Friday, December 2, 2011

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mud Volcano in Pingtung Erupts, Covers Cemetery in Taiwan!

Wandan mud dome, one of Taiwan's 17 active mud volcanoes, erupted early Friday after nearly a year of inactivity, spilling mud flows of up to two meters high.

Up to noon Friday, hot gray mud was still spewing from the volcano in Pingtung County and residents could be seen lighting fires nearby to burn off the gases emitted by the volcano. The mud flowing from three cracks in Hsinyuan Township spread to a public cemetery and a corn field but no other damage was reported. The eruption occurred south of Wandan Township, where the first eruption in the 1720s was recorded. The eruptions typically take place once or twice every year near the border between the two towns. There has not been an eruption in Hsinyuan itself for nearly half a century, according to residents. - Focus Taiwan.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: KATLA - New Icelandic Volcano Eruption Could Have Global Impact!

Hundreds of metres under one of Iceland's largest glaciers there are signs of an imminent volcanic eruption that could be one of the most powerful the country has seen in almost a century.

Mighty Katla, with its 10km (6.2 mile) crater, has the potential to cause catastrophic flooding as it melts the frozen surface of its caldera and sends billions of gallons of water surging through Iceland's east coast and into the Atlantic Ocean. "There has been a great deal of seismic activity," says Ford Cochran, the National Geographic's expert on Iceland. "There have been more than 500 tremors in and around the caldera of Katla just in the last month, which suggests the motion of magma. And that certainly suggests an eruption may be imminent." Scientists in Iceland have been closely monitoring the area since 9 July, when there appears to have been some sort of disturbance that may have been a small eruption. Even that caused significant flooding, washing away a bridge across the country's main highway and blocking the only link to other parts of the island for several days. "The July 9 event seems to mark the beginning of a new period of unrest for Katla, the fourth we know in the last half century," says Professor Pall Einarsson, who has been studying volcanoes for 40 years and works at the Iceland University Institute of Earth Sciences.

"The possibility that it may include a larger eruption cannot be excluded," he continues. "Katla is a very active and versatile volcano. It has a long history of large eruptions, some of which have caused considerable damage." The last major eruption occurred in 1918 and caused such a large glacier meltdown that icebergs were swept by the resulting floods into the ocean. The volume of water produced in a 1755 eruption equalled that of the world's largest rivers combined. Thanks to the great works of historic literature known as the Sagas, Iceland's volcanic eruptions have been well documented for the last 1,000 years. But comprehensive scientific measurements were not available in 1918, so volcanologists have no record of the type of seismic activity that led to that eruption. All they know is that Katla usually erupts every 40 to 80 years, which means the next significant event is long overdue.
Katla is part of a volcanic system that includes the Laki craters. In 1783 the chain erupted continuously for eight months generating so much ash, hydrogen fluoride and sulphur dioxide that it killed one in five Icelanders and half of the country's livestock. "And it actually changed the Earth's climate," says Mr Cochran. "Folks talk about a nuclear winter - this eruption generated enough sulphuric acid droplets that it made the atmosphere reflective, cooled the planet for an entire year or more and caused widespread famine in many places around the globe. "One certainly hopes that Katla's eruption will not be anything like that!" The trouble is scientists do not know what to expect. As Prof Einarsson explains, volcanoes have different personalities and are prone to changing their behaviour unexpectedly. "When you study a volcano you get an idea about its behaviour in the same way you judge a person once you get to know them well. "You might be on edge for some reason because the signs are strange or unusual, but it's not always very certain what you are looking at. We have had alarms about Katla several times."

He says the fallout also depends on the type of eruption and any number of external factors. "This difficulty is very apparent when you compare the last two eruptions in Iceland - Eyjafjallajokull in 2010 and Grimsvotn in 2011. "Eyjafjallajokull, which brought air traffic to a halt across Europe, was a relatively small eruption, but the unusual chemistry of the magma, the long duration and the weather pattern during the eruption made it very disruptive. "The Grimsvotn eruption of 2011 was much larger in terms of volume of erupted material. "It only lasted a week and the ash in the atmosphere fell out relatively quickly. "So it hardly had any noticeable effect except for the farmers in south-east Iceland who are still fighting the consequences." Of course, volcanoes are erupting around the world continuously. Scientists are particularly excited about an underwater volcano near El Hierro in the Canary Islands, which is creating new land. But Iceland is unique because it straddles two tectonic plates and is the only place in the world where the mid-Atlantic rift is visible above the surface of the ocean. "It means you actually see the crust of the earth ripping apart," says Mr Cochran. "You have an immense amount of volcanic activity and seismic activity. It's also at a relatively high altitude so Iceland is host to among other things, the world's third largest icecap." But the biggest threat to Iceland's icecaps is seen as climate change, not the volcanoes that sometimes melt the icecaps. They have begun to thin and retreat dramatically over the last few decades, contributing to the rise in sea levels that no eruption of Katla, however big, is likely to match. - BBC.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Extreme Santa Ana Winds - Unusual Weather System Produces Destructive Winds! UPDATE: Forecasters - Midwest in for Roughest Winter! (STUNNING PHOTOS)

The Santa Ana wind gusts that pummeled the western San Gabriel Valley, including Pasadena and La Cañada-Flintridge, were produced by two separate weather systems that channeled cold air from the north into the L.A. area.
The winds reached 97 mph at one mountain peak. More than 380,000 homes lost power. Thousands of trees snapped, blocking roads and damaging property. Scores of schools were closed, as was Griffith Park. And motorists battled gridlock caused by broken traffic signals and blowing debris. The storm, which produced some of the strongest wind gusts in more than a decade, was caused by a highly unusual weather system that even had experts marveling at its power. While Santa Ana winds are common this time of year, this storm was anything but.
The winds were produced by two separate weather systems that channeled cold air from the north into the Los Angeles area. A clockwise high-pressure system was parked over Northern California and the Great Basin as a counter-clockwise low-pressure system hovered over Arizona. Like two massive gears spinning in opposite directions, the systems funneled the winds. "In some places we've seen gusts over hurricane force, which for the Southwest part of the country is not something that usually happens," said Brian Edwards, a meteorologist for "This is a one-every-10-years kind of thing." Indeed, the blustery conditions extended across the Southwest, including Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico. In some places, including Utah, wind gusts topped 100 mph.
Experts said one reason for the extensive damage was that the winds were remarkably choppy and unpredictable. In some places, winds suddenly shifted from 10 mph or 20 mph to more than 80 mph. The shift made trees as well as roofs and power lines vulnerable. "Everything lined up perfectly," said Bill Patzert, a climatologist for Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada-Flintridge. Trees were no match for the winds, especially those with heavy canopies. Patzert noted that trees in urban Southern California neighborhoods don't have the strong root systems found in more natural environments. "L.A. trees don't have deep roots. The urban forest is artificial and is primarily watered by lawn sprinklers," Patzert said. "So what keeps our urban forest alive is people watering their lawns, which are not natural, so you don't have deep root systems. So our trees are very vulnerable to Santa Ana events."

Walter Warriner, a Santa Monica arborist and community forester, agreed, adding that the large canopies of many local trees lack strong foundations. "When you look at a tree above ground there's a ratio of 20 to 1 compared to below ground, so there's not that many roots holding our big trees in place," he said. While damage was reported across the Southland, communities in the western San Gabriel Valley were particularly hard-hit, including Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Marino, Altadena and La Cañada-Flintridge. National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Boldt said this, too, was unusual. Typically, the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County get the brunt of such windstorms. - LA Times.
Meanwhile, forecasters say the worst of what shapes up as a brutal U.S. winter will target the Midwest and its major cities with snow and cold.
Large Midwestern cities such as Chicago and Minneapolis will bear the brunt of the extreme conditions, reported Thursday. Other parts of the country will not escape winter's wrath, as above-normal snowfall is forecast for the interior Northeast and northern New England. A weak to moderate La Nina is the main factor in the 2011-2012 Winter Forecast, with typical La Nina winter conditions expected, AccuWeather said. La Nina winters feature a stronger Northern jet stream that tends to cause storms to track across the northern tier, spelling harsh winters from the Northern Plains to the Ohio Valley, meteorologist Heather Buchman said. Snowfall will be well above normal for cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland and possibly Pittsburgh, forecasters said. - UPI.
WATCH: Violent Wind Storm Leaves Path of Destruction.

WATCH: Eye-witness capture of Pasadena Wind Storm Damage.

EXTREME WEATHER: Drought Ravages Mexico - Residents Are Forced to Drink Contaminated Water to Survive!

According to the Associated Press, residents in the small northern Mexican town of San Jose de los Gonzalez face a water shortage as one of the worst droughts in decades ravages large swaths of the country. Dusty fields and dangerously low water reserves are a common sight.

The major drought in Mexico is not only affecting people and plants but wildlife too. The drought that has already ravaged wetlands and crops throughout Texas and New Mexico is forcing migratory birds to fly off course in search of food and water. There is no standing water in the playas of the Texas panhandle. So managers at Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in south central New Mexico are bracing for record numbers this fall and winter.

WATCH: Drought ravages Mexico.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismic Swarm - Prelude to the Big Bang, Seven Quakes Hit the Philippines!

At least seven earthquakes, including three aftershocks of a magnitude-6 temblor, hit Pangasinan, Metro Manila, Zambales and Surigao in Mindanao in the Philippines, yesterday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology reported.

Phivolcs said a magnitude-5.3 shook parts of Pangasinan province and was felt in Metro Manila at 8:26 a.m. It was tectonic in origin. “Its epicenter was in the West Philippine Sea but it was not powerful enough to cause damage,” Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum Jr. said in a radio interview. He said small aftershocks are possible. Phivolcs said the epicenter was traced to 140 kilometers southwest of Agno, Pangasinan. It was felt at Intensity 2 in Quezon City, Manila, Mandaluyong City and Obando, Bulacan. The United States Geological Survey measured the quake at magnitude 6. It said the epicenter was traced to 152 km west-northwest of Olongapo, 154 km west-southwest of Dagupan, 171 km west-northwest of Angeles City, 230 km west-northwest of Manila.

Meanwhile, three aftershocks rocked Luzon an hour after a magnitude-6 quake hit the area yesterday morning. Phivolcs said the first aftershock at magnitude-3.1 was at 8:41 a.m., with the epicenter at 94 km northwest of Palauig, Zambales. A second aftershock, magnitude 2.95, was recorded at 9:07 a.m., with the epicenter at 103 km northwest of Palauig. The third aftershock, magnitude 3.8, was recorded at 9:27 a.m., with the epicenter at 90 km southwest of Palauig. No damage or aftershock was expected from the three subsequent tremors, Phivolcs said. In Mindanao, three quakes rocked the Surigao area in a span of 30 minutes early Wednesday. No damage or casualty was reported. The first quake, at magnitude 2.62, was recorded at 6:29 a.m., with the epicenter 20 km northeast of Burgos, Surigao del Norte. A second quake, recorded at 6:32 a.m., measured magnitude 4.54, with the epicenter 51 km northeast of Burgos. The third quake measured magnitude 3.6 and was recorded at 6:53 a.m. Its epicenter was 81 km northeast of Burgos. - Journal Online.

EXTREME WEATHER: Farm Sheds Destroyed in Unpredictable Western Australia Wildfire!

Fire crews are still battling an unpredictable and out of control blaze in Western Australia's south-west as authorities warn homes and lives are in danger.

An emergency warning was issued yesterday and remains in place today for people within a 5km radius from the junction of Milyeannup Coast Road and Woodarburrup Rd in the Shire of Nannup. Two farm sheds have been destroyed in the bushfire, and one house and ancillary structures have also received minor damage. The Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) says flames up to five metres high are burning in tea-tree and paperbark wetlands. Boggy conditions are limiting access to the area. More than 38,800 hectares have been burnt so far. About 85 career and volunteer Bush Fire Service, Department of Environment and Conservation, Shire of Nannup and plantation industry firefighters are working to strengthen containment lines.
They are backburning away from Milyeannup Coast Rd. Residents have been told that if the way is clear, they should leave immediately for a safer place. FESA advises those residents who are well prepared and planning to shelter in their homes to start patrolling with their garden hoses and check for spot fires. If residents are not at home, it is too dangerous to return now, FESA says. A "watch and act" alert also remains in place for west of Lake Quitjup, as well as Black Point and White Point roads. A fire has entered private property and Gingilup Swamps Nature Reserve west of D'Entrecasteaux National Park in the Shire of Nannup. A watch and act alert also remains near Molloy Island and East Augusta in the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River. There is a possible threat to lives and homes in these areas and residents have been warned to leave or get ready to actively defend their properties. - Herald Sun.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 1,450 People Evacuated After 5.2 Magnitude Earthquake Jolts China's Xinjiang Region!

A total of 1,450 people had been evacuated from their homes in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region by 11 a.m. Friday after the area was hit by a moderate earthquake Thursday night, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said in a statement.

About 11,300 people were affected by the 5.2-magnitude earthquake centered in the county of Shache in Kashi prefecture, which is about 1,666 km southwest of Xinjiang's capital city of Urumqi, reported Xinhua news agency on Friday. Nearly 290 houses had collapsed while another 1,966 were damaged in the quake. So far, no casualties have been reported. Most of the affected are residents from the counties of Shache, Zepu and Yuepuhu, the ministry said, adding that the tents and other relief materials have been transported to the quake-hit region. - Bernama.