Sunday, May 26, 2013

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: CONTAGION - The New H7N9 Bird Flu Will Spread More Easily Among Humans Than Other Bird Flu Strains And Is Capable Of Combining With Swine Flu To Form Novel Virus, With Some Strains Having Developed Drug Resistance!

May 26, 2013 - CHINA - Close contact with someone infected with the new bird flu strain, H7N9, is likely to get you sick, according to a new study published today, May 23, in the journal Science.

The virus isn't that great at passing through the air, though, so in order to contract the virus you would need to stand and talk with the sick person for about 15 minutes.


The New Bird Flu Will Spread More Easily Among Humans Than Other Bird Flu Strains.
A girl, who was previously infected with the H7N9 bird flu virus, waves as she is being transferred to a public ward from the ICU at Ditan hospital in Beijing, April 15, 2013.
Currently, 131 people have gotten sick with the new virus, and 36 have died. Hong Kong researchers are guessing that 90 to 120 more cases could exist, though cases have slowed in recent weeks.

"This study was designed to give us clues about the transmission of H7N9 which has affected some humans in China," study researcher David Kelvin, of the University of Toronto, said in a statement.

That study included infecting ferrets with the virus in the lab. They use ferrets as the animal model for human flus because they are mammals like us, they get the same viruses, and they show symptoms of the infection.

They also tested the virus on pigs, because they are often incubators for influenza viruses. It didn't pass between them as well as it did in the ferrets, though.

"The animals used in the study had very mild clinical symptoms as a result of their exposure to the virus and it was clear that very close contact was required for transmission.

It also appears that this virus in its present form does not transmit very well through the air."

Scientists are worried that it could mutate and gain that ability, since it's already more evolutionarily adapted to spread among humans than other bird flus they've seen.

They've already started seeing changes to the molecules on the outside of the virus that control how it enters cells, according to NPR's Shots blog.

"These findings suggest that the novel virus had been evolving and might, with a few amino acid mutations, adapt to humans," write the authors of the report in the New England Journal of Medicine, published May 22.

These "stepwise" adaptations — where small mutations happen over time — are similar to the way the 1918 and 1957 flu viruses adapted and caused pandemics.

These mutations happen as the virus lingers in animal populations. Though there are fewer new human cases, the virus needs to be wiped off the face of the Earth, and quickly.

"There's a bit of a worry in my mind that the urgency to do something about this will drop," study researcher Richard Webby, of St. Jude Children's Hospital and the Word Health Organization, told Shots.

"We really need to get on top of this virus and get it out of animal populations. Otherwise it's just not going to go away." - Business Insider.


H7N9 Capable Of Combining With Swine Flu To Form Novel Virus.
As per recent reports, it has been revealed that the H7N9 bird flu virus is capable of combining with swine flu and form a new virus.

The study has been carried out by a group of researchers from the University of Hong Kong.

Maria Zhu Huachen, Assistant Professor, said that their research has unveiled that the flu is capable of getting transmitted through air.

Not only this, ferrets and pigs are capable of contracting the virus.

Therefore, it has been suggested that ferrets and pigs should not be kept together in order to reduce the risk of the virus.

Zhu continued by affirming that while carrying out the research, it was found that more the time sick chickens and pigs spend together, more are the chances of two viruses to get together and form a new virus strain.

"As the virus can be spread among ferrets, it's possible it can be transmitted among humans [too]. Ferrets are the best model for the study in human influenza", said Zhu.

Zhu has affirmed that there are possible chances that the virus might have already started spreading among humans. And, there can be few cases of the same, which have not been revealed yet. - Top News.


Some H7N9 Bird Flu Virus Strains Have Developed Drug Resistance.
The discovery that some H7N9 bird flu virus strains have developed drug resistance will affect the strategies for dealing with future cases, a researcher said Saturday.

Some H7N9 strains found in a Taiwanese businessmen who became the first and only confirmed case outside China in late April after returning from there, were resistant to Tamiflu, a drug used to prevent and treat flu, said Shih Shin-ru, director of Chang Gung University's Research Center for Emerging Viral Infections.

Since there have also been H7N9 virus strains with the same drug-resistant gene found in a case in Shanghai, Shih said, Lee was probably exposed to large amounts of the virus in China.

Speaking at a seminar in Taipei on the H7N9 bird flu that was organized by National Taiwan University's (NTU's) College of Public Health, Shih said that laboratories can develop tests for drug-resistant strains of the virus based on this finding.

Once such drug-resistant strains are found in a patient, the doctors can then quickly change the drugs they use for treatment, she added.

The Taiwanese businessman, identified only by his family name Lee, returned to Taiwan April 9 after a trip to China's Jiangsu Province, one of the country's H7N9 bird flu-affected areas. He fell ill with flu-like symptoms April 12 but did not go to see a doctor until April 16.

Lee was transferred to NTU Hospital April 20 and confirmed to have been infected with the new avian flu virus April 24. He was discharged from the hospital May 24.

The virus has so far infected at least 130 people in China, killing 36 of them, but no new confirmed cases have been reported since May 8, according to the latest data on the official website of the World Health Organization. - Focus Taiwan.


H7N9 Bird Flu Spreads Between Ferrets.
Wikimedia, Guy Haimovitch.
The avian virus H7N9 is transmissible between ferrets, a common animal model for studying how flu might behave in humans, according to a paper published yesterday (May 24) in Science.

Nevertheless, there have so far been no clear cases of human-to-human transmission since March, when the infection was first found in humans.

But the new findings have scientists worried that the virus, which has killed 36 people in China, could become contagious between humans.

“On a scale from 1 to 10—from an avian virus with no potential to infect humans to a fully human-adapted strain—we don’t know exactly where this H7N9 is,” Richard Webby, a coauthor of the paper along with researchers in China and Canada and a virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, told NPR.

“But I think we can safely say from these data that it might be closer to 10 than the avian viruses we’ve seen infecting humans in the last decade.”

Researchers inoculated four pigs and six ferrets with live virus, and all of them became infected, according to Nature. The pigs didn’t appear to be able to pass the virus on to healthy pigs or healthy ferrets, but when the researchers placed an infected ferret in a cage with healthy ferrets, all the healthy ferrets fell ill.

The team also placed sick ferrets in cages 10 centimeters away from three uninfected ferrets. One was unaffected, a second was infected, and the third developed antibodies to H7N9, indicating exposure to the virus and suggesting it could transmit through the air.

Viruses that pass between humans can usually pass between ferrets and vice versa, but to date, H7N9 has not shown any evidence of being transmissible between humans.

Webby worries, however, that if the virus is indeed not already transmissible between humans, it could potentially become so with only a few genetic changes.

There have been no new cases of H7N9 since May 7, however, and Webby told NPR that he feared complacency.

“We really need to get on top of this virus and get it out of animal populations,” Webby said. “Otherwise it’s just not going to go away.” - The Scientist.






ELECTRIC UNIVERSE: Space Weather Phenomena - Complex Magnetic Field Dynamics Of The Sun Uncovered!

May 26, 2013 - THE SUN - Researchers at the Universities of Leeds and Chicago have uncovered an important mechanism behind the generation of astrophysical magnetic fields such as that of the Sun.

Scientists have known since the 18th century that the Sun regularly oscillates between periods of high and low solar activity in an 11-year cycle, but have been unable to fully explain how this cycle is generated.


Two massive sunspots appeared on the surface of our sun,causing NASA to warn the public of potential solar flares. The bottom two black spots on the sun appeared quickly over the course of Feb. 19-20, 2013.
(Photo : NASA/SDO/AIA/HMI/Goddard Space Flight Center)

In the 'Information Age', it has become increasingly important to be able to understand the Sun's magnetic activity, as it is the changes in its magnetic field that are responsible for 'space weather' phenomena, including solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

When this weather heads in the direction of Earth it can damage satellites, endanger astronauts on the International Space Station and cause power grid outages on the ground.

In fact, the sun is now approaching the maximum of the cycle, and a large flare and connected CME occurred just yesterday, although it is not targeted at Earth this time.

The research, published in the journal Nature, explains how the cyclical nature of these large-scale magnetic fields emerges, providing a solution to the mathematical equations governing fluids and electromagnetism for a large astrophysical body.

The mechanism, known as a dynamo, builds on a solution to a reduced set of equations first proposed in the 1950s which could explain the regular oscillation but which appeared to break down when applied to objects with high electrical conductivity.

The mechanism takes into account the 'shear' effect of mass movement of the ionized gas, known as plasma, which makes up the Sun. More importantly it does so in the extreme parameter regime that is relevant to astrophysical bodies.

"Previously, dynamos for large, highly conducting bodies such as the Sun would be overwhelmed by small-scale fluctuations in the magnetic field.

Here, we have demonstrated a new mechanism involving a shear flow, which served to damp these small-scale variations, revealing the dominant large-scale pattern," said Professor Steve Tobias, from the University of Leeds' School of Mathematics, a co-author of the research.

What is more, this mechanism could be used to describe other large, spinning astronomical bodies with large-scale magnetic fields such as galaxies.

The dynamo was developed through simulations using the high-performance computing facilities located at the University of Leeds.

"The fact that it took 50 years and huge supercomputers shows how complicated the dynamo process really is." said Prof. Fausto Cattaneo, from the University of Chicago's Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

The presence of spots on the Sun has been known since antiquity, and further analyzed after the invention of the telescope by Galileo in the 16th century.

However, their cyclic nature, with periods of high activity (lots of sunspots) and low activity (few sunspots) following each other, was not identified until the 18th century.

At the start of the 20th century it was then recognized that these sunspots were the result of the Sun's magnetic field.

Since then much effort has been devoted to understanding what processes lead to the formation of sunspots and the origin of their cyclic behavior. - Science World Report.





MASS FISH DIE-OFF & ICE AGE NOW: Prolonged Winter - 30 Different Fish Kills Happened During Winter In North Dakota Lakes!

May 26, 2013 - UNITED STATES - North Dakota wildlife officials say some lakes in the state suffered winterkill but that the problem of fish die-offs was not extreme, despite the prolonged winter.




Game and Fish Department fisheries official Scott Gangl said about 30 winterkills have been confirmed so far. He said the majority are considered minor or partial kills, meaning there is still fish to catch in those lakes.

Some lakes did suffer significant winterkills, however.

Winterkill happens when heavy snowfall blocks sunlight from going into lakes. Plants die and stop giving off oxygen, and they also consume oxygen as they decompose. That limits oxygen available for fish.

Game and Fish said all lakes affected by winterkill will be restocked. - Jamestown Sun.





MASS FISH DIE-OFF: 850 TONNES Of Fish Found Dead In Yunnan, China?!

May 26, 2013 - CHINA - Hundreds of tons of dead fish floating in Mojiang County Ha Heung SI South River hydropower station reservoir area have already stinks. Farmers daizhihua said, on May 20, they found the fish started dying, until yesterday, their forty or fifty tons of dead fish, "lost a year." Like daizhihua, the affected farmers, official statistics are 45, 854.4 tonnes of dead fish, loss of nearly 10 million Yuan.  Daizhihua said that the zone of the sinanjiang hydropower, sharp decline in the water level, leaving them with cage culture of fish hypoxia death.


Large number of dead fish, farmers suffered heavy losses.

Fish culture in reservoir in recent mass deaths

"Our fish are dead! "Yesterday morning, the daizhihua rush to call this report reflect the situation. In April 2010, he by way of loan, raised 500,000 yuan in mojiang Township-SI-South River station started using cage culture of fish in the reservoir area. "My family's fish, is the 20th began dying. "Last August, daizhihua just keeps 25 boxes of fish, each more than more than 4,000, each end has 4 public over more than two and these fish for tilapia, and also some catfish, freshwater great white shark, if accidents do not occur, the fish close to million of income.

Since its 20th discovery of dead fish, tilapia had died twenty or thirty tons of daizhihua, including other fishes, a total of forty or fifty tons. Suffer calamity like a daizhihua, he said that there are also forty or fifty farmers, estimated five hundred or six hundred tons of fish died. "The situation is very serious, we have reflected to the Township and County on the situation. "Daizhihua said.

Daizhihua said that two years ago found that hypoxic death of the fish, but nothing so serious this time of the year. In his view, the high watermark, and fish is not easy to hypoxia, but since the last few days, because more water for power generation in the reservoir area, compared to the level in previous years this period down three or four metres, sharp decline in the water level, caused the death of fish hypoxia.

Experts say the water level drop of death of fish induced by hypoxia

In charge of fisheries Deputy Mayor Zhou xiaocong believes that the drought this year, reservoir was less, combined with the impoundment of the sinanjiang hydropower station is the power, in the absence of water, or water power than less, declining water level in the reservoir area will be relatively fast. At present, the SI river water level in reservoir area of hydropower station in the South, compared to previous years the highest time period had declined by more than 20 meters. He said: "the water level drop too quickly, fish easier to hypoxia. ”

Said Zhou xiaocong, SI South River hydropower station reservoir area more than fish cages to more than 2,600, at present, farmed fish were found dead downstream of the dam, upstream of the current most serious, as to the specific cause of fish mortality, "is also being investigated, more serious disasters, rural communities and come up with conclusions, had been reported in the County, asking them to come forward to solve. ”

Fisheries technical extension station in Yunnan province through investigation that the expert group, resulting in fish cage culture of cause of death, tentatively identified as the water level is too low, the water level dropped too fast causing partial oxygen, current trends in disasters has continued to spread downstream.

Government to take urgent measures to reduce losses

Yesterday evening, mojiang County party Committee's propaganda Department issued a disaster communications, said in the text, starting from May 20, SI-South River hydropower station reservoir area ecological cage culture of Tilapia, more dead fish, as of yesterday, 14:30, 767 cages were 45 farmers dead fish 854.4 tons of 2.924 million FRY death and economic loss is expected to reach 9.1288 million Yuan.

Mojiang County, and County Government currently started following emergency relief measures, a is organization farming households to downstream Sham Shui Po District drag cage; II is requirements farming households prepared aerators, unified to farming households issued increased oxygen powder 2000 bag, improve water with oxygen volume; three is active coordination fillets factory, full do production processing, reached full load running; four is coordination contact SI nanjiang hydropower station adjustable reduction generating capacity, control water level declined speed; five is organization personnel on died fish for salvage, do harmless of processing, and on water for disinfection ; Six organizations province are fisheries technical extension station group of experts to the affected investigations; seven is an idea for farmers affected by grooming and early preparations for the next round to resume production.

Daizhihua confirmed that the dead fish, 3 cents per kg, according to the Government's price recovery was harmless treatment.

Negotiating suspended power generation of hydropower station rehabilitation

Yesterday, the sinanjiang hydropower station reporter, a staff member of the Office confirmed in a telephone interview, yesterday evening in hydropower station has been suspended power generation.

"Every generation before the flood. "He said, reservoir hydropower station Canal, villagers fish in the reservoir area is determined by the Government and signed the contract of hydropower stations, villagers do not need to pay. According to the agreement, 860 m-900 m water level fluctuating between normal changes, but daily fluctuations should not be more than 5 meters, over to inform the mojiang County.

The staff member said, power generation, flood discharge can lead to water level variations, current, water level in the reservoir area was 862.9 meters, only 2.9 meters from the dead 860 meters. Dead water levels mean, at this level, taking water from the reservoir area to generate electricity. But last year the water level went from dead only 2.9 meters of water level of the position, and the water level in the reservoir area in recent days, hydropower stations within the scope of the express.

"At first we did not understand farmers fish kill this thing. "The staff member said, later, mojiang County party Committee and Government communication, they informed, at present, hydro power generation have been suspended, when recovery is not yet determined, farmers raised fish mass mortality of rehabilitation also depends on the consultation of the parties. - YNXXB. [Translated]


MASS FISH DIE-OFF: "I've Never Seen It Like This" - Massive Amount Of Bull Redfish Found Floating Dead In Breton Sound, Louisiana?!

May 26, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Breton Sound is in the midst of one of the best bull redfish runs in recent memory, but Capt. Markham Dickson is wondering how long it will last after what he saw last week.

Dickson, a guide out of Campo's Marina in Shell Beach, was cruising up from the heart of Breton Sound after a successful trip to the main Central Rig when he came across a rip line. These collections of foam and debris are commonplace in Louisiana's salty bays and sounds, most often marking profound changes in current or salinity.


Capt. Markham Dickson came across this scene of carnage last week in Breton Sound. Thousands of dead bull redfish had collected on rip lines between the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet and the Central Rig. (Capt. Markham Dickson)

This rip line was thick and holding together well, and it caught Dickson's eye because it contained a number of dead redfish. That's not uncommon, but Dickson continued moving north along the line and saw even more floating bull-red corpses.

"This happens every year. Every summer there are a bunch of dead bull reds out there, but I've never seen it like this," he said.

Dickson decided to turn on his GoPro camera while he ran to show the carnage. The number of dead fish boggled his mind and angered him.

"It ran all the way from Central to the end of the long rocks (at the mouth of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet)," he said. "You'd go down one rip line, and you'd think that'd be it, and then you'd see another rip line. They were just stacked up in those rips."

Although Dickson didn't see any commercial boats fishing for menhaden -- called pogies by anglers -- that day, he said he's seen enough dead redfish bycatch coming off the pogie boats over the years that he's certain that's what caused the kill.


All of the dead redfish were offshore-sized Breton Sound bulls, Capt. Markham Dickson said.
(Capt. Markham Dickson)

"I've counted a couple hundred (dead redfish) before around the pogie boats, but this was thousands of fish," he said. "It was mostly redfish, but it was some gafftops too. It's no coincidence that the bull reds and gafftops are what are eating those pogies.

"When a redfish grows up and leaves the marsh, he stops eating crabs and shrimp and starts eating fish. Trout do the same thing. You go offshore, and you can catch a big trout on a croaker, but you fish croakers in the marsh, you're not going to catch many trout."

Dickson said he doesn't begrudge the pogie fishers or the way they earn their living.

"When I see them, it's actually a good sign because I know I'm in the area where the bait is," he said.

But he's got deep concerns about the future of redfish populations in the state when that many fish are wasted as bycatch. Compounding the problem, in Dickson's view, is the fact that a main forage of bull redfish is being actively removed throughout the summer.

"All these fish that are being killed weren't going to be kept by recreational fishermen," he said. "You're killing a huge amount of your breeding stock, and you're also taking out the base, underlying food chain.


Capt. Markham Dickson said this bull-redfish season in Breton Sound has been one for the record books.(Capt. Markham Dickson)

"If you're taking out the fish that are your spawners, and you're taking out their food, it just seems dangerous. How long would it take recreational anglers to kill that many bull reds?"

Dickson said the bull-redfish action in Breton Sound this spring has been epic.

"This year, there are a lot of bull reds out there. There are more than I've caught in a long time," he said. "We usually catch bull reds out there in the early spring when we're fishing drum and sheepshead. We'll catch a few bull reds, but this year, every rig out there is covered up in bulls.


WATCH: Massive amounts of mature redfish killed in Breton Sound.




"I think that's why so many of them got killed because there are more in the sound this year for whatever reason."

Dickson knows he'll see dead bycatch again, but he hopes it's never at that extreme level in the future.

"It's just horrible," he said. "I was just shaking my head the whole time. It's horrific." - NOLA.




EXTREME WEATHER: Hurricane Fears As Warning Satellite Fails - NOAA Forecast That Hurricane Season Is Likely To Be "Extremely Active"!

May 26, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A satellite designed to track severe weather in the US, has failed on the eve of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season.


The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 13 (GOES-13) captured this natural-color image of Hurricane Sandy at 1:45 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (17:45 Universal Time) on October 28, 2012.

Experts fear it could not have happened at a worse time. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the satellite, which provides coverage for the entire US eastern seaboard, is relied upon to track hurricanes threatening cities along the coast. The NOAA gave a warning that this year's hurricane season – the first since hurricane Sandy devastated the New York and New Jersey shorelines last October – is likely to be "extremely active".

The Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season begins this week and lasts for six months. The NOAA has predicted as many as 13 to 20 tropical storms could threaten homes, with half of those likely to strengthen.

The NOAA announced that a spare satellite had been activated while attempts are made to fix the failed one, but added there was currently "no estimate on its return to operations".

The organisation's three current Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) were built by Boeing and designed to last 10 years. The failed satellite, GOES-13, was launched in 2006.


The failed satellite, launched by Nasa in 2006, was designed to last 10 years.

NOAA typically operates two GOES spacecraft over the country, overlooking the East and West coasts, plus one on-orbit spare. The satellites are fitted with technology enabling them to watch for clouds and developing storms.

The first sign of trouble with GOES-13, the primary East coast satellite, emerged late last Wednesday when it failed to relay expected images, NOAA reports showed.

If a second GOES should fail, NOAA would operate its remaining satellite to get a full view of the US every half-hour. The organisation would also depend more on other information relayed by polar-orbiting weather satellites. - Independent.



MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Ohio Division Of Wildlife Investigating Hundreds Of Dead Fish Mysteriously Found In Ottawa River?!

May 26, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Wildlife officers are investigating the deaths of hundreds of fish found in the Ottawa River and Pike Run.





The fish kill was reported Sunday to the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Officers investigated, trying to learn the problem, said  Craig Barr, the wildlife officer for Allen County.


“The investigation is still ongoing, but, at this point, we have no idea what caused it,” Barr said.

Wildlife officers found all types and sizes of fish dead. Many of the dead fish were found around live fish that seemed normal, Barr said.

Barr had no recommendation on whether fish caught from the waters near the location were safe since he does not know the cause, he said. - Lima Ohio.



GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Global Volcano Report For May 26, 2013 - Average Of 356 Earthquakes Per Hour At Copahue; Small Explosions At Etna; And Ash Plume Reaches 10,000 Feet High At Sakurajima!

May 26, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.




Copahue (Chile/Argentina)
: Although degassing and ash emissions have decreased, seismic activity at the volcano has picked up, SERNAGEOMIN reported. An average of 356 earthquakes per hour, sometimes merging into what looks as volcanic tremor, has been recorded recently. This could be related to intruding magma from a new batch of magma rising at the moment and as a result, phreatomagmatic or magmatic activity could occur at the surface in the near future.

The hazards from the volcano to populated areas are only significant in the case of a larger eruption creating a large ash plume, possible pyroclastic flows and lahars capable of travelling greater distances. Ash fall in particular would mainly threaten the areas to the east (ie. the Argentine side) because of the prevailing westerly wind directions.

Etna (Sicily, Italy): Etna today is free of clouds, but strong winds with gusts up to 70 km/h speed prevail. No further significant earthquakes occurred. The only activity remains degassing, and occasional small explosions, not visible, deep inside Bocca Nuova, based on seismic observations (OPEC).

Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): The volcano has been relatively productive with 2-4 explosions daily over the past days. Maximum ash plume heights were reported as 10,000 ft (3 km) (VAAC Tokyo).



Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for May 26, 2013.

- Volcano Discovery.



PLANETARY TREMORS: Moderate 6.0 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Uzbekistan!

May 26, 2013 - UZBEKISTAN - Seismologists have reported that a moderate earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0 has hit southwestern Uzbekistan.


USGS earthquake location.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake struck at 11:08 a.m. (0608 UTC), about 27 kilometers north of Bulung'ur, at a depth of 27 kilometers.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. - VOA.


USGS earthquake shakemap intensity.



Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the Himalaya and Vicinity.
Seismicity in the Himalaya dominantly results from the continental collision of the India and Eurasia plates, which are converging at a relative rate of 40-50 mm/yr. Northward underthrusting of India beneath Eurasia generates numerous earthquakes and consequently makes this area one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth. The surface expression of the plate boundary is marked by the foothills of the north-south trending Sulaiman Range in the west, the Indo-Burmese Arc in the east and the east-west trending Himalaya Front in the north of India.

The India-Eurasia plate boundary is a diffuse boundary, which in the region near the north of India, lies within the limits of the Indus-Tsangpo (also called the Yarlung-Zangbo) Suture to the north and the Main Frontal Thrust to the south. The Indus-Tsangpo Suture Zone is located roughly 200 km north of the Himalaya Front and is defined by an exposed ophiolite chain along its southern margin. The narrow (less than 200km) Himalaya Front includes numerous east-west trending, parallel structures. This region has the highest rates of seismicity and largest earthquakes in the Himalaya region, caused mainly by movement on thrust faults. Examples of significant earthquakes, in this densely populated region, caused by reverse slip movement include the 1934 M8.1 Bihar, the 1905 M7.5 Kangra and the 2005 M7.6 Kashmir earthquakes. The latter two resulted in the highest death tolls for Himalaya earthquakes seen to date, together killing over 100,000 people and leaving millions homeless. The largest instrumentally recorded Himalaya earthquake occurred on 15th August 1950 in Assam, eastern India. This M8.6 right-lateral, strike-slip, earthquake was widely felt over a broad area of central Asia, causing extensive damage to villages in the epicentral region.


USGS tectonic plates for the region.

The Tibetan Plateau is situated north of the Himalaya, stretching approximately 1000km north-south and 2500km east-west, and is geologically and tectonically complex with several sutures which are hundreds of kilometer-long and generally trend east-west. The Tibetan Plateau is cut by a number of large (greater than 1000km) east-west trending, left-lateral, strike-slip faults, including the long Kunlun, Haiyuan, and the Altyn Tagh. Right-lateral, strike-slip faults (comparable in size to the left-lateral faults), in this region include the Karakorum, Red River, and Sagaing. Secondary north-south trending normal faults also cut the Tibetan Plateau. Thrust faults are found towards the north and south of the Tibetan Plateau. Collectively, these faults accommodate crustal shortening associated with the ongoing collision of the India and Eurasia plates, with thrust faults accommodating north south compression, and normal and strike-slip accommodating east-west extension.

Along the western margin of the Tibetan Plateau, in the vicinity of south-eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan, the India plate translates obliquely relative to the Eurasia plate, resulting in a complex fold-and-thrust belt known as the Sulaiman Range. Faulting in this region includes strike-slip, reverse-slip and oblique-slip motion and often results in shallow, destructive earthquakes. The active, left-lateral, strike-slip Chaman fault is the fastest moving fault in the region. In 1505, a segment of the Chaman fault near Kabul, Afghanistan, ruptured causing widespread destruction. In the same region the more recent 30 May 1935, M7.6 Quetta earthquake, which occurred in the Sulaiman Range in Pakistan, killed between 30,000 and 60,000 people.

On the north-western side of the Tibetan Plateau, beneath the Pamir-Hindu Kush Mountains of northern Afghanistan, earthquakes occur at depths as great as 200 km as a result of remnant lithospheric subduction. The curved arc of deep earthquakes found in the Hindu Kush Pamir region indicates the presence of a lithospheric body at depth, thought to be remnants of a subducting slab. Cross-sections through the Hindu Kush region suggest a near vertical northerly-dipping subducting slab, whereas cross-sections through the nearby Pamir region to the east indicate a much shallower dipping, southerly subducting slab. Some models suggest the presence of two subduction zones; with the Indian plate being subducted beneath the Hindu Kush region and the Eurasian plate being subducted beneath the Pamir region. However, other models suggest that just one of the two plates is being subducted and that the slab has become contorted and overturned in places.

Shallow crustal earthquakes also occur in this region near the Main Pamir Thrust and other active Quaternary faults. The Main Pamir Thrust, north of the Pamir Mountains, is an active shortening structure. The northern portion of the Main Pamir Thrust produces many shallow earthquakes, whereas its western and eastern borders display a combination of thrust and strike-slip mechanisms. On the 18 February 1911, the M7.4 Sarez earthquake ruptured in the Central Pamir Mountains, killing numerous people and triggering a landside, which blocked the Murghab River.

Further north, the Tian Shan is a seismically active intra-continental mountain belt, which extends 2500 km in an ENE-WNW orientation north of the Tarim Basin. This belt is defined by numerous east-west trending thrust faults, creating a compressional basin and range landscape. It is generally thought that regional stresses associated with the collision of the India and Eurasia plates are responsible for faulting in the region. The region has had three major earthquakes (greater than M7.6) at the start of the 20th Century, including the 1902 Atushi earthquake, which killed an estimated 5,000 people. The range is cut through in the west by the 700-km-long, northwest-southeast striking, Talas-Ferghana active right-lateral, strike-slip fault system. Though the system has produced no major earthquakes in the last 250 years, paleo-seismic studies indicate that it has the potential to produce M7.0+ earthquakes and it is thought to represent a significant hazard.

The northern portion of the Tibetan Plateau itself is largely dominated by the motion on three large left-lateral, strike-slip fault systems; the Altyn Tagh, Kunlun and Haiyuan. The Altyn Tagh fault is the longest of these strike slip faults and it is thought to accommodate a significant portion of plate convergence. However, this system has not experienced significant historical earthquakes, though paleoseismic studies show evidence of prehistoric M7.0-8.0 events. Thrust faults link with the Altyn Tagh at its eastern and western termini. The Kunlun Fault, south of the Altyn Tagh, is seismically active, producing large earthquakes such as the 8th November 1997, M7.6 Manyi earthquake and the 14th November 2001, M7.8 Kokoxili earthquake. The Haiyuan Fault, in the far north-east, generated the 16 December 1920, M7.8 earthquake that killed approximately 200,000 people and the 22 May 1927 M7.6 earthquake that killed 40,912.

The Longmen Shan thrust belt, along the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau, is an important structural feature and forms a transitional zone between the complexly deformed Songpan-Garze Fold Belt and the relatively undeformed Sichuan Basin. On 12 May 2008, the thrust belt produced the reverse slip, M7.9 Wenchuan earthquake, killing over 87,000 people and causing billions of US dollars in damages and landslides which dammed several rivers and lakes.

Southeast of the Tibetan Plateau are the right-lateral, strike-slip Red River and the left-lateral, strike-slip Xiangshuihe-Xiaojiang fault systems. The Red River Fault experienced large scale, left-lateral ductile shear during the Tertiary period before changing to its present day right-lateral slip rate of approximately 5 mm/yr. This fault has produced several earthquakes greater than M6.0 including the 4 January 1970, M7.5 earthquake in Tonghai which killed over 10,000 people. Since the start of the 20th century, the Xiangshuihe-Xiaojiang Fault system has generated several M7.0+ earthquakes including the M7.5 Luhuo earthquake which ruptured on the 22 April 1973. Some studies suggest that due to the high slip rate on this fault, future large earthquakes are highly possible along the 65km stretch between Daofu and Qianning and the 135km stretch that runs through Kangding.

Shallow earthquakes within the Indo-Burmese Arc, predominantly occur on a combination of strike-slip and reverse faults, including the Sagaing, Kabaw and Dauki faults. Between 1930 and 1956, six M7.0+ earthquakes occurred near the right-lateral Sagaing Fault, resulting in severe damage in Myanmar including the generation of landslides, liquefaction and the loss of 610 lives. Deep earthquakes (200km) have also been known to occur in this region, these are thought to be due to the subduction of the eastwards dipping, India plate, though whether subduction is currently active is debated. Within the pre-instrumental period, the large Shillong earthquake occurred on the 12 June 1897, causing widespread destruction. - USGS.


GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Volcanic Riddle - Burst In Mount Etna Eruptions Puzzles Experts?!

May 26, 2013 - ITALY - Mount Etna is spitting lava more violently than it has in years, and scientists are baffled as to why. Despite being the world's most-studied volcano, the Sicilian mountain is also its most unpredictable.


Lava spews from a crater of the giant Etna Volcano on the southern Italian island of Sicily, Jan. 6, 2012.
(Marcello Paternostro/AFP/Getty Images)

The volcano is raging. Fountains of lava, some taller than the Eiffel Tower, shoot from its mouth every few weeks, flowing in red-hot streams into the surrounding valleys. There have been 13 eruptions since the beginning of February.

Mount Etna, 3,329 meters (10,922 feet) high, towers majestically above the Sicilian city of Catania. In June, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will decide whether to list it as a World Heritage Site. Etna is considered the most heavily studied volcano in the world, and it is thoroughly wired with sensors. In addition to lava, Etna spits out vast amounts of data -- several gigabytes a day, coming from magnetic field sensors, GPS altimeters and seismic sensors.

Despite this wealth of data, Etna still poses a conundrum to scientists. "The eruptions in recent weeks have been unusually fierce and explosive," reports German volcanologist Boris Behncke, who monitors the mountain together with a few hundred colleagues at Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV). "There have been lava fountain events in the past, but rarely in such rapid succession."

Behncke has fallen under Etna's spell. During the day, he maps the lava flows; at night, he hikes along its slopes. His Twitter hash tag is "@etnaboris." The volcano is the first thing he sees when he looks out of his bedroom window every morning.

"This time, the range of ash fall is much wider than usual," says Behncke. A layer of black ash covers cars as far as 50 kilometers (31 miles) away.

Even in ancient times, people marveled at the forces that were capable of shooting fountains of lava into the sky. In Greek and Roman mythology, the volcano is represented by a limping blacksmith swinging his hammer as sparks fly. Legend has it that the natural philosopher Empedocles jumped into the crater 2,500 years ago. What he found there remained his secret, because he never returned. All that remained of him were his iron shoes, which the mountain later spat out.

A Champagne Bottle under Pressure

For many geologists today, Etna is still the most inscrutable volcano in the world. The mountain is located at precisely the spot where the African and European tectonic plates rub against each other like two giant ice floes. At this plate margin, lava with low viscosity flows upward from a depth of 30 kilometers into a reservoir of magma two kilometers beneath the summit.

"The stream of magma doesn't move uniformly, but in spurts, vibrating as if it were in a hydraulic pump," explains Stuttgart geophysicist Rolf Schick. "This makes Etna so unpredictable." Schick has been a star among volcanologists since 1972, when he caused a stir with his new discoveries about Etna. Using seismic sensors, he discovered a "pulse rate" of sorts in the stream of magma, which is forced through the vent at a rate of 72 beats per minute -- coincidentally, at a rate similar to that of the human heartbeat.

Schick spent 40 years traveling repeatedly to Sicily to explore Etna. "I used to believe that we would soon be able to predict volcanic eruptions," says the scientist, who turns 80 next month. "Today, I'm no longer certain that we'll ever succeed."

On one trip, Schick was traveling near the town of Nicolósi, which has been repeatedly destroyed by streams of lava. Based on the volcanic pulse he had measured, the geophysicist recognized that a molten heart was beating underneath him. The magma was only 400 meters beneath the surface, and an outbreak seemed imminent.

But nothing happened.

Etna is currently behaving like a champagne bottle under pressure. The magma, a foam-like brew of gas and red-hot molten rock, has been flowing to the surface more quickly in recent years.

At the moment, the mountain is belching out about a million tons of water vapor and more than 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide each day. As they ascend, the gas bubbles expand with lighting speed, and if they cannot readily escape, they hurl clumps of magma into the air like oversized champagne corks.

"There have been violent eruptions like this once every few thousand years, as, for example, in the year 122 B.C.," says Behncke. The scientist also expects a destructive outbreak on the eastern flank in a few months or years. "This is relatively normal for Etna, but society has changed tremendously. It's become much more difficult today to carry out an evacuation." - ABC News.