Tuesday, November 29, 2011

PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismic Swarm - More Quakes Hit Central Vietnam!

A minor earthquake, the third in a month, shook the central province of Quang Nam in Vietnam, Sunday night, local authorities said.

Dang Phong, chairman of the Bac Tra My District People’s Committee, told Tuoi Tre newspaper the quake had shaken glasses, cups, and furniture in his house. There were many aftershocks until early the following morning, he said, adding many residents had rushed out of their houses for fear of being crushed by furniture. The magnitude of the earthquake is not known yet. Also Sunday evening a small quake lasting 30 seconds shook Nam Tra My District in Quang Nam. No damage was reported.

On Nov 17 a 3.5-magnitude earthquake accompanied by subterranean noises shook the Bac Tra My District. Terrified residents fled their homes in the middle of the night as the sounds lasted more than six hours until early the following morning. Scientists said the quake could have been caused by the construction of the Song Tranh 2 Hydropower Plant in the vicinity. Dr Cao Dinh Trieu of the Institute of Geophysics said the earthquake could have occurred because water from the Song Tranh 2 reservoir had been absorbed into the faultline in the area and caused the seismic waves and the explosions. Phong said the local authorities had reported to the Quang Nam Province Department of Science and Technology, but it had yet to arrive at a conclusion about the cause of the earthquakes. - Thanhniennews.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Warm Weather in Washington - Temperature Sunday Hits Record 70 Degrees at Dulles?!

“Feels like mid-April” said a post on the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang site. “Amazing weather!” exclaimed another.

It was unusually warm in the Washington area Sunday, warm enough to set a record at one of the area’s airports and warmer than it might get for the rest of the year.

Temperatures at all three of the area’s airports reached into the 70s, and at Dulles International Airport, the maximum of 70 was a record. The old record at Dulles was 68, set in 1976. At Reagan National Airport, where Washington’s official readings are made, it was even warmer, 72 degrees. That made for an enjoyable afternoon for many, but it fell three degrees short of the record of 75, set 115 years ago. “Feels like mid-April” said a post on the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang site. “Amazing weather!” exclaimed another. 

Travelers returning to the area after the Thanksgiving weekend found it much warmer than in Chicago, where Sunday’s high was 46, or Cleveland, where the high was 59, or New York, where the Central Park high was 63. It was just a little cooler in Washington than Atlanta’s 73, or at Raleigh-Durham airport in North Carolina, where 75 was measured. According to a National Weather Service analysis of Washington weather data, 2011 has about a 50-50 chance of ending without another day quite so warm or atmospherically amazing as Sunday.

An examination of Washington records going back to 1872 shows that in all the years since then, temperatures from Nov. 28 to Dec. 31 have reached 70 only 70 times, the weather service said. That means, the service said, that a 70-degree day from now to year’s end occurs, on average, about once every two years, which suggests that residents and visitors who rejoiced in Sunday’s balmy sunshine and shirt-sleeve conditions may not see anything quite like it again in the last 34 days of this year. In a Sunday forecast, The Post’s weather gang anticipated that the highs Monday would reach the 60s. The weather service also called for 60s. But it said that more sunshine would make possible another 70-degree day. Sunday was Washington’s second-warmest day this month at National, one degree short of the high of 73 reached Nov. 14. - Washington Post.

EXTREME WEATHER: The Zimbabwe Heatwave - Country Experiences Record-Breaking Temperatures Over the Past Several Weeks!

In the past few weeks, Zimbabwe experienced record-breaking temperatures which saw temperatures in some parts of the country soaring to 46 degrees Celsius, pretty extreme than ever in the last half a century.

The country was abuzz with talk over the sweltering heat. "Iyi ndiyo climate change chaiyo," a young woman remarked fanning himself with a hat in a street in the city centre. But does a mere variation in temperature mean that Zimbabwe is now experiencing climate change? A workshop held recently on climate change organised by the Community technology Development Trust (a local NGO) was a good one to check on how seasonal climate variations is stacking up against expectations. People's perception of climate change usually differ from the one held by academics and the scientific community. To most people, the fact that temperatures hit the 46 degree barrier in Chiredzi and Buffalo Range is a sure indicator of climate change in Zimbabwe. But for scientists, it is not enough to conclude that Zimbabwe is now experiencing climate change because of this sudden upsurge in temperature. "An extreme event is sometimes confused with climate change, although there might be some correlations, but this does not necessarily mean a changed climate," said Tirivanhu Muhwati, a weather expert from the Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department. "We should not confuse temperature variations with climate change."

Climate change, he said, can be described as an identifiable statistical change in the state of the climate which persists for an extended period of time while climate variation referred to variations in the mean state and other statistics relating to the climate on all temporal and spatial scales beyond that of individual weather events. "For example, Harare has an average mean rainfall of 600mm per year and if this mean falls to 550mm then we can conclude that climate change has taken place. If this mean (600mm) does not change over say a 30-year period, then no climate change has taken place," the weather expert said. Muhwati presented statistical figures on rainfall patterns from around the 1900s to 2010 as well as temperature patterns from 1962 to 2008. Zimbabwe is increasingly experiencing temperature changes as a result of global warming or global climate disruption, as some meteorologists would argue. The Zimbabwe average minimum temperatures increased from 13 degrees Celsius in 1962 to 14 degrees Celsius by 2008 while average maximum temperatures went up from 26 degrees Celsius in 1962 to 27,2 degrees Celsius by 2008. "Debate is healthy as it helps us to do better analysis. The temperature data base goes back to 1962. Zimbabwe is experiencing a gradual increase in temperatures - year to year variability. It's showing an increasing trend," he said.

"One of the most contentious issues in the climate change debate is attribution. We need to prove that climate change is really taking place. The link is very difficult to explain. What evidence do you have that warming is causing a decrease in rainfall. This is what climate skeptics normally ask us." A University of Zimbabwe CTDT study report on the perception of smallholder farmers from UMP, Murehwa, Chiredzi and Tsholotsho of climate change indicated that the most prominent feature they identified as a sign of climate change included rainfall distribution change in rainfall patterns in the last 30 years, changes in temperature, changes in forest vegetation, recurrent droughts and very high ambient temperature, drying up of water sources, warm winter season and the extension of the winter season. "This is how they perceive climate change to be taking place. We had to conduct research to verify their perceptions with data on climate change from the Met Office," said Dr Emmanuel Mashonjowa of the UZ Agri-Meteorology Department.

"In all districts, farmers stated that rainfall amounts, and distribution, have changed in the past ten years. They say there has been a general decline in the rainfall amounts, recurrent droughts, drastic changes in the rainfall distribution - delayed onset dates of the rainy season and increased frequency and length of mid-season dry spells." Farmers, he also said, stated that the climate had become warmer in recent years with higher than normal day time temperatures, warm nights and warm winter seasons. "Farmers' perceptions of climate change generally agree with findings of analyses of rainfall and temperature data. These show that in the last 20-30 years, there has been an increase in rainfall variability and frequency and severity of droughts," Dr Mashonjowa said. Generally, according to the UZ-CTDT study, there was an observed delay in the onset dates of the rainy season in Chiredzi and UMP, shortening of the length of the growing period in these districts something that tallied with farmers' perceptions. Findings also suggest that there was general warming of temperatures in all the three districts by about 0,3 to 0,4 Degrees Celsius and that most of the warming occurred during the period after 1980 the period with higher than usual occurrences of droughts. - All Africa.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismologist - Trinidad and Tobago on the Cusp of Big Earthquake!

Trinidad and Tobago requires “serious political will” from Government and an almost equal contribution from civil society to provide funding and resources urgently to pre-finance and prepare for earthquakes and major disasters. “It requires Government and us as a people to make decisions quickly, and to act quickly,” seismologist at the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (SRC), Dr Richard Robertson, has said.

Robertson made the comment at a recent workshop, titled “Lessons Drawn from the Seismological Experience in Chile and its Application to Trinidad and Tobago”, at City Hall, Port-of-Spain. “We have been monitoring seismic hazards for some time and we are exposed to the hazards, and can be impacted by a large magnitude earthquake. As professionals in the field, we don’t think as country or a region we have gotten it right,” he said. “There are initiatives from people like Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), CARICOM, and people doing things locally, but we think they are moving too slow.”Research Fellow in Earthquake Engineering at the SRC, Dr Walter Salazar, said the Government, through the Town and Country Planning Division and SRC, had attempted to put things in place by initiating a Microzonation Database Programme.

The database, which will detail seismic hazard risk for all areas of the country, is being funded by Government and will cover a ten-year period. In an address on the occasion of World Town Planning Day on November 8, Planning Minister Bhoe Tewarie said, “It is hoped this project will guide the establishment of new building codes and modify site development standards that will take into consideration the potential and very real risks our present and future structures face from seismic activity.” It is necessary, he said, “for all new attempts at land use planning to be informed by hazardous assessments so that mitigation planning can be filtered into design and land use policy conceptualisation.” The issue of proper land planning and usage was reinforced by last weekend’s severe flooding in north-west Trinidad, which many attributed to the ill-advised removal of vegetation on hillsides by developers for housing. Addressing the issue earthquakes, Robertson said, “To get to the stage where we are resilient to seismic hazard, it will take years. We need to start, but we are taking too long to start. An earthquake may occur before anything could be done.” From interaction with engineers, he said, “we are concerned about the buildings environment and the extent to which they can withstand the kinds of events we would expect. We have lots of problems. How the buildings are built, problems with respect to regulations and codes.”

Dr Richard Robertson.

Most Caribbean islands, he said, have building codes that may not be up to date, but are regulated in terms of enforcement mechanisms. In addition to seismologist and engineers, he said more persons from other fields need to get involved in preparation for seismic hazards. The earthquake of January 12, 2010, in Haiti, he said, “should have, as a region, made us aware of the problems.” How Chile manages seismic hazards, he said, “should have indicated to us what we should move from and what we should move to in terms of our building stock.” Professor of Structural Engineering at the University of the Andes, Jorge Crempien, in addressing the earthquake problem in Chile, said Chilean seismic regulations started with the Chilean Ordinance for Construction (ChOC) in 1928 after the Talca earthquake. It addressed only construction issues. It was updated in 1939 after the Chillan earthquake that year. Following the 1960 “Great Earthquake”, the ChOC was complemented by the Seismic Design Code for buildings, which incorporated “the mandatory dynamic analysis of buildings”. The seismic design code, he said, restricted the design of buildings only to structural engineers for buildings of more than three stories.

The seismic design code, he said, had “tremendous success” in the 7.8 magnitude earthquake of 1985 in the central zone of Chile. After this earthquake, the code was updated to include seismic macro zones. The seismic data obtained from the seismic macro zones helped to define the code in use during the 2010 earthquake. “It worked very well,” Crempien said. Acting Director of the UWI Seismic Research Centre, Dr Joan Latchman, said, “Our engineers are expressing concern about the stock of our buildings, even those that are engineered.” The engineers in TT and the region, she noted, could learn from the Chilean experience. TT also needs to legislate on building codes, Latchman said, noting that a building code committee is currently looking to get a code that can be used here. Along with the code, she said, “there must be enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure monitoring at all stages of the building process to ensure that buildings meet code requirements.” “What we put in place now should stand. The resources that we are using to put these things in place are not renewable resources. When we spend that money foolishly investing in something that is going to fall down the next time we have a major earthquake, we must ask ourselves ‘Where are the resources coming from?’” Research Fellow in Earthquake Engineering at the SRC, Dr Walter Salazar, said the priority for TT is to conduct risk assessment in critical facilities and public buildings, such as hospitals and schools, that have high levels of occupancy, and economic installations.

Research Fellow in Instrumentation at the SRC, Lloyd Lynch, said, “The truth is that no assessment has been done to determine how safe public buildings are.” Indicators such as building codes in keeping with international standards, building standards and practices, and monitoring and inspection of the construction process, would determine the safety of buildings, Lynch said. Engineers at the seminar expressed concern that these indicators were either absent or inferior to international standards. Even before a building goes up, Lynch said, strong local government institutions, such as Town and Country Planning, should ensure that a location or site is suitable to build on. “Unfortunately, our institutions have not been effective in putting measures in place. Even buildings that are engineered have deficiencies because of the lack of quality assurance and monitoring.” Giving the reason for the absence of an up-to-date building code, Lynch said that engineering professionals in the 1970s recognised that benefits were to be obtained from the use of the code. “At that time, attempts were made to put together a Caribbean unified building code. It was 75 per cent complete in the late 1980s. By the time it was completed the world had moved on. In the early 1990s, the three organisations governing building codes in the US formed an International Building Code Council and introduced ‘The International Building Code’, which was radically different from the previous codes. This rendered the Caribbean effort at obtaining a regional code obsolete.” On pre-financing for disasters, Lynch said that Government subscribes to the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility (CRIFT), which was set up to provide quick funds to take care of contingency expenses in a disaster until more permanent arrangements could be made. Apart from CRIFT, he said, “We have private insurance but the amount of private insurance for disasters in the Caribbean is rather low.“Less than 15 per cent of infrastructure is insured. Even those that are insured, are under-insured.” Insurance regulations, he said, “are so archaic we risk the possibility that in the event of a large earthquake or any major catastrophe, some of these insurance firms will go insolvent.”

Another problem, he said, is that many companies do not submit financial statements on a timely basis, so things can go awry without being detected. Governments need to put aside more funding to deal with major disasters that will inflict huge financial losses, because they will be faced with huge contingent liability. “We need to look at things such as a residential catastrophe pool, or a business contingency pool or insurances for businesses. It will need radical changes in terms of incentives that government gives to financial entities such as insurances companies,” he said. “We need to accept the fact that before all these measures are put in place, we could get a large earthquake and as such, we need to have measures in place to pre-finance the disaster so that businesses can recover quickly.” Given all that is at stake, Lynch said that if Government was serious about sustainable development, and meeting the Millennium Development Goal “it would be necessary to spend more on preparedness for earthquakes”. Since the country had gained political independence, he said the economy had grown four times. However, this growth has gone in areas of human development and standard of living, noting citizens benefit from Government’s Chronic Disease Assistance Programme; students benefit from Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses and the population benefit from gas subsidies. A large earthquake, or a shallow moderate one occurring under San Fernando or Port-of-Spain, he said, “can easily inflict damage that is so large that a lot of these subsidies will have to be taken away. The budget would have to be adjusted so as to make amends for the damage inflicted, and all of those development gains will go out the door.” Questioning the amount of capital invested in the accumulation of buildings and infrastructure, including bridges and overpasses, he said, “In an earthquake, a lot of that could be shaken to rubbles in seconds. It is very important we pay more attention to this. It is inevitable.”

Earthquakes in developing countries, he said, tend to be quite costly in terms of the amount of repairs that need to be done to infrastructure afterwards, business opportunities lost and the impact on human societies based on lives lost. Some of the preliminary estimates that have been done, he said, indicate that an earthquake could wreak damage in the tune of US$6 billion in San Fernando alone. Residential housing stock alone in Port-of-Spain could be in the sum of TT$10 million. “We have to work hastily to start putting measures in place to start transforming the building stock and to put emergency measures in place to respond to the inevitable,” he said. The level of shaking of the earthquake and the depth determines the extent of damage, the experts said. Dr Latchman said a shallow 5.8 magnitude earthquake destroyed Managua in 1972 because it occurred at a depth of seven kilometres right under the Nicaraguan city. “We have a shallow earthquake in the magnitude range of 6.1 to 6.5 on the Richter scale occurring every ten or so years somewhere around Trinidad that could destroy a city within seconds,” she said. “All of these earthquakes, had they occurred under Port-of-Spain, would have been completely devastating. “It is just that they have been slapping at our heels, occurring off the island. It just takes one such earthquake to occur under Port-of-Spain or San Fernando and it would be a completely different story.” In San Fernando, Lynch said, the SRC has uncovered in recent times geologic structures in the Central Range Fault that “may be accumulating strain and could rupture sometime in the future”. He said these geological structures cut right through some of the most productive regions of the island, including Point Lisas, San Fernando’s residential areas and Point-a-Pierre. In the event of a large earthquake, these communities will suffer strong shaking and are likely to experience huge amount of damage. As nationals, Lachman said, “we need to take some personal responsibility for our own safety, given that we would be living in structures that may not live up to a massive earthquake. So we need to have our disaster bag, medical kit batteries, torch- lights and have them stocked. Have family plan at every time. Earthquake has no respect for season. They can occur at any time of the year.” - News Day.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 6.4 Quake Strikes Papua New Guinea!

A strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck off Papua New Guinea's remote New Britain region on Monday but there was no danger of a tsunami, seismologists said.

USGS map of the Papua New Guinea quake.
The US Geological Survey said the quake hit at 10:26 pm (1226 GMT) at a depth of 50 kilometres (30 miles) about 221 kilometres southeast of Rabaul, New Britain. Geoscience Australia gave the quake a preliminary measurement of magnitude 6.0. The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there were no tsunami warnings or advisories in effect following the quake.

Quakes of such magnitude are common in the New Britain region of Papua New Guinea, which sits on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire", a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates. A 6.7-magnitude jolt hit the country last month but there were no reports of damage in the impoverished Pacific island state. A giant tsunami in 1998, caused by an undersea earthquake or a landslide, killed more than 2,000 people near Aitape, on the country's northwest coast. - Yahoo New Zealand.
Seismicity of the region.
On the 18th of October, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake has struck the New Britain Region, Papua New Guinea at a depth of 9.9 km (6.2 miles) and was located at 5.886°S, 150.994°E.

EXTREME WEATHER: Violent Storm Kills 6 in Durban, South Africa!

A violent storm killed six people in Durban and Pietermaritzburg in South Africa on Sunday night and destroyed scores of homes.

The extreme weather, which struck hours before the opening of the UN climate change conference in Durban, caused flooding and widespread damage. The Sunday night deaths brought the number of people killed by floods in KwaZulul-Natal to 11 in less than two weeks. Last week, five people died in the province due to heavy rains. KwaZulu-Natal cooperative governance department spokesman, Mthatheni Mabaso said six people were killed in Umlazi and Clermont townships, south and west of the city, on Sunday night. "We have been told they died when their houses collapsed. We have also been told that about 100 homes were flooded and damaged in Isipingo," he said on Monday. Homes were flooded in Durban's affluent areas such as Umhlanga and Newlands. "This shows that even the posh areas are not spared of the effects of climate change," said Mabaso.

Cooperative governance MEC Nomusa Dube would visit some of the affected areas on Monday. "She will be accompanied by her disaster management team. They will assess the damage," he said. Several people, including a one-year-old baby, were rescued from their Durban homes early on Monday after flash floods, Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said. Families in four homes on Randles Road were stuck in waist-deep water after a heavy downfall. "At around 1am, Netcare 911 paramedics, their rescue team as well as the SAPS search and rescue were called to the four houses that had flooded to waist deep in the heavy rain.

"Rescue personnel assisted an elderly lady and a baby less than one year to safety. Both were treated for the cold and the elderly patient had to be treated for an asthma attack." In Pietermaritzburg several areas were damaged by heavy rains on Sunday night. Paulpietersburg, Gingindlovu, Nkandla and Eshowe were the most affected during last week's floods. Three people died in Paulpietersburg, and two in the eThekwini municipality. Up to 20,000 delegates from more than 190 countries are gathered in Durban to thrash out a plan to counter global warming and the catastrophic climate change, including extreme weather, it is causing in many parts of the world. - Times Live.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Weird Weather - Alabama Gets First November Snow in 35 Years!

Last night it wasn't the stars, but the snow that fell on Alabama.

It wasn't much, but yesterday (Nov. 28) was the first time since 1976 that Alabama has had snow during November. Making the day even weirder weather-wise, temperatures in the Deep South dipped to near the freezing point while temperatures in many places in the Northeast topped 70 F (21 C). New York City yesterday set a record high temperature of 70 F for the date, breaking a record set in 1896 and tied in 1990. The white stuff that fell across Alabama mostly fell in the northeast part of the state.

"It looks like they had an inch or so, maybe more," said Andy Kula, senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Huntsville, Ala."None of it has really stuck because it's too warm on the ground." The most recent occurrences of November snow in Alabama came in 1976 when flakes fell on Huntsville and 1969 when snow came to Muscle Shoals, Kula told OurAmazingPlanet. Kula said snow and a wintry mix has been steadily falling on Huntsville since last night. The southern slide into winter is due to a "cold bubble" that has formed over the South, according to meteorologists. A large area of low pressure in the atmosphere has settled over the middle of the country. The bottom of that dip, or trough, has closed off into a large upper atmosphere low-pressure system - the cold bubble - centered over Mississippi. The cold bubble is on the move - slowly - toward Northeastern cities, where it should lose some energy, but could still bring wintery weather with it. - Our Amazing Planet.

EARTH CHANGES: Dust Storms in Mexico!

In late November 2011, dust storms blew off mainland Mexico and the Baja California Peninsula. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this natural-color image on November 27, 2011. A small dust plume blows off mainland Mexico over Golfo de California (Gulf of California), almost reaching Baja California. Source points for that plume are not apparent in this image, but the clear skies over most of the Mexican state of Sonora indicate that the dust has arisen near the coast. Source points do appear for the dust plumes arising from the Baja California Peninsula. Midway down the peninsula, where the dust arises, sandy desert comprises much of the landscape. - Earth Observatory.

EXTREME WEATHER: Woman Hurt as 'Tornado' Hits Greater Manchester, UK!

A woman has been taken to hospital after what has been described as a "tornado" struck part of Greater Manchester.

A sudden gust of wind toppled a chimney in Heaton Moor near Stockport at about 14:30 GMT. The woman was taken to Stepping Hill Hospital with shock and cuts and bruises, said a fire service spokesman. There are also reports of wind damage in Blackburn, Lancashire. Dave Ashton, 38, from Heaton Mersey, was in his computer shop at Moor Top on Heaton Moor Lane when he witnessed what appeared to be a "brief tornado". "It went almost pitch black," he said. "The wind suddenly turned up about 20 notches to the point when it became quite frightening.

"It felt like you were in the middle of a hurricane and then it all died down and outside you could just hear car alarms. "It was very frightening actually. I know a lot of the shop owners and people were quite shaken up." Heaton Moor Road has been closed between Green Lane and Moorside Road. Another resident, Eleanor Hirst, 38, who lives on Green Lane, was just about to leave the house with her son. "It looked like a scene out of the Wizard of Oz," she said. "The sky went black and I saw it all whirling around. "It was as if you could see the wind itself. It was going around and round. It doesn't surprise me that it was a tornado. "It was like something that you've never seen before."

Paul Duggan from Greater Manchester Fire Service confirmed reports of damage in the Heaton Moor area. "A number of trees have blown over and appear to be blocking the road. "Also, a number of chimneys have been reported damaged, one of which collapsed, and I believe an elderly woman has been treated by paramedics and had to be hospitalised." In Lancashire, the A666 road between Blackburn and Darwen was closed after tiles were "ripped off" the roof of a pub. Lancashire Police said they received a call at 14:00 GMT from a member of the public reporting a "small tornado". A Blackburn with Darwen Council spokesman said the Anchor Pub suffered damage to its roof and three other houses were damaged on the A666. The road was closed to traffic while Council Highways and Building control services check the safety of the damaged buildings. - BBC.

EXTREME WEATHER: Wind and Waves Clobbered the Coast of Norway!

The “extreme weather system” known as “Berit” hit Norway’s northwest coast hard on Friday and through the night into Saturday morning, moving north from Hordaland and Møre og Romsdal up to Lofoten and beyond. Waves as high as 30 meters, hurricane-force winds and record-high tides generated plenty of drama but no casualties.

Meteorologists opted for the “extreme weather” description instead of just a “storm,” because of the various aspects of “Berit,” which had been forecast since mid-week. Many linked the lack of injuries and casualties to the forecasts that allowed many to take precautions in advance. Several wooden holiday and fishing cabins known as rorbuer were nonetheless destroyed on Lofoten, and some island communities were left isolated on Saturday. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that several yachts and other boats were swamped at Sømna in Nordland, where also homes and businesses were flooded. Oil company Statoil decided to shut down production at several oil fields including Åsgård A, Heidrun and Njård, and send workers home because of the high seas and hurricane conditions. “It was blowing over hurricane strength and the platforms were moving quite a lot,” Ola Anders Skauby told website Dagbladet.no. “They registered waves over 14 meters and expected that to increase.”

The waves crashed over the historic Kråkenes Fyr (lighthouse), perched on a cliff over the sea just south of Stad, where winds also reached hurricane strength. Magnar Reistad, a researcher at the Meteorological Institute in Bergen, told weather website yr.no that Lofoten got hit the hardest, though, suffering the most material damage. Seas rising to record high levels were recorded at Bodø (nine centimeters over the last record of 404cm logged in 1979), Kabelvåg (428 centimeters) and Harstad (321 centimeters). “This is unusually high,” Reistad said. Many ferry routes were cancelled as were some sailings of the Hurtigruten vessels that ply the coast from Bergen to Kirkenes. The unusually rough seas affected routes between Lofoten and Stad. One vessel, for example, spent the night tied up at Måløy. By Saturday afternoon, an estimated 2,500 residents along the coast were isolated including those living on the islands of Røst and  Værøy, west of Bodø. The extreme weather destroyed both Værøy’s helicopter landing pad and ferry terminal, leaving residents cut off until repairs could be made. Røst was without power and facing food shortages, as supplies ran low in local stores, but island residents are accustomed to rough weather. “We’ll manage just fine,” mayor Tor Arne Andreassen told NRK. Troms and Finnmark counties seemed to be avoiding the worst of the wind and waves, but seas were rising in the far north as well, with coastal areas expected to be reporting record high levels as well. Cellars needed to be pumped out in Harstad, with water levels high also in Tromsø and Honningsvåg. - NIN.

See more pictures HERE and HERE.

EARTH CHANGES: Global Food Crisis - Oxfam Declares That Climate Changes Will Worsen Food Crises!

Storms and drought that have unleashed dangerous surges in food prices could be a "grim foretaste" of what lies ahead when climate change bites more deeply, Oxfam says.

In a report issued at the start of the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, the British charity pointed to spikes in wheat, corn and sorghum, triggered by extreme weather, that had driven tens of millions into poverty over the past 18 months. "This will only get worse as climate change gathers pace and agriculture feels the heat," Oxfam's Kelly Dent said today. "When a weather event drives local or regional price spikes, poor people often face a double shock. "They have to cope with higher food prices at a time when extreme weather may have also killed their livestock, destroyed their home or farm."

In 2010, a heatwave in Russia and Ukraine sparked a rise of 60 to 80 per cent in global wheat prices in three months, reaching 85 per cent in April 2011, Oxfam said. In July 2011, the price of sorghum was 393 per cent higher in Somalia, while corn (maize) in Ethiopia and Kenya was up to 191 and 161 per cent higher respectively compared to the five-year average, reflecting the impact of drought in the Horn of Africa. Rainstorms and typhoons in South-East Asia, meanwhile, have driven up the price of rice in Thailand and Vietnam. In September and October, the cost of this staple was 25-30 per cent higher there than a year earlier. In February, the World Bank estimated that 44 million people in developing economies had fallen into extreme poverty as a result of spiralling food prices. In the November issue of its Food Price Watch report, the bank said that a global index of food prices peaked in February but had dipped by five per cent since then.

Even so, the index was still 19 per cent higher than in September 2010, although the figure varied greatly according to the country and the commodity, it said. Oxfam said price hikes were a source of despair for the needy. "For the poorest who spend up to 75 per cent of their income on food, price rises on this scale can have consequences as families are forced into impossible trade-offs in a desperate bid to feed themselves," it said. It pointed to a just-published investigation by the UN's panel of climate scientists, which said man-made global warming had already boosted heatwaves and flood-provoking rainfall and was likely to contribute to future disasters. "More frequent and extreme weather events will compound things further, creating shortages, destabilising markets and precipitating price spikes, which will be felt on top of the structural price rises predicted by the models," Oxfam said. It appealed to the conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to slash greenhouse gases and activate a planned fund to help poor countries. - Herald Sun.