Oregon, which still account for most of the cases. Officials last month determined the outbreak extended outside the Pacific Northwest to Minnesota and New York, among other states. The cause of the outbreak hasn’t been determined, though authorities in Oregon and Washington pointed to produce as the likely culprit.

Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Organic Nut Butter has sickened 11 people. Health officials are investigating the link to the JEM Raw Chocolate, LLC brand of nut butters. All reported feeling ill between July 18 and Oct. 15. There have been no hospitalizations or deaths reported in connection with the outbreak. "This contaminated item has been widely distributed over a fairly wide period of time, it looks like a low level of contamination."

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