LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
5.1 VOLCANO ISLANDS, JAPAN REGION
Yesterday, 12/14/15 -
5.0 NEW IRELAND REGION, P.N.G.
5.2 FOX ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS
5.3 BANDA SEA
5.1 BANDA SEA
5.4 BANDA SEA
5.1 LAKE BAYKAL REGION, RUSSIA
5.4 KURIL ISLANDS
5.4 KEPULAUAN TALAUD, INDONESIA
TROPICAL STORMS -
* In the Western Pacific -
Typhoon Melor is located approximately 177 nm southeast of Manila, Philippines. The system has significantly degraded as it dragged across the Philippine archipelago. Melor will continue to track generally westward to west-northwestward under the steering influence of a deep layered subtropical ridge over the next 36 hours. Afterwards, the cyclone will track southwestward with the low level wind flow in the South China Sea. Land interaction, increasing vws and the intrusion of cold dry air associated with a strong Continental cold surge in the South China Sea will accelerate its decay, leading to dissipation.
Video - Typhoon Melor: 'The strong winds are terrifying'. Thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes in the Philippines after Typhoon Melor made landfall on Monday.
SEVERE RAIN STORMS, FLOODING, LANDSLIDES -
States in the Pacific Northwest were hit this week with El Niño weather that brought record rainfall, flooding, mudslides, and power cuts, causing two deaths and leading state officials to declare a state of emergency in multiple counties.
Weather experts and federal agencies have warned that California could be hit with severe seasonal weather patterns whose effects could be worsened by the state's ongoing drought. According to a recently released Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)preparedness guide, this El Niño season — which some expect to be the strongest on record — could combine with existing conditions in California to create a slew of borderline disaster-scenarios in the state. The guide warns of increased flooding risks because of too-dry soil, a higher likelihood of landslides from wildfire destruction, and abnormally high tides along coastal regions.
While the seasonal warming of the Pacific Ocean affects localities spanning the entire West Coast, California's environment is particularly suited to magnify the effects of those weather patterns. While the state's drought-induced low reservoirs will likely take in some of the heavy rainfall, tributaries in flat areas could be prone to flooding, and several levees in the Sacramento Valley "have a significant chance of failure during the next high water mark." Along coastal areas, especially high tides could result from what's known as the "Blob,"a patch of warm water in the Pacific that could contribute to a rise in water levels by between eight and 11 inches.
Strong El Niño seasons have wreaked havoc on the state before. In the 1997-1998 season, the strongest on record, the state evacuated 100,000 people from affected regions. It resulted in landslides, mudslides, floods, and home destruction. Some have speculated that changes in the weather linked to climate change could be a contributing factor in making this year's season one of the strongest.
As Florida Keys flood, property worries seep in - Adams Drive in Key Largo, Florida has been flooded for nearly a month, after high tides were exacerbated by a super moon. Extreme high tides have turned streets into canal-like swamps in the Florida Keys, with armies of mosquitoes and the stench of stagnating water filling the air, and residents worried rising sea levels will put a damper on property values in the island chain.
On Key Largo, a tropical isle famous for snorkeling and fishing, the floods began in late September. While people expected high tides due to the season and the influence of a super moon, they were taken by surprise when a handful of streets in the lowest-lying neighborhoods stayed inundated for nearly a month with 16-inches (40-centimeters) of saltwater. By early November, the roads finally dried up. But unusually heavy rains in December brought it all back again. "Like a sewer."
Residents have signed petitions, voiced anger at community meetings and demanded that local officials do something, whether by raising roads or improving drainage. Sometimes, they clash over whether the floods are, or are not, a result of man-made climate change. "We get vocal residents who show up and argue," said the president of the Island of Key Largo Federation of Homeowners Association, who has never seen such high waters - or high tempers - in her 30 years of living here." Residents tend to agree on one thing, which is for many their life's biggest investment. "We are all concerned about our property values."
"It is like taking a peek at the future," said a geologist of the Key Largo floods, which he says were driven by abnormal tides and made worse by rising seas. Scientists cannot predict exactly how fast sea levels will mount in the years ahead as the oceans warm and glaciers melt. But they can broadly predict how much more water to expect - up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) above the 1992 average in the next 15 years and 26 inches (0.6 meters) by 2060.
Absent measures to adapt the properties, that amount of sea level rise by 2060 would wipe out 12 percent of property value in the Keys, a string of 1,700 small islands built on porous, prehistoric coral reefs, said a 2011 reports. Forecasts for 2100 are more dire. Since most of the islands are less than six feet (two meters) above the current sea level, a five-foot (1.5 meter) water rise in the Keys would erase 68 percent of property value in the area.
For now, south Florida real estate is booming. Even in the Keys, sales are up 17 percent and the average home sale price is $512,000, up three percent from last year. "So far we have not been seeing buyers being concerned with sea level rise, which I'm a little surprised given all the media attention it has garnered lately." But experts warn that plenty of cash and land stand to disappear in the next 15 years. As much as $15 billion could be lost in Florida property by 2030.
In the Keys, local officials are still studying ways to address the floods, and are planning a pair of demonstration projects to showcase the possibilities. But sea walls are impractical for the 113 miles (182 km) of islands. Pumps can't keep up with water that comes in from all sides and also up through the porous ground. Simply raising roads could send excess water into people's yards.
Landslide leaves Oregon residents on brink of disaster - The storm system may be on its way out of the Northwest, but it's not done doing damage. The road leading to houses used to be a road, but now it's a cliff. They've watched the landslide on their property for the last six days. What started as a crack, caved into a crater.
A week's worth of nearly non-stop rain in the picturesque part of Tillamook, Oregon, has left residents literally living near the edge. Now seven homes are in danger of being destroyed after nearly 11 inches of rain fell in seven days, opening a hole big enough to fit 11 SUVs. "Not a sound warning. It just, the land went away."
People are pitching into help - more than 200 sandbags are holding down a tarp intended to stop the ground from sliding any more. "If it starts to move, I'm not going to be stubborn and stay. I will get the hell out. But until it starts to move, I'm staying." The hole in front of one house is 100 feet long, and 50 feet wide. On Monday, he will find out if his home is condemned. He has found out the insurance company will not pay for the damage.
HEAVY SNOW / EXTREME COLD -
Here's Where NOAA Thinks We'll Have A White Christmas in the U.S. - NOAA released a graphic that charts out the probability that you’ll have some snow on December 25th, based on historical norms. NOAA’s graphic shows the “climatological probability of at least 1 inch of snow being on the ground”: This map is based on the 1981–2010 Climate Normals, which are the latest three-decade averages of several climatological measurements. This dataset contains daily and monthly Normals of temperature, precipitation, snowfall, heating and cooling degree days, frost/freeze dates, and growing degree days calculated from observations at approximately 9,800 stations operated by NOAA’s National Weather Service.
'GLOBAL WEIRDNESS' / CLIMATE CHANGE -
Earth May Spin Faster as Glaciers Melt - Scientists say a section of the West Antarctic ice sheet has reached a point of inevitable collapse, an event that would eventually raise sea levels more than 3 feet (1 meter). Melting ice triggered by global warming may make Earth whirl faster than before and could shift the axis on which the planet spins. This could also affect sunset times, as the length of Earth's day depends on the speed at which the planet rotates on its axis. Prior research found the rate at which Earth spins has changed over time.
For instance, ancient Babylonian, Chinese, Arab and Greek astronomers often recorded when eclipses occurred and where these phenomena were seen. This knowledge, in combination with astronomical models that calculate what the positions of the Earth, sun and moon were on any given date and time, can help reveal how fast Earth must have been spinning. To do so, researchers calculate the speed necessary for the planet to face the sun and moon in ways that allowed those astronomers to observe the eclipses.
In general, the gravitational pull of the moon and sun on Earth is relentlessly slowing the planet's rate of spin. However, in the short term, a variety of different factors can also speed up and slow down how fast Earth whirls. Previous research has found that melting glaciers triggered by global warming helped cause a significant amount of global sea-level rise in the 20th century. In theory, rising sea levels — once estimated to be climbing at a rate of about 0.06 to 0.08 inches (1.5 to 2 millimeters) per year — should also have slightly shifted Earth's axis and increased the rate at which the planet spins.
When polar ice caps melt, they remove weight off underlying rock, which then rebounds upward. This makes the poles less flat and the planet more round overall. This should in turn cause Earth to tilt a bit and spin more quickly. However, previous research mysteriously could not find evidence that melting glaciers were triggering a shift in either Earth's rotation or axis that was as great as predicted. This problem is known as "Munk's enigma," after oceanographer Walter Munk who first noted the mystery, in 2002.
Now, in a new study, researchers may have solved this enigma and shown that rising sea levels are indeed affecting Earth's spin and axis. "The rise of sea level and the melting of glaciers during the 20th century is confirmed not only by some of the most dramatic changes in the Earth system — for example, catastrophic flooding events, droughts [and] heat waves — but also in some of the most subtle — incredibly small changes in Earth's rotation rate." First, the scientists noted that recent studies suggested 20th-century glacial melting was about 30 percent less severe than Munk assumed. This should significantly reduce the predicted amount of shift in Earth's spin and axis.
Moreover, the research team's mathematical calculations and computer simulations found that prior research relied on erroneous models of Earth's internal structure. This meant previous studies did not correctly account for how much glaciers would deform underlying rock and influence Earth's spin. Furthermore, interactions between Earth's rocky mantle and the planet's molten metal outer core should have helped slow the planet's spin more than was previously thought.
Altogether, these adjustments helped the scientists find that ongoing glacial melting and the resulting sea-level rise are affecting the Earth in ways that match theoretical predictions, astronomical observations, and geodetic or land-survey data. "What we believe in regard to melting of glaciers in the 20th century is completely consistent with changes in Earth's rotation [as] measured by satellites and astronomical methods. This consistency was elusive for a few years, but now the enigma is resolved. Human-induced climate change is of such pressing importance to society that the responsibility on scientists to get things right is enormous. By resolving Munk's enigma, we further strengthen the already-strong argument that we are impacting climate."
California's stranded sea lions suffering from brain damage caused by algal blooms - Scientists have gleaned fresh insight into the havoc wreaked by a microscopic culprit that has disrupted marine life this year along the Pacific Coast, not only tainting Northern California's delicious supply of Dungeness crab but also sickening or killing hundreds of sea lions.
SPACE WEATHER -
THE GEMINID METEOR SHOWER IS UNDERWAY - Canada's Meteor Orbit Radar is picking up strong echoes from the constellation Gemini. It's a sign that the annual Geminid meteor shower is underway. Geminid meteoroids are gravelly debris from "rock comet" 3200 Phaethon. They hit Earth's atmosphere traveling ~35 km/s (78,000 mph) and typically disintegrate about 80 km (50 miles) above Earth's surface.
Earth is moving through the densest part of the stream today. Under ideal conditions this would produce as many as 120 meteors per hour. Winter weather around the northern hemisphere is, in most places, reducing actual sightings far below that number. On Dec. 14, the network reported 148 fireballs. (107 Geminids, 33 sporadics, 4 sigma Hydrids, 1 December Monocerotid, 1 , 1 Comae Berenicid, 1 December Leonis Minorid)
HEALTH THREATS -
RECALLS & ALERTS
Taking antidepressants during pregnancy linked to increased risk of autism - Children are more likely to be diagnosed with autism if their mothers took antidepressants during pregnancy, a new study shows. In the new study, women who took antidepressants in the last six months of pregnancy were 87% more likely to have a child later diagnosed with autism. Doctors saw no increase in autism rates in women who took medication for depression in the first three months of pregnancy.
It's part of a growing body of research that suggests that the events that cause autism largely occur before birth. Studies have found that children are at higher risk for autism, for example, if they are born early or very small. Children are also at higher risk if they are in medical distress during delivery; if they have older mothers or fathers; or if they are born less than a year after an older sibling.
Autism risk also goes up for women who are obese; if they have diabetes or high blood pressure; if they are hospitalized for an infection; if they're exposed to significant air pollution during pregnancy; if they had low levels of folic acid in early pregnancy; or if they take an anti-seizure drug called valproic acid. "It's really during pregnancy that the hard-wiring of the brain takes place."
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