Friday, January 15, 2016

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster updates.

**Expectations are the enemy of happiness.
They can raise the bar so high that your experience is bound to fall short.**
Eric Weiner

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or larger.

Yesterday, 1/14/16 -

Volcanic eruptions at the bottom of the sea are at the heart of how the Earth works, yet we know surprisingly little about them. About 70% of the volcanism on Earth occurs underwater. But now, thanks to a network of seafloor sensors connected to the internet, scientists are starting to get a glimpse of the fundamental processes that shape our planet.
This "ocean observatory" is situated atop an underwater mountain range off the coast from Oregon and Washington, and can measure everything from the rumbles of deep-sea earthquakes to the chemical burps of volcanic vents. And it just went online this month. One of the exciting things scientists can do with this observatory is predict volcanic eruptions and monitor them while they're occurring. Earthquakes tell scientists about how the ground is deforming, which can provide clues that there's going to be an eruption.


* In the North Atlantic Ocean -
Hurricane Alex - Conditions deteriorating over the central and eastern Azores. Hurricane conditions expected over portions of the Azores later this morning.
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Graciosa, and Terceira in the central Azores.
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Sao Miguel and Santa Maria in the eastern Azores.
Alex is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 3 to 5 inches over the Azores through today, with possible isolated maximum amounts of 7 inches. These rains could produce life-threatening flash floods and mud slides. A dangerous storm surge is expected to produce significant coastal flooding near and to the east of the center of Alex. Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.

* In the Southern Pacific -
Tropical cyclone Seven is located approximately 320 nm east of Pago Pago, American Samoa.

* In the Central Pacific -
Remnants of Pali dissipating near the Equator far southwest of Hawaii.
Alex Becomes the Atlantic’s First January Hurricane Since 1955 - History spun up over the far reaches of the Northeast Atlantic on Thursday, as Subtropical Storm Alex carved out a distinct eye within a core of intense thunderstorms, making it Hurricane Alex. The 10 am EST advisory from the National Hurricane Center put Alex’s sustained winds at 85 mph. Alex was located about 500 miles south of Faial Island in the Azores, moving north-northeast at 20 mph.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the islands of Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Graciosa, and Terceira in the central Azores. Given the strong steering currents driving Alex, there is high confidence that at least some of the central Azores will experience tropical storm or hurricane-force wind, heavy rain, and high surf. To get a hurricane making landfall in the Azores any time of year is quite unusual (about once per 10-20 years); to get a landfall in January would be truly remarkable.
Designated a subtropical storm on Wednesday, Alex took on a surprisingly healthy structure overnight, with a symmetric core of showers and thunderstorms around its clear-cut eye. Sea-surface temperatures beneath Alex are only around 20-22°C (68-72°F). Although these are up to 1°C above average for this time of year, they are far cooler than usually required for tropical cyclone development. However, upper-level temperatures near Alex are unusually cold for the latitude, which means that instability - driven by the contrast between warm, moist lower levels and cold, drier upper levels - is higher than it would otherwise be. That instability allowed showers and thunderstorms to blossom and consolidate, strengthening the warm core that makes Alex a hurricane as opposed to an extratropical or subtropical storm.
Alex’s unusual life as a January hurricane will be a short one. The system is already accelerating northward ahead of a strong upper-level trough, and by late Friday it should be a powerful post- tropical low racing toward Greenland. Even though Alex will become absorbed in the higher-latitude storm system, its warm, moist air may assist in pushing temperatures over parts of Greenland more than 35°F above average this weekend into early next week.

Hurricane Pali weakens to a tropical depression near equator. Late Wednesday was the first time in the modern era of tropical cyclone observing and prediction that we had simultaneous named systems in January in the Atlantic (Alex) and Central Pacific (Pali) - or, for that matter, anywhere in the Pacific. Pali is the earliest named storm and earliest hurricane on record between the International Date Line and the Americas.
It reached Category 2 strength (85 knots or 100 mph) on Tuesday. While Alex was strengthening into a hurricane on Wednesday night, Pali was falling apart. By Thursday morning, Pali had decayed into Tropical Depression Pali, located at 173.0°W and just 2.5°N. Now experiencing moderate to strong wind shear, Pali should be history within the next few hours. Very few tropical cyclones have made it as close to the equator as Pali, since they normally rely on the Corilis force (which is stronger at higher latitudes) to give them a cyclonic spin.
Only two other tropical cyclones have been known to make it within 2° latitude of the equator. When it formed south of 5°N latitude on January 7, Pali became the first tropical cyclone known to have existed in any of the equatorial regions used to monitor El NiƱo sea-surface conditions.

Which year should Alex and Pali belong to? One might argue that Alex and Pali are actually straggler storms from the 2015 Atlantic and Central Pacific seasons, rather than the first storms of 2016. Tropical sea-surface temperatures north of the equator typically bottom out around March, so there might be some physical rationale for defining the Central/Northeast Pacific and Atlantic hurricane “years” as being from March 1 to February 28/29.
In practice, though, there are very few tropical cyclones in January and February, so in most years this switch would make no difference, and it could foster public confusion. There is a much stronger physical rationale for the practice of straddling hurricane seasons across calendar years in the Southern Hemisphere, where summer arrives in late December and cyclones often form before January 1.


Atlantic hurricane in January linked to El Nino - The rare January hurricane formed far out in the Atlantic, the first to form in the month since 1938. A warning has been issued for the Azores Islands as Hurricane Alex heads in that direction with wind speeds of 140km/h (85 mph). The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said the hurricane was likely to hit the islands on Friday. Residents have been told to expect waves up to 18m (60ft) high and wind gusts up to 160km/h. In calendar terms, Alex is one of the earliest tropical systems to form in the Atlantic Hurricane Basin since records began.
Meanwhile, another tropical storm, Pali, has formed over the Pacific, similarly rare at this time of year. Scientists have linked the storms to powerful winds and high sea surface temperatures resulting from an unusually strong El Nino phenomenon this year. The World Meteorological Organization has said the 2015 occurrence of El Nino will be among the three strongest recorded since 1950.
Severe droughts and significant flooding in many parts of the world are being attributed to the phenomenon, which occurs every two to seven years. El Nino is a naturally occurring weather episode that sees the warm waters of the central Pacific expand eastwards towards North and South America.

Toxic Chemical Discovered in San Francisco's Fog - ​Fog rolling in off the Pacific brings iconic beauty to San Francisco, but scientists say it also carries with it something much less pleasant: toxic mercury.​ The fog along the coast of California deposits a neurotoxin called monomethyl mercury — at a concentration about 20 times that of rain — as it sweeps across the city. "On a relative scale, the levels of mercury are quite low and of no health concern. But it does bioaccumulate," or build up in organisms.


3 close asteroids went by earth this week - closer than the moon's distance to earth:
(2016 AQ164), January 10, 0.3 Lunar distance away, Estimated Diameter 2.8 m - 6.3 meters.
(2016 AH164), January 12, 0.07 Lunar distance away, Estimated Diameter 3.2 m - 7.1 m.
(2016 AN164), January 14, 0.1 Lunar distance away, Estimated Diameter 2.1 m - 4.7 m.

Complete Dates and Times for Each Meteor Shower in 2016.

Astronomers are baffled by a newly discovered cosmic explosion that shines 570 billion times brighter than the sun. This particular super-luminous supernova, called ASASSN-15lh, doesn't just break the record for most powerful — it obliterates it. On average, it outshines the average supernova by 200 times. This goes so beyond the norm that one of the astronomers who first observed it wasn't sure what to make of it.
For a better idea of how bright that is, if you could combine all 100 billion stars in our Milky Way Galaxy into one enormous, glowing sphere, this super-luminous supernova would still shine 20 times brighter. On June 14, 2015, the group spotted the new explosion that turned out to be much farther away - and much, much brighter - than what they typically find. At its peak intensity, ASASSN-15lh was 570 billion times brighter than our own sun. "We have to ask, how is that even possible?"
The most powerful supernova on record, experts think that they might never see a supernova this bright ever again. "At this point, that we do not know what could be the power source for ASASSN-15lh." One theory is that a type of extremely dense star, called a neutron star, is at the source of it all. Neutron stars are some of the densest objects in the universe and are thought to be the only thing that's left of a star once it's gone supernova.
Many neutron stars are believed to be spinning on their axis — the same way Earth rotates on its axis. And in some neutron stars, the spinning action is so fast that it spawns powerful magnetic fields. Astronomers call these cases magnetars. One theory is that the magnetic fields of magnetars are so strong that they could fuel the power necessary to generate the intense luminosity of observed hypernova. But if this is the case, it would also mean that in order to produce the type of luminosity seen from ASASSN-15lh, the magnetar would have to be spinning at 1,000 times a second.

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