Monday, February 4, 2013

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Volcano Discovery Report For February 04, 2013 - Updates On Tolbachik, Taal, Kamchatka, Sakurajima, Tavurvur, Batu Tara, White Island, Colima, Popocatépetl, San Cristobal, Mt Fuji, Masaya, San Miguel, Reventador, Copahue, Fuego, Tungurahua, Ambrym And Santa María!

February 04, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing report from the Volcano Discovery Group.

Tolbachik (Kamchatka): The eruption continues with well-fed lava flows from the southern fissure. Tremor has decreased a bit compared to yesterday, but remains strong, KVERT reports. None of the other volcanoes in Kamchatka has showed significant changes in activity.

For an incredible panorama of Plosky Tolbachik Volcano erupting in Kamchatka, click HERE.

Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan)
: After a phase of several relatively strong explosions with ash plumes often reaching 10,000 ft (3 km) during 31 Jan - 2 Feb, the volcano seems to have taken a short rest, with only two small eruptions recorded during the past 48 hours.

Tavurvur (Papua New Guinea): More ash emissions and explosions have occurred during the past days.

Batu Tara (Indonesia) is back more often on this list: A moderately strong explosion this morning produced an ash plume rising to 7,000 ft (2.1 km) which drifted 60 nautical miles to the west.

White Island (New Zealand): Unchanged strong continuous tremor but with a bit less earthquakes than yesterday accompany strong degassing.

In Mexico, Colima volcano continues with small explosions, rockfalls and volcanic tremor. Popocatépetl has slowed down its rate of emissions to only 1 per 2 hours during yesterday, but there is still glow at the summit and an important (but decreased compared to last week) gas (SO2) plume emitted. A shallow magnitude 3.2 earthquake occurred yesterday under the western flank.

San Cristobal (Nicaragua): A shallow magnitude 2.7 earthquake occurred this morning about 20 km NW of the volcano. Pulses of tremor and numerous aftershocks are visible on the current seismogram. There are no reports about other unusual activity at the volcano.

Masaya (Nicaragua): Tremor has eased a bit today and is close to background levels.

San Miguel (El Salvador): Tremor has remained at unchanged, weak levels today.

Reventador (Ecuador): Seismic activity with continuous strong tremor continues, but cloud cover prevented direct observations of the ongoing activity (likely lava dome grown with lava flow extrusion as well as ash emissions).

Tungurahua (Ecuador): The volcano's seismic activity remains stable, but elevated with the occurrence of numerous long period events related to fluid movement within the edifice. Bad weather prevented direct observation of surface activity.

Copahue (Chile/Argentina): Activity has increased again. Sernageomin reported 92 seismic events during 2-3 Jan and the occurrence of a seismic swarm on the evening of 2 Jan. A degassing plume was observed rising up to 1350 m, whose intensity was without apparent correlation to seismicity.

Ambrym (Vanuatu): A prominent SO2 plume emanating from Ambrym is visible on today's NOAA satellite data image.

Mt Fuji (Honshu): The volcano remains calm. However, an increased number of small quakes near and under Mt Fuji are visible on our latest data plot of nearby earthquakes (within 30 km radius). While all of these are very small and the number is certainly not alarming, the volcano remains interesting to watch.
According to a the Japan Times, a new eruption of Mount Fuji could force some 567,000 people to evacuate their homes (in the worst case scenario). The Shizuoka Prefectural Government ha worked on a new evacuation plan, which assumes that more than 130,000 people from approx. 50,000 households would have to relocate if "lava" were to reach residential districts in the city of Fuji located just south of the 3,776-meter mountain... [read more]

Taal (Luzon, Philippines)
: Earthquake activity remains slightly elevated, but nothing else points toward a possible reawakening of the volcano in a near future. PHILVOLCS reported 10 quakes during the past 48 hours.

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Activity has remained the same. Some moderate explosions with plumes rising 800 m were observed during yesterday-today, as well as avalanches from the still active flows on the flanks of the dome.

Fuego (Guatemala): Effusive activity has increased in favor of explosive again. The lava flow towards Ceniza canyon was 800 m long this morning, the second one towards Taniluyá canyon 400 m. No explosions were mentioned in the latest bulletin of the observatory.- Volcano Discovery.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: United Nations Agency Warns Of New Global Bird Flu Threat!

February 04, 2013 - UNITED NATIONS - "The continuing international economic downturn means less money is available for prevention of H5N1 bird flu and other threats of animal origin," Juan Lubroth, chief veterinary officer at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said in a statement.

"Even though everyone knows that prevention is better than cure, I am worried because in the current climate governments are unable to keep up their guard," he was quoted as saying. The Rome-based agency warned large reservoirs of the H5N1 virus still exist in parts of Asia and the Middle East where the disease has become endemic.

"Without adequate controls, it could easily spread globally as it did at its peak in 2006, when 63 countries were affected," the agency said. The virus killed more than 300 people between 2003 and 2011, as well as forcing the culling of 400 million domestic chickens and ducks and causing an estimated $20 billion (15 billion euros) in damages.

The FAO also cautioned of the growing threat from Peste des Petits Ruminants, or PPR, a highly contagious disease that affects sheep and goats. FAO said the virus, for which a vaccine exists, had wrought havoc in the Democratic Republic of Congo and was spilling over into southern Africa. Among the prevention measures against animal diseases recommended by FAO are improved general hygiene, market and border controls and health inspections in farms and markets, as well as equipment and training for laboratories. - Medical Xpress.

WEATHER PHENOMENON: "Enormous And Powerful Vortex" - Gigantic Ocean Tornado Swirls Over The Mediterranean As A Tiny Yacht Bobs On The Waves!

 February 04, 2013 - MEDITERRANEAN - A yacht bobbing on the Mediterranean is dwarfed by a furious waterspout in this incredible picture. Holidaymaker Isabelle Filippini had been admiring the calm sea off the coast of the French island of Corsica when the enormous, powerful vortex formed above the surface of the water. Mrs Filippini, who ran to grab her camera, said witnessing the phenomenon had left her stunned.

Waterspout: The enormous vortex appeared over the sea off the coast of the French island of Corsica.
'Then all of a sudden one of the clouds was pointing towards the sea and I realised it was forming a tornado. I was amazed as the waterspout touched the sea,' she said.  'On the ground everything was quiet - the weather had been stormy for a few days but there was no strong wind and no rain. I ran to catch my camera, changed my lens and caught a classic view of the spout.'  Waterspouts occur when tornadoes form over oceans, lakes and rivers.  The intense funnels are formed when layers of cool air blowing over the water cause warm, moist air to sweep up from underneath, forming a column of condensation.  The tornadoes can pose a threat to boats, swimmers and aircraft in their path. 

Intense vortex: The funnel-shaped clouds, composed of water droplets formed by condensation, can
pose a threat to boats, swimmers and aircraft.
The mother-of-one snapped the pictures during a visit to her parents' seaside home north of Bastia, on Corsica.  'I have spent my holidays in Corsica since I was born, but never saw such a tornado,' she said.  'I'm so amazed I got this photo of the boat in front of the huge water spout - they must have been so scared.'  Despite having never spotted one of the phenomena in the past, Mrs Fillipini witnessed two on the day she took the photos.

 'I don't think I will ever see anything like it again. It seems to be quite rare, but happens sometimes in the Mediterranean.  The tornado lasted around 10 minutes and then disappeared. About 20 minutes later, another appeared to the south, close to another boat.  'This one was even quicker,' Mrs Filippini, a computing company worker living near Paris, France, said.  'I managed to shoot it just once, and it faded just after.'  - Daily Mail.

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: Highly "Unusual" - 8 Dolphins Found Dead, Washed Ashore On Beaches On Achill Island, Ireland?!

February 04, 2013 - IRELAND - A report from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has confirmed that eight (8) dead common dolphins Delphinus delphis have been discovered washed up on the beaches of Achill Island, Co. Mayo over recent days, with unconfirmed reports of at least another one dolphin on a nearby island.

Photo Credit: (c) Cathy Lynchehaun via the Irish Whale & Dolphin Group.
“The IWDG don’t have full details to hand as yet but photos sent to us by local people show most of the dolphins died very recently,” said IWDG Stranding Coordinator, Mick O’Connel, on the organisation’s website.

To date dead dolphins have been confirmed on Keel Beach, Keem Beach and Dookinella.

While the occasional mass stranding of live dolphins does occur, the IWDG stressed that it is extremely unusual for so many dead dolphins to wash ashore in such close proximity to each other in Ireland. The group is monitoring the situation and will post updates to its website as more news becomes available. - Ireland's Wildlife.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: The Euro-Zone Crisis - Unemployment In Spain Reaches 26%, Rate Rises By 2.7% In January!

February 04, 2013 - SPAIN - Riot police in Spain clashed with protesters over the weekend, angry at claims that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his party have been receiving secret payments from a fund set up by big businesses.  With calls for the Mr Rajoy to resign, there are worries this latest scandal could destabilise markets which have recovered significantly in recent months.  Meanwhile, monthly jobs data out later is unlikely to calm nervous markets. Unemployment in Spain now stands at a staggering 26% with no signs of falling. - BBC.

People wait in line at a government employment office in Madrid. (File photo).
Spain’s Labor Ministry says the country’s unemployment rate rose by 2.7 percent in January, indicating that about five million people are jobless in the country.   According to statistics released by the Spanish ministry on Monday, the number of Spaniards registered as unemployed surged by 132,055 in January to 4.98 million.
Figures from the National Statistics Institute showed last month a jobless rate of 26 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 with 5.97 million out of work.
Battered by the global financial downturn, the Spanish economy collapsed into recession in the second half of 2008, taking with it millions of jobs.  The Spanish government has already taken painful austerity measures and spending cuts to contain its budget shortfall.  Spain must lower its budget deficit to 4.5 percent in 2013 and 2.8 percent in 2014. Economists, however, say those targets will be difficult to meet amid poor prospects for the economic recovery in the country.  - Press TV.

WATCH: Unemployment in Spain reaches 26%.

SOLAR WATCH: Sunspot 1667 Produces C-Flares And Loud Burst Of Shortwave Radio Static - 25% Chance Of M-Class Solar Flares!

February 04, 2013 - THE SUN - According to Space Weather, NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of M-class solar flares today. The probable source would be sunspot AR1667, which produced many C-flares and a loud burst of shortwave radio static over the weekend.

The weekend solar activity forecast called for "quiet." In fact, says amateur radio astronomer Thomas Ashcraft, "it was really loud. On Saturday, Feb. 2nd, there were several strong solar radio emissions including one super-strong Type III burst at 1954 UT. I captured it at 28 MHz and 21.1 MHz as it totally drowned out a shortwave voice transmission." Click to listen:

The source of the burst was sunspot AR1667, which unleashed a C2.9-class solar flare just before the roar emerged from the loudspeaker of Ashcraft's radio telescope. Type III solar radio bursts are produced by electrons accelerated to high energies (1 to 100 keV) by solar flares. As the electrons stream outward from the sun, they excite plasma oscillations and radio waves in the sun's atmosphere. When these radio waves head in the direction of Earth, they make themselves heard in the loudspeakers of shortwave radios around the dayside of the planet.

More radio bursts could be in the offing. Sunspot AR1667 is crackling with C-class solar flares and seems poised for even stronger M-class eruptions.

FIRE IN THE SKY: 2013, The Year Of The Comet - Comet Lemmon Glows Much Brighter Than Was Expected, Putting On A Spectacular Light Show Over The Southern Hemisphere!

February 04, 2013 - SPACE - Glowing much brighter than expected, Comet Lemmon (C/2012 F6) is gliding through the skies of the southern hemisphere about 92 million miles (0.99 AU) from Earth. Amateur astronomer Rolf Wahl Olsen sends this picture from his backyard in Auckland, New Zealand:

"I took this image of Comet Lemmon on the 28th of January," says Olsen. "It has become quite bright now and has also grown a beautiful tail." Discovered on March 23rd 2012 by the Mount Lemmon survey in Arizona, Comet Lemmon is on an elliptical orbit with a period of almost 11,000 years. This is its first visit to the inner solar system in a very long time. The comet is brightening as it approaches the sun; light curves suggest that it will reach 2nd or 3rd magnitude, similar to the stars in the Big Dipper, in late March when it approaches the sun at about the same distance as Venus (0.7 AU).

At the moment, the comet is glowing like a 7th magnitude star, just below the limit of naked-eye visibility. To capture the faint details of the comet's filamentary tail, Olsen used a 10-inch telescope, a sensitive CCD camera, and an exposure time of 1 hour 17 minutes. Complete photo details are given here. Lemmon's green color comes from the gases that make up its coma. Jets spewing from the comet's nucleus contain cyanogen (CN: a poisonous gas found in many comets) and diatomic carbon (C2). Both substances glow green when illuminated by sunlight in the near-vacuum of space. Northern hemisphere observers will get their first good look at the comet in early April; until then it is a target exclusively for astronomers in the southern hemisphere. - Space Weather.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismologists Visit Southeast Alaska In Wake Of Large Earthquakes - The Tremor Ruptured 85 Miles Of The Queen Charlotte Fault!

February 04, 2013 - ALASKA - In this cozy Southeast Alaska community that smells of red cedar chips used to power a boiler that heats both the school and the pool, seismologist Natalia Ruppert responded to an hour of questions from more than 150 people who gathered in the auditorium of the Craig High School.

The U.S. Geological Survey map of a magnitude 7.6 quake that struck about 60 miles west of Craig, Alaska.
(NOAA) on  Jan. 5, 2012.
The residents of Craig and the outlying areas, many of them wearing Xtratufs and flannel shirts on a rainy/snowy evening, had experienced up to a minute of shaking around midnight on Jan. 4, 2013, the result of a magnitude 7.5 earthquake that ripped the sea floor about 80 miles west of Craig. One-hundred-and-seventy people — about one-tenth of the population of Craig and the nearby village of Klawock, were a rapt audience for Ruppert, anearthquake expert with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute. Ruppert traveled to Craig from her home in Fairbanks at the invite of U.S. Forest Service Geologist Jim Baichtal, who lives in Thorne Bay, also on Prince of Wales Island. Baichtal invited Ruppert down, and hosted her at his lovely new home above Thorne Bay, because his “phone was ringing off the hook” after the earthquake and many aftershocks that followed. People were calling one of the few scientists on the island for information; he called north for help. In a 45-minute lecture and the lengthy question and answer session that followed, Ruppert, the seismic network manager  Craig, Alaska  for the Alaska Earthquake Information Center based at the Geophysical Institute, told her attentive audience the following:

  • The earthquake released most of its energy in the first 20 seconds, but it took 50 seconds for 85 miles of the Queen Charlotte Fault to rupture. The fault slices Earth in a north-south swath just west of Southeast Alaska. Ruppert said some residents felt shaking for longer than that because seismic waves take longer to travel through the ground. The great Alaska earthquake of 1964, by comparison, tore the sea floor for six full minutes.
  • The Craig earthquake differed from the magnitude 9.2 1964 earthquake in that the Queen Charlotte Fault produces “strike-slip” earthquakes, in which the release of stress along the fault happens in a side-to-side motion similar to when you rub your hands together. The Craig earthquake did not cause the sea floor to thrust upward, which is why it did not produce a noticeable tsunami.
  • In the two weeks following the earthquake, residents of Prince of Wales Island experienced about 20 aftershocks of magnitude 4, about the smallest earthquake people could feel that distance from the fault.
  • More than 900 people in Southeast Alaska reported feeling the earthquake on the U. S. Geological Survey’s “Did You Feel It?” webpage. People felt the earthquake as far south as Seattle.
  • Aftershocks will become less frequent for the islanders as time passes. “Within the next six months, you can expect between four and 10 magnitude four or greater aftershocks,” Ruppert said.
  •  “It’s very possible” that a magnitude 7.7 earthquake farther south on the same fault in October 2012 may have triggered the Craig earthquake.
  • The Craig earthquake did not trigger any volcanic activity.
  • If people don’t have an assigned area to gather when evacuating their homes to avoid a possible tsunami, they should travel uphill. “The higher the better,” Ruppert said. “You never know.”
  • Though almost the entire Alaska portion of the Queen Charlotte Fault released stored energy by rupturing in previous earthquakes within the past century (including a whopping magnitude 8.1 in 1949), Southeast residents “should be aware,” Ruppert said. “It’s a big fault in your backyard. It’s not if (you’ll have another earthquake), it’s when.” Addition at column-deadline time: One day after Ruppert flew home to Fairbanks from Southeast, a magnitude 6 earthquake occurred just 70 miles offshore of Craig.
- Alaska Geophysical Institute.

GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: January Food Prices Rise Up In Kenya - Inflation Rise By 3.67% In One Month!

February 04, 2013 - KENYA - Kenyans paid higher prices for most goods last month compared to December, official figures show, an indication than further reduction in lending rates may be halted.

Higher prices of commodities such as milk, wheat flour and sugar saw the overall rate of inflation rising to 3.67 per cent in January, up from 3.20 in December. Price rises were also noted in house rents, cooking gas and other cooking fuels which offset noted lower costs of electricity and kerosine.

For the month, the average price of 500ml packet of milk cost Sh38.31 up from Sh35.89 in December while the cost of a 2-kg wheat flour went up to Sh139.60 up from Sh138.34 the previous month. Prices of commodities such as sifted maize flour went down.

Consequently, the food and non alcoholic drinks' index rose by 1.24 per cent. The housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels' index went up 1.06 per cent.

The transport index went up by 0.61 per cent despite lower costs of petrol and diesel. "This was mainly due to higher costs of taxi, bus and matatu fares," a statement from the bureau of statistics said.

The rising inflation rate was also blamed on a 4.3 per cent jump up in the education index on the account of increases in tuition and boarding fees.

The upward swing in inlflation may dampen hopes for cheaper credit going forward. The Central Bank reduces its key lending rate depending on the rate of inflation and the exchange rate.

Last month, the CBR rate was slashed to 9.50 per cent from 11 per cent when inlflation declined from 3.25 per cent in November 2012 to 3.20 per cent in December 2012. The shilling has in recent days lost ground versus the dollar hitting a low of 88 this week, a pointer that any more rate cuts are unlikely. - All Africa.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Hikurangi Subduction Zone - Seismologist Warns Of Megathrust Earthquake Threat For New Zealand!

February 04, 2013 - NEW ZEALAND - Less than 100km off the coast of Hawke's Bay is a deep-water trench that could be the site of a potential megathrust earthquake similar to the 2011 Japan earthquake, says seismologist Kevin Furlong.  Despite the Hikurangi Trench's potential, he said very little was known about the underwater valley, where the Pacific plate was dragged underneath the Australian plate.  Professor Furlong, of Pennsylvania State University, said the worst-case scenario for the East Coast was not yet known.

Less than 100km off the coast of Hawke's Bay is a deep-water trench that could be the site
of a potential megathrust earthquake.
"Many, if not most, scientists working on these megathrust earthquake plate boundaries would argue that, although it is very, very unlikely, until we can demonstrate otherwise we should expect that major segments of these boundaries could rupture simultaneously.  "Most of the time, as was the case in Japan for the past several hundred years at least, segments rupture individually and so maximum earthquakes are in the mid-to high magnitude 7 range. But on rare occasions, such as in 2011 in Japan, bigger ruptures can occur.  "We need to decide how best to manage that potential and uncertainty."

The trench will soon be part of a global study into megathrust earthquakes.  "Although we understand the general concept and general physics of megathrusts - the big subduction zone earthquakes - we are finding in our data from recent major events such as in Sumatra [Boxing Day 2004], Chile in 2010, and most recently in Japan, that they each have characteristics that differ from each other, and our existing models of how we might think they should behave during the actual earthquake rupture are incomplete," he said.  "So we need to improve our understanding, to understand what is causing this variability and whether we can anticipate it in advance. Part of the reason for this is that, during the main era over which our understanding of subduction zone earthquakes was developed from the mid-1960s until the 1990s, as the theories of plate tectonics were developed, we didn't have any earthquakes of the size of these recent big ones. So although our understanding worked well for the slightly smaller events, it isn't adequate for the really big ones."

He said regular quakes felt on the East Coast were related to the Hikurangi subduction zone and plate boundary.  "Some are in the upper plate - the North Island - and some are on the boundary between the upper plate and the subducting Pacific plate. They all provide information about how the plate boundary is locked and how the different components are deforming. But unfortunately these earthquakes don't help release the stress that is building up. That will only be released by big earthquakes but perhaps not for hundreds of years.  "In our research, one of the things we do investigate is what spatial patterns there are to these smaller earthquakes, as we can use that information to estimate the way in which the plate boundary is locked."  The 2011 Japan megathrust earthquake measured a magnitude 9 and triggered a tsunami that reached heights of up to 40.5 metres in constricted places, travelling up to 10km inland. There were 15,878 deaths and 2713 people reported missing. - Hawkes Bay Today.