Sunday, May 13, 2012

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Odd 92L Weather System in the North Atlantic - "Very Rare, Very Unnatural, Highly Unusual, and More Typical of July"?!

Today we're dealing with 92L out in the North Atlantic by the Azores. 92L is surprisingly well organized for this time of year and this far north, but it shouldn't really surprise everyone that this is happening. SST anomalies are already 1-2C above average in that area, so it's more typical of July as it is.

92L in the Northern Atlantic.
Satellite reveals a tight, well organized core with great spiral banding, and showing a system that is already detaching from the front that it has been associated with for the past few days. It's sudden uptick in convection though is very unnatural, and it looks well on it's way to become Sub-Tropical or Tropical Storm Alberto perhaps as soon as early tomorrow.
Sea Surface Temperatures in the area.
Sub-Tropical or Non-Tropical? Determining whether or not this is a warm-core system or a hybrid is difficult, but most if not all the of the phase-diagrams indicate that this system is transitioning from a symmetric cold core system to a symmetric warm core system, which is what a tropical cyclone is. However, given that the wind-radius and surface pressure is so far spread out, plus it's association with the front near by (similar to Sean in 2011), it would be sub-tropical in nature.

Polar Low or a Tropical Cyclone - the Grace and Vince dilemma.

These systems are very rare in the Atlantic. It was first seen in 2005 with the infamous Hurricane Vince, but was once again seen in a very similar fashion to 92L - Tropical Storm Grace. In both cases, our basic understanding of tropical formations where both defied when both of these systems developed in highly unusual locations, generally considered too hostile for formations, and thrived in those environments. The dilemma exists however on how to name it. These systems are similar to Polar Lows, so determining the difference between the two is difficult. However, 92L does not meet the requirement exactly for a Polar Low, so what it is? For now, the NHC settles on it being a sub-tropical cyclone. In any case, the NHC will be waiting for consistency to name 92L. If it continues to look like this in say 6 hours, it is probable that it could be named as soon as tonight and as late as tomorrow. 92L does not have long to live in either case, as hostile wind shear should overcome this system in 48 hours or so. - Wunderground.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mexico's Popocatepetl Volcano Spews Huge Ash Cloud 2.5 Miles Into the Air - The Continuous Tremors, Red-Hot Rocks and Large Plumes Frighten Villagers!

Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano spewed out huge clouds of ash and fiery rock overnight, closing a local airport on Saturday and frightening nearby villagers, already on edge after weeks of increased activity.

Popocatepetl volcano spews a cloud of ash and steam high into the air in Puebla.
Popocatepetl, 50 miles southeast of Mexico City, shook with tremors that belched out four large plumes of ash on Friday night and Saturday morning, the National Center for Disaster Prevention said in a statement on Saturday.  The biggest expulsion shot an ash cloud 2.5 miles into the air and launched glowing rocks more than half a mile from the crater, the statement said.  Raul Arambula, a scientist collaborating with the government's disaster center, said the volcano threw out the most ash and fragments of red-hot rock since authorities raised the alert level last month.  "It was spectacular," Arambula said. "Of course, it makes you worry about everyone living nearby."  In Santiago Xalitzintla, a village about 6 miles from the volcano, the loud rumblings sent residents running to the town square during the night. 

"The volcano is looking serious. It was really roaring strongly last night," said Juan Castro, 83, who said he was half-deaf but had no trouble hearing the tremors.  The ash clouds forced the airport in the central state of Puebla to suspend operations on Saturday. Billowing ash earlier in the week closed the airport on Tuesday and Thursday.  Civil protection officials in Mexico City said a change in wind patterns could send ash over the capital next week.  Mexico's disaster center raised the volcano's alert level to yellow phase three from yellow phase two in mid-April, the third-highest warning on the center's seven-step scale. There are no plans yet to evacuate nearby residents.  "They told us that we need to be ready because if we have to evacuate, they are going to warn us with the church bells," said Lizbeth Agustin, a 22-year-old candy vendor who had collected half a pail of ash in the town center of Santiago Xalitzintla.  Popocatepetl has spewed smoke and ash sporadically over the past few years. A major eruption in 2000 forced the evacuation of nearly 50,000 residents in three states surrounding the peak. - Chicago Tribune.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Moderate 5.7 Earthquake Rocks Tajikstan - One Killed; Several Buildings Damaged; and Herds of Cows and Sheep Buried Alive!

One man was killed when a moderate,5.7 magnitude earthquake struck in central Tajikistan on Sunday,damaging several buildings. 

The most damage occurred in the country's Garm district,where one man was killed by a collapsing wall, Nargis Nurova of Tajikistan's emergency situations committee told    Two buildings were completely destroyed, and several more were damaged, she said. The quake also caused a mudslide,burying alive herds of cows and sheep, she added. The US Geological Survey located the epicenter of the tremor, which occurred at 4:28 am local time, at around 100 kilometres north of the city of Kulob at a depth of 10 kilometres.      Residents in the capital Dushanbe some 140 kilometres away felt tremors of about magnitude 4.0, a representative of the geophysics department in Tajikistan's Academy of Sciences told .    

The reading was based on the open-ended Moment Magnitude scale, now used by US seismologists, which measures the area of the fault that ruptured and the total energy released. Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia, is mostly covered by mountains, with earthquakes occurring on a nearly monthly basis.  Ninety-three percent of Tajikistan's territory is mountainous, and the mountain glaciers are the source of its rivers. Tajikistan is an earthquake-prone area.Kulab,  city, southwestern Tajikistan. It lies in the valley of the Iakhsu River and at the foot of the Khazratishokh Range, 125 miles (200 km) southeast of Dushanbe. - Samay Live.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Geological Anomalies of the San Andreas Fault - Earthquake Study Offers New Clues on the Mystery of the Parkfield Segment!

Thanks to a new method of modeling earthquakes, scientists may now understand why the Parkfield segment of the San Andreas fault — a carefully studied region known for producing moderate temblors every 20 years or so — has been behaving unexpectedly since around the time Ronald Reagan was in the White House. 

A schematic view of a seismic rupture on the Parkfield segment of the San Andreas fault in Central California.
Taking data collected by sensors on the ground and in space and combining them with observations from laboratory physics experiments, Caltech researchers conducted a computer simulation of tectonic events at Parkfield and discovered that a series of small quakes there may have staved off a larger shaker that geologists predicted would occur in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Instead, the fault produced a magnitude 6.0 quake in 2004, more than a decade behind schedule.  Someday, exercises like this could help scientists make predictions about the worst-case scenario for different spots along a fault line, said Nadia Lapusta, coauthor of a study about the research published Thursday in the journal Science.  "You won't predict when the earthquake will happen, but you will be able to predict what is possible and plan for it," she said.  The Parkfield segment, which is in Central California at the boundary of the Pacific and North American plates, may be the most closely scrutinized 15-mile length of fault in the world.  The region is known to have produced magnitude 6 earthquakes every 20 years, on average, since at least 1857.  "The short recurrence time gives every generation of scientists an opportunity to make predictions and test observations," said Sylvain Barbot, a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech who led the study.

The town of Parkfield lures tourists with the motto "Be here when it happens." Scientists flock to the town, about 20 miles northeast of Paso Robles, to participate in the U.S. Geological Survey's Parkfield Experiment, which employs instruments that track seismic activity, plate motion, groundwater levels, magnetic field fluctuations and other details to help scientists understand what's happening underground.  Some of the tools are buried more than a mile below ground. Geologists also measure ground movement using GPS satellites in space.  After a magnitude 6.0 quake rocked the segment in 1966, geologists expected another shaker within about 20 years. They were surprised when nothing significant happened until the 6.0 temblor hit in 2004.  They were even more puzzled, Barbot said, by another characteristic of the 2004 quake: Instead of propagating from the northwestern end of the segment, it started at the southeastern end.  The computer program the Caltech team developed took measurements from Parkfield and plugged them into a model that incorporated laws of friction that had been observed in lab experiments, in which scientists rubbed rocks together to simulate the complicated physical forces underground.  To help the researchers plow through the calculations, Lapusta tuned the model to slow the time scale during earthquakes (plotting data points once every 7 or 8 milliseconds) and speed things up when the fault was quiet (computing changes spaced out as long as two days).  When the scientists ran their program, the simulations reproduced the time delay and change in earthquake origin observed by geologists at Parkfield, suggesting that the model correctly described the physics of the segment.  Barbot said that the team believed that smaller temblors — on the order of 4.0 magnitude — at Parkfield in the 1980s and 1990s redistributed stresses on the fault and delayed a larger quake at the northern location, giving the southern side its opportunity to take over.  "These two places are both good to start an earthquake," he said. "It's sort of a competition, and once one goes the other is out of the race." 

The model also predicted that the next quakes at Parkfield would again originate at the southern location, said Andy Michael, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Service in Menlo Park, Calif., who was not involved in the research.  "That would be really fascinating," he said. "Of course, to see if that happens will take another 60 years."  The big limiting factor on running these kinds of models isn't ideas, but computational time, Barbot said.  It took 64 powerful computers a full week to crunch through the data. But the program was able to simulate 200 years of geology at Parkfield. Earlier simulations focused narrowly on short-term events or depended on conceptual descriptions instead of real data inputs to describe longer geologic cycles, Barbot said.  "Our model is the only one I know of that can simulate many cycles of earthquakes — the phases where the fault is locked, then isn't, then is — on this scale," he said.  But the program has significant limitations, he added.  For example, it disregards "an elephant in the room" — how interactions with nearby faults affect the physics at Parkfield.  Michael of the USGS said he thought some of the geological assumptions underlying the model probably weren't correct.  But he also said the research marked a "nice step" toward creating physics-based computer models that reproduce observations on the ground and promise to help scientists make predictions about quakes. They could also make forecasts about how human activity affects seismic events, the researchers wrote in Science.  Barbot said he would also like to see someone study interactions between the Elsinore, San Jacinto and San Andreas faults to assess the possible behavior of a 7.0-or-larger magnitude quake in Southern California. Lapusta is already working on an analysis of the 9.0 Tohoku quake that shattered Japan in 2011. - LA Times.

DELUGE: Georgian Capital Tbilisi Hit By "Huge" Floods and Landslides - Five Dead, Dozens Hurt!

At least five people have been killed and dozens hurt after a river burst its banks in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, flooding parts of the city centre.

Floodwaters from the Mtkvari river submerged roads and bridges, cutting power supplies and depositing huge quantities of mud.  There have also been landslides in surrounding areas, with reports of farm animals being swept away.  The authorities declared a state of emergency and sent troops to the city.  The floods were caused by a heavy rainstorm on Saturday evening. The rain has now stopped but more is forecast for the coming days. 

Some people climbed on top of cars and had to be rescued by boat.  A mother, her two young children and an elderly woman were among the dead.  The head of the city's emergencies department, Temur Giorgadze, said they had died after becoming trapped in their home.  "Huge floods gushed into the street, unfortunately causing death. Four people died in a small house where they were living which became the epicentre of the disaster," he said.  "The water was carrying trees and debris which made things even more difficult." - BBC.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Land Subsidence Continues in China - Heavy Rain Storms Triggers a Massive Landslide, Killing 44 in the North!

Officials say the death toll from a massive mudslide triggered by heavy rain and hail in a poor mountainous region of northwestern China has risen to 44.

Rescuers help residents evacuate across a river flowing with muddy water after hail and
torrential rains hit Minxian county, Gansu province.
The Civil Affairs Ministry says 26 other people are missing and that power and telecommunications have been disrupted in Minxian, Zhangxian and Weiyuan counties in Gansu province. The ministry said Sunday that nearly 150,000 people were evacuated and needed emergency assistance as a result of the storm that battered the county on Thursday evening and triggered the mudslide in one of China's poorest regions. Relief teams have taken blankets and clothing to the area.  The central government says it will provide funds for relief work and rebuilding. - CBC.
A car is stranded in a flooded tunnel after a heavy rainstorm hit China's Jiangxi
Province on May 12, flooding roads in several cities.
China's national observatory yesterday upgraded the warning level from blue to yellow for a new round of rainstorms expected to hit the country's southern regions over next three days. The National Meteorological Center urged local authorities in south China to strengthen monitoring and guard against possible geological disasters such as landslides. The national observatory uses a four-tier color-coded weather warning system, with red being the most severe, followed by orange, yellow and blue. - MSNBC.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 4 New Earthquake Faults Discovered Beneath Pasadena Elementary School, California!

Four earthquake faults have been found beneath San Rafael Elementary School, threatening modernization plans for campus buildings but posing no additional safety risk for students and staff, the Pasadena Unified School District announced Friday.

"It's as safe today as it was yesterday," PUSD spokesman Adam Wolfson said. San Rafael's buildings aleady meet California earthquake safety requirements, but state law also prevents school modernization or rehabilitation projects within 50 feets of faults that have shown activity within the last 10,000 years. "The safety of our staff and students is the first priority at PUSD," Superintendent Jon Gundry said in a statement. "Any decision about the future use of San Rafael should be viewed through the lens of our inability to make any improvements on an aging facility that needs upgrades."

San Rafael's modernization plans, funded through Measure TT, include a central air system, restroom replacement, kindergarten classroom relocation and the conversion of a classroom into a library, according to a project list. The district recently began reassessing the scope of Measure TT projects because of a budget shortfall. The future of San Rafael will be discussed at a community meeting on May 17, 6:30 p.m., in the McKinley School Auditorium, at 325 S. Oak Knoll Ave. USGS seismologist and former San Rafael Elementary parent Dr. Lucy Jones will be part of the discussion.
- Pasadena Star News.

DELUGE: Flash Flooding Hits Northern Afghanistan - "Big Disaster" Kills 28, Sweeping Away Houses and Livestock!

Flash floods have swept through four villages in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 28 people.  Around 20 others were missing, officials said yesterday.

Snow melt: Flash floods are proving dangerous in Afghanistan - on Monday at least 26 people were
killed, and yesterday another flood left at least 28 dead.
"Heavy rains overnight triggered flood waters that broke through four mountainous villages in Ishkamish district of northern Takhar province," Takhar provincial governor, Abdul Jabar Taqwa, said.  "It hit around midnight and it was very powerful," said Mr Taqwa.  "We have 28 deaths in Ishkamish district and 20 others are believed to be missing," the governor said.  "It is a big disaster he added," warning that the death toll was likely to rise.  Dozens of houses were washed away and roads blocked, he added. The flood-hit areas are accessible only by air.  Rescuers are trying to reach the area by helicopter, taking food, blankets and tents to the victims.

On Monday, at least 26 people were killed and more than 100 missing after flash floods hit a wedding party and three villages in Sari Pul province.  Afghanistan's harshest winter in 15 years saw unusually heavy snowfalls, and experts predicted melting snow was likely to cause floods in the mountainous north in the spring.  According to IMMAP, a data-analysis and mapping company, 15 per cent of Afghanistan’s population is at high risk of being affected.  In March, the UN humanitarian office for Afghanistan said at least 145 people were missing and "presumed dead" after an avalanche hit a remote village in northeastern Badakhshan province.  Despite the billions of dollars in aid from the international community after the collapse of the Taliban, Afghanistan remains among the poorest nations in the world, weakened by decades of conflict. - Daily Telegraph.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Swarm of Earthquakes Rattle South Island, New Zealand!

A swarm of earthquakes has rattled the South Island but seismologists don't believe there is any cause for alarm.  The latest quake struck just before 3pm and was centred in the Christchurch suburb of Cashmere. It measured 3.9 on the Richter scale but was strongly felt across the city as it occurred at a depth of just 5km. 

There were no immediate reports of damage from the quake but it left residents rattled as it was the first big aftershock to hit the city in some months.  Online notice boards immediately lit up with comments from residents spooked by the quake: ''Biggest felt in ages,'' one poster wrote. ''The noise was huge,'' said another.  ''I have been waiting for another biggie, let's hope it isn't a foreshock but just in case I am filling my water bottles and getting things ready,'' another person said.  British actress Miriam Margoyles was doing a matinee performance of her show Dickens' Women when the quake hit but continued with the show, apparently unfazed by the rumbling beneath her feet.  ''She paused briefly as the audience gasped and then continued without skipping a beat,'' said Ali Jones, who was in the auditorium watching the show.  ''The whole building really shook and there was quite a bit of noise with it.'' 

Earlier in the day Southland was struck by two quakes, the largest of which measured 5.5 and was centred 40km west of Tuatapere at a depth of 12km.  Craig Rutland, who runs the backpackers at Tuatapere, said the ground shook vigorously but it was not a violent quake.  ''It was very strong but nothing was thrown off the walls or fell off the shelves,'' Rutland said.  One of his guests was just sitting down to breakfast when the quake struck at 10.07am and was a bit unnerved by the experience. When it started we were a bit worried about what was going to happen, Rutland admitted, but it dissipated pretty quickly.  Others spoken to in the small Southland settlement reported the quake as a fairly big rumble but said they were unaware of any damage occurring as a result.  The quake was preceded by a magnitude 2.8 quake centred in roughly the same area.  A magnitude 4.3 quake also struck the Kaikoura region this morning. It was centred 30km east of Kaikoura at a depth of 15km.  GNS seismologist Mark Chadwick said it was not unusual to see so many earthquakes in one day and it was unlikely the quakes were a forerunner to a more significant seismic event. - Stuff.