Saturday, December 15, 2012

PLANETARY TREMORS: Magnitude 6.0 Quake Strikes New Britain Region, Papua New Guinea!

December 15, 2012 - PAPUA NEW GUINEA - A magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck near Taron, New Britain region, Papua New Guinea on December 15, 2012 at 19:30 UTC.

The epicentre was located 29 km (18 miles) SSW of Taron, PNG and 87 km (54 miles) ESE of Kokopo, Papua New Guinea at coordinates 4.724°S, 152.964°E. The U.S. Geological Survery (USGS) recorded a depth of 55.8 km (34.7 miles). EMSC reported magnitude 6.1 earthquake and depth of 52 km.

GDACS said that this earthquake can have a low humanitarian impact based on the Magnitude and the affected population and their vulnerability.

Tectonic Summary: Seismotectonics of the New Guinea Region and Vicinity.
The Australia-Pacific plate boundary is over 4000 km long on the northern margin, from the Sunda (Java) trench in the west to the Solomon Islands in the east. The eastern section is over 2300 km long, extending west from northeast of the Australian continent and the Coral Sea until it intersects the east coast of Papua New Guinea. The boundary is dominated by the general northward subduction of the Australia plate.  Along the South Solomon trench, the Australia plate converges with the Pacific plate at a rate of approximately 95 mm/yr towards the east-northeast. Seismicity along the trench is dominantly related to subduction tectonics and large earthquakes are common: there have been 13 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded since 1900. On April 1, 2007, a M8.1 interplate megathrust earthquake occurred at the western end of the trench, generating a tsunami and killing at least 40 people. This was the third M8.1 megathrust event associated with this subduction zone in the past century; the other two occurred in 1939 and 1977.  Further east at the New Britain trench, the relative motions of several microplates surrounding the Australia-Pacific boundary, including north-south oriented seafloor spreading in the Woodlark Basin south of the Solomon Islands, maintain the general northward subduction of Australia-affiliated lithosphere beneath Pacific-affiliated lithosphere. Most of the large and great earthquakes east of New Guinea are related to this subduction; such earthquakes are particularly concentrated at the cusp of the trench south of New Ireland. 33 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded since 1900, including three shallow thrust fault M8.1 events in 1906, 1919, and 2007. 

The western end of the Australia-Pacific plate boundary is perhaps the most complex portion of this boundary, extending 2000 km from Indonesia and the Banda Sea to eastern New Guinea. The boundary is dominantly convergent along an arc-continent collision segment spanning the width of New Guinea, but the regions near the edges of the impinging Australia continental margin also include relatively short segments of extensional, strike-slip and convergent deformation. The dominant convergence is accommodated by shortening and uplift across a 250-350 km-wide band of northern New Guinea, as well as by slow southward-verging subduction of the Pacific plate north of New Guinea at the New Guinea trench. Here, the Australia-Pacific plate relative velocity is approximately 110 mm/yr towards the northeast, leading to the 2-8 mm/yr uplift of the New Guinea Highlands.  Whereas the northern band of deformation is relatively diffuse east of the Indonesia-Papua New Guinea border, in western New Guinea there are at least two small (less than 100,000 km²) blocks of relatively undeformed lithosphere. The westernmost of these is the Birds Head Peninsula microplate in Indonesia's West Papua province, bounded on the south by the Seram trench. The Seram trench was originally interpreted as an extreme bend in the Sunda subduction zone, but is now thought to represent a southward-verging subduction zone between Birds Head and the Banda Sea.  There have been 22 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded in the New Guinea region since 1900. The dominant earthquake mechanisms are thrust and strike slip, associated with the arc-continent collision and the relative motions between numerous local microplates. The largest earthquake in the region was a M8.2 shallow thrust fault event in the northern Papua province of Indonesia that killed 166 people in 1996. - USGS.

SOLAR WATCH: Sun Comes Alive - Monster Sunspot Region Emerging From the Southeastern Limb!

December 15, 2012 - SUN - A new and possibly significant sunspot group is emerging at the circled location. 

QUIET SUN, BUT NOT FOR LONG? For the second week in a row, solar activity remains very low, but a new group of sunspots could be poised to break the quiet. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory observed the phalanx of dark cores emerging over the sun's southeastern limb on December 15th. It is too soon to say whether these spots have potential for strong flares. We'll know more in a few days when they turn toward Earth, offering a clearer view of their magnetic architecture. Meanwhile, NOAA forecasters have boosted the odds of an M-class eruption to 10% on December 16th.  - Space Weather.

WATCH: Emerging sunspot region.

DISASTER IMPACT: Super Typhoon Bopha's Death Toll May Reach 2,000!

December 15, 2012 - PHILIPPINES - Death toll of Typhoon Bopha could reach as high as 2,000 with 906 confirmed dead and 932 missing, most of them in hard-hit south Philippines, a senior official said, adding that retrieval missions have continued despite the difficulties they have encountered in devastated areas.

Residents using a makeshift stretcher carry the dead body of a boy as they cross a destroyed highway in the village of Andap, New Bataan town, Compostela Valley province one day after Typhoon Bopha hit the province. - AFP.
“We will not yet officially declare the missing as dead, unless we find their bodies,” Undersecretary Benito Ramos, also head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said in a radio interview.  Aided by K-9 units trained to find missing people, private and government rescuers were emboldened and refused to give up retrieving at least 505 people who were reported missing in the municipalities of Compostela, Monkayo, and New Bataan in hard-hit Compostela Valley, said Undersecretary Ramos.  Rescuers were also assigned to find 108 more who were reported missing in Boston, Cateel, Baganga, and Caraga municipalities in Davao Oriental, where Typhoon Bopha initially landed on December 4, said Ramos.

Noting the difficulty encountered by the rescue teams, Ramos said, “Rotting corpses of animals have been confusing the dogs.”  Thick mud on almost all devastated places has been preventing rescuers to get the buried corpses, said Ramos.  “We saw eight unidentified bodies. The bodies were decomposing and unrecognizable. Two of them were children. A few moments later, rescuers found another body underneath the mud and a fallen tree. A few moments later, rescuers found another body underneath the mud and a fallen tree,” said ABS CBN’s news team that joined Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) rescue team in Cogonan Village, New Bataan municipality, in Compostela Valley.  The same rescue team found 56 bodies in New Bataan, said ABS CBN.  The team quoted Aldo Mayor, a veteran rescuer, as saying, “This is my first time to see (the effect of) a massive flash flood.”  The same rescue team was elated when they found a survivor, Narsing Loreta, who said he hid in his wood fired oven at the height of the landslide.  About 5.516 people were affected by the typhoon. Only 59,764 more remained in evacuation centres, NDRRMC said.  Many residents have left their homes and went to nearby areas where they could find food and livelihood.  The cost of the typhoon’s damage was placed at P15.1 billion (Dh1.25 billion).  Some 20 typhoons visit the Philippines every year. - Gulf News.

DELUGE: Global Coastal Event - "King Tides" Floods Roads And Homes In California, Gives A Taste of Sea-Level Rise And Land Subsidence!

December 15, 2012 - CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - High tides and rain forced the closure of parts of Pacific Coast Highway in California near Sunset Beach Thursday due to flooding.

A foot of water also flooded some homes in the area, according to local news reports.

These photos of flooded stairs at Pismo Beach, Calif., (northwest of Santa Barbara) were taken
by photographer Cassidy Teufel on Dec. 24, 2011.
The so-called King Tides, caused by an alignment of the sun, the moon and the Earth, bring the highest tides of the year to some California beaches.

The King Tides predicted for beaches along the coast of California, currently or in the near future, will occur on Dec. 12-14, 2012, Jan. 9-11, 2013, and Feb. 7-9, 2013.

The highest tide of the season along the coast of San Diego is expected to reach 7.3 feet, a level that was last reached in 2008. - AccuWeather.