Friday, April 17, 2015

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster updates.

**Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.**
Ernest Hemingway

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 4/16/15 -

4/15/15 -

Earthquakes strike parts of northern China - An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.8 has struck in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. An earlier earthquake with a magnitude of 4.5 hit the north-western Gansu Province, killing at least one person. The China Earthquake Networks Centre believes the two tremors could be connected. (Video footage from China's CCTV shows people fleeing buildings during one of the earthquakes.)
The two earthquakes have toppled scores of houses. A 4.5-magnitude quake hit Lintao County of the northwestern province of Gansu around 3 pm, killing one person in Yaogou Village, about 20 km from the epicenter. About 30 houses were flattened, and 200 were damaged.
Half an hour later, a 5.8-magnitude quake hit Alashan Left Banner, in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at half past 3 pm. The quake was followed by a 4.0-magnitude aftershock five minutes later. No casualties or property damage have been reported, as the area is remote and sparsely populated. Local authorities are still checking for possible damage. The quake was felt in the nearby cities in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Wuwei in Gansu Province.

6.1 magnitude quake strikes off Greek island of Crete - The earthquake struck under the Mediterranean seabed east of the Greek island of Crete on Thursday, but local authorities said there were no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage. The quakes epicentre was 20 kilometers below sea level, 50 km east of Crete on the Cretan-Rhodes ridge where the African tectonic plate meets the Eurasian plate.
In Greece, the Athens Observatory said the tremor, which happened at 1821 GMT, struck some 14 km off the small island of Kassos and was strongly felt on nearby Crete. "I jumped up from my chair, the ground shook for at least five minutes. I did not see any material damage but it is nighttime and it's difficult to see what has happened." Greece is one of Europe's most earthquake-prone countries. In January 2014, several thousand people found themselves homeless on the holiday island of Cephalonia in the Ionian Islands after a 5.8 magnitude quake.

Peru - Ubinas volcano erupts again this morning. Today marks the third eruption of Ubinas in two days. It erupted this morning around 8:00 a.m. and lasted for about 6 minutes, with the extent of damages resulting from the spread of ash. The IGP recommends that local communities wear masks and goggles for the time being to protect from the ash layer.
The South Volcano Observatory of the Geophysical Institute of Peru recorded two loud explosions from the volcano yesterday, causing a yellow alert to be raised for the communities near-by. The first explosion occurred in the morning with ashes reaching 3,800 meters and the second one in the afternoon which resulted in a column of ashes reaching 1,500 meters high.
Today ashes reached 1,800 meters high above the crater and spreading at least 15 kilometers outwards from the volcano. The ashes were primarily directed southeast toward the communities of Ubinas, Escacha and Anascapa. After today’s explosion, Ubinas has erupted four times in the last 8 days. Three days ago snowmelt and another eruption causes a massive mudslide. A video was captured by the IGP monitoring team who happened to be recording data at the time.
Video footage of the mudslide.

Mexico's Colima volcano has spewed a giant 3.5-kilometre-high column of ash that rained down on a nearby city. The Jalisco state civil protection agency said a "moderate" quantity of ash fell on Ciudad Guzman, a town near the western state of Colima, where the volcano is located.
A civil protection official said there were no reports of damage or injuries in the city of 100,000 people. Officials urged the population to use masks if they venture out of their homes, remove excess ash from rooftops so they do not collapse and cover water drains. The 3,860-metre mountain, also known as the Volcano of Fire, is among the most active in the country. (video at link)

New volcano discoverd in Columbia - In the Andes Mountains, in Colombia, hides Escondido, a potentially active volcano. The discovery was made by the researchers of the Institute for the Dynamics of Environmental Processes of the Italian National Research Council (IDPA-CNR) and of the Servicio Geológico Colombiano.
Escondido was identified by the research team during an exploration campaign in the Andes Mountains. It lies in an area in which volcanic activity had been previously considered as practically absent. “Although it is believed that the planet has been fully explored, the discovery of pyroclastic deposits perfectly preserved with a thickness of eight metres suggests the presence of intensive explosive activity originated from a volcanic structure that had not been identified before. This find shows that discoveries of this type are still possible and bring about implications regarding the proper assessment of natural risks and the possible use of geothermal energy associated with magma ascent through the Earth’s crust”.
“Our study shows that Escondido had its last activity about 30,000 years ago, and that its identification substantially changes the perception of the distribution of recent volcanism in the central Cordillera of the Northern Andes. It also reveals that magmas ascent through the crust and the activity of the tectonic processes are more pervasive than previously thought”.

No current tropical storms.


A rare suspected tornado in Oregon swept across a parking lot at a community college in the city of Eugene, lifting up a Jeep with two people inside and damaging three other vehicles, officials said on Wednesday.
Oregon gets only a handful of tornadoes each year, and they are usually weak, said a National Weather Service meteorologist. Meteorologists believe this was a small tornado and are working to confirm that determination. No one was injured from the suspected tornado on Tuesday afternoon at Lane Community College in Eugene, about 100 miles (161 km) south of Portland.
The Jeep with the two people sitting inside was lifted about 5 feet (1.5 meters) off the ground before dropping back down. A car was flipped around in the air and landed on another vehicle, and a fourth vehicle was flipped over and landed on its roof. The Oregonian newspaper on its website posted photos submitted by a student at the college showing a sedan lying on its roof on a grassy space in the parking lot and another vehicle with part of its roof and windshield caved in.

India - Record rain in Chennai. The city that was bracing for the hottest part of the year had a sudden swing in weather on Wednesday, a RARITY for April. For the FIRST TIME IN 70 YEARS, Meenambakkam received 103.2 mm rainfall on Wednesday.
Residents woke up to a pleasant monsoon-like day as an upper air cyclonic circulation over Lakshadweep area had brought good rains over many parts of the State since Tuesday night. However, the weather observatory in Nungambakkam recorded only 2.6 mm of rainfall between 8.30 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. The prevailing weather system had brought down the Wednesday temperature to 29.3 degree Celsius, which is five degrees less than the average temperature experienced in April.
Several areas, particularly in south Chennai, had a heavy downpour during morning hours, something more like a cloud burst. Rains lashed several places like Taramani, Velachery, Guindy, and Adyar and in just an hour, some places recorded nearly 100 mm of rainfall, which is RARE for the season.
Moisture was being drawn from the Bay of Bengal across the State and this brought rains over many parts of the State. While northern districts, including Chennai, would have rains till Thursday, wet spell would continue in southern region of Tamil Nadu for a few more days. Summer rains are usually preceded by an intense period of heat. But this was not one of the typical weather systems that occur during noon.
“This type of organised weather activity is rare and May is more likely to get rains than in April. In summer, areas away from the coast get more rains." Weather bloggers point out that the interaction of the cyclonic circulation with another system over Bay of Bengal and constant moisture incursion had brought heavy downpour over the city in April. In the last 15 years, rainfall over the city crossed 20 mm only twice in April. In, 2001 and 2005, Nungambakkam recorded 83 mm and 60 mm in April.


Ice jams, possible rain raises flooding concerns for parts of Maine - State and local officials are keeping a close eye on a massive ice jam on the St. John River in Allagash that could affect towns downriver if it lets go over the next 24 hours.
The St. John River rose about 15 feet in 90 minutes behind the jam in Allagash at about 4 a.m. Thursday. This was considered a historically rapid rise and ranked among the top five fastest river level increases since records have been kept over the last 70 years. “We expect it to let go sometime today. People along the St. John River really want to pay attention.”
Downriver, municipal officials were heeding that advice. Ice jams can cause water to rise rapidly upriver from their location, creating flooding conditions. When the ice jam breaks up, all that backed up water is released and can cause more flooding problems in low-lying areas as it rushes downriver. “We estimate it takes about two hours and 45 minutes for the ice to get from [Allagash] to Fort Kent, assuming it does not jam up somewhere in between.” If the ice jam in Allagash does let go and the water dammed up behind it flows down the river to Fort Kent, the town is ready.
“We have our game plan in place. It is a concern with everything all jammed up.” Officials with the county’s emergency management services also were on the ground in the St. John Valley Thursday. “I am not pushing the panic button at this point. I think we have a good handle on things, and we are not in ‘emergency’ mode by any means yet.”
Officials also are keeping an eye on an ice jam on the Aroostook River near the Fort Fairfield and Caribou town line that caused flooding Wednesday night and prompted the Maine Department of Transportation to close a section of Grimes Road, also known as North Caribou Road. A flood warning was issued for all of northern Maine as ice jams and melting snow will cause some river levels to rise in Aroostook County through Friday evening.
The weather service also is tracking a series of storms expected to bring up to 3 inches of rain to parts of the state on Monday and create flooding conditions in areas Down East that were hit with record snowfall this past winter. “Those rains will be taking the snowpack with it, and that could produce [the equivalent to] a 3- to 5-inch rainstorm. It sounds like Down East will be in the bullseye of that rain event.”
In central Maine, both the Penobscot and Piscatiquis rivers have peaked and their levels are falling. “How much rain we do get remains a big question. But it won’t be super warm over the next couple of days, so the remainder of the snowpack will be a slow, controlled runoff from now into next week.” In the Augusta area, the Kennebec peaked Wednesday and levels were falling. Heavy rains do have the potential to bring river levels up around the state and the potential for flooding is above normal next week.


An oil slick, a band of rainbow sheen that stretches for miles off the coast of Louisiana, marks the spot where an oil platform toppled during a 2004 hurricane, triggering what might be the longest-running commercial oil spill ever to pollute the Gulf of Mexico. Yet more than a decade after crude started leaking at the site formerly operated by Taylor Energy Company, few people even know of its existence. The company has downplayed the leak's extent and environmental impact, likening it to scores of minor spills and natural seeps the Gulf routinely absorbs.
An Associated Press investigation has revealed evidence that the spill is far worse than what Taylor — or the government — have publicly reported during their secretive, and costly, effort to halt the leak. Presented with AP's findings, that the sheen recently averaged about 91 gallons of oil per day across eight square miles, the Coast Guard provided a new leak estimate that is about 20 times greater than one recently touted by the company. Outside experts say the spill could be even worse — possibly one of the largest ever in the Gulf.
Taylor's oil was befouling the Gulf for years in obscurity before BP's massive spill in mile-deep water outraged the nation in 2010. Even industry experts haven't heard of Taylor's slow-motion spill, which has been leaking like a steady trickle from a faucet, compared to the fire hose that was BP's gusher. Taylor has kept documents secret that would shed light on what it has done to stop the leak and eliminate the persistent sheen.
The Coast Guard said in 2008 the leak posed a "significant threat" to the environment, though there is no evidence oil from the site has reached shore. The sheen "presents a substantial threat to the environment" and is capable of harming birds, fish and other marine life.
Using satellite images and pollution reports, the watchdog group SkyTruth estimates between 300,000 and 1.4 million gallons of oil has spilled from the site since 2004, with an annual average daily leak rate between 37 and 900 gallons. If SkyTruth's high-end estimate of 1.4 million gallons is accurate, Taylor's spill would be about 1 percent the size of BP's, which a judge ruled amounted to 134 million gallons. That would still make the Taylor spill the 8th largest in the Gulf since 1970.
"The Taylor leak is just a great example of what I call a dirty little secret in plain sight." Taylor has spent tens of millions of dollars to contain and stop its leak, but it says nothing can be done to completely halt the chronic slicks. The New Orleans based company presented federal regulators last year with a proposed "final resolution" at the site, but the details remain under wraps. For years, the government has allowed the company to shield other spill-related information from public scrutiny — all in the name of protecting trade secrets.
Industry experts and environmental advocates are baffled by Taylor's inability to stop the leak and its demands for confidentiality. "It's not normal to have a spill like this," said an industry consultant and former engineering manager for Shell Oil Company. "The whole thing surprises me. Normally, we fix things much more quickly than this."
Five years ago, it took 87 days for BP to cap its blown-out Gulf well and halt the worst offshore oil spill in the nation's history. The disaster, which killed 11 rig workers, exposed weaknesses in the industry's safety culture and gaps in its spill response capabilities. Taylor's leak provided earlier evidence of how difficult it can be for the industry to prevent or stop a spill in an unforgiving environment. But the company has balked at sharing information that could help other offshore operators prepare for a similar incident, saying it's a valuable asset.
Whether it can profit from any industry innovations is debatable. The company sold all its offshore leases and oil and gas interests in 2008, four years after founder Patrick Taylor died. Down to just one full-time employee, Taylor Energy exists only to continue fighting a spill that has no end in sight.
Hurricane Ivan whipped into the Gulf of Mexico in 2004, churning up waves that triggered an underwater mudslide and toppled Taylor's platform. The platform stood roughly 10 miles off Louisiana's coast in approximately 475 feet of water. The mudslide buried the cluster of 28 wells under mounds of sediment. Taylor tried to remove the unstable sediment covering the damaged wells, but determined it was too dangerous for divers.
Without access to the buried wells, traditional "plug and abandon" efforts wouldn't work. In 2005, hurricanes Katrina and Rita disrupted the company's response efforts for several months. In 2007, slick sightings became more frequent near the wreckage. In 2008, the Coast Guard, concerned about the environmental threat of the leak, ordered additional work, including daily monitoring flights over the site.
A year ago, federal officials convened a workshop on the leak. Months later, the company presented regulators its proposal for a final resolution at the site. That plan remains confidential, but Taylor Energy President has said experts and government officials agree that the "best course of action ... is to not take any affirmative action" due to the possible risks of additional drilling.
Long before Taylor's leak, the industry learned of the risks of drilling in the Gulf's mudslide-prone areas. In 1969, Hurricane Camille caused a mudslide that destroyed a platform and damaged another. The company's last remaining full-time employee said Taylor didn't do anything to assess the risk of mudslides at its platform besides verifying that the previous leaseholder's permits and designs met regulatory requirements.
Even people whose job it is to know about such leaks didn't know about this one. Plaquemines Parish's coastal restoration director only found out about it in December 2012 when he spotted one of Taylor's slicks during a flight to BP's Deepwater Horizon site. He was stunned when a Coast Guard official informed him oil had been leaking there for years. "That's right off of our coast. It's really close. I would have thought somebody would have shared it with us."
In a recent court filing, Taylor said experts concluded in March 2014 that the sheens contained an average volume of less than 4 gallons per day. But AP's review of more than 2,300 pollution reports since 2008 found they didn't match official accounts of a diminishing leak. In fact, the reports show a dramatic SPIKE in sheen sizes and oil volumes since Sept. 1, 2014. That came just after federal regulators held a workshop to improve the accuracy of Taylor's slick estimates and started sending government observers on the contractor's daily flights over the site.
From April 2008 through August 2014, the average sheen size reported to the Coast Guard was 2 square miles with an average volume of 11 gallons of oil, according to AP's analysis. Since then, the daily average sheen size ballooned to 8 square miles with an average volume of 91 gallons. When confronted by AP with evidence of the spike, the Coast Guard attributed it to an improved method for estimating the slicks from the air — with the clear implication that far more oil had been spilling for years than had been reported.
After initially providing AP with an outdated, lower estimate, the Coast Guard then disclosed a new estimate — that approximately 16,000 gallons of oil have been spotted in slicks over the past seven months. That is roughly six times higher than its 2013 estimate, of about 4,500 gallons a year, and 20 times higher than the figure cited by Taylor in a Feb. 19 court filing. The company hasn't disclosed the much larger leak estimate in any publicly accessible court filings.
In many reports over the years, there are glaring inconsistencies between the estimated size of the sheen and the corresponding volume calculation. While Taylor insists it has acted "responsibly" throughout its spill response, the pattern of dubious pollution reports makes it difficult to assess the company's reports of progress in controlling the leak. The response to Taylor's leak also reinforces how the government, lacking the industry's expertise and resources, often must rely on companies and their contractors to assess and contain offshore spills. A presidential commission that investigated BP's spill identified that as a weakness.
A Taylor spokesman declined to comment on AP's findings, but the company's lawyers have dismissed the Waterkeeper Alliance's lawsuit as a "sham" that shouldn't tarnish Patrick Taylor's legacy. Taylor, who died less than two months after Hurricane Ivan, is renowned in Louisiana for championing a program that has provided free state-paid college tuition to thousands of students. The company says oil released from the site now comes from the sediment around the wells, not the wells themselves; the Coast Guard statement says the source of the slicks is unknown.
Taking into account the reported change in estimation methods, AP's analysis doesn't show any statistically valid drop in sheen sizes or oil amounts over time. Sky Truth said the slick sizes should be steadily shrinking if the wells really are sealed and the recent sheens are residual oil oozing from the sediment. "The persistent size of the oil slicks we're seeing just don't jibe with those low leak-rate estimates we've seen from those officials." Gaps and complex variables in the data make it impossible to pinpoint how much oil has actually spilled. The operations coordinator for NOAA's Emergency Response Division, said estimating the volume of slicks is hindered by the difficulty of determining the thickness of the oil. Oil slicks from both natural and man-made sources are common in the Gulf of Mexico. Every year, millions of gallons of crude seep naturally from cracks in the seabed. Massive spills like BP's are rare, but offshore accidents often pollute the Gulf with smaller quantities of oil.
The Interior Department also says small leaks have been detected from abandoned wells that may have been unsuccessfully sealed by the companies that drilled them. A 2010 AP investigation revealed federal regulators weren't routinely inspecting more than 27,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf. Fumes sickened researchers during a boat trip to the site, even though they were wearing respirators. The slick stretches for several miles. "It's just amazing how much oil is there."


Middle Age Now Lasts Until ... 74 - Researchers from Vienna's International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis contend that being considered elderly shouldn't rely on one's actual age, but on how long people are expected to live after retirement. The UK's Office for National Statistics estimates the average retiree may enjoy her golden years for up to 24 years after the standard UK retirement age of 65 (compared to just 15 years after retirement in the 1950s. Using a definition of old age that means someone has 15 or fewer years left to live, IIASA scientists then pegged that magic transitional age at 74.
And this trend is only expected to continue. "Older people in the future will have many characteristics exhibited by younger people today...There is a massive nine-year difference in average life expectancy between the poor and the affluent and a shocking 19-year difference in healthy life expectancy." These findings of extended longevity are relevant because they'll affect certain societal needs, such as collecting pensions and other senior perks, and help people design financial plans that work. Meanwhile, a Cardiff University professor advocates not focusing on age, but on living well. "It is important not just to live longer, but to live healthier."
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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster updates.

**The pain of striving for your goal will only last a short while, but the pain of not trying will last a lifetime.**
Steven Aitchison

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 4/14/15 -

The Japan Meteorological Agency warns of possible eruption of Mount Zaosan - On April 13 they issued an alert for a possible eruption of Mount Zaosan in northeastern Japan, citing a large amount of volcanic activity observed there this month. Following the warning, five local governments in the vicinity of the volcano urged climbers not to enter a 1.2-kilometer area from the crater area due to the possibility of large rocks being ejected in an eruption.
Local officials are concerned about the effect of the alert on the local tourism industry ahead of the Golden Week national holidays, which start from late April, as the mountain is a popular sightseeing spot. The volcano straddles Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures. According to the agency’s Sendai Regional Headquarters, the number of volcanic tremors, whose epicenter is believed to be located near Okama, a crater lake, has surged since April 7. On April 13, 30 such earthquakes were recorded by 8 p.m.
Since the start of this month, 184 tremors were recorded, the highest monthly total since the agency's Sendai Regional Headquarters began monitoring the mountain in September 2010. If phreatic eruptions were to occur, the volcano will likely spew rocks measuring 50 centimeters or more. The agency designated an area 2 km from Okama as a precautionary range and up to 3.5 km on the east side.
Mount Zaosan has had greater activity since last August. The Sendai center has observed 18 tremors associated with movements of magma and hot liquids since. One such tremor was observed on April 9. But meteorological officials say no irregularities, such as release of gases, were spotted around the lake.

Hekla (Iceland) - Small earthquake swarms occurred at shallow depths during the past days near the volcano. The quakes were located approx. 6-10 km south of Hekla volcano and at shallow depths around 5 km.
The largest quakes were two magnitude 2.6 events at 4 km depth on Thursday (9 April). It is impossible to say whether the earthquakes are linked to volcanic activity and thus might be precursors of a new eruption, but Hekla is probably the most likely candidate volcano for the next eruption to occur on Iceland.
One of the country's most active, and the most frequently erupting volcano, Hekla has been believed to be "due" and have its magma chamber filled for several years now. Known for not giving much precursory signals (and only few earthquakes), an eruption would not be a surprise at all.


Thousands could survive West Coast tsunami by walking to safety - Thousands of people living along the U.S. Pacific coastline from Northern California to Washington state could survive a powerful tsunami, as long as they are prepared to walk briskly to higher ground, a researcher said on Tuesday.
About 95,000 people live on a 620-mile stretch of the Pacific Northwest coast which is considered vulnerable to a tsunami triggered by an earthquake offshore. A research team assessing the risk to that population found that in many areas, people can be ready to move out of danger in the minutes between the earthquake and the tsunami by simply walking.
"We've identified several towns where moving faster can mean the difference between life and death." The study said 49 cities, seven tribal reservations and 17 counties in Northern California, Oregon and Washington are "directly threatened by tsunami waves" associated with a quake in the Cascadia subduction zone, an offshore undersea fault. The study said the regional impact could be on par with Japan's 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that devastated a wide swath of Honshu's Pacific coastline and killed nearly 20,000 people.
Because a quake would make car travel mostly impossible, the study focuses on walking people to safety, or higher ground. In the coastal Washington cities of Aberdeen and Hoquiam, about 90 percent of the 20,000 residents could have enough time to evacuate if they walked to safety at a minimum of 2.2 mph. That percentage rises to 99 percent if they move faster, and know where to go.
The study found the most people in coastal communities should have sufficient time to evacuate, and that high ground is reachable if people are aware of the threat and practice their routes. A small percentage of people who live too far from high ground would need tall, specially constructed structures to withstand the quake and tsunami.

No current tropical storms.

100 year hurricane could cause more than $250 billion in losses in Florida - If a major hurricane with a 1-in-100 chance of occurring in a given year were to hit downtown Miami, it would cause more than $250 billion in insured losses, according to a new report that blames soaring property values in disaster-prone areas.
Since Hurricane Andrew struck south of Miami in 1992, coastal property values in Florida have risen from $870 billion to over $3.7 trillion — more than a fourfold increase. Overall, US property values have increased more than nine percent since 2012. The report notes that in most cases, the potential insured losses from major urban disasters are much larger than what most insurers have assumed their maximum losses could be.
A similar event on the Texas coastline would cause insurance industry losses above $100 billion, compared to the estimated Probable Maximum Loss (PML) of $40-50 billion, the report said. The report concluded that estimates of potential maximum loss can give a false sense of security, since these are significantly below the expected losses for a 100-year hurricane event.
Although no major hurricane has struck a densely populated urban area in decades, if such a natural disaster makes a hit, the property damage and economic loss will far exceed the losses from Hurricane Katrina and the recent Superstorm Sandy.


High Wind Warning From California to Wyoming - Two big systems move into the West Coast and over the Gulf of Mexico. (video 1:15)

Why Is The US West Drying Out? - The Answer May Lie In The Pacific Ocean. Changing wind patterns over the Pacific Ocean are bringing drought to the Western U.S., a study suggests. Storms that would bring desperately needed rainfall will never make it to the region. The droughts afflicting states in the Western U.S., as well as a general drying out that began with the turn of this century, has its roots even further west — in the winds of the Pacific Ocean.
Those ocean winds have natural cycles of waxing and waning, and the last 15 to 20 years have seen strong trade winds forcing heat down into the ocean depths. This has, in turn been, forcing surface heat deep beneath the ocean, resulting in a slowdown — albeit a temporary one — in warming over surrounding land surfaces.
While many scientists and laymen argue of this warming hiatus and what it means — or doesn't — for climate change, other researchers have turned their attention to the impact the ocean wind patterns might be having on the ongoing severe droughts in the Western states. Their conclusion is that the rainfall deficit driving drought conditions in the region beginning in the early 2000s is down to changes in ocean wind patterns in the Pacific region. "We know there's a lot of natural variability in the (climate) system."

Drought in California is TRULY UNPRECEDENTED and the National Academy of Sciences found the present drought as THE WORST IN 1,200 years from research examining tree rings across the state.

Amid Drought, California Water Virtually Draining Away - The state is exporting water-intensive alfalfa hay to fuel China's growing demand for dairy. Last week when Governor Jerry Brown imposed the first mandatory statewide water restrictions in the California’s history — municipalities were ordered to slash their water use by 25 percent — the state’s agricultural sector was notably exempt from the cutbacks.
According to a water management expert, the issue of agriculture’s water — all the water used to produce a commodity and get it to a consumer — is contentious, since many farmers use scarce water to produce low-value export crops.

Take a look at the other parts of the world where the drought wreaks havoc. (36 slides)


Wary of natural disaster, NY Fed bulks up in Chicago - The New York branch of the U.S. Federal Reserve, wary that a natural disaster or other eventuality could shut down its market operations as it approaches an interest rate hike, has added staff and bulked up its satellite office in Chicago.
Some market technicians have transferred from New York and others were hired at the office housed in the Chicago Fed, according to several people familiar with the build-out that began about two years ago, after Hurricane Sandy struck Manhattan. Officials believe the Chicago staffers can now handle all of the market operations that are done daily out of the New York Fed, which is the U.S. central bank's main conduit to Wall Street.
The satellite office in the Midwest readies the New York Fed for perhaps the most delicate U.S. interest-rate hike ever. With rates having been near zero for more than six years, and markets flooded with reserves, the Fed will rely on an array of new tools to help it tighten policy, likely later this year.
Two of the sources, which included market participants and Fed officials and who spoke under condition of anonymity, said the Chicago office was partly protection against a possible cyber attack against the New York Fed. In February, Fed Chair told a congressional panel the central bank is addressing "ever-escalating (cyber) threats to our operations."
But the main reason for the build-out 700 miles (1,127 kilometers) to the west appeared to be the need to have staff ready at all times in case of disaster. Lower Manhattan lost power and flood waters came within blocks of the New York Fed when Sandy hit in 2012. Early-stage backup plans were also put in place after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York.
A spokeswoman for the New York Fed declined to comment. The Chicago Fed bank deferred to its New York counterpart. The New York Fed's Chicago-based staffers already handle some daily market operations including purchases and sales of Treasury and mortgage bonds, and controlling the central bank's key federal funds rate.
They would also be expected to take the reins as necessary on new and lightly tested tools meant to help the Fed raise borrowing costs, such as an overnight reverse repurchase facility, known as ON RRP, and term repos. One source estimated there were between 20-30 New York employees at the Chicago Fed, saying more were being recruited.


Acetaminophen Blunts Both Positive And Negative Emotions - An over-the-counter med for everyday aches and pains may be taking away more than just your physical discomfort. “Rather than just being a pain reliever, acetaminophen can be seen as an all-purpose emotion reliever.”
Researchers studied the possible side effects from acetaminophen — the most common active ingredient in pain relievers and the main ingredient in Tylenol — and discovered that it can blunt emotions and even reduce the degree of positive and negative feelings. Approximately 52 million Americans — nearly one-quarter of adults — use a med that contains acetaminophen each week. While this drug has been an approved form of medication for over 70 years in the United States and is found in over 600 medicines, this is the first news of this mind-based side effect.
Study experts gathered 82 college students and split the group down the middle — half were given a dose of acetaminophen while the others were handed a placebo. One hour later — once the drugs took effect — all of the participants were asked to look at 40 images that ranged from extremely unpleasant (crying, malnourished children) to the neutral (a cow in a field) to the very pleasant (young children playing with cats). These “special” photos are used by researchers around the globe in order to evoke emotional responses from their subjects.
The students were first asked to rate how positive or negative the images were using a scale of -5 (extremely negative) to +5 (extremely positive). They were then asked to look at the same pictures again and rate the level of emotion each photo induced, from 0 (little or no emotion) to 10 (extreme amount of emotion).
The participants who were given acetaminophen had a less extreme reaction to all of the photos, compared to those who took the placebo. The positive images were not viewed as positively and the negative photos weren’t seen as negative. Their emotional reactions resulted in the same fashion — they didn’t feel strongly about any of photos, reporting an average level of emotion of 5.85 when they looked at the extreme images.
The same results were found again after researchers conducted a second similar study using another group of 85 adults. This discovery supports a more recent theory, which states that certain biochemical factors may be responsible for the levels of highs and lows we may experience during both positive and negative occurrences (i.e. getting married or getting a divorce). “There is accumulating evidence that some people are more sensitive to big life events of all kinds, rather than just vulnerable to bad events.”

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster updates.

**We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.**
Immanuel Kant

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -

Yesterday, 4/13/15 -

4/12/15 -

4/11/15 -

4/10/15 -

Mass beaching fuels fears of impending quake - The mass beaching of over 150 melon-headed whales on Japan’s shores has fueled fears of a repeat of a seemingly unrelated event in the country — the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed over 18,000 people.
Despite a lack of scientific evidence linking the two events, a flurry of online commentators have pointed to the appearance of around 50 melon-headed whales — a species that is a member of the dolphin family — on Japan’s beaches six days before the monster quake, which unleashed towering tsunami and triggered a nuclear disaster.
Scientists were on Saturday dissecting the bodies of the whales, 156 of which were found on two beaches on Japan’s Pacific coast a day earlier, but could not say what caused the beachings. “We don’t see any immediate signs of diseases on their bodies, such as cancer. We want to figure out what killed these animals." Despite the lack of any clear link between the beachings and earthquakes — and comments from local officials downplaying such a connection — many took to social media to point to the link.
The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake is not the only instance of beached whales closely preceding a massive tremor. More than 100 pilot whales died in a mass stranding on a remote New Zealand beach on Feb. 20, 2011, two days before a large quake struck its second-largest city, Christchurch. Japanese officials have nevertheless tried to quell the fears and insist there is no scientific data to prove the link.
Scientists are meanwhile unclear as to why marine animals strand themselves in large groups, with some speculating healthy whales beach themselves while trying to help sick or disorientated family members that are stranded. Others believe the topography of certain places somehow scrambles the whales’ sonar navigation, causing them to beach. Once stranded, the whales are vulnerable to dehydration and sunburn until rescuers can use the high tide to move their massive bodies back into deeper water.
Late Saturday night, April 11, Twitter suddenly lit up with countless Tweets coming out of Mie Prefecture of people claiming they felt tremors and even heard the earth itself briefly rumbling. On Sunday, April 12, many in Japan reported seeing a so-called “earthquake cloud” looming in the sky. While this is probably the most tenuous evidence for an impending earthquake, such clouds have been reported prior to major earthquake events since antiquity but largely, not endorsed by the scientific community.

Mt. Baekdu, the symbolically charged volcano straddling North Korea and China, could erupt again soon, a study warns. There are indications that the volcano, though quiet for decades, could erupt any time and a scientist urged closer monitoring of the situation. He says the concentration of helium in the volcano has been rising over the last decade or so, and magma levels are creeping up. He has been warning of another eruption since 2010, the first Korean to add his voice to a growing chorus of regional seismologists.

Growing volcano threat in Kamchatka jeopardizes air traffic - A Kamchatka volcano has posed a threat to air traffic because its volcanic activity has been gaining force, and the ashes discharged have spread to a distance of 319 kilometers east of the volcano, rising high into the air above a large area of the Pacific Ocean.
The information was received by virtue of photographs taken from space. The Shiveluch volcano has been assessed as posing an "orange" level of threat to aircraft. Any time the volcano might discharge ashes which might reach an altitude of 10,000 meters above the sea, experts said. It was not immediately known how far the volcanic tail might spread yet.
Two episodes of volcanic activity, which followed in succession within approximately 30 minutes, were registered early on April 13 when the volcano discharged ashes to the altitude of five and seven kilometers, respectively, The ashes went up into the air above the Pacific Ocean and remain there since.

The Places Most at Risk of a Volcanic Explosion - New research will help countries prepare. Toxic gas clouds. Lethal mudflows. Tsunamis. Those are just a few of the hazards of life in the shadow of a volcano — and now a new report shows which populations are most at risk of a volcanic explosion.
A soon-to-be-released United Nations report on global volcanic hazards shows that Indonesia is at the top of the list of countries most threatened by volcanic activity. The report, which was prepared by the Global Volcano Model Network, ranks countries’ vulnerability based on the hazards of volcanoes, how often they’ve erupted over the past 10,000 years and how many people live within its blast zone. After Indonesia, the most at-risk countries include the Philippines, Japan, Mexico, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Italy, El Salvador and Kenya.
Lava and ash deserve the awe they inspire; they can be incredibly destructive. About 278,000 people have perished due to volcanoes since 1600. Of these casualties, 24 percent were due to indirect causes like disease and famines, brought on by the climate change and physical destruction from incidents like Indonesia’s Tambora Explosion. That eruption was so massive it directly killed 70,000 people. But it also led to a “year without a summer” across the entire Northern Hemisphereand is thought to have caused thousands more deaths due to famine and disease.
In addition to pyroclastic flows (solids and gases rushing down the sides of volcanoes) and lahars (fatal mudslides), experts warn that there could be even more risks in the future — air traffic disruptions, evacuation challenges and unknown dangers due to unmonitored volcanoes. In fact, volcanoes present such a threat to island nations, that the report has a special ranking just for islands. Among the most-threatened are Montserrat, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the West Indies, Dominica, the Azores, St. Lucia, the Atlantic-United Kingdom Islands, El Salvador and Costa Rica [not islands], whose active Turrialba volcano is being compared to a pressure cooker as lava levels rise.

No current tropical storms.


Alabama - Mobile's official overnight rainfall total was 7.28 inches of rain on Sunday night into Monday morning. "It just so happened that we had a heavier complex of storms that developed over Mobile County that just didn't move last night." The rainfall total shattered the previous record of 3.61 inches set back in 1980.
Some areas received even more rain; the NWS-Mobile office received 8.79 inches and the airport received in excess of 8 inches of rain. Mobile received more rain than any city or town in the region, living up to its title as the rainiest city in the country. The rain isn't letting up, either. Many roadways flooded overnight, causing the Mobile County Sheriff's Office to request barricades to block impassable areas.
The heavy rain brought back memories of a year ago, when much of the coast flooded at the end of April. A water main ruptured at Airport Blvd. and Snow Road, resulting in several businesses losing their water supply Monday morning. Lightning likely hit the water line, causing the damage. There was a flash flood watch in effect until 3 p.m. Monday from Mobile to Destin, Florida.
Even though the watch was tentatively set to expire, NWS met says it will likely continue. There is rain in the forecast every day this week. "The ground is saturated, so even if we don't see another 8-10 inches, it won't take as much to create flooding areas." The risk is especially heightened for low-lying areas and places that neighbor creeks and streams.

India - Unseasonal rain over the past couple of days has left fields full of flattened crops in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, and caused large-scale damage to farms in UP and MP, too. Andhra Pradesh appeared to have borne the brunt of the damage, with officials reporting crop losses in nearly one lakh hectares. In Telangana, various crops planed in 11,628 hectares were destroyed in strong thunderstorms and incessant rain.
In many places in both the states, farmers who transported their early harvest to market yards also suffered in the absence of any protection from the rain. Left with soaked produce, farmers protested at various market yards. According to initial estimates, the mango crop in Andhra Pradesh was badly hit with strong gales causing severe fruit dropping.
In Telangana, paddy was the worst-hit crop. Other crops to suffer significant damage were bajra, jowar and green gram. Mango orchards also suffered damages. Poultry farmers, too, were also affected. In Jagityal area of Karimnagar, 50,000 chickens were reported dead following heavy rain. Met department officials said from March 1 to April 13, excess rainfall was recorded in all districts except Khammam, Rayalaseema and Nellore in the two Telugu-speaking states.
The AP government announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh to the next of kin of those killed on account of rain-related episodes, while the Telangana government announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for such families. In UP, rain and thundershowers lashed various districts for the second consecutive day on Monday, pushing many farmers to the brink of penury. While the rain in March had already damaged about 50% of pulses and wheat, the return of wet weather has exposed farmers to a food crisis. They are now losing whatever standing crops were left in the fields. "We've already lost what we had earmarked for sale. Now, we're losing the crop we had saved for our consumption."
Bundelkhand, central and eastern parts of UP recorded more rain than the western part on Monday. Rae Bareli was the wettest district (21.8 mm rain), followed by Lucknow (18.6 mm), Varanasi (17 mm) and Sultanpur (12.7 mm). In Madhya Pradesh, unseasonal rain on Sunday damaged thousands of quintals of wheat kept in open for government purchase across the state. The administration stopped purchase till April 15 in the wheat-producing Hoshnagabad and Harda districts.
In Narsinghpur, officials said 9,000 quintals of wheat was damaged. "Actual loss will be less since wheat is being dried. We've started a probe and action would be taken against those who haven't acted in responsible manner." In Harda, around 2.5 metric tonne of wheat got damaged because of rain. In Hoshangabad, officials were busy assessing the damage. "Here, wheat was kept in covers, but the water exit was blocked. So, when it rained, the water seeped in. Wheat sacks kept on the lower rakes became wet."


Siberian deadly wildfires destroy towns and villages - Video. Thousands of Russians have been displaced and several killed as severe wildfires rage in Siberia. Fires have killed at least 16 people and injured about 400 in the Khakassia region of southern Siberia. Hundreds of people have sought medical help. Fires have spread further east, causing widespread damage. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed.

The Drought Has Almost Completely Dried Up The Rio Grande - California may be snagging all the headlines, with Governor Jerry Brown's strict statewide water restrictions, but other states are suffering from a major drought, too. The entire West — including Texas, Arizona, and Colorado — is facing the consequences of raised temperatures, little to no rainfall this month, shrunken snowpacks (by half!), hastened evaporation, and reduced reservoirs.
The Rio Grande technically runs for 1,900 miles, stretching from southern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico. But as of late, farms and cities have been using up almost all of it before it even reaches El Paso — hundreds of miles from the gulf. So, federal officials are being forced to managing the waterway for drought for a fifth consecutive year.
For a second year, cities that rely on San Juan-Chama water, like Albuquerque and Santa Fe, will see their allocations cut. Like the Colorado River in the Rockies and the Sacramento River in California, the Rio Grande gets much of its water supply from melting mountain snow — and those snowpacks just keep getting smaller, faster. Rising temperatures are the reason. The federal Bureau of Reclamation, which manages much water in the West, reported in 2013 that average temperatures in the upper Rio Grande, in Colorado and New Mexico, rose almost 2.8 degrees during the 40 years ending in 2011.
Despite Historically Bad Drought, Nestle Won't Stop Bottling Water In California.


'Warm Blob' of Water Causing Extreme Weather, Climate Scientists Say - Scientists say a mass of warm water off the U.S. West Coast is to blame for the bizarre weather affecting the country. From the unusually dry weather gripping the West to the miserably cold and wet systems pinging the East, the one common trait has been extremity, and climate scientists are linking the extreme weather to above average sea surface temperatures off the West Coast.
The study links a warm water mass that's around 2-7 degrees Fahrenheit above average with the coast-to-coast anomalous weather. "In the fall of 2013 and early 2014 we started to notice a big, almost circular mass of water that just didn't cool off as much as it usually did, so by spring of 2014 it was warmer than we had ever seen for that time of year." The patch of water spans 1,000 miles in each direction and runs 300 feet deep. Since 2013, the blob has continued to push against the coast, and is expected to persist throughout 2015.
"Right now it's super warm all the way across the Pacific to Japan. For a scientist it's a very interesting time because when you see something like this that's totally new you have opportunities to learn things you were never expecting."
The blob developed after a high-pressure ridge caused a calmer ocean over the past two winters. With less winter cooling, warmer temperatures have thrived. The warm water patch has led to drier conditions and diminished snowfall in California because air that passes over the blob carries more heat into the West Coast. The warm water blob is not only affecting the country's weather, it also has the potential to impact the marine food web off the West Coast.
Simply put, marine animals that rely on colder temperatures to thrive will diminish and vice-versa for marine animals that rely on warmer temperatures. The Pacific Coast salmon and steelhead, for instance, will decline in numbers if this trend continues, as both species harness cold-water nutrients to survive. NOAA surveys, however, found that sea nettle jellyfish, ocean sunfish and handful of different shark species have popped up off the West Coast, drawn by the increasing sea surface temps.
Over the past three months, hundreds of emaciated sea lion pups have washed up on the southern California Coast, and the new study could explain why the marine mammals are starving.
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Monday, April 13, 2015

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Friday, April 10, 2015

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200 Years After Tambora eruption, Some Unusual Effects Linger - Frankenstein, famine poetry, polar exploration — the "year without a summer" was just the beginning.
On April 10, 1815, the Tambora volcano in Indonesia roared into action, producing the largest eruption of the last 10,000 years and killing thousands of villagers living on the mountain’s slopes. The volcano produced some 36 cubic miles of ash and rock and injected large amounts of small particles, or aerosols, into the stratosphere, which produced brilliantly colored skies on the other side of the world.
Tambora was “a tragedy of nations masquerading as a spectacular sunset." Those aerosol particles stayed in the stratosphere for two years, blocking sunlight and causing havoc on Earth’s climate. The year 1816 was so cold that it snowed in New England in June, and the period became known as “the year without a summer.” Grain shortages and famine occurred across the globe, and Tambora’s far-reaching death toll would eventually claim more than 100,000 according to some estimates.
The gloomy, rainy weather that followed the eruption influenced Gothic novelists. Author Mary Shelley, for instance, spent the summer of 1816 at Lake Geneva in Switzerland, and the weather there trapped the party indoors for days on end. Mary Shelley incorporated the dreary atmosphere into her classic book Frankenstein.
The months and years following the cold summer of 1816 were tough for many around the world. China's Yunnan province suffered a particularly devastating famine. “Famished corpses lay unmourned on the roads; mothers sold their children or killed them out of mercy; and human skeletons wandered the fields, feeding on white clay.”
While the United States didn't experience a famine, American merchants were able to make a lot of money by shipping wheat to Europe, and rising grain prices at home caused hardship for many. In New England, people who could not afford the high-priced wheat or corn changed their diets to include the green tops of potato plants, wild pigeon, hedgehog and oats, a grain that could survive a cold summer.


* In the South Indian Ocean -
Tropical cyclone Joalane is located approximately 502 nm east-northeast of Port Louis, Mauritius.

* In the Southern Pacific -
Tropical cyclone Twentythree is located approximately 581 nm northwest of Noumea, New Caledonia.
Hurricane forecasters predict another quiet season - Forecasters from Colorado State University predicted a "well below-average" Atlantic hurricane season Thursday, anticipating seven tropical storms will form, of which only three will become hurricanes. A typical year, based on weather records dating to 1950, has 12 tropical storms, of which seven become hurricanes. A tropical storm has sustained winds of 39 mph; it becomes a hurricane when its winds reach 74 mph.
The tropical Atlantic has anomalously cooled over the past several months, and the chances of a moderate to strong El Niño event this summer and fall appear to be quite high. Historical data indicate fewer storms form in these conditions." El Niños, a periodic warming of tropical Pacific Ocean water, tend to suppress Atlantic hurricane activity, but often spur eastern Pacific hurricanes.
The forecast team predicts that of the three hurricanes, only one will attain "major" hurricane status. A major hurricane is a hurricane with wind speeds of at least 111 mph (Category 3) on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity. If the forecast is accurate, it would be the second straight below-average season. The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season had eight named tropical storms, the fewest since 1997. Overall, in the past 20 years, every season but four has recorded above average numbers of named tropical storms.
Gray's team was the first organization to issue seasonal hurricane forecasts back in 1984; this is the team's 32nd forecast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be issuing its hurricane forecast in May. The first named storms of the Atlantic hurricane season will be Ana, Bill, Claudette and Danny. Hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th in the Atlantic basin.

Ex-cyclone Ikola dumps big rain across southern Western Australia — and more to come. The ex-cyclone over the Indian Ocean is delivering a rainfall bonanza to much of southern Western Australia — and there is more on the way for Perth.
Cyclone Ikola emerged in the central Indian Ocean this week and fizzled into a tropical depression as it moved towards the southern WA coast, bringing solid rain since Easter Monday. A new low pressure system was likely to form over the South West on Thursday, intensifying the rain and bringing the possibility of strong winds and severe thunderstorms.
The system has already dumped fantastic rains across the Wheatbelt with Eneabba, 280km north-east of Perth, getting 58mm to 9am Wednesday. Farmers from Kalbarri east to Southern Cross and south to Esperance have all received wonderful opening rains — on the back of some decent falls from decaying Cyclone Nathan two weeks ago. Widespread falls of 20mm, with isolated falls of 40 to 50mm, were possible across the South West land division on Thursday and Friday. There was also a chance of flash flooding across the region and the possibility of severe thunderstorms developing north of Perth later on Thursday.


3 tornadoes leave 50-mile path of damage across central, northern Illinois - A tornado destroyed several homes and a restaurant Thursday night in northern Illinois — part of a storm system that was moving toward Chicago, which was under a tornado watch. The tornado flattened at least four houses in Rochelle, along with a restaurant. About a dozen people who were trapped in the restaurant's basement were believed to have been rescued safely, but fire crews were conducting a secondary search Thursday night. Any injuries were minor and didn't require ambulances.
There was also significant damage in the towns of Kings and Hillcrest. There was no immediate word on injuries there. The tornado crossed Interstate 39 several miles north of Rochelle, shortly after 7 p.m. (8 p.m. ET), according to The Weather Channel, which aired the incident live. It also hit Fairdale and damaged an undetermined number of structures northwest of Ashton. "This was a violent, long-track tornado."
The tornado was one of several that were spun off across Illinois and Iowa on the second day of a monster storm system that has peppered a 1,500-mile arc with grapefruit-size hail and winds up to 80 mph from Texas up to the Great Lakes and across to North Carolina. Forecasters for The Weather Channel described it as the biggest severe weather event so far this spring.
UPDATE: One dead as tornadoes lash central US - 8 injured. A tornado touched down near Rochelle, Illinois, Thursday evening, leaving one dead, as well as substantial damage. The fatality took place in Fairdale, about 60 miles northwest of Chicago. A large twister crossed Interstate 39, and the tiny hamlet of Fairdale in DeKalb County took a direct hit. "All structures in town are damaged."
One woman died in the Indianapolis area Wednesday night when she was swept away by a flash flood. Further north, the seemingly endless winter of 2014-15 continued to hang on. Winter storm advisories and warnings were in effect across northern Wisconsin, northern Michigan and northern New England. On Friday, the severe storm threat area will shift to the Southeast, Gulf Coast, and East Coast.

Severe Weather Rumbles Eastward; Hail, Wind was widespread on Wednesday - Fast-moving thunderstorms were zipping across the Mississippi Valley on Thursday afternoon, as an upper-level storm accelerated through the region. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center placed a large part of the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys and lower Great Lakes under an enhanced risk of severe weather for Thursday afternoon and evening.
The day’s first tornado watch was posted for northeast Missouri, southeast Iowa, and far northwest Illinois, effective until 8:00 pm CDT, with a second watch in effect until 11:00 pm CDT for most of northern Illinois and parts of extreme southern Wisconsin and far western Indiana. The strongest and longest-lived tornadoes typically form within discrete supercell thunderstorms, as opposed to squall lines or large thunderstorm clusters. Other storms could become supercells ahead of the line, particularly in northern Illinois.
Heavy rains and severe weather are again plaguing the Ohio Valley, which has endured several days of large thunderstorm complexes called mesoscale convective systems moving along a persistent east-west frontal zone. By Wednesday afternoon, the warm front had shifted to the southern Great Lakes, with temperatures ranging from 40s to its north to 60s and 70s just to its south. However, the final push of this week’s upper-level storm system may still bring one more round of severe storms and heavy rain across parts of Kentucky and West Virginia as well as southern Indiana and Ohio.
A severe thunderstorm watch was issued Wednesday afternoon for the upper Ohio Valley, and a solid swatch of flash flood watches extend from the St. Louis area eastward to the Virginia/West Virginia border. On Wednesday afternoon, a supercell thunderstorm in south- central Kansas produced eight tornado reports, with two others in southeast Missouri and western Oklahoma.
Wednesday’s storms: few tornadoes, but plenty of hail and high wind The nation was spared major damage on Wednesday despite an extensive arc of severe weather from Texas to North Carolina. The most impressive storms were along the dry line from western Oklahoma into south-central Kansas. One long-lived supercell near the intersection of the dry line and the nation-straddling warm front produced several tornadoes near Medicine Lodge, KS. Storm chaser Mike Prendergast captured this impressive cone-shaped tornado near Deerhead, KS, with a faint rainbow visible. Another supercell dropped hail up to 3” in diameter in west-central Oklahoma. Large hail was the favored mode of the day’s severe weather, with more than 200 reports nationwide. Baseball-sized hail was reported in Missouri, Kentucky, and Indiana, as well as Oklahoma.
Forecasters had correctly anticipated that the dry-line storms would be sparse but intense, although the coverage was even less than some had expected. Thin high clouds that overspread much of Kansas and Oklahoma cut down on daytime heating and reduced the available instability, which weakened the day’s severe potential somewhat. In addition, a layer of very warm, dry air atop the moist surface air served as a formidable cap for any thunderstorms attempting to draw on the surface air (although some less severe “elevated” thunderstorms did develop above the cap).

Iowa tornado damage - video.


Western U.S. enduring record warmth, historic drought - Record warmth engulfed the West in the first three months of the year, while more than third of the country is enduring a drought. But thanks to below average temperatures in the South, Midwest and Northeast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association on Wednesday said temperatures across the United States were only the 24th warmest on record for the first quarter.
The year-to-date contiguous U.S. average temperature was 37.2 degrees F, 2.0 degrees F above the 20th century average. The March contiguous U.S. average temperature was 45.4 degrees F, 3.9 degrees F above the 20th century average; it was the warmest March in three years. The warming conditions out West will come as no surprise to Californians, who are living through a fourth year of drought and facing draconian limits on water use imposed by the governor.
Seven states had record warm temperatures, and an additional five states, including Alaska, had temperatures that were much above average. California's year-to-date temperature of 53.0 degrees F was 7.5 degrees F above average and bested the previous record set just last year by 1.8 degrees F. The warmer conditions continued a trend that saw the warmest winter on record across the globe and the hottest year in 2014.
In contrast to conditions out West, 16 states had a much cooler than average January-March period. New York and Vermont actually experienced record cold conditions, with the Empire state marking a year-to-date average temperature of just 16.9 degrees F, 6.8 degrees below average and below the previous record set in 1912. The Vermont January-March temperature was 13.3 degrees F, 6.4 degrees F below average, tying the same period in 1923.
It was also a dry start to the year. Precipitation totals across the United States from January to March were 5.66 inches, 1.30 inches below the 20th century average. It was the driest three months since 1988. As a result, increasing parts of the United States have been gripped by drought.
According to the March 31st U.S. Drought Monitor report, 36.8 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up from 31.9 percent at the beginning of March. Drought conditions worsened across parts of the Central Rockies as well as the Central and Northern Plains and the Upper Midwest, where spring drought could impact the upcoming growing season. Drought remained entrenched in the West, where mountain snowpack was record low for many locations in the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountains. Drought improved in the Southern Plains and the Mid- to Lower-Mississippi River Valley.

‘Blood rain’ to fall on Britain as red Saharan dust blows in from Africa. Storms in the Sahara desert have whipped up sand into a fine dust which is being carried to Britain on northerly winds. When the rain falls it looks a reddish colour and when it dries it leaves a thin layer of dust capable of coating houses, cars and garden furniture.
Although it is more common in Spain and the South of France, it has been known to travel longer distances and fall in areas like Scandinavia. In some parts of India the colour has been vibrant enough to stain clothing. In ancient times ‘blood rain’ was believed to be actual blood and considered a bad omen, heralding death and destruction. It is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad and in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s tales of King Arthur.
Health officials have issued a warning about the high level of pollution in Britain in the coming days. Adults and children with lung or heart problems, and older people have been advised to avoid strenuous activity. People are also advised to reduce physical exertion, particularly outside, and asthma sufferers were warned that they may need to use their inhaler more frequently.
Temperatures on Friday are expected to 72F (22C) which is due to be the hottest day since last year’s Halloween heatwave saw conditions peak at 73F (23.6C) on October 31. In fact, conditions on Friday could nudge the record for the hottest ever April 10, 73F (23.3C) which was set in Devon in 1909. The high temperatures have already sparked dozens of blazes including a two square mile grass fire in Darwen, Lancashire and a 20-acre grass fire in Cheddar, Somerset.
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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

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* In the South Indian Ocean -
Tropical cyclone Joalane is located approximately 624 nm east-northeast of St Denis.


Rare Supercell Storms Rip Through Midwest on Their Way East - As many as 30 million people were in the path of the spring's biggest storm yet — a monster stretching Wednesday from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada and east to the Atlantic Ocean, which was already dropping giant hail on parts of the Midwest and threatened the greatest likelihood of tornadoes anywhere in the country.
Brief tornado warnings dotted Missouri and Indiana as the system began coalescing into what meteorologists call "supercells" — intense thunderstorms buoyed by cyclone-like rising winds. They're they least common but most dangerous kind of thunderstorm. "There'll be a lot of supercells. That's why we have the tornado threats. That's why we have the hail threats."
The danger zone for twisters Wednesday included parts of Kentucky, Texas and Oklahoma in addition to Missouri and Indiana. Thursday, the highest danger is expected to shift east, toward Chicago, St. Louis, Missouri, and the Great Lakes. Franklin County in Ohio canceled a scheduled test of its tornado siren system Wednesday, because it might be needed for the real thing. "This has the potential to be the most widespread severe weather event so far this spring."
Thunderstorms began rolling through parts of Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri on Wednesday morning, followed by hail and damaging wind in the afternoon. Intense lightning struck Wednesday in Nelson County, Kentucky, ahead of winds that put parts of the state and southern Indiana under tornado watches through Thursday morning.
Grapefruit-size hail fell around the eastern Missouri town of Sullivan about 2:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. ET), smashing car windshields and damaging some homes. Roofs were blown off buildings and hoods were torn off vehicles in nearby Potosi, Missouri, as a storm moved through with near-tornado winds Wednesday afternoon. The two days of forecast severe weather followed several outbreaks Tuesday that saw flooding in St. Louis and two tornadoes in Kansas.

Significant Tornadoes Possible on Wed; Widespread Severe Weather Expected on Thursday - A batch of scattered but potent supercell thunderstorms should erupt late Wednesday afternoon and evening across parts of the central and southern Great Plains into the lower Missouri Valley. At 11:30 am CDT, NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC) placed a swath from roughly Wichita, KS, to Columbia, MO, under a moderate risk of severe weather for Wednesday, with lesser risk categories extending from northern Oklahoma to West Virginia. Significant tornadoes (EF2 - EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita Tornado Damage Scale) and very large hail (greater than 2” in diameter) are a possibility.
As of 11:30 am CDT Wednesday, a large part of the central U.S. was under various risk categories for severe weather in the afternoon and evening. This potential outbreak has been well predicted by forecast models for several days. Ample moisture and favorable jet-stream flow from the southwest have been in place since Monday, leading to a few pockets of severe weather already.
SPC logged more than 50 preliminary reports of 1” to 2” diameter hail as far north as southern Minnesota, where moist air from the Gulf of Mexico flowed atop much chillier surface air. One complex of severe storms moved from eastern Missouri to Kentucky on Tuesday afternoon, dropping baseball-sized hail in the central Kentucky town of Garrard and dousing Louisville, KY, with another 1.21” of rain on top of the 14.62” it had already received since March 1. Damage surveys on Wednesday confirmed two tornadoes from this complex southeast of Lexington, KY, and two others were reported on Wednesday night in far southeast Kansas.
Thunderstorms continued on Wednesday morning along and near a broad east-west frontal zone extending from central Missouri into southern Ohio, with two severe thunderstorm watches in effect by late morning. A major upper low that gave much-appreciated snow and rain to California is now making its move into the central states, which will help trigger Wednesday’s main round of severe weather. A piece of energy from the low will sweep across a constellation of boundaries in the OK/KS/MO region. These included a dry line in northwest Oklahoma and the east-west frontal zone, which was pushed into northeast Oklahoma by late-evening storms on Tuesday, then began lifting back north into Kansas and Missouri as a warm front on Wednesday morning.
Scattered thunderstorms should form along or near these boundaries by Wednesday evening, with several rapidly becoming supercells that could spawn tornadoes. The sheer number of storms may be limited at first by a capping layer of warm, dry air several miles high. Weaker storms have formed above the cap in western Oklahoma, which may diminish the risk somewhat along the dry line. However, the amount of instability and wind shear on hand by evening, especially toward southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri, favors the emergence of supercells (long-lived, discrete thunderstorms that produce the lion’s share of stronger tornadoes). The cool low-level air pushed out from any storms that develop could provide boundaries for additional storm formation.
Severe threat shifts to Midwest on Thursday - Tornadoes are also possible on Thursday as the upper low and associated frontal system accelerate northeast toward the Great Lakes. By afternoon, a strong cold front should be plowing east across Illinois, with the east-west frontal zone now sweeping north into Wisconsin and Michigan as a warm front. These boundaries will help focus intense thunderstorms across a broad area, probably more numerous than on Wednesday, with long-lived supercells possible. Wind shear will be stronger than on Wednesday, but it remains to be seen how well the atmosphere manages to recover from the cooling effect of Wednesday night’s storms upstream.
If the air does warm up enough to become at least moderately unstable, models suggest that the powerful upper system could trigger a north-south line of fast- moving supercells across Illinois, eventually becoming a solid line with heavy rain, hail, and high winds. Other dangerous storms may form along the warm front. The overall system’s increasing speed will put much of the Midwest and the Mississippi Valley in line for one or more quick shots of potentially severe weather. As of 12:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday, SPC’s enhanced-risk area for Thursday includes an unusually large swath from northeast Texas to eastern Ohio.
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Future earthquake, tsunami likely to start off British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii - Scientists say 2012 quake increased pressure south of the islands along the Queen Charlotte Fault. Experts studying the second-biggest earthquake measured in Canadian history have zeroed in on the Pacific archipelago of Haida Gwaii as the likely source of a future large quake and tsunami.
An earthquake off British Columbia’s coast in the same area in October 2012 relieved some of the region’s tectonic strain, but new research shows the shifting also increased pressure immediately south of the islands along the Queen Charlotte Fault. “What this has done in essence is raise the possibility of future thrust earthquakes and tsunamis along this part of the British Columbia margin."
The Pacific and North American tectonic plates mostly slide along one another, but where those plates meet at certain points along the Queen Charlotte Fault they also push against each other. The release of that pushing pressure gave rise to the thrust earthquake of 2012. This type of earthquake is “unusual and, to a certain degree, unexpected” for the region. “Any large earthquake can generate a tsunami but thrust earthquakes are especially effective.”
The provincial government released a consultation report that found British Columbia is falling behind on earthquake preparedness. The absence of major seismic activity near densely populated areas has contributed to a culture of public apathy and resulted in government diverting resources away from emergency management agencies. “The problem when you are living in earthquake country . . . is that an earthquake is inevitable. It is going to happen. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
"While the Haida Gwaii earthquake of 2012 caused little structural damage and no serious injuries, in large part thanks to its remoteness, the region experienced tsunami run-up of up to 13 metres. Some of the land also reportedly shifted a full metre from its original location. I was quite amazed at the emotional trauma. Some people felt it but they weren’t really all that bothered by it. Other people were quite shaken up, figuratively and literally.”
Thousands of aftershocks could be felt in the weeks following the main event. While the timeline is uncertain, researchers say B.C. is due for a powerful megathrust earthquake, popularly described as the Big One, which is forecast to impact more populated regions of the province.

Fukushima’s fallout - Radiation from the leaking Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan has been detected on the shores of Vancouver Island. Scientists say it’s the first time since the tsunami in Japan four years ago that radiation has been found on the shorelines of North America.
Low levels of the radioactive isotope Cesium-134 were collected last February in waters off a dock at Ucluelet, B.C., about 315 kilometres west of Victoria. That amount of radiation is minuscule and does not pose risks to human health or the ocean ecosystem.


* In the South Indian Ocean -
- Tropical cyclone Ikola is located approximately 1352 nm west-northwest of Learmonth, Australia.

- Tropical cyclone Joalane is located approximately 484 nm northeast of Port Louis, Mauritius.
Cyclone relief in Vanuatu continues over Easter despite difficult conditions - Rough conditions, shallow water and coral reefs are challenging New Zealand Defence Force personnel supporting cyclone relief efforts in Vanuatu over Easter. The amphibious sealift vessel HMNZS Canterbury has now moved south to operate around the southern part of the Shepherd Islands and the islands of Makura and Mataso. Away from the large sheltered island of Epi, the more remote islands have had little contact with the outside world since the cyclone.
The conditions have forced the NZDF to improvise away from traditional landing craft operations to get much-needed food, water and medical teams ashore. The ship's helicopter has dropped teams and provisions at islands further out from the planned destinations and the challenge of getting ashore has been overcome by the use of Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) to move personnel and equipment close to the reef to be cross-loaded on to smaller Zodiac inflatable boats.
"The smaller volcanic peak islands make beach access much more difficult. It has been a real joint effort. We have had navy and army personnel working together on the islands, with the Air Force-maintained helicopter working alongside the boats moving equipment, supplies and both NZDF and NZ Government officials. It's very challenging with small boats. They were manned by our hydrographers, who have the most experience on inflatables in surf zones, and we also had a RHIB right there as a safety boat throughout the task."
The teams ashore include Ministry of Health doctors and nurses who run day clinics, USAR representatives checking water supplies and NZDF engineers assessing damage to key infrastructure in the villages. Some 70 personnel, mainly NZDF, are still working on Epi and Tongoa Islands continuing the repair and rebuilding tasks with heavy equipment that is not suitable to be brought ashore in the southern area.


Major U.S. Severe Weather Outbreak Possible This Week - The atmospheric ingredients are aligning for what could be intense severe weather this week, especially on Wednesday and Thursday.

Dramatic Chile flood Video - Cars, entire houses swept away by freak mudslides in Atacama. The most disastrous rains in 80 years caused heavy flooding in the Chilean region of Atacama last week. The footage shows the small village of El Salado, where flash floods practically wiped out the area. The disaster left 17 people dead, and 20 others missing. The Atacama region is in the north of the country and is considered one of the driest areas on Earth.


Extreme Weather Cost the US Over $19 Billion Last Year - America had eight severe weather, flood, and drought events last year, causing more than $19 billion in damage across 35 states and killing 65 people.
Over the past four years, the report found:
There were 42 extreme weather events that each caused at least $1 billion in damage.
These extreme weather events caused 1,286 fatalities and $227 billion in economic losses across 44 states.
On average, there were 61 presidential major disaster declarations per year because of extreme weather events.
The most expensive weather disaster of this decade, by far, is the Western drought, “which has cost $46 billion to date, according to CAP analysis.”
The likelihood for extreme weather disasters is rapidly increasing, too. “In only five years, the 2010s have witnessed almost as many extreme weather events as the 1960s and 1980s combined,” and data analysis shows “that the 2010s may see a total of as many as 644 disasters by 2019.”
“Evidence shows that we are living in an era of extreme weathe. If trends continue, the government must increase investments in resilience strategies, such as climate-smart pre-disaster mitigation, fortified infrastructure, sustainable resource management planning, and scientific research.” These investments could drastically reduce the disasters’ costs, as “every $1 investment towards resilience reduces disaster damage by $4.” But, unfortunately, the proposed budget isn’t adequately funding these resilience strategies.
“At only this decade’s halfway point, extreme weather events of all sizes have devastated Americans’ lives and their wallets to the tune of more than $447 billion,” the report concluded, “a sum that was dwarfs the roughly $90 billion in resilience spending that the president’s budget proposal calls for in order to protect and fortify the nation’s future. Congress must act in accordance with the math, listen to the overwhelming warnings of the world’s best scientists, and heed the S.O.S. calls of its citizenry lest the United States succumb to the rising impacts of extreme weather.”


The latest U. K. government risk matrices, visual aids designed to help civil servants and ministers make informed decisions on risks to the nation, have shown the enormous threat of disease, which far outweighs that of terrorism, extreme weather, and widespread public disorder.
The danger of pandemic disease, including killer influenza, will be exacerbated in the coming two decades by growing microbial resistance to the drugs used to treat them. Simple ailments that can easily be treated at the moment could kill thouands in the near future – with the government estimating 80,000 could be killed in the United Kingdom in just one infectious event.
Death on such a scale in the United Kingdom is not without precedent – even in recent history. In the immediate aftermath of the Great War from 1918 onwards, a pandemic of flu killed 230,000 in just a couple of years, a fraction of the estimated 50 million killed worldwide. The prime minister has warned the regression of modern medicine over the past century would cast Britain back into the “dark ages”.
The government document, the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies, which is released to the public in reduced form but is available in full detail to senior ministers, and contains the most sensitive risk assessments and secrets of the state, also quantifies the risk of various forms of terror attack. The events are organised on two axis, one representing likelihood of happening in the next five years, and the other representing the level of impact a successfully attack would have.
While a ‘catastrophic terrorist attack’, a large-scale event on a similar level to the 9/11 attacks in the United States or worse, is rated as having the highest potential impact, it is also rated as having a ‘medium low’ chance of occurring. On the other hand, cyber- terrorism is has the highest-rated chance of taking place over the next five years, but the lowest potential impact.
More concerning is the rating of deadly terrorist attacks against transport systems in the UK, similar to the attacks against the London Underground and London buses. While the impact on the nation would be medium-to-high, the chance of a successfully attack in the next five years is the highest category.
Among other events that could ravage the United Kingdom, remarkably crises such as extreme snowfall and solar weather taking out electronic devices are rated to be as likely to occur, and as dangerous as terrorist attacks on public places.
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