Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster updates.

**Plans are nothing; planning is everything.**
Dwight D. Eisenhower

LARGEST QUAKES so far today, 6.0 or larger -

Oklahoma - Earthquakes stronger this year, but quake count slightly less. This year, seven earthquakes of 4.0 magnitude or greater have occurred in the state. Through the same time last year, four earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 occurred. Since January 1 of 2016 until February 19 Oklahoma has recorded 339 earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater. Through the same period last year the state had recorded 389 quakes. The strongest earthquake this year was a 5.1 that occurred February 13 in northern Oklahoma.

Major County, Oklahoma, records 35 quakes over previous week, including the rattling 5.1

Mt. Bulusan spews 500-m high ash column - Philippines- Mt. Bulusan in Sorsogon province spewed a 500- meter high grayish ash column around 5 p.m. Monday, drifting toward villages in the towns of Juban and Irosin.

Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung Eruption Captured in Time Exposure - Photos taken on February 21, 2016 show the eruption of the Mount Sinabung volcano in Sumatra.

PHOTOS: Nicaragua's Momotombo Volcano still putting on a show - By all appearances, Nicaragua's formerly sleeping giant Momotombo isn't going back to bed just yet.

Taking on the world's most dangerous volcano - Nyiragongo is a cone volcano that dominates the sky above the city of Goma, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in eastern Africa. It’s an active mountain that erupted in 2002; with the resulting lava flow destroying a large area of Goma and nearly shutting down the airport.

Volcano Activity Worldwide - Alaid Volcano (Northern Kuriles): New thermal anomalies have been detected from the volcano during the past days via satellite data. It is not known whether or not a new eruption is underway at the volcano which is rarely visited, but one of the most active ones in the area. Its most recent eruption from Oct 2015 to January this year produced spectacular lava flows that flowed into the sea and enlarged the uninhabited island. The Aviation Color Code was raised again to yellow. Colima Volcano (Western Mexico): As had been suspected last week, a new (still small) lava dome has appeared inside the volcano's summit crater. During an overflight on 19 Feb, it was seen to be approx. 25 m in diameter and 10 m tall.


* In the Southern Pacific -
Tropical cyclone Winston is located approximately 314 nm west-southwest of Suva, Fiji. Winston is forecast to weaken rapidly.
At least 21 deaths had been reported by late Monday Fiji time as the island nation slogged through the daunting early stages of recovery from ferocious Cyclone Winston, the strongest tropical cyclone on record in the Southern Hemisphere. Officials expect the death toll to rise when they're finally able to reach outlying islands that were hit hardest by the powerful storm, and it would not be surprising if Winston ends up being the deadliest and costliest natural disaster in Fiji's history.
Fiji's deadliest tropical cyclone in recorded history was Category 3 Cyclone Eric of 1985, which made a direct hit on the capital of Suva, killing 25. [29 now officially reported killed by Cyclone Winston.] Since satellite records began in 1970 (with high-quality satellite images only available since 1990), just eleven Catergory 5's (including Winston) have been observed anywhere in the South Pacific east of Australia. Winston is the strongest of these.


Extreme Weather Strikes Israel as Sea of Galilee Rises, Negev Floods - Following a week of unusually mild weather, winter returned to Israel this weekend as a large rainstorm struck from the north to the south, causing floods in the desert and dropping snow on the mountains in yet another round of apocalyptic weather in the Middle East.
The storm made itself felt in every part of the country. In the north, Mount Hermon was closed to visitors and skiers due to heavy snowfall, fierce winds, and heavy fog. The Sea of Galilee, which is at a near-constant risk of depletion, fortuitously rose by 1.5 centimeters.
In the southern Negev region, heavy rain has caused dangerous flash floods, washing out roads and stranding those unlucky enough to be caught in the storm. Ten hikers were rescued near the Ramon Crater by the volunteer Har Hanegev search and rescue unit.
The Ein Gedi area, near the Dead Sea, was particularly hard hit, with several schools closed on Monday following flash floods. Another rescue team was called in to extract a number of cars which had become stuck in the nearby Arugot Stream.


Severe droughts explain the mysterious fall of the Maya - We might finally know why the Maya abandoned their impressive limestone cities about 1,000 years ago. Thousands of ancient Maya cities are spread across southern Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, Belize and Guatemala. It’s likely that still more Maya ruins lie hidden beneath the region’s thick tropical forest. The first wave of droughts had finished off the Maya in the south, it looks like the second wave may have brought on their demise in the north. After this second wave of droughts there was to be no real recovery for the Maya. The droughts in the 9th Century had certainly been severe. But the 11th Century brought the worst drought that the region had seen for fully 2,000 years - a “megadrought”.

Drought-related harmful effects likely to spread eastern side of America in near future.

Without a 'March miracle,' drought-like conditions will continue in Southern California - Southern Californians can expect dry conditions and above-average heat this week as a stubborn high-pressure system continues to block the heavily anticipated El Niño rainstorms that weather officials warned of over the winter. Though experts predicted that the Pacific warming phenomenon known as El Niño could bring consecutive downpours to Southern California between January and March - now some say as late as April - nothing of the sort has occurred since the first week of the year.
That’s because a high-pressure system hovering over the Eureka, Calif., area has deflected most of the moisture and cooler temperatures that would flow south to Los Angeles and beyond. Downtown L.A. has receive only 4.99 inches of rain since Oct. 1. The historical average by the end of February is 10 inches.
This February has also been more than eight degrees warmer than its historical average. The current pattern is like the drought pattern from these last four years. “If March doesn’t come through, and April and May are typically drier months, we might be out of time by then.”
Southern California needs a “March miracle” to avoid a fifth year of drought-like conditions locally. But there is a silver lining for Californians. Though the high-pressure system may be blocking storms in Southern California, vital rain and snow is being steered toward the Sierra Nevada, which is seeing its highest snowpack in years.

Mystery wind drought that cut US wind power in 2015 is back - There’s a still in the air – and it is bad news for North America’s wind turbines. Last year saw the lowest average wind speeds in half a century across much of North America. There were long periods of motionless air across most of the Great Plains and the West, stretching through to Texas and Florida, and from Mexico to Canada.
And weather watchers say the wind drought was back again in the early weeks of 2016. In much of the American West, average wind speeds were a fifth below normal in the first half of last year. As a result, the electricity output of US wind farms fell 6 per cent despite their generating capacity increasing by 9 per cent. “The possibility of a prolonged wind drought is on the minds of many in the wind industry."
The immediate cause, say meteorologists, is a large ridge of high pressure that formed over the north-eastern Pacific and the western half of North America in mid-2013. This diverted wind-bringing storms far north into the Arctic. “The ridge was remarkable for its longevity, lasting from June 2013 through to mid-2015. It is the strongest in records dating back to 1960."
The still air in 2015 predated the formation of the current El Niño. Most meteorologists believe that the persistent high pressure is at least partly a result of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a fluctuation that is similar to El Niño but lasts for decades. In the past two years, the oscillation has switched to its “warm” phase, meaning that the wind drought could stick around through 2016.


Huge parts of the ocean are humming. Scientists have puzzled over the source of the sound for several years. Huge clouds of small fish and crustaceans and squid tend to hide in the dark, deep water during the day, and rise up nearer the surface to feed at night. This happens in all oceans in the mesopelagic zone, a fish-rich area of little light that stretches from about 660 feet beneath the sea's surface to depths of around 3,300 feet.
It took hydrophones in the Pacific to reveal that the hum actually accompanies that daily rise and fall of the fish migration. Why the noise? Scientists can only speculate. It could be that the creatures "are truly, actively communicating - potentially to initiate migration." In other words, maybe the buzz is just a signal that "it's time to go." But there's another more mundane possibility.

Unpredictable February weather continues to hit Toronto - February has already been a month of extremes, and with a winter storm on the way in Toronto this week, it is still full of surprises. It’s been a shock to many, lulled by a warmer than usual winter that has caused many to think snow was a thing of the past. It is not just people who have enjoyed the balmy weather, also wildlife.
“Things like white-tailed deer and rabbits have a very easy go of it this year." This month’s up and downs have been so unusual, even those who know weather best have been caught a little off guard. “I’ve been in this business a half a century and I’ve never seen a February like this year,” said a senior climatologist with Environment Canada. Feb. 3 was 16 C while Feb. 14 saw record lows. “Over 175 years of records there’s never been a warmer day and then we had the coldest in 22 years on Valentine’s Day."
Overall though, El Niño has meant a warmer than usual winter and relief for water birds, many of which died over the last two winters.

Supercomputer quietly puts U.S. weather resources back on top - Three years ago European models delivered a blow to the U.S. weather apparatus. The European weather models accurately predicted the path and strength of the devastating Hurricane Sandy that hit the New Jersey coastline and caused $65 billion in damage.
Now, the U.S. is on the rebound with this monumental supercomputer that collects, processes and analyzes billions of observations from weather satellites, weather balloons, airplanes, buoys and surface stations from around the world to help meteorologists make better weather forecasts.
The brand-new Cray supercomputer — designed, owned and operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — processes 3 quadrillion calculations per second. You'd need about 12,500 high-end laptops to get close to that kind of power. Still, the supercomputer is merely the 18th fastest in the U.S. and 42nd fastest in the world. NOAA's purchase stemmed partly from competition from the top European weather model — ECMWF (European Center for Medium-range Weather Forecasting). It predicted Sandy's now infamous and unusual left hook in 2012 days before the top American model — the GFS (Global Forecast System). The one-two punch pushed the U.S. to invest $44.5 million to develop better forecasts. NOAA installed the Reston computer and its backup twin in Orlando, a safe distance away in case of a natural disaster, late last year.
Together, they provide a 10-fold increase in computer power over previous systems and put American forecasting systems back on par or even above European ones. "It's a huge improvement over what they had...it was a "national embarrassment." In the months ahead, the supercomputer will focus on severe weather, storm surge and river forecasting, just in time for spring's flood season and summer's hurricane season.
The supercomputer showed its prowess last month, predicting an East Coast blizzard with great accuracy days before the storm. That's only a glimpse of what's to come. "We expect to see better forecasts for hurricanes, severe weather, floods and other extreme events this year."


FEARS OF ZIKA, DENGUE OUTBREAKS ON FIJIAN ISLANDS STILL CUT-OFF AFTER CYCLONE - There are fears the death toll could rise in the nation of 900,000 people when communication resumes with the smaller islands hit by Cyclone Winston.. Aerial footage of outlying islands showed whole villages flattened and flooded after Winston's destructive winds, up to 325 kph (200 mph), tore through the archipelago of 300 islands. Thousands of Fijians live in tin or wooden shacks in low-lying coastal areas.

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