Tuesday, April 26, 2011

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Record Drought and Heat Amid Heavy Rains?!

If you consider some of my most recent reports on the Earth changes occurring worldwide, then you might not believe the following stories of record drought across America and the world. How can you have drought in the middle of severe thunderstorms, record tornado, heavy rainfall and widespread flooding? Have a look at the following map from the U.S. Drought Monitor, that shows areas across each state with or without drought conditions. The map features each area according to the level of intensity. These intensity levels are: Abnormally Dry, Drought - Moderate, Drought - Severe, Drought - Extreme and Drought - Exceptional. As can be seen on the map, the entire state of Texas is in a drought, and based on what we have seen so far, half of it could catch on fire at the slightest spark. A dire situation that forced Texas Governor Rick Perry to call on and appeal to a higher power from "all faiths and traditions" to end the drought that has turned much of his state into a tinderbox.

A report from NBC's 9NEWS yesterday, encapsulates the situation perfectly, as weather experts forecast heavy rains for the Colorado area, but not significant enough to help the drought conditions.

The Denver area has seen some much-needed moisture during the month of April, and the Colorado weather forecast shows more rain is on the way this week. Denver International Airport has reported 1.01 inches of rain so far. Unfortunately, that number is still well below average and not enough to significantly improve dry conditions. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most locations along and east of Interstate 25 in Colorado remain under a severe drought. On Sunday night, an upper-level disturbance pushed rain showers along the Front Range and snow through Colorado's high country. Many locations near Denver saw a little more than .25 inches of precipitation. However, the Front Range needs to see a lot more rain to catch up on the lack of moisture since Jan. 1. According to Denver's official weather station at DIA, the Front Range is 1.46 inches below average for the year in precipitation.
After recording one of its coldest winters in over 120 years, with temperatures averaging around 30 degrees during the month of December in 2010, Britain is currently facing one of the driest Aprils on record with many facing the prospect of drinking desalinated water this summer.

As Britain basks in the sun during one of the driest April's on record it seems one water provider has started up a revolutionary seawater plant just in time. The £270million Thames Water desalination plant, which took four years to build, was finally completed in June 2010. It works by removing the salt from the brackish water in the Thames Estuary before pumping the filtered liquid into its vast reservoirs. Engineers started running water through the system for the first time three weeks ago. 'We began using the desalination plant at one-sixth output on March 30, not because we need to but as part of the fine-tuning of the works and the training of its operators, and we have been using it intermittently since then,' Simon Evans of Thames Water told Mail Online. - The Daily Mail.
In the Netherlands, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) recorded the warmest Easter Sunday ever.
Early in the afternoon the temperature in the KNMI’s home base of De Bilt had risen to 25 degrees Celsius, compared to 24.5 degrees during the previous warmest Easter holidays on 16, 17 and 18 April 1949. Even higher temperatures were recorded in the east of the country. However, temperatures in the northern island of Vlieland did not rise above 16 degrees and temperatures along the coast of South Holland are not much higher as the result of a cool wind blowing in from the sea. The unseasonable warm weather farther inland is caused by a high pressure zone to the northeast of the Netherlands, which produces a warm southeasterly wind. - RNW
In Asia, China is investing a whopping $612 billion in water conservation projects to combat against drought conditions. Recently, Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu urged local governments to prepare for floods and droughts and to intensify relief work, warning of a strong possibility of severe flooding and drought this year, saying that he is "not optimistic" about the situation in terms of current prevention efforts.
With climate change’s impact on the water resources of China threatening to limit supply to residents, the country is planning to invest 4 trillion yuan to combat water shortage. The government will spend a total of 4 trillion yuan, or $612 billion in water conservation projects over the next 10 years. This investment will focus on enhancing the water supply capacity for urban and rural areas, flood prevention systems, and the construction of farming infrastructure. In addition, to combat the country’s water shortage, its government has established a strict water resource management measure which was launched last January in a white paper known as the No. 1 document. As mandated in the No. 1 document, 10 percent of land-transfer fees which amount to some 60 to 80 billion yuan each year will be used to boost agricultural conservancy construction. China’s water consumption should also be controlled within 670 billion cubic meters by 2020. - Ecoseed.
The situation is same on other continents and countries. Several weeks ago, the head of the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) said that severe drought had left more than five million people hungry across the Horn of Africa. A severity most experienced in Somali, where there seems to be no apparent end in sight to drought conditions, with experts expecting the situation to worsen. In South America, despite the deluge of floods in Brazil, Columbia and other countries, satellite images from NASA detected extensive impact of drought on the Amazon Forests.

Researchers at Boston University, NASA and Federal University, Vicosa, Brazil, have published a new NASA-funded study that shows widespread reductions in the greenness of forests in the vast Amazon basin in South America were caused by the record-breaking drought of 2010. "The greenness levels of Amazonian vegetation--a measure of its health--decreased dramatically over an area more than three and one-half times the size of Texas and did not recover to normal levels, even after the drought ended in late October 2010," said Liang Xu, the study's lead author from Boston University. The drought sensitivity of Amazon rainforests is a subject of intense study. Scientists are concerned that because computer models predict that in a changing climate with warmer temperatures and altered rainfall patterns the ensuing moisture stress could cause some of the rainforests to be replaced by grasslands or woody savannas, releasing the carbon stored in the rotting wood into the atmosphere, which could accelerate global warming. The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned similar droughts could be more frequent in the Amazon region in the future. The comprehensive study was prepared by an international team of scientists using more than a decade's worth of satellite data from NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM). Analysis of these data produced detailed maps of vegetation greenness declines from the 2010 drought. The study has been accepted for publication in "Geophysical Research Letters," a journal of the American Geophysical Union. The authors first developed maps of drought-affected areas using thresholds of below-average rainfall as a guide. Next they identified affected vegetation using two different greenness indexes as surrogates for green leaf area and physiological functioning. The maps show the 2010 drought reduced the greenness of approximately 965,000 square miles of vegetation in the Amazon--more than four times the area affected by the last severe drought in 2005. "The MODIS vegetation greenness data suggest a more widespread, severe and long-lasting impact to Amazonian vegetation than what can be inferred based solely on rainfall data," said Arindam Samanta, a co-lead author from Atmospheric and Environmental Research Inc. in Lexington, Mass. The severity of the 2010 drought was also seen in records of water levels in rivers across the Amazon basin. Water levels started to fall in August 2010, reaching record low levels in late October. Water levels only began to rise with the arrival of rains later that winter. "Last year was the driest year on record based on 109 years of Rio Negro water level data at the Manaus harbor. For comparison, the lowest level during the so-called once-in-a-century drought in 2005, was only eighth lowest," said Marcos Costa, coauthor from the Federal University in Vicosa, Brazil. - PR Newswire.
I am not sure what are the short-term or long-term forecast for the world, but the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) is predicting long-lasting drought to continue in the United States.
Drought conditions plaguing the southern region of the U.S. are not going away any time soon. Monday morning the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association, NOAA, hosted a webinar. The Climate Program Manager and Regional Director discussed the latest dry weather trends. Much of the southern region is in extreme to exceptional drought, conditions the areas have not seen in 50 to 100 years. Officials expected a dry spell in part because of the La Nina season, but they admit they could not predict it would last so long. “The last time we had such a dry period here in was 1967,” said Climate Program Manager Victor Murphy. “I think it's safe to say this has been the worst drought in 45 years or so.” NOAA officials are worried about what this dry weather will mean once we get into May which is typically a wet season. “When you don't get rainfall, or when you get low on your rainfall during a drought during a time of the year when it should be raining, or when it's that month of the year, that could be very significant,” said Murphy. NOAA is calling this period a historic event. - KVUE.
Historic, indeed.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Tungurahua Volcano Erupts In Ecuador!

The Tungurahua volcano was covered with ash, during an eruption yesterday in Banos, Ecuador. The volcano, which means "Throat of Fire" according to Ecuador's native Quechua language, is one of eight active volcanoes in the Andean nation. Here is the full report from the Institute of Geophysics at Ecuador's National Polytechnic School (IGEPN):

The Tungurahua volcano had shown no major signs of surface activity since the beginning of this year until yesterday afternoon when emissions were observed moderate but sustained gases and ash, recording the first drop of fine volcanic material Choglontus populations, Cahuaj√≠, Juive, Pillate, Cotala and Bathrooms. At night the activity was characterized by the presence of small lava fountains (Strombolian activity), which caused the downfall of incandescent blocks up to 1 km below the crater, accompanied by constant roar of moderate intensity have been decreasing in frequency and intensity during the day. As of this morning there have been some explosions of moderate size. This type of activity was typical of the Tungurahua since 1999. Thanks to data obtained by instrumental monitoring network which monitors the Tungurahua, in recent months could detect the presence of such earthquakes VT (volcano-tectonic), symptomatic of increased pressure inside the volcano, but mostly it has been registering a slow but continuous deformation northwest quadrant, which began in early February, detectable only by instruments (inclinometers) installed on the flanks of the volcano, deformation is the product of a new volume of magma entering the conduit or magma chamber volcano. This deformation has accelerated in the last 9 days and suggests that a significant volume of magma is stored in the camera. With this background, the surface activity described above was expected. For now, the interpretation of the monitoring system data suggests that the activity could increase in the coming days and evolve into at least two possible scenarios: 1. - gradual increase of surface activity: In this case the flow of magma, ie the rate of rise and / or exit of material and volcanic gases, would be moderate to low. The main impact would be ash falls and small pyroclastic flow generation. Both phenomena associated with a moderate explosion. The affected area in case of falling ash will be determined by the direction and wind speed in addition to height and ash content of the eruptive column. Pyroclastic flows affect the highlands of the cone. 2. - rapid and sustained increase: The flow of magma would be moderate to high. The consequences would fall and ash flow generation pirocl√°sitcos large. Both phenomena could be associated with a high explosive. In this case the zones and the degree of impact would be greater. Depending on the direction of the winds, the ash falls could reach remote areas including the Ecuadorian coast, on the other hand, the pyroclastic flows could reach the lower and cultivated areas or populated areas of the volcano. These two scenarios are not mutually exclusive. Note that the current morphological conditions Tungurahua crater are likely to generate pyroclastic flows since the blocks thrown from the crater to reach greater distances. For these reasons it is important to remind the authorities and the population is not safe to go to the top of the volcano (on the altitude 4000 m) within a radius of 3 km from the crater. In addition, due to the rainy season, the probability of generation of lahars or mud flows is high, it is recommended to be aware of the information emitted by authorized means and avoid the streams that flow from the volcano. The Geophysical Institute, both based in Quito and in the Tungurahua Volcano Observatory in constant monitoring and observation of volcanic activity and evidence for changes in current behavior will be informed promptly. - IGEPN.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Series Of 5 Tremors Jolts Maltese Coast!

According to historical records, earthquakes have been felt in the Maltese islands as far back as 1530, with the northern segment of the Hyblean-Malta plateau comprising the region which poses the greatest threat. A recent study showed that expected peak ground accelerations and the rapid continual increase in the local building stock on the densely populated islands warranted serious concern and the implementation of appropriate seismic monitoring measures. The Maltese archipelago consists of three main islands - Malta, Gozo and Comino. The islands lie in the Sicily Channel or the Sicily Channel Rift Zone, a fault system that extends from Sicily to Tunisia in Africa, as well as in the Calabrian Arc subduction zone. Zones that are mainly responsible for the tectonic and geomorphological developments of the islands.

Over the weekend, seismic tremors was detected in and around the islands, indicating that there might be possible rift tensions developing in these zones.

A series of five earth tremors, with the first occurring at around midnight, were felt in various localities in Malta yesterday, as reports of shaking and objects moving on the shelves reached this newspaper.  The first earthquake, of magnitude 3.5, occurred early this morning at around eleven minutes past midnight, about 37 km east of Malta. This was followed by other events at approximately the same location. The next quake, of magnitude 3.3, occurred at 3:34am, then at 4:44am a third quake of magnitude 2.5 occurred. The next one was at around 6:39am, and of magnitude 3.5 and the final one happened at around 11.30am. Another tremor, the strongest at 4.0 on the richter scale was felt just after 3pm. The tremor was located at a depth of 2km in the sea 25km off Zabbar. It was also felt in Italy. No damage was caused and the quakes were mostly felt by residents in the southern area of Malta, such as Zejtun, Marsa and Fgura, and in the harbour area, according to seismologist Pauline Galea. The residents reported a few seconds of tremors and things moving about on the shelves, Dr Galea said. The events were located by the Seismic Monitoring and Research Unit, University of Malta. This seismic activity is associated with the offshore faults around the Maltese islands, which often occurs as “earthquake swarms” lasting from a few hours to a few days. This can be considered quite normal activity and about average for our region, Dr Galea explained. The effects of another earthquake of magnitude 6.1 which occurred off the coast of Crete, were felt in Malta not that long ago, on 1 April 2011. The strongest recorded earthquake, the effects of which were felt in Malta, was probably that which happened in 1693 in Sicily, which was of magnitude 7.4, Dr Galea explained. - Independent.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Scores of Dead Penguins in New Zealand!

Activists are urging the New Zealand government to halt deep-sea testing after the death of many penguins.

The activists said they feared potential damage from an oil spill like last year's BP accident in the Gulf of Mexico if Petrobras International Braspetro BV goes ahead with drilling. The company has a five-year offshore exploration permit from the government. 'Evidence is piling up of the impact of the seismic tests both here and abroad,' Manu Caddie, a member of the local council's environment committee in Gisborne, on the east coast of the North Island, said. Recently published research has found that squid, cuttlefish and octopus washed up on Spanish beaches in 2001 and 2003 died of organ damage after being subjected to low-frequency noise from nearby oil and gas seismic surveys, the activists said. 'The scientists found that the organ that allows squid, octopus and cuttlefish to regulate their positions, to balance and direct how and where they swim, was damaged leaving the animals unable to move or to feed, and vulnerable to predators,' said Barry Weeber, co-chairman of the Environment and Conservation Organisations of New Zealand. The Maori Party urged the government to investigate the penguin deaths. Legislator Te Ururoa Flavell said many tribes regarded penguins as 'treasures' and 'we would be extremely distressed if these birds are being placed at any threat to their life as a result of human-induced risks. There's no evidence that the testing is killing the birds but at the very least the government should have made sure that an impact report was done before giving an exploration permit, which includes seismic testing activity, to Petrobras.' - M&C.