Thursday, December 3, 2015

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster updates.

I'm back! Fresh off a trip to Guatemala. A little natural disaster adventure on the trip, no earthquakes or further big eruptions from Fuego volcano, just a landslide overnight that blocked the mountain road.

**One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.**
Golda Meir

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 12/2/15 -

12/1/15 -

Nicaraguan Volcano Erupts For The First Time In 110 Years - on Tuesday, spewing lava and plumes of ash into the sky. Residents in nearby communities reported hearing a loud explosion before seeing gas and ash spout from the volcano. The eruption closed over a dozen schools in the surrounding regions. There are currently no reports of any injuries or deaths. The volcano is located 30 miles from Nicaragua's capital Managua, and is near Leon, which is the country's second largest city. Around 3,500 people live in areas around the volcano.
Earlier this month, Guatemala's Fuego volcano erupted some 320 miles away, covering at least six villages with ash and forcing guests at a nearby hotel to evacuate. (photos and video at link)


No current tropical storms.

The 2015 Atlantic hurricane season is officially over, and it will go into the books as the most memorable hurricane season to occur during a strong El Niño event. Strong El Niño events typically reduce Atlantic hurricane activity by increasing wind shear over the tropical Atlantic, and this year's El Niño conditions did indeed create unusually high levels of wind shear over the Caribbean, making it difficult for tropical systems to organize and strengthen in those waters. Wind shear in 2015 was the strongest on record.
The 200-850-mb vertical wind shear in the Caribbean (10-20°N, 90-60°W) averaged from June through October was the highest since at least 1979 (28.5 knots.) However, this high wind shear did not extend as far east as usual, allowing several tropical storms to form near the coast of Africa over waters that were near-record warm. Near record-warm to record-warm ocean temperatures were also over more northern reaches of the Atlantic, and helped spur the formation of Hurricane Joaquin and Hurricane Kate.
As a result, the 2015 season was able to tally numbers that were not that far below average - 11 named storms, 4 hurricanes, and 2 intense Category 3 or stronger hurricanes. The 1981-2010 average numbers were 11.5 named storms, 6.1 hurricanes, and 2.6 major hurricanes.
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) is a measure of the total destructive power of a hurricane season, based on the number of days strong winds are observed. ACE for an individual storm is computed by squaring the maximum sustained winds of the storm at each 6-hourly advisory, and summing up over the entire lifetime of the storm. The ACE for the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season was about 60% of average, reflecting the relative lack of hurricanes. Hurricane Joaquin accounted for 46% of the season's ACE.
Top ten notable events of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season at link. (also charts, photos and video at link)


India - Deadly Chennai flooding leaves residents in fear. Weeks of heavy rain and flooding have knocked out power, suspended public transportation and left people stranded in Chennai, one of India's largest cities.
The Indian army and navy are carrying out rescue operations. The Indian Coast Guard is also working to rescue people. At least nine people have died so far in severe flooding that has hit Chennai in recent days, according to a Tamil Nadu state official tally released Wednesday.
Emotional images of dramatic rescues in inflatable boats and civilians hoisting people over muddy flood waters have inundated social media under the hashtag #Chennaifloods. More than a foot of rain fell in the last 24 hours in Chennai - that's about the amount of rain London would receive in six months. It has rained 34 of the past 40 days and the heavy-rain-warning continues. The rain warning for the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and neighboring Puducherry are forecast through December 5, according to India's main weather office. (photos and video at link)

Fresh rains in the southern Indian city of Chennai (Madras) have caused serious flooding, with flights and trains suspended and hundreds of people without power. The army has been deployed to rescue thousands of stranded people after two days of heavy rain. At least 188 people are now known to have died in floods in Tamil Nadu state since last month.
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. Two days of fresh rains have again led to massive flooding, so much so that flights from the city's airport have been indefinitely suspended after flood waters entered the runway and tarmac areas on Tuesday evening.
Reports say some 400 passengers are stranded at the airport, and all flights have been cancelled. More than a dozen trains have also been cancelled after flood waters inundated the tracks. The army and the National Disaster Response Force have been deployed in the city's worst-affected southern suburbs to rescue people stranded in their flooded properties. At least 10,000 policemen and swimmers have also been employed in the rescue effort.
"The police want to help but there are no boats. We are trying not to panic." Reports say that power supply has been suspended in nearly 60% of the city's neighbourhoods. Most of the main streets are waterlogged and schools were closed for the 17th day since November. Schools and colleges have been shut in six districts due to the rains. Patients have been evacuated from a government hospital in the Tambaram area after flood waters entered the building.
Residents have taken to social media to offer accommodation, food and mobile phone recharges to citizens who are being forced to evacuate their properties. "We only saw rains like this some 25-30 years ago when there was no electricity for almost a week. It has been raining since Monday night and there has been no respite. Everywhere you look, there is two to three feet of water."
All the reservoirs around Chennai are full and the rivers are flooded with the excess waters released from the reservoirs. Thousands of people who were living on the banks of these rivers have been moved to temporary shelters. The meteorological office says "scattered to heavy" rains are expected to continue for the next three days. India suffers severe flooding every year during the annual monsoon rains from June to September. The retreating monsoon has been particularly vigorous over south India and more so in Tamil Nadu. (photos and video at link)


Massive El Niño sweeping globe is now the biggest ever recorded - The current extreme El Niño is now the strongest ever recorded, smashing the previous record from 1997 -8. Already wreaking havoc on weather around the world, the new figures mean those effects will probably get worse.
The 1997-8 El Niño killed 20,000 people and caused almost $97 billion of damage as floods, droughts, fires, cyclones and mudslides ravaged the world. Now the current El Niño has surpassed the 1997-8 El Niño on a key measure, according to the latest figures released by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency.
El Niño occurs when warm water that has piled up around Australia and Indonesia spills out east across the Pacific Ocean towards the Americas, taking the rain with it. A key measure of its intensity is the warmth of water in the central Pacific. In 1997, at its peak on 26 November, it was 2.8 °C above average. According to the latest measurements, it reached 2.8 °C on 4 November this year, and went on to hit 3.1 °C on 18 November – the highest temperatures ever seen in this region.
“The El Niño community is closely watching the evolution [of this El Niño] and whether the current event will surpass the 1997-8 event. Monthly and weekly central Pacific temperature anomalies clearly show that this current event has surpassed it.” The temperatures in the central Pacific have the biggest impact on the global atmospheric circulation, and therefore the biggest impacts on global weather.
The event hasn’t broken temperature records across the entire eastern Pacific, but in the central eastern Pacific. “It’s shifted into an area where most likely the atmosphere will respond even more.” El Niños have been stronger in the last few decades than in any period over the past four centuries. It is unknown whether that’s because of climate change.
El Niño has been implicated in a host of extreme weather events across the globe. Combined with global warming, it’s partly responsible for 2015 being the hottest year on record. In India, more than 2000 people died in a heatwave caused by a delayed monsoon – an effect of El Niño.
Now the region is experiencing unusually heavy rains as the monsoon has finally arrived – also an expected impact of El Niño. “Southern India is having a lot of rain as it goes into winter, having come out of the dry monsoon. This is only so during extreme El Niño, so it is a confirmation that the El Niño is huge."
El Niño is also probably making record-breaking illegal fires in Indonesia worse, by reducing rainfall there. And in some Pacific Islands, water levels have dropped so much that coral reefs are exposed, in a phenomenon known as Taimasa, Samoan for “smelly reef”. New Scientist has received photographs from Guam showing this dramatic effect, only seen during extreme El Niño events. Across the globe, the El Niño has also begun a mass coral bleaching.
Australia has dodged some of the worst effects of El Niño, as the Indian Ocean Dipole – an oscillation of sea temperatures in the Indian Ocean – which was amplifying El Niño, has eased off. And because of the location of the warmest water, some regions like Peru and Ecuador are also likely to experience fewer impacts.
Many of the effects are yet to come. For example, whether it will bring rains to California and relieve the drought – or even whether it will go too far and cause floods – isn’t yet known. The models are predicting a higher chance of rain for California. And once the El Niño is over, it might not be time for celebration, since it’s likely to be followed by a strong La Niña, which will bring roughly opposite effects to the world’s weather. La Nina’s are also expected to be about twice as common as a result of climate change this century.

China Cloning Facility to Bolster Meat Production, Cloning Humans Next? Sinica, a subsidiary of Boyalife Group, has signed a deal to establish a $31 million commercial animal cloning facility in Tianjin, China, with the intent to produce beef cattle, racehorses and other animals.
The plant will initially produce 100,000 cattle embryos per year, eventually increasing its output to 1,000,000 per year. Chinese farmers are struggling to produce enough beef cattle to meet market demand. China’s meet demand has quadrupled in the last 40 years. Chinese scientists have been cloning sheep, cattle and pigs since 2000. In September 2014, Boyalife and Sooam Biotech opened the first commercial cloning company in China’s Shandong Province. The first animals produced were three pure-blooded Tibetan mastiff puppies.
Cloning animals for human consumption has been a contentious issue. Recently, the European Union (EU) made strides to ban imports of cloned animals and products made from cloned animals. European farmers are facing increasing pressure from Asia due to practices such as cloning.
However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008 determined meat and milk from clones and their offspring pose no substantial threat when compared with food eaten every day. Boyalife Group hopes to hit the 1,000,000 production goal by 2020. Additionally, the company is working with partners to improve primate cloning for disease research purposes. From there, it’s on to humans, if allowed.
“The technology is already there. If this is allowed, I don’t think there are other companies better than Boyalife that make better technology.” In the future, the technology may be applied to reproduction, allowing parents more choice their child’s genetic makeup.


The source of a an E. coli outbreak spanning seven states has been traced back to a single ingredient in Costco’s rotisserie chicken salad: diced celery. The tainted ingredient came from Taylor Farms Pacific of Tracy, California, according to the FDA.
The supplier has since issued a recall for items that may contain its celery. The recall affects a nearly a dozen retailers including 7-Eleven, Safeway, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target, and Starbucks. The strain of E. coli found in the celery is more dangerous than the outbreak tied to Chipotle, because it can lead to kidney failure.
So far, 19 people have been infected with E. coli in California, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. Five people have been hospitalized, and two have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported. The CDC said most of those infected had eaten Costco’s rotisserie chicken salad in the week before they became ill.
Consumers who purchased rotisserie chicken salad from any Costco store in the US on or before November 20, 2015, should not eat it and should throw it away. Costco has removed all remaining rotisserie chicken salad from all stores in the US and stopped further production of the product until further notice. Starbucks has also removed all potentially tainted items from its stores. The recall affected only its “holiday turkey with stuffing panini” with “enjoy-by” dates of November 27 to November 28 in select stores in California, Oregon, and Nevada.

Eat all the bananas you can now because soon, there won’t be any left. And it won’t be because you ate them all. It’ll be because they’ve gone extinct. A new study in PLOS Pathogens claims that a virus named Tropical Race 4 is about to kickstart the bananapocalypse.
In what must be the worst case of deja vu in food history, this projected banana extinction is actually the second to happen in this century. In the 1960s, the Gros Michel variety of bananas were all the rage, until disaster struck. Panama disease, caused by Tropical Race, essentially wiped out the entire crop of the Gros Michel. To give you a sense of the fungus’ virulence, once-leading banana producer Taiwan now exports just 2 percent of what it did 50 years ago.
The death of the Gros Michel led to the rise in popularity of today’s Cavendish banana, which was resistant to the old version of the Panama disease virus. But now, all bets are off, as attempts to quarantine the fungus have proven completely insufficient.
While the Cavendish may have been able to survive the previous round of wipeouts, it is susceptible to the new Tropical Race 4 strain currently making its way around the world. And while it hasn’t reached Latin America yet, it seems inevitable that the producer of 82 percent of the world’s Cavendish bananas will soon fall victim to the ruthless onslaught.
So why haven’t we been able to do anything to stop the spread? Mostly because today’s bananas have been cultivated as a monoculture — all bananas are genetically identical because they’ve been grown as a seedless variety, which means that when one gets sick, they all get sick. Worse yet, the virus, which kills essentially by dehydrating the plant’s root system, can stay in the soil for 30 years.
The biggest problem at hand is the alarming rate with which humans today consume bananas. “Most bananas are grown by small-time farmers in the many poor countries where they’re a staple crop.” This means that this impending banana shortage could have a huge effect on the diets of some of the world’s poorest communities. And experts note that Tropical Race 4 puts more than 80 percent of these staple bananas at risk around the world.

Global Disaster Watch is on Facebook