Friday, February 5, 2016

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster updates.

**Sometimes things have to fall apart to make way for better things.**
Ted Mosby

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 2/4/16 -

2/3/16 -

Underground Ramp Makes Himalayas 'Grow' Between Big Earthquakes - A subterranean ramp that is part of a major fault in the Himalayas may push up the earth after major earthquakes, new research has found. The new study mapped the fault line where the Indian Plate is diving beneath the Eurasian Continental Plate, which snakes across Tibet and Nepal. The fault is kinked, with one steeply diving "ramp" pushing up material that forms the world's tallest mountain.
The new study also corroborated other research that showed that the April 2015 Gorkha earthquake, which killed at least 8,000 people and injured thousands more, did not even come close to releasing all the stress on the fault. This pent-up energy means big earthquakes in the region could potentially happen sooner than one would otherwise expect.
The earthquake shifted Kathmandu 5 feet (1.5 meters) to the south and pushed it up by almost 24 inches (60 cm). The quake also caused Mount Everest to shrink by about 1 inch (2.5 cm).

Research team finds link between fault line slippage, large earthquakes - Movement along fault lines may be a strong indicator of when large earthquakes will occur. A report outlined its findings on how slow-slip events — movements between large tectonic plates — that occurred along a fault line approximately 1,000 kilometers long in Japan seemed to precede large earthquakes. In Japan, tectonic plates press into one another, leading to slow-slips. This movement often results in small earthquakes and, as slow-slips accelerate, larger ones.

A Japanese volcano about 50 km (30 miles) from a nuclear plant erupted on Friday, sending fountains of lava into the night sky. The Sakurajima volcano, on the southernmost main island of Kyushu, erupts frequently. The Sendai nuclear plant, run by Kyushu Electric Power, and on the same island, resumed operations last year. It was shut down, along with all of Japan's nuclear plants, after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered a meltdown at a nuclear plant north of Tokyo.

Sharks in a volcano! - Kavachi, near the Solomon Islands, is one of the most active submarine volcanoes in the world. The volcano's peak lies 25 metres below the surface, and when it isn't erupting the crater is overflowing with orange hydrothermal fluid which can be seen for a kilometre or more downstream. A team of scientists studying its geothermal activity made the unexpected discovery of sharks swimming around in the hot, acidic waters inside its crater.


No current tropical storms.

Hurricane Patricia's winds reached a record 215 mph as it roared toward the west coast of Mexico in October. That's 15 mph greater than Patricia's previously thought top speed. It's the strongest wind speed ever measured in a hurricane in the Western Hemisphere. The record was set while the storm was offshore. Before it hit land, the storm "weakened" to 150 mph. That still made Patricia the strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in Mexico.
Patricia hit a sparsely populated part of the country, limiting damage. Two people were killed and 10,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. In terms of barometric pressure, it was also the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere and second-strongest recorded anywhere in the world, trailing only Typhoon Tip in 1979.

Rapidly Intensifying Cyclones Drive Odd Phenomenon - In October 2015, Hurricane Patricia became the strongest storm ever measured by the National Hurricane Center. But what really worried authorities was the speed at which Patricia amassed her strength. The storm’s sustained winds increased from 85 miles per hour to 200 in 24 hours — the greatest 24-hour rise in intensity ever observed in the satellite era.
While forecast models have made huge strides in the last 30 years predicting the tracks of hurricanes, they still have a difficult time predicting the rate at which a storm will intensify and become dangerous. Now, a new study shows that storms like Patricia that grow rapidly are responsible for an odd phenomenon in tropical cyclones overall: stronger storms are sometimes more common than moderate ones. In this, tropical cyclones stand in stark contrast to most other kinds of weather systems, in which stronger events are uniformly rarer than moderate ones.

New Zealand and Pacific 'not off the hook' as tropical cyclone season starts to peak. Conditions are ripe for a tropical cyclone to form over the southwest Pacific as storm season reaches its height. Tropical cyclone season heats up in February and March, the busiest time of year for severe storms in the southwest Pacific including New Zealand. More than a dozen "named" cyclones are forecast to form as the strongest El Nino system in years gathers energy.


Britain is back on storm alert as experts warn to brace for fierce gales and torrential downpours in the coming days. More than two inches of rain is forecast in parts of the country with up to 90mph winds threatening a washout weekend. Stormy weather will make a comeback on Friday with the south in the firing line for the worst of the battering at the weekend. The Met Office has issued severe weather warnings for heavy and persistent rain reigniting fears of floods and travel mayhem. Northern regions will be affected by downpours on Friday before a stubborn band of rain moves southwards across the UK.


Australia - Record-breaking heatwave tipped for Perth as experts warn of heatstroke. Some suburbs will fare worse than others as Perth braces for a record-breaking heatwave. Saturday's temperature is predicted to reach a maximum of 36 degrees Celsius, following 35 on Friday, then Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are all expected to have temperatures of 40 degrees or above. It was the combination of high daytime and high night-time temperatures expected that caused heatwave conditions.
"To put this into some sort of context we have never before experienced - since we started taking observations at Mount Lawley in 1992 - a run of four consecutive days of 39 or above. And it's only ever happened twice before since we started taking records back in the 1870s. So whilst we are in February, and it's hot in February, these are the sorts of conditions that we've not experienced before."

Hawaii - Drought fears rise as lack of January rain sets records. Last month’s weather may have been great for the beach, but the lack of rain made it the driest January on record in several locations in Hawaii. “Drought impacts, mainly to the agriculture sector, started on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island and will likely spread and intensify over the coming weeks."
All of Oahu’s rain gauges recorded below average rainfall. Only .03 inches fell at the Honolulu Airport, about 1 percent of the normal 2.3 inches for January, setting a new record for the month. All of the rain gauges at lower elevations on Oahu — from Downtown Honolulu to Waianae — got less than 10 percent of normal rainfall. The highest rainfall total of 5.6 inches was recorded at Poamoho, but that is still 31 percent of the average for January.

Philippines - Farmers in 17 of Maguindanao’s 36 towns lost their rice and corn crops to the now two-month dry spell, feared to cause widespread hunger without downpours until summer. Field workers are still validating reports on the extent of crop damage in the other 19 Maguindanao towns. Rats had also destroyed vast swaths of rice and corn farms in Maguindanao last January.

Pakistan - At least 139 children died of waterborne disease in January in Pakistan's impoverished desert district of Tharparkar, which has been devastated by drought since 2013.


Absurd January Warmth in Arctic Brings Record-Low Sea Ice Extent - This winter’s freezing season in the Arctic is falling short. The extent of Arctic sea ice this week is hovering near record-low values for early February, based on observations that extend back to the start of satellite monitoring in 1979.
Data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) shows that last month had the lowest overall Arctic sea ice extent of any January in the satellite record. The total extent of 13.53 million square kilometers (5.2 million square miles) was 1.04 million sq km below the 1981-2010 average and 90,000 sq km below the record from January 2011.
Only a few weeks are left before the return of polar sunshine puts an end to the freeze-up that typically starts in September and peaks in late February or March. Last year’s maximum extent occurred quite early - on February 25 - and it was the lowest in the satellite record, at 14.54 million square kilometers. This year appears to have a reasonable shot at breaking that record.
Hand in hand with the skimpy ice cover, temperatures across the Arctic have been extraordinarily warm for midwinter. Just before New Year’s, a slug of mild air pushed temperatures above freezing to within 200 miles of the North Pole. That warm pulse quickly dissipated, but it was followed by a series of intense North Atlantic cyclones that sent very mild air poleward, in tandem with a strongly negative Arctic Oscillation during the first three weeks of the month.
“January was absurdly warm in the Arctic." The average surface temperature in January between latitude 60°N and the North Pole was -18.2°C (-0.8°F), topping the previous record of -20.6°C (-5.1°F) set in January 2005. Just above the surface (925 mb), the average January temperature of -14.2°C (5.9°F) was well above the previous record of -16.5°C (0.7°F), also set in 2005. The fact that average readings at this level are warmer than at the surface reflects the strong inversion typical of the lower Arctic atmosphere, especially in winter, as cold air hugs the surface and milder air flows just above it.
Some of the most visible ice-extent deficits right now are in the Barents Sea, north of Scandinavia. Warm waters carried by the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current (AMOC) can push all the way northeast into the Barents, making it one of the most variable of the seas that fringe the Arctic.Sea ice now covers less than half the area across the Barents that it did a year ago at this time. The difference in area -roughly 350,000 square kilometers - is bigger than the state of New Mexico. (Note that sea ice area is a somewhat different index than sea ice extent.)
Near the northwest corner of the Barents Sea, temperatures in Svalbard, Norway - at 78°N, the northernmost civilian community on Earth - have been far above average for the entire last month. From January 5 to February 3, the average in Svalbard was -4.7°C (23.5°F), which is a full 19°F above the norm - remarkable for a 30-day period. The coldest reading of the whole period, -11.9°C, was still above the average January high of -13.0°C! Temperatures pushed above freezing on four days, reaching 4.5°C on January 24 (still not a monthly record, though). The WU forecast shows Svalbard remaining unusually mild for at least the next week, with lows at or above the average highs.
The outlook for 2016 - Most of the attention around Arctic sea ice has focused on the dramatic losses in summertime, especially over the past decade. The minimum yearly extent set new record lows in 2007 and again in 2012. Both of these minimums were followed by a year or two of quasi-recovery, but then the long-term trend toward lower summer minimums resumed. Could 2016 set another new record minimum? It’s far too soon to make any confident predictions.
A record-low maximum could give the ice a head start on 2016 melting, but the ultimate outcome will depend mainly on weather patterns still to come, especially in early summer. Warm southerly winds and clear, sunny skies during June and July can make a huge difference in paving the way for a record minimum in September. Those on the front lines of experimental sea ice prediction stress the role of weather conditions in modulating how any one season will fare.
“Because the atmosphere is mostly unpredictable beyond 1 or 2 weeks, the sea ice forecasts initialized in late spring may not be able to accurately predict sea ice features that develop as a result of extreme summer atmospheric conditions." Idealized experiments suggest that the state of Arctic sea ice might be predictable with some skill as far as two years in advance. To reach this theoretical goal, we would need major advances in both Arctic observations and modeling.
There’s another catch: climate change itself may make the task harder. “Interannual variability of summer sea ice extent will likely increase in coming decades,nand some scientists suggest that this might lead to a reduction in predictability.”


A small asteroid named "2013 TX68" will fly by Earth on March 5th, and NASA says it could come as close as 17,000 km to our planet's surface. That would put it well inside the Clarke Belt of geosynchronous satellites. The space rock is about 30 meters wide, or 50% larger than the asteroid that broke up in the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, three years ago. If an asteroid the size of 2013 TX68 were to enter Earth's atmosphere, it would likely produce an air burst with twice the energy of the Chelyabinsk event.

OZONE HOLE FORMS OVER THE UK - For the past week, sky watchers in the UK have witnessed a rare apparition of polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs). Normally restricted to the Arctic Circle, the fantastically colorful clouds have appeared over the British Isles almost every day since Jan. 31st.
PSCs form in the lower stratosphere when temperatures drop to a staggeringly-cold -85ºC. High-altitude sunlight shining through tiny ice particles ~10µm wide produce bright iridescent colors by diffraction and interference. But there is more to PSCs than ice. Some polar stratospheric clouds contain very small droplets of naturally occurring nitric and sulphuric acids. These droplets destroy ozone. Indeed, a temporary ozone hole has formed over Ireland and the UK.
"The acid droplets destroy the stratospheric ozone layer that protects us from harmful solar ultra- violet rays. They catalyse unreactive forms of man-made chlorine into active free radicals (for example ClO, chlorine monoxide). The radicals destroy many ozone molecules in a series of chain reactions.."
This outbreak of PSCs is truly unusual. "Prior to this outbreak I have seen PSCs over the UK only twice in the last 20 years! This episode is exceptional at such low latitudes."
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