**The wisest person may be the one who can admit he knows nothing.**
LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
5.6 BOUGAINVILLE REGION, P.N.G.
Yesterday, 12/28/15 -
5.2 CENTRAL MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE
5.3 SERAM, INDONESIA
5.6 MARTINIQUE REGION, WINDWARD ISL.
Famed architect builds quake-proof homes from rubble in Nepal - After twin earthquakes in April and May claimed 9,000 lives and left vast swathes of Nepal in ruins, survivors worried if they reused the brick rubble, they would end up with the same vulnerable, seismically unsound structures.
Renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban - who helped bring global attention to humanitarian architecture and continues to influence fellow architects and disaster-relief workers - devised a solution. The prototype for his latest humanitarian housing project in Nepal consists of standard timber door frames joined together and reinforced with plywood. The frames are filled in with brick rubble, and the roof is covered with a plastic sheet and thatched for insulation.
The resulting structure is strong enough to meet Japan's stringent earthquake standards. "I'm hoping people will copy my design. If we make 20, some other NGO might make more. I'm encouraging people to copy my ideas. No copyrights." He has also built shelters for Rwandan refugees in 1994, Sri Lankan survivors of the 2004 tsunami, and victims of major disasters in Japan.
TROPICAL STORMS -
No current tropical storms.
SEVERE RAIN STORMS, FLOODING, LANDSLIDES -
Ireland - Storm Frank rolls in to wreak havoc with even worse flooding. The Atlantic storm, Frank, will bring downpours, strong winds and high-risk conditions. Storm Frank is set to hit the country today, with fears that the resultant flooding could be even worse than that caused by pre-Christmas torrential rain.
There is a status yellow wind warning in place for Dublin and the rest of Leinster, with gusts of up to 110kph expected this afternoon. Meanwhile, Met Eireann announced a status orange alert for the whole west coast where winds are expected to be even stronger. "It's a very vigorous Atlantic storm, which will bring very heavy rain and strong winds, up to storm force off the west coast."
The public have been told to stay away from at-risk coastal areas. Locations close to the seafront, such as piers and coastal walks, should be avoided over the next 48 hours. High waters are breaking over pier walls, and high-risk areas should be especially avoided by parents with younger children. As conditions worsen, entire communities along the River Shannon have been told to stay indoors if possible.
An expected 100mm of rain will fall in villages and towns already devastated by Storm Desmond. Water levels may exceed those experienced during that storm. All low-lying areas along the Shannon catchment are at risk of potential flooding. Flood warnings were issued again last night for large parts of counties Westmeath, Clare, Limerick. Galway, Mayo, Kerry and Cork.
In Paraguay, more flee worst floods in decades as levee creaks - Floods force mass evacuations in 4 South American countries. With further rain looming, more families abandoned their homes on Sunday in Paraguay, the country hardest hit by the worst flooding in decades in the area bordering Uruguay and Argentina, which has already forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate.
The El Niño weather phenomenon has exacerbated summer rains, swelling rivers in the region. The River Paraguay, which flows by the country's capital, Asuncion, has already reached 7.82 meters (25.66 feet), its highest level since 1992. Around 90,000 people have already left their homes in Asuncion, and are camping in makeshift wood and tin shelters around the city in parks and public spaces or finding refuge in schools and military buildings. In Alberdi, authorities have called for 7,000 more people to evacuate because of cracks detected in the town's levee.
In Uruguay, the number of evacuees was 11,300 on Sunday. River levels were stabilizing now. This has allowed about 1,000 people to return to their homes, while an additional 5,600 were also returning. In southern Brazil, flooding has forced 1,801 families to leave their homes, in the latest update late on Saturday.
HEAVY SNOW / EXTREME COLD -
U.S. Reeling From Violent Tornadoes, Epic Flooding, Winter Weather, and Weird Heat - Wild weather continued to plaster the nation’s midsection on Monday as a multi-barreled storm system shifted eastward. Thankfully, the severe weather threat has ramped down somewhat, with the highest risks now shifting to river and flash floods - from eastern Oklahoma to the Appalachians - and snow and ice, from Nebraska to New England. More than 40 weather-related deaths have been reported since Wednesday.
North Texas cleans up from Saturday’s deadly tornadoes - Ahead of a strong cold front in west Texas, supercell thunderstorms that ripped across the sprawling eastern part of the Dallas area spawned several tornadoes that killed at least 11 people. One violent tornado that killed eight people in Garland was rated EF4, while “at least EF3” damage was found in Rowlett, just east of Garland, due to the same tornado or one that closely followed. Two people died in Copeland, about 15 miles to the northeast, where EF2 damage was documented. Several other weaker tornadoes struck North Texas.
As many as 1000 structures were damaged across north Texas, many of them severely. The storms were fed by a very strong upper-level jet as well as unusually high instability for December (around 3000 joules per kilogram, which would be concerning in springtime, much less wintertime). Temperatures reached 80°F in Dallas just hours before the tornadic supercell arrived, with a summerlike dew point of 67°F.
The widespread persistence of warm, humid conditions over the last few days has led to an unusual U.S. stretch of severe weather for December, including tornadoes from Mississippi to Michigan on Wednesday. The EF1 tornado that touched down in Canton, Michigan on December 23 was Michigan's first December tornado on record.
Winter weather shifting from High Plains to Midwest, Northeast - While severe weather rumbled across east Texas on Sunday, the western part of the state was dealing with a crippling blizzard that extended into eastern New Mexico, while freezing rain knocked out power to tens of thousands of western Oklahomans. Exceptionally strong winds - gusting above 70 mph in some areas - have led to near-zero visibilities and drifts of 6 feet or more, paralyzing travel across the region. Roswell, NM, had racked up 12.3” for the day by 8 pm CST Sunday, topping its one-day record of 11.5”; the two-day total of 15.5" was approaching Roswell's two-day record of 16.9”.
Lubbock, TX, picked up 2.7” between 6 and 7 pm CST Sunday, pushing its storm total to 9.2”. The city’s heaviest-on- record storm total of 16.9” was picked up on January 20-21 during (you guessed it) the super El Niño of 1982-83. As the upper-level storm and associated low head northeastward on Monday, more snow and ice is plastering a swath extending from Kansas and Nebraska to Wisconsin and Michigan. A mix of sleet, snow, and freezing rain is bedeviling parts of the Great Lakes, including the Chicago and Detroit areas. A band of heavier snow (6” to 12” in spots), coupled with freezing rain in some areas, is expected from northern Wisconsin into much of Maine.
Massive flooding hits Missouri and Illinois, killing 13 - The weekend storm brought incredibly heavy rains to eastern Oklahoma, northwest Arkansas, and Southwest Missouri, with 10.0" falling in a 30-hour period ending Sunday evening on the south side of Springfield, Missouri. The heavy rains drove rivers in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas above major flood stage, with the Illinois River reaching its highest crest on record at two locations. Eight people died Saturday night in Missouri in floods; six of the deaths occurred in two separate incidents where cars drove into flooded roadways in Pulaski County and were swept away by water. In southern Illinois, three adults and two children drowned Saturday evening when their car was swept away and sank in a rain-swollen creek. Mercifully, the rains have ended in Missouri and dry weather is expected the rest of the week.
A historic flood is building on the Mississippi River - The updated flood forecasts for the Mississippi River issued Monday afternoon by NWS River Forecast Center are about two feet higher than the forecasts issued on Sunday. Nearly all of the Lower Mississippi is expected to enter major flood stage over the next few weeks, as are the lower portions of two main tributaries, the Ohio and Arkansas Rivers. The Mississippi River near St. Louis was already near flood stage late last week due to excessive rains of 2 - 4" (400 - 600% of average) that fell during the past two weeks farther upstream in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
A massive pulse of flood waters from the epic December 26 - 28 rains will pile into the Mississippi River over the next few days, bringing the river to flood levels that will be the highest on record outside of the usual spring to early summer flood season. The Mississippi River at St. Louis was at moderate flood stage on Monday afternoon, and is forecast to crest on Wednesday at the second highest level ever observed, just five feet below the all-time record set during the disastrous flood of 1993. Flood records at this location extend back to 1785.
Downstream from St. Louis, the Mississippi River is forecast to crest late this week in Chester, Cape Girardeau, and Thebes at the highest levels ever recorded. NOAA warns that at the flood levels expected, the Degognia, Fountain Bluff, Stringtown, and Prairie DuRocher levees will be overtopped near Chester. NOAA projects that the massive flood crest will propagate downstream to the Gulf of Mexico during the first three weeks of January, bringing flood heights that are expected to be between the 2nd highest and 4th highest on record all the way to Louisiana.
The capital of Christmas commerce, New York City, basked in record warmth of 72°F on Thursday and 66°F on Friday. As of Sunday, Central Park had yet to get below 32°F this fall or winter; its monthly average (12/1 – 12/26) of 52.0°F was running at an astonishing 13.8°F above normal and 7.9°F above the previous December record, going back to 1871. A cooldown this week will reduce that value, but a warmest-on-record December is all but certain for much of the eastern U.S. It’s no wonder that flowers and shrubs are blossoming from Washington to New York.
Floods, holiday warmth extend to Britain and beyond - Northern England continues to deal with relentless bursts of rain and resulting floods. The accounting firm KPMG estimates the cost of the disruption to Britain’s economy at up to 5.8 billion pounds (roughly $8.6 billion US). More heavy rain is expected on Wednesday. The venerable Central England Temperature index - the world’s oldest continuous instrumented record of temperature - remains on track to set its warmest December reading in more than 350 years. The estimated average from 12/1 to 12/27 is at 9.8°C (49.6°F), which is 5.0°C (9.0°C) above the norm. Other European nations are also likely to set records for December warmth, including the Netherlands. (maps, charts and photos at link)
'GLOBAL WEIRDNESS' / CLIMATE CHANGE -
Warm Weather Extends Maine's Lobster Season - The unusually warm weather in New England has made for an unusually long lobstering season in Maine. The mild weather means there is an abundance of lobsters in the Gulf of Maine and many lobstermen are continuing to fish.
SPACE WEATHER -
AURORAS LIKELY THIS WEEK - 2015 could end with an outburst of auroras. NOAA forecasters say there is a 60% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on Dec. 30th when a CME is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field. There is an equal 60% chance that the storms will spill over into Dec. 31st, New Year's Eve.
After several days of pent-up quiet, big sunspot AR2473 erupted on Dec. 28th (12:49 UT), producing a slow but powerful M1.9-class solar flare. For more than an hour, UV radiation from the flare bathed the top of Earth's atmosphere, ionizing atoms and molecules. This, in turn, disrupted the normal propagation of shortwave radio signals on the dayside of our planet. Ham radio operators, mariners and aviators in South America, Africa and the south Atlantic Ocean may have noticed fades and blackouts of transmissions below 20 MHz.
The slow explosion also produced a coronal mass ejection (CME). Images from the Solar and Heliospheric Obseratory (SOHO) show a ragged, full-halo CME heading almost directly toward Earth. NOAA analysts have modeled this CME, and they say it could reach Earth as early as Dec. 30th, with a 60% chance of polar geomagnetic storms when the CME arrives. Maximum storm levels are expected to be in the range G1 to G2.
Sunspot AR2374 has an unstable 'beta-gamma' magnetic field that could explode again in the hours ahead. NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of additional M-class flares and a 10% chance of X-flares on Dec. 29th.
HEALTH THREATS -
RECALLS & ALERTS
After 2 Years And 2,500 Deaths, Guinea Is Ebola-Free - For a country to be declared free of the virus, it must go 42 days without seeing a new infection.
Asthma epidemic in children levels off for most - The "asthma epidemic" became a serious public health concern as more children were diagnosed with asthma in the last few decades, but those numbers may finally have plateaued for children overall, according to a new study.
Teas with added citric acid had elevated aluminum, cadmium, and lead, and lemon tea bags produced levels 10 to 70 times higher. Fluoride levels in economy teas exceeded daily recommended levels and had three times the amount of more expensive varieties.
86% of herbal teas intended for babies and pregnant and breastfeeding women tested positive for pyrrolizidine alkaloids, toxins produced by some flowering plants that can cause liver damage. This finding has particular importance for pregnant and lactating women because they can pass the compounds along to the fetus or baby, who is more vulnerable to the toxic effects of pyrrolizidine alkaloids because of their low body weights.
Keep brew time under three minutes, and "avoid tea from regions that are more contaminated," like China, India, and Sri Lanka. Go for tea leaves over bag tea or lemon teas. Powder-based "lemon tea in bags is usually of worse quality than tea leaves" and has "higher amounts of noxious metal than tea infusions made from whole leaves."
Brew bag tea for less time to get less noxious metals, and hold off on adding lemon to your tea until it's done brewing and you've removed the leaves or bag. Otherwise, "when you add lemon to the tea, its pH becomes lower and more noxious metals are extracted to the tea."
To reduce fluoride exposure, again, limit brewing time, and stick to the pricier blends if you drink more than four cups of tea daily. "If anyone wishes to reduce their fluoride intake, consuming pure blends such as Assam, Ceylon, Oolong, or Darjeeling would be a way to achieve this." Mix it up – don't stick to one brand or product. "Instead, mix different suppliers and products."
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