Thursday, October 20, 2011

PLANETARY TREMORS: 5.0 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes San Antonio, South Texas - Largest Since 18 Years Ago! Plus Swarm in Oklahoma?!

Map of 5.0 magnitude earthquake in Texas.
A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck Southern Texas at a depth of just 5 km (3.1 miles). The quake hit at 12:24:40 UTC, Thursday 20th October 2011 and was located at 28.806°N, 98.147°W. The epicentre was 22 km ( 14 miles) northwest of Pawnee, Texas; 60 km (37 miles) northwest of Beeville, Texas; 76 km (47 miles) southeast of San Antonio, Texas; 92 km (57 miles) east of Pearsall, Texas; and 166 km (103 miles) southwest of Austin, Texas. There are no reports of any damage at this time.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has this earthquake listed as a 4.6 magnitude, out of the 6 stations which sent through information only only one of them measured this earthquake under a 4.6 magnitude. Station – WVOR – 12:29:30 – 4.3 Magnitude;Station – BINY – 12:29:42 – 5.3 Magnitude;Station – SJG – 12:31:02 – 5.3 Magnitude;Station – SDV – 12:31:14 – 5.3 Magnitude;Station – EGAK – 12:32:56 – 4.8 Magnitude; andStation – COLA – 12:33:17 – 5.5 Magnitude.

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) registers the tremor at a magnitude of 5.0.

Seismicity of the region.
A record-breaking earthquake shook Atascosa County Thursday morning, rattling windows and sending tremors that could be felt throughout Central and South Texas. The 4.6 quake is the largest quake the area has felt since April 9, 1993, when a 4.3 earthquake moved through the area, Amy Vaughn with the U.S. Geological Survey told local television station WOAI. The 1993 quake had been the largest recorded in history since earthquake magnitudes were first catalogued in 1973. Fewer than 10 smaller earthquakes have struck since then. But the quake's magnitude is still being analyzed and could change as experts examine it more closely, she said. The USGS reported on its site that the earthquake struck at 7:24 a.m. about 47 miles southeast of San Antonio. The epicenter was in the rural community of Campbellton in Atascosa County. The strongest tremors were felt just southeast of San Antonio, but people reported feeling the quake throughout Central and South Texas. Weaker tremors were reported as far south as Kingsville and as far north as Georgetown, according to USGS. No significant damage was reported on the agency's site. A resident at the Cadillac Lofts in downtown San Antonio said the apartment complex felt like it was swaying during the tremor.“It was a little scary,” Matthew Egan wrote in an e-mail. “I'm from California, but at least back home everything was built on earthquake rollers. Makes me nervous to think how ill prepared San Antonio might be for a bigger quake.” Employees were briefly evacuated from the seven-story federal building located at the intersection of Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard and Indianola Street as a result of the earthquake. They were allowed to return inside just before 9 a.m., according to Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Fernie Karl. There was no visible damage to the building, which houses offices for the U.S. Marshals Service, the Bureau of Prisons and the Social Security Administration. The evacuation was precautionary, and no injuries were reported. A teacher and a parent in Northside Independent School District's Powell Elementary School on the city's Northwest Side reportedly felt the classroom they were in shake and watched a water bottle fall off a desk. District maintenance workers checked the 49-year-old school building for damage but found none, according to a news release from the district. Similarly, the cafeteria staff at Judson Independent School District's Metzger Middle School on the city's East Side reported feeling the quake this morning, said a district spokeswoman in an email. - Chron.
Meanwhile, further north and near-east of Texas, more earthquakes have been recorded in the Sooner State of Oklahoma:
There have been more earthquakes in Oklahoma, but not quite strong enough to be felt in Tulsa. The closest was centered in Prague, about 45 miles east of Oklahoma City, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The other was near Midwest City. Both occurred about 1 a.m. Tuesday and both were magnitude 2.9. Last week KRMG reported on the one-year anniversary of one of the state's larger earthquakes, a magnitude 4.7 in Norman. Austin Holland, with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, told me Tuesday that that quake was part of a significant increase in the number of quakes in the past year or so. He says the quakes have been large enough to be felt, but not to cause significant, or even minor damage. "Something significant here in the mid-continent will be above 5.5 or so and you start getting damage at a magnitude 5, but we're talking minor," he said. Holland says the central part of Oklahoma has always been a hotbed for small-scale seismic activity. "Over the past two years it's been especially active, but not alarmingly so. We've had more than ten times as many earthquakes but they've all been magnitude 3 or less." One exception was the Norman quake. The U.S. Geological Survey confirms 18 quakes in the area in the past six months on their website. - KRMG.
The following map shows the active and developing seismic areas across the North American Plate,  the tectonic plate covering most of North America, Greenland, and the North Pacific Region, extending eastward to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and westward to the Chersky Range in eastern Siberia.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL of Uturuncu Volcano - Rapidly Inflating Volcano Creates Growing Mystery in SW Bolivia?!

"It's one of the fastest uplifting volcanic areas on Earth,... what we're trying to do is understand why there is this rapid inflation... these eruptions are thought to have not only a local and regional impact, but potentially a global impact..."

Should anyone ever decide to make a show called "CSI: Geology," a group of scientists studying a mysterious and rapidly inflating South American volcano have got the perfect storyline. Researchers from several universities are essentially working as geological detectives, using a suite of tools to piece together the restive peak's past in order to understand what it is doing now, and better diagnose what may lie ahead. It's a mystery they've yet to solve. Uturuncu is a nearly 20,000-foot-high (6,000 meters) volcano in southwest Bolivia. Scientists recently discovered the volcano is inflating with astonishing speed.

"I call this 'volcano forensics,' because we're using so many different techniques to understand this phenomenon," said Oregon State University professor Shan de Silva, a volcanologist on the research team. Researchers realized about five years ago that the area below and around Uturuncu is steadily rising — blowing up like a giant balloon under a wide disc of land some 43 miles (70 kilometers) across. Satellite data revealed the region was inflating by 1 to 2 centimeters (less than an inch) per year and had been doing so for at least 20 years, when satellite observations began. "It's one of the fastest uplifting volcanic areas on Earth," de Silva told OurAmazingPlanet."What we're trying to do is understand why there is this rapid inflation, and from there we'll try to understand what it's going to lead to."

The  peak is perched like a party hat at the center of the inflating area. "It's very circular. It's like a big bull's-eye," said Jonathan Perkins, a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who recently presented work on the mountain at this year's Geological Society of America meeting  in Minneapolis. Scientists figured out from the inflation rate that the pocket of magma beneath the volcano was growing by about 27 cubic feet (1 cubic meter) per second. "That's about 10 times faster than the standard rate of magma chamber growth you see for large volcanic systems," Perkins told OurAmazingPlanet. However, no need to flee just yet, the scientists said. "It's not a volcano that we think is going to erupt at any moment, but it certainly is interesting, because the area was thought to be essentially dead," de Silva said.

Uturuncu is surrounded by one of the most dense concentrations of supervolcanoes on the planet, all of which fell silent some 1 million years ago. Supervolcanoes get their name because they erupt with such power that they typically spew out 1,000 times more material, in sheer volume, than a volcano like Mount St. Helens. Modern human civilization has never witnessed such an event. The planet's most recent supervolcanic eruption happened about 74,000 years ago in Indonesia. "These eruptions are thought to have not only a local and regional impact, but potentially a global impact," de Silva said. Uturuncu itself is in the same class as Mount St. Helens in Washington state, but its aggressive rise could indicate that a new supervolcano is on the way. Or not. De Silva said it appears that local volcanoes hoard magma for about 300,000 years before they blow — and Uturuncu last erupted about 300,000 years ago. "So that's why it's important to know how long this has been going on," he said. To find an answer, scientists needed data that stretch back thousands of years — but they had only 20 years of satellite data. - Our Amazing Planet.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 4.5 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks and Shakes Hawaii - Escalating Seismic Swarm Developing Across the Islands!

Map of 4.5 magnitude earthquake in Hawaii.
A magnitude 4.5 earthquake occurred on the Big Island of Hawaii at 2:10 p.m. local time Wednesday, causing sharp shaking that was primarily felt at the northern end of the island, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) says. The Honolulu Star Advertiser says the quake did not cause major damage or injuries. The quake hit at a depth of 18.8 km (11.7 miles), on 00:10:04 UTC, Thursday 20th October 2011 and was located at 19.883°N, 155.532°W. The epicentre was 21 km ( 13 miles) southeast from Waimea, Hawaii; 23 km (14 miles) southwest (198°) from Honokaa, Hawaii; 25 km (15 miles) SW (224°) from Paauilo, Hawaii; 51 km (32 miles) northwest (293°) from Hilo, Hawaii; and 287 km (178 miles) southeast (123°) from Honolulu, Hawaii.

No tsunami warning was issued and there are no reports of any damage at this time. Seismologists have yet to say which fault produced the quake, which began 11.7 miles deep. The Star Advertiser says the Keck Observatory, located on the island, was briefly evacuated. But it doesn't appear that there was damage to the telescopes, which are regularly used by UC San Diego scientists.

Seismicity of the region.
Residents on the Big Island of Hawaii were shaken by a magnitude 4.5 earthquake Wednesday afternoon. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake occurred at 2:10 p.m. 13 miles southeast of Waimea. The earthquakes depth was 11.6 miles. No tsunami was generated. According to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, the earthquake was widely felt on the Big Island.  The USGS "Did you feel it?" Web site  received more than 500 felt reports within an hour of the earthquake. Scientists say the earthquake was the largest in a cluster of about 20 earthquakes on the north flank of Mauna Kea on Wednesday afternoon. Most of the aftershocks were too small to be felt, but, as of 3:30 p.m., two earthquakes with magnitudes greater than 3.0 had occurred in addition to the magnitude-4.5 event.

According to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, over the past 25 years, the north flank of Mauna Kea has experienced 10 earthquakes greater than magnitude 4.0, including today's event, at depths of 10–40 km (6–25 mi).  Deep earthquakes in this region are most likely caused by structural adjustments within the Earth's crust due to the heavy load of Mauna Kea. Adjustments beneath Mauna Kea during past similar events have produced a flurry of earthquakes, with many small aftershocks occurring for days after the main quake. Scientists say it is possible that additional small earthquakes may be recorded in the coming days. Today's earthquakes caused no detectable changes on the continuing eruption of Kilauea Volcano. It was almost 5 years to the day when a major earthquake hit the Big Island. On October 15, 2006 a 6.7 magnitude earthquake caused property damage, injuries, landslides and power outages across the state. We will have the latest on the earthquakes tonight on Hawaii News Now beginning at 5 p.m. - Hawaii News Now.
This earthquake has been followed by 12 earthquakes within the last 3 hours ranging from 2.5 - 3.6 magnitude with an average depth of 17.5 km.

USGS list of the latest earthquakes features swarm in Hawaii.

EXTREME WEATHER: 20-25 Foot Waves Forecast For... Chicago?!

High wind whipped up 10-foot waves and blew windows out of at least one building Wednesday in Chicago. And forecasters warned the worst was yet to come.

The city closed its Lake Michigan jogging and cycling path and warned people to stay away in the face of predictions for 60-mph gusts and 25-foot waves. Officials feared harsh weather could lead to a replay of the high waves that knocked down runners and bikers last month along the lakefront. "Today's weather can cause serious injury if not taken seriously and the recommended precautions are ignored," emergency services director Gary Schenkel said in a statement reported by NBC station WMAQ. Milwaukee, along Lake Michigan to Chicago's north, also expected high winds and waves. Warnings for storm-forced winds extended to parts of Lake Huron into Thursday morning with forecasts for a lesser impact up into Lake Superior, the National Weather Service said. By 7 a.m. CT, waves were splashing onto the lower portion of the path between North Avenue and Oak Street Beach in Chicago. A lakeshore flood warning was issued as a wind advisory warned of 40 to 45 mph winds with gusts to 60 mph, NBC station WMAQ reported.

In the afternoon, Wabash Avenue was closed to Pearson Street downtown because of glass falling from the 12th floor of a Loyola University building. A Morton Salt billboard visible from the Kennedy Expressway was reported down and blocking Elston Avenue, WMAQ reported. "The high winds — we don't want anything to happen to anyone walking by, so as a precaution we're blocking off the street, the sidewalk and everything, just for personal safety," Chicago Fire Department Lt. David Bresnahan told WMAQ. Flights were delayed at O'Hare International and Midway International airports, WMAQ said. The Weather Channel reported that today's winds could be strong enough to topple trees and power lines, resulting in some potential power outages. The winds and up to one-and-a-half inches of rain could also cause hazardous road conditions, the forecast said. Meteorologist Andy Avalos of WMAQ forecast that Wednesday night will be extremely windy, as well, with rain and lows between 43 and 48. Winds remain northerly at 40 to 45 mph. Chicago should dry out Friday and Saturday with sunshine returning and temperatures leveling out by the weekend. - MSNBC.
WATCH: Extreme weather forecast for Chicago.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Quakes Rumble Beneath Katla Volcano!

Scientists are keeping close watch on Iceland’s Katla volcano, where a series of recent seismic tremors reaching magnitude 3.9  have raised the possibility that an eruption may be imminent. With memories of last year’s Eyjafjallajokul eruption still fresh, concerns are that Katla’s much larger magma chamber could lead to a much stronger and more damaging event.

A small eruption at Kalia occurred in early July and was confirmed by the Icelandic Meteorological Office in September, but was not sufficient to relieve enough pressure in the volcano to rule out a larger event in the near future. Located in the East Volcanic Zone near Iceland’s southern shore, Katla is one of the largest volcanoes in the country, with a 6 mile (10 km) caldera covered by 660-2,300 ft (200–700 m) of ice. Reaching a height of  4,961 ft  (1,512 m), Katla has historically erupted every 40-80 years.

While the volcano has shown signs of unrest since 1999, the last major eruption occurred in 1918 – 93 years ago. The spring 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokul, located only 25 km from Katla, spewed ash up to 11,000 meters into the atmosphere and was most notable for the causing the worst peacetime disruption of air travel in history. As ash spread across Europe, nearly all major airports were forced to close, stranding millions of passengers for nearly a week as thousands of international flights were cancelled for fear aircraft engines would become clogged with ash.

A full-blown eruption of Katla could dwarf the destructive power of last year’s Eyjafjallajokul. The strongest of past Katla events were comparable the 1991 Pinatubo eruption, which measured 6 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) scale of 0-8.  Pinatubo ejected some 10 cubic km of magma and caused global temperatures to drop by 0.5 °C (0.9 °F). Locally, the greatest threat posed by Katla may due to the fact that it’s buried beneath the Mýrdalsjökull glacer. Major eruptions of subglacial volcanoes often produce massive flooding downslope with little notice. - Ecology.

CHERNOBYL 2: FUK-U-SHIMA Nuclear Dead Zone - Experts Estimate the Radiation from Fukishima Plant Will Exceed that of Chernobyl?!

The secretariat of the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan proposed on Thursday expanding the zone where intensive disaster countermeasures are to be taken to a 30-kilometer radius of a nuclear power plant from the current 8-10 km in the event of a future nuclear accident.

The secretariat also proposed newly designating a 5-km radius around a nuclear plant in its guidelines as a zone from which people should immediately be evacuated following a plant accident. It sought the establishment of a 50 km-perimeter around a disaster-struck plant within which preparations would be made for distributing potassium iodide tablets to mitigate the impact of exposure to radiation. The proposal was presented to the commission's working group reexamining evacuation rules for nuclear accidents in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture. - MDN.
As the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Plant drags on, worries are growing particularly among Fukushima Prefecture residents over drawn-out and in some cases apparently futile nuclear decontamination operations. The unease is especially strong in areas in and around mountains that must be repeatedly decontaminated, as every rainfall brings a new batch of radioactive substance-contaminated leaves and soil washing down from the hills. Since some 70 percent of Fukushima Prefecture is mountainous, such instances of regular recontamination could occur over a broad area, while the same effect has also been observed in some undeveloped areas of cities. The central government is considering paying for any decontamination operations conducted by local governments at sites with radiation emissions of 1 millisievert per year or more, but residents in places faced with regular recontamination after every major rainfall are concerned the national government may not keep the cleanup funding flowing. - AGORA Cosmpolitan.
Meanwhile, officials believe that there is a radiation spike in a Tokyo neighborhood,
An extraordinarily high level of radiation was detected in one spot in a central Tokyo residential district Thursday, prompting the local government to cordon off the small area, local officials said. Radiation levels were higher in Tokyo's Setagaya ward than in the evacuation area around the badly damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, according to ward Mayor Nobuto Hosaka. "We are shocked to see such high radiation level was detected in our neighborhood. We cannot leave it as is," Hosaka told reporters. But the tsunami-struck Fukushima plant may not be the source of the radiation, Hosaka said later on state television. Officials searching for the cause found "glass bottles in a cardboard box" in the basement of a house in the neighborhood which sent radiation detectors off the charts, he said on NHK. "We suspect these bottles in basement could be the cause of the high radiation reading and we are hastily working to confirm it," he said. Radiation experts are now checking what contaminated the bottles, a Setagaya ward official told CNN, declining to be named in line with policy. - CNN.
Officials have called for government standards on radiation decontamination measures following a spate of discoveries of radiation "hot spots" in the Tokyo metropolitan area. On Oct. 2, a high radiation level of 3 microsieverts per hour was detected on a road in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward by a member of the "Setagaya Kodomo Mamoru Kai" (Setagaya Children's Protection Association), which was founded in June in the wake of the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. The member took measurements based on information on social media site Twitter. As it turned out, the radiation was coming from radium stored underneath the floor of a home in the ward. At the time, Setagaya Mayor Nobuto Hosaka spoke of the difficulty in pinpointing hotspots, saying, "It's impossible for administrative officials to search everywhere. We want people to actively provide information to us in the future." Tokyo's Adachi Ward detected a level of radiation of 3.99 microsieverts per hour next to the machinery room of an elementary school pool on Oct. 17, following measurements taken independently by a resident. However, the government has not yet provided any clear guidelines relating to decontamination work. - MDN.
WATCH: Japanese communities record Chernobyl-level radiation.

WATCH: Fukushima Radiation sickness spreading to Tokyo.

THE GREAT DELUGE: 125,000 People Displaced in Mexico Floods!

Some 125,000 people have been forced out of their homes and 500 kilometers (300 miles) of roadways have been washed away in flooding in southeast Mexico, Tabasco state Governor Andres Granier said Wednesday.

"We flew over the rivers and municipalities and we can say that Tabasco is practically under water," he told W Radio. Granier said he asked for federal government for aid to help deal with the crisis. Hardest hit was Cardenas, a city of 250,000 which is around one-third under water, according to local officials. The region, along with nearby Central American nations, have been hard hit by exceptionally heavy rains since July. Mexico has seen 40 deaths and 400,000 displaced due to floods and mudslides over that period, after a 2010 season that was even worse. Officials in Central American states of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica reported 90 dead and 700,000 displaced in the past week after the region was hit by as much as 120 centimeters (47 inches) of rain in some areas. Meteorologists say the rain is caused by two different low-pressure weather systems, the first from the Pacific and the second from the Caribbean. - The News.
Meanwhile, the United Nations approved emergency grant for El Salvador as floods ravage Central America.
The United Nations reported today it has approved an emergency cash grant for El Salvador and sent additional staff to the country as it beefs up efforts to help the Government respond to severe floods that have affected five other countries after heavy rainfall in Central America. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that a grant of $50,000 has been approved to support initial relief activities in El Salvador, where floods have claimed 32 lives and caused the evacuation of more than 32,000 people. The country appealed for international assistance on Sunday.

The floods have also hit Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico, according to OCHA. In Guatemala, 29 people have died and an estimated 154,000 have been affected, while more than 38,000 people in Honduras have been stricken by the inundations, with 13 reported deaths. In Nicaragua, 133,858 people have been affected, mainly in the north and the Pacific coastal areas. Of particular concern in Nicaragua are reports of new cases of H1N1 viral infections that have prompted the UN World Health Organization (WHO) to send in a monitoring team. The Government has also requested international assistance and OCHA’s regional office will deploy extra staff to assist the UN Resident Coordinator and humanitarian country team, in addition to the a six-member team from the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) already there. Flood damage has been reported in Costa Rica and Mexico, but the rains have been less intense in those two countries. - UN News Centre.
WATCH: BBC reports on the flooding in Central America.