Wednesday, April 6, 2016

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: More Planet X Memes - Is Mysterious "Planet Nine" Tugging On NASA's Saturn Probe?!

Artist’s concept of “Planet Nine,” a hypothesized world about 10 times more massive than Earth that may orbit far from the sun.
Credit: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

April 6, 2016 - SPACE - The hunt is on to find "Planet Nine" — a large undiscovered world, perhaps 10 times as massive as Earth and four times its size — that scientists think could be lurking in the outer solar system. After Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, two planetary scientists from the California Institute of Technology, presented evidence for its existence this January, other teams have searched for further proof by analyzing archived images and proposing new observations to find it with the world's largest telescopes.

Just this month, evidence from the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn helped close in on the missing planet. Many experts suspect that within as little as a year someone will spot the unseen world, which would be a monumental discovery that changes the way we view our solar system and our place in the cosmos. "Evidence is mounting that something unusual is out there — there's a story that's hard to explain with just the standard picture," says David Gerdes, a cosmologist at the University of Michigan who never expected to find himself working on Planet Nine. He is just one of many scientists who leapt at the chance to prove — or disprove — the team's careful calculations.

Researchers say an anomaly in the orbits of distant Kuiper Belt objects points to the existence of an unknown planet orbiting the sun.
Credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics artist

Batygin and Brown made the case for Planet Nine's existence based on its gravitational effect on several Kuiper Belt objects — icy bodies that circle the sun beyond Neptune's orbit. Theoretically, though, its gravity should also tug slightly on the planets, moons and even any orbiting spacecraft. With this in mind, Agnès Fienga at the Côte d'Azur Observatory in France and her colleagues checked whether a theoretical model (one that they have been perfecting for over a decade) with the new addition of Planet Nine could better explain slight perturbations seen in Cassini's orbit. Without it, the eight planets in the solar system, 200 asteroids and five of the most massive Kuiper Belt objects cannot perfectly account for it. The missing puzzle piece might just be a ninth planet.

So Fienga and her colleagues compared the updated model, which placed Planet Nine at various points in its hypothetical orbit, with the data. They found a sweet spot—with Planet Nine 600 astronomical units (about 90 billion kilometers) away toward the constellation Cetus — that can explain Cassini's orbit quite well. Although Fienga is not yet convinced that she has found the culprit for the probe's odd movements, most outside experts are blown away. "It's a brilliant analysis," says Greg Laughlin, an astronomer at Lick Observatory, who was not involved in the study. "It's completely amazing that they were able to do that so quickly." Gerdes agrees: "That's a beautiful paper."

The good news does not end there. If Planet Nine is located toward the constellation Cetus, then it could be picked up by the Dark Energy Survey, a Southern Hemisphere observation project designed to probe the acceleration of the universe. "It turns out fortuitously that the favored region from Cassini is smack dab in the middle of our survey footprint," says Gerdes, who is working on the cosmology survey. "We could not have designed our survey any better." Although the survey was not planned to search for solar system objects, Gerdes has discovered some (including one of the icy objects that led Batygin and Brown to conclude Planet Nine exists in the first place).

Laughlin thinks this survey has the best immediate chance of success. He is also excited by the fact that Planet Nine could be so close. Although 600 AUs—roughly 15 times the average distance to Pluto—does sound far, Planet Nine could theoretically hide as far away as 1,200 AUs. "That makes it twice as easy to get to, twice as soon," Laughlin says. "And not just twice as bright but 16 times as bright."

Mini-Neptunes like "Planet Nine" outnumber other types of planets found by astronomers. Credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics artist

And the Dark Energy Survey is not the only chance to catch the faint world. It should be possible to look for the millimeter-wavelength light the planet radiates from its own internal heat. Such a search was proposed by Nicolas Cowan, an exoplanet astronomer at McGill University in Montreal, who thinks that Planet Nine might show up in surveys of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the pervasive afterglow of the big bang. "CMB experiments have historically used solar system giant planets to calibrate their instruments, so we know that current and planned CMB experiments are sensitive enough to measure the flux from Planet Nine if it is as bright as we think it is," Cowan says.

Already, cosmologists have started to comb through data from existing experiments, and astronomers with many different specialties have also joined in on the search. "I love that we can take this four-meter telescope and find a rock 100 kilometers in diameter that is a billion kilometers past Neptune with the same instrument that we are using to do extragalactic stuff and understand the acceleration of the universe," Gerdes says.

In the meantime Batygin and Brown are proposing a dedicated survey of their own. In a recent study they searched through various sky maps to determine where Planet Nine cannot be. "We dumpster-dived into the existing observational data to search for Planet Nine, and because we didn't find it we were able to rule out parts of the orbit," Batygin says. The zone where the planet makes its farthest swing from the sun as well as the small slice of sky where Fienga thinks the planet could be now, for example, have not been canvassed by previous observations. To search the unmapped zones, Batygin and Brown have asked for roughly 20 observing nights on the Subaru Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. "It's a pretty big request compared to what other people generally get on the telescope," Brown says. "We'll see if they bite." If they do, Brown is convinced he will have his planet within a year.

"I really want to see what it looks like," says Batygin, who adds that his aspiration drives him to search for the unseen world. But Laughlin takes it a step further: "I think [the discovery] would provide amazing inspiration for the next stage of planetary exploration," he says. We now have another opportunity to see one of the worlds of our own solar system for the first time. "If Planet Nine isn't out there, we won't have that experience again." - SPACE.

NOTE: Thanks to Joann Mckeon-Chan for contributing to this post.

INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: The Effects Of Magnetic Polar Migration - The Latest Incidents Of Plane Crashes Across The Globe! [PHOTOS + VIDEO]

These dramatic pictures show the aftermath of a major runway accident in Jakarta after two planes collided during takeoff. Picture: You Tube/Ippi Thyssen

April 6, 2016 - EARTH - Here are the latest incidents of plane crashes across the planet.

2 Passenger planes crash while taxiing at Jakarta airport in Indonesia

Two passenger planes collided late on Monday on an airport runway in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, an airline spokesman said, causing minor damage but no injuries to passengers.

A Batik Air plane carrying 49 passengers and seven crew was taking off from Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusuma airport when it clipped a TransNusa plane being towed across the runway.

Andy Saladin, a spokesman for Lion Air Group, said the pilot aborted the takeoff of the Boeing 737-800 aircraft to ensure the safety of those on board.

“All the passengers and crew are safe, and will be flown using a replacement aircraft,” Saladin said in a statement.

Twitter: TunasKelapa

Twitter: TunasKelapa

Batik Air is part of Lion Group, which runs Indonesia’s biggest low-cost carrier Lion Air.

Transport ministry spokesman JA Barata also confirmed there were no casualties and all passengers and crew were safely evacuated.

The left wing of the Batik flight was damaged in the clash and the tail of the ATR craft operated by TransNusa — another domestic airline mainly serving the east of the archipelago — was also mangled, Barata said.

WATCH: Planes collide on Jakarta runway.

Pictures on social media showed scorch marks around the damaged sections, with videos posted online capturing a brief fire before it was brought under control by emergency crews.

Barata said the airport in Jakarta’s east — primarily a military and government terminal that services some domestic routes — would be temporarily closed following the incident. - News.

Japanese air force plane disappears from radar with 6 people on board 

Credit: NHK
A small Japanese Air Force plane carrying six people has disappeared from radar in southwestern Japan, prompting a search operation in a mountainous region where the aircraft may have crashed, officials say. The U125A aircraft took off from Kanoya Air Field on Kyushu island at 2:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday to carry out aerial inspections of airport facilities. The plane disappeared from radar screens at 2:35 p.m. when it was about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) north of the base.

The aircraft, which belongs to Japan's Air Self-Defense Force and is capable of carrying up to 16 people depending on its configuration, was said to have been carrying a total of 6 people. Their identities were not immediately released.

Japan's Ministry of Defense said a search-and-rescue operation involving multiple helicopters was underway in a mountainous area where the plane may have crashed, but nothing had been found as of late Wednesday night. - BNO.

Plane crash in Anderson County, South Carolina with 2 on board.

Federal Aviation Administration officials are trying to figure out what caused an engine failure on a small plane that was forced to make a hard landing in Anderson County.

Two people on board the plane were not injured.

Anderson County Sheriff’s deputies say the plane landed near Omega Farms Ln. and Long Road off Highway 81. The plane landed nose down and is registered to a person out of Simpsonville.

Taylor Jones with Emergency Services say the plane was being flown by a flight student with his instructor. They were on a high performance endorsement training flight.

The pair flew from the Greenville Downtown Airport to the Anderson Airport. The plane was on the return flight to Greenville when the pilot had engine trouble.

Both the instructor and pilot are fine after landing in the pasture. We’re told the Beechcraft 35 Bonanza plane was removed from the pasture Monday night. - WSPA.

Plane crashes at Hooks Airport in Spring, Texas

Officials are investigating a plane crash that took place at Hooks Airport Sunday afternoon.

Officials say a retired Marine was flying a WWII-style plane with another man on board when a tailwind pushed the plane off the runway as they tried to land.

The pilot was apparently practicing for a charity competition.

Officials said the tailwind pushed the biplane into a ditch on the right of the runway.

Both men are expected to be OK and officials feel the vintage plane can most likely be repaired back to working condition.  - KHOU.

Pilot uninjured in crash at Washington County Airport, Pennsylvania

No landing gear was deployed Tuesday evening when this plane hit the runway at Washington County Airport.
There were no injuries. - Courtesy of Washington County Redevelopment Authority

A local pilot who had just had the engine of his small plane checked in West Virginia did not deploy his landing gear but escaped injury Tuesday when the craft came down on Washington County Airport’s sole runway.

William McGowen, executive director of the Washington County Redevelopment Authority which operates the 401-acre airport southwest of Washington in North and South Franklin townships, said the incident occurred at sunset and resulted in the closure of the airport for about an hour.

Pilot Dean Gutzwiller, who was returning home from a trip to Charleston, W.Va., was alone in the four-seat, single-engine Cessna 182 Skylane at 7:25 p.m. when it came down.

McGowen, a former U.S. Navy pilot, said failure to deploy landing gear occurs because “usually something distracts you, like other traffic in the area or the sun in your eyes.”

There is no air traffic control tower at the Washington County Airport, but officials immediately issued a notice to airmen and notified Pittsburgh Approach control about the closure.

“Pittsburgh Approach is typically talking to the airplanes that are closest to us,” said Scott Gray, executive director of the Washington County Airport.

North Franklin and South Franklin volunteer fire companies, Washington County emergency services and state police responded, using flashing lights to warn aviators of trouble on the ground.

“They were Johnny on the spot,” McGowen said, noting that the crews also used spotlights as they put rigging on the plane so a crane could lift it and have the landing gear dropped so the airport’s fixed-based operator, Skyward Aviation, could tow the Cessna from the runway.

Gray said two pilots had planned to land just after the Cessna. One plane waited at the Allegheny County Airport while another was at Rostraver Airport. Both landed at the Washington County Airport after it reopened at 8:50 p.m.

“We will investigate this,” said Tim Peters, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in New York City, whose initial information called the incident a “gear-up landing.”

FAA records show the Cessna Skyward is owned by David A. Miller, an attorney in Palmer, Texas. A message left for him was not immediately returned. - Observer Reporter.

Plane crash lands at Chesterfield County Airport, Virginia  

An airplane made a crash landing at the Chesterfield County Airport last Wednesday after its landing gear failed. 

The crash involved a single-engine Piper aircraft that had taken off from Chesterfield and was returning after a flight.

The landing gear collapsed, causing the aircraft to slide to a stop.

The crash occurred around 11:45 a.m. on the airport’s main runway. There were no injuries to the pilot, but the plane’s fuselage and propeller were damaged in the crash. The crash remains under investigation. - Chesterfield Observer.

Pilot, passenger escape injury in Cherokee County crash-landing in Oklahoma

Plane. Courtesy/Oklahoma Highway Patrol

Two people aboard a small plane escaped injury during a crash-landing in rural Cherokee County early Tuesday, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported.

The plane partially landed in a pond near North 387 Road and 660 Road about 1:30 a.m., trooper Dwight Durant said.

The plane was occupied by pilot Mark Button, 49, of Missouri, and Shaun Besson, 31, of Wisconsin, the OHP reported.

Durant said the plane was on its way to Tulsa from Alabama. The men told authorities Button was going to drop off Besson so he could pick up a car.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash. - Tulsa World.

FIRE IN THE SKY: NASA's Asteroid Hunter NEOWISE Has Made 72 New Discoveries Of 439 Near-Earth Objects In Two Years - 8 Of Them Have Been Classified As POTENTIALLY HAZARDOUS ASTEROIDS! [VIDEO]

© NASA / Instagram

April 6, 2016 - SPACE - NASA’s asteroid hunting spacecraft, NEOWISE, has made 72 new discoveries of near-Earth objects since it re-started its mission in December 2013.

The Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) has characterized a total of 439 near-Earth objects (NEOs) including asteroids and comets over the two-year period, according to the latest survey data release. Most of these had been identified previously.

Eight of those discovered in the past year have been classified as potentially hazardous asteroids based on their size and proximity to Earth.

The survey uses infrared to detect and characterize the NEOs and has measured more than 19,000 asteroids and comets at infrared wavelengths.

"By studying the distribution of lighter and darker-colored material, NEOWISE data gives us a better understanding of the origins of the NEOs, originating from either different parts of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter or the icier comet populations,"
said James Bauer, the mission’s deputy principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The spacecraft was originally launched in December 2009 under the name Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) but was placed in hibernation in 2011 after its primary mission was completed.

It was relaunched at the end of 2013 with a new name (NEOWISE) and a new mission -  to assist NASA's efforts to identify the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects.

WATCH: Two Years of NEOWISE Asteroid Data.

- RT.

MONUMENTAL DELUGE: The Latest Reports Of High Tides, Heavy Rainfall, Flash Floods, Sea Level Rise, Widespread Flooding, And Catastrophic Storms - Pakistan Death Toll From Floods Rise To 92, 77 Others Injured, 23 Missing In Landslide, Over 1,200 Homes Damaged; Deadly Floods In Viti Levu, Fiji As Tropical Cyclone Zena Approaches; Tidal Flood Events In Miami Beach Increased by 400 Percent in 10 Years! [PHOTOS + VIDEO]

Men collect their belongings from their makshift shop which was damaged by flood water after heavy rain on the outskirts of Peshawar. © Fayaz Aziz / Reuters

April 6, 2016 - EARTH - The following list constitutes the latest reports of high tides, heavy rainfall, flash floods, widespread flooding, sea level rise and catastrophic storms.

Pakistan Death Toll From Floods Rise To 92, 77 Others Injured, 23 Missing in Landslide, Over 1,200 Homes Damaged

Disaster management authorities in Pakistan say that the death toll from the continuing heavy rains and floods that began on 02 April 2016 has now increased to 92. As many as 77 people have been injured and over 1,200 homes damaged.

At least 65 of the fatalities occurred in the worst hit province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Shangla floods, Pakistan, April 2016. Photo: PDMA

The figure is likely to rise further after a devastating landslide struck in upper Kohistan Valley area early on Monday 04 April, 2016.

It is believed that around 30 people have been buried in the landslide. As of Tuesday, rescuers had recovered 2 bodies and rescued 5 injured from the buried houses. At least 23 people are still missing.

Landslide in Kohistan, Pakistan, April 2016. Photo: PDMA

Fifteen of the 92 fatalities occurred in Gilgit-Baltistan province and 12 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) said that, between 02 and 03 April, at least 4 locations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded the highest ever amounts of rain seen in a 24 hour period.

The rain has eased over the last 2 days.

According to PMD figures, the only location to receive any significant rainfall is Parachinar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where 35.4 mm has been recorded so far today.

However, PMD warn there is more rain likely from Saturday 09 April to Monday 11 April.

The bridge was swept away by flash flooding in Lower Dir leaving many villagers stranded as the nearest crossing is more than 15km (9 miles) away.


In their weather advisory earlier today, PMD said:

“Rain-thunderstorm is expected at scattered place in Northeast Balochistan (Quetta, Zhob, Kalat, Sibbi, Naseerabad divisions) during Friday (evening) to Sunday.

“Rain-thunderstorm associated with gusty winds is expected at scattered place in FATA, upper KP (Malakand, Hazara, Peshawar, Mardan, Kohat, Bannu divisions), Gilgit-Baltistan, Kashmir from Friday (night) to Monday. Islamabad and upper Punjab (Sargodha, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala divisions) during Saturday to Monday.

“Rain-thunderstorm is also expected at isolated place in D.I.Khan, D.G.Khan, Multan, Faisalabad, Lahore & Sahiwal divisions during Saturday/ Sunday.”

Deadly Floods in Viti Levu, Fiji as Tropical Cyclone Zena Approaches

Several days of torrential rain brought by an unnamed tropical disturbance resulted in deadly floods in parts of Fiji earlier this week.

Local media report that at least one person has died and another is missing. The body of a man was found in the overflowing Sabeto River, Viti Levu island, on Tuesday 05 April, 2016. A 19 year old girl is reported missing after she was washed away by strong river currents, prompting the government of Fiji to issue a warning regarding safety around flood water:

“To all parents, its important that you know the whereabouts of your children and monitor their movement. We’ve seen too much complacency in the last few days with children, teenagers and adults swimming in flooded areas. It’s dangerous to venture out in flooded waters so please be safe and move to higher grounds or safe shelters.”

Fiji’s largest and most populous island, Viti Levu, was worst affected, in particular the city of Nadi, where streets and homes were inundated after the Nadi River overflowed on Monday 04 April.

On 05 April, Fiji’s Ministry of National Disaster Management urged people to move from flood-prone areas.

“Families living in flood-prone areas need to move to the nearest evacuation centre immediately. Farmers and business houses should move their livestock to higher ground and secure their property. All families should make sure they have essential supplies available such as water, batteries and first aid materials and all Fijians should limit their movement and remain indoors,” said the Permanent Secretary for National Disaster Management, Mr Meleti Bainimarama.

Radio New Zealand reported that at, as of 05 April, least 3,500 were evacuated into 79 emergency shelters in north and west Viti Levu. This figure has since increased as a result of the threat of Cyclone Zena.

Recovery After Cyclone Winston
The floods come 2 months after the devastation caused by Cyclone Winston, the strongest ever to hit Fiji, which left over 40 people dead.

Save the Children Fiji CEO Iris Low-McKenzie said flash flooding was the last thing needed for those affected by Cyclone Winston.

“These rains make life so much more difficult for those still living in temporary shelter, who are working each day to rebuild their homes and lives,” she said.

“It’s also detrimental for the humanitarian response as roads become harder to pass, and in some cases access is temporarily stopped.

“But flash flooding like this is a reality in a tropical country like Fiji and we will continue doing everything we can to help the people of Fiji recover and get life back to normal.”

Tropical Cyclone Zena
Fiji Meteorological Service warned there is more severe weather to come, as Tropical Cyclone Zena is forecast to move towards southern Fiji and Tonga.

Forecast track of Tropical Cyclone Zena. Image: Fiji Meteorological Service

Earlier today the cyclone made landfall on the islands of Espiritu Santo, Aoba and Pentecost, Vanuatu, with sustained wind speeds of up to 85 km/h.

The cyclone is expected to bring heavy rain and strong winds to most of the Fiji islands. Over 100 mm of rain in 24 hours was recorded in Vunisea, Kadavu island, between 05 and 06 April.

Cyclone Zena warnings. Image; Fiji Government

Many flights have been cancelled, schools closed and further evacuations carried out. Local media report that over 6,000 people have now evacuated their homes. Around 200 evacuation centres have been opened by authorities to accommodate those displaced.

Tidal Flood Events in Miami Beach Increased by 400 Percent in 10 Years

A new study by a team of scientists has found that tidal flooding in Miami Beach has increased by 400% in the last decade. Rain induced flood events have also increased significantly.
The University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science-led study found that Miami Beach flood events have significantly increased due to an acceleration of sea-level rise in South Florida.

Our analysis indicates that significant changes in flooding frequency occurred after 2006, in which rain-induced events increased by 33% and tide-induced events increased by more than 400%

To quantify the flood hazard in Miami Beach, the UM Rosenstiel School researchers analyzed tide and rain-gauge records, media reports, insurance claims, and photos of flooding events on Miami Beach and in Miami since 2006. The insurance claims and media reports helped the researchers pinpoint the date and type of flood events.

“Our results show that the effect of sea-level rise is real and affecting the daily life of people living in low-lying coastal communities, such as Miami Beach,” said Shimon Wdowinski, UM Rosenstiel School research professor of marine geosciences, and lead author of the study.

Sea Level Rise
The results showed that the flooding frequency in Miami Beach has significantly increased after 2006 mainly due to increasing number of high-tide flooding events.
The increased flooding frequency coincides with acceleration in the rate of sea level rise in South Florida. The average rate of sea-level rise increased by 6 mm per year over the last decade – from 3 mm per year before 2006 to 9 mm per year after 2006.

The researchers suggest that regional sea-level projections should be used in place of global projections to better prepare for future flood hazards in the region.

The study also provides new evidence that connects the weakening of the Gulf Stream with sea-level rise along the US Atlantic coast.

Florida is one of the most vulnerable areas to sea-level rise due to its low elevation, large population concentrations, and economic importance. Accelerated rates of sea-level rise have caused a significant increase in flooding frequency in several coastal communities in Florida.

About the Study
The study, titled “Increasing flooding hazard in coastal communities due to rising sea level: Case study of Miami Beach, Florida,” was published in the June 2016 issue, Vol. 126 of the journal Ocean and Coastal Management.
The study’s authors include: Shimon Wdowinski, Ronald Bray and Ben P. Kirtman from the UM Rosenstiel School; and Zhaohua Wu from Florida State University.

The study was supported by a grant from NASA.

- Floodlist.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong 6.0 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Indian Ocean, South Of Bandung, Indonesia - USGS! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location.

April 6, 2016 - INDONESIA - The earthquake, which struck at 9:45 p.m. on Wednesday, was centered 152 kilometers southwest of Tasikmalaya, or 163 kilometers south of Bandung.

It struck about 10 kilometers deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The USGS measured the earthquake at a preliminary 6.0, said there was no tsunami threat as a result of the tremor.

The earthquake was felt throughout parts of Java Island but there was no immediate word on whether it had caused any damage or casualties.

USGS shakemap intensity.

Indonesia is on the so-called 'Pacific Ring of Fire', an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent and large earthquakes.

In December 2004, a magnitude-9.1 tremor, one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, struck off the west coast of Sumatra, unleashing a massive tsunami that struck scores of countries in the region and killed at least 227,898 people. - BNO News [Edited].

Seismotectonics of the Sumatra Region

The plate boundary southwest of Sumatra is part of a long tectonic collision zone that extends over 8000 km from Papua in the east to the Himalayan front in the west. The Sumatra-Andaman portion of the collision zone forms a subduction zone megathrust plate boundary, the Sunda-Java trench, which accommodates convergence between the Indo-Australia and Sunda plates. This convergence is responsible for the intense seismicity and volcanism in Sumatra. The Sumatra Fault, a major transform structure that bisects Sumatra, accommodates the northwest-increasing lateral component of relative plate motion.

Relative plate motion between the Indo-Australia and Sunda plates is rapid, decreasing from roughly 63 mm/year near the southern tip of Sumatra (Australia relative to Sunda) to 44 mm/year north of Andaman Islands (India relative to Sunda) and rotating counterclockwise to the northwest, so that relative motion near Jakarta is nearly trench-normal but becomes nearly trench-parallel near Myanmar. As a result of the rotation in relative motion along the strike of the arc and the interaction of multiple tectonic plates, several interrelated tectonic elements compose the Sumatra-Andaman plate boundary. Most strain accumulation and release occurs along the Sunda megathrust of the main subduction zone, where lithosphere of the subducting Indo-Australia plate is in contact with the overlying Sunda plate down to a depth of 60 km. Strain release associated with deformation within the subducting slab is evidenced by deeper earthquakes that extend to depths of less than 300 km on Sumatra and 150 km or less along the Andaman Islands. The increasingly oblique convergence between these two plates moving northwest along the arc is accommodated by crustal seismicity along a series of transform and normal faults. East of the Andaman Islands, back- arc spreading in the Andaman Sea produces a zone of distributed normal and strike-slip faulting. Similar to the Sumatran Fault, the Sagaing Fault near Myanmar also accommodates the strike-slip component of oblique plate motion. Plate-boundary related deformation is also not restricted to the subduction zone and overriding plate: the subducting Indo-Australian plate actually comprises two somewhat independent plates (India and Australia), with small amounts of motion relative to one another, that are joined along a broad, actively-deforming region producing seismicity up to several hundred kilometers west of the trench. This deformation is exemplified by the recent April 2012 earthquake sequence, which includes the April 11 M 8.6 and M 8.2 strike-slip events and their subsequent aftershocks.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

Paleoseismic studies using coral reefs as a proxy for relative land level changes associated with earthquake displacement suggest that the Sunda arc has repeatedly ruptured during relatively large events in the past, with records extending as far back as the 10th century. In northern Simeulue Island, the southern terminus of the 2004 megathrust earthquake rupture area, a cluster of megathrust earthquakes occurred over a 56 year period between A.D. 1390 and 1455, resulting in uplift substantially greater than that caused by the 2004 event. Studies that look at large sheeted deposits of sand on land interpreted as the transport of debris from a tsunami wave also indicate that this region has experienced significant tsunamis in the past centuries, albeit infrequently.

Prior to 2004, the most recent megathrust earthquakes along the Sumatran-Andaman plate boundary were in 1797 (M 8.7-8.9), 1833 (M 8.9-9.1) and 1861 (M8.5). Since 2004, much of the Sunda megathrust between the northern Andaman Islands and Enggano Island, a distance of more than 2,000 km, has ruptured in a series of large subduction zone earthquakes - most rupturing the plate boundary south of Banda Aceh. The great M 9.1 earthquake of December 26, 2004, which produced a devastating tsunami, ruptured much of the boundary between Myanmar and Simeulue Island offshore Banda Aceh. Immediately to the south of the great 2004 earthquake, the M 8.6 Nias Island earthquake of March 28, 2005 ruptured a 400-km section between Simeulue and the Batu Islands. Farther south in the Mentawai islands, two earthquakes on September 12, 2007 of M 8.5 and M 7.9 occurred in the southern portion of the estimated 1797 and 1833 ruptures zone, which extends from approximately Enggano Island to the northern portion of Siberut Island. Smaller earthquakes have also been locally important: a M 7.6 rupture within the subducting plate caused considerable damage in Padang in 2009, and a M 7.8 rupture on October 25, 2010 occurred on the shallow portion of the megathrust to the west of the Mentawai Islands, and caused a substantial tsunami on the west coast of those islands.

In addition to the current seismic hazards along this portion of the Sunda arc, this region is also recognized as having one of the highest volcanic hazards in the world. One of the most dramatic eruptions in human history was the Krakatau eruption on August 26-27, 1883, a volcano just to the southeast of the island of Sumatra, which resulted in over 35, 000 casualties.

Subduction and seismicity along the plate boundary adjacent to Java is fundamentally different from that of the Sumatran-Andaman section. Relative motion along the Java arc is trench-normal (approximately 65-70 mm/year) and does not exhibit the same strain partitioning and back-arc strike- slip faulting that are observed along the Sumatra margin. Neither has the Java subduction zone hosted similar large magnitude megathrust events to those of its neighbor, at least in documented history. Although this region is not as seismically active as the Sumatra region, the Java arc has hosted low to intermediate-magnitude extensional earthquakes and deep-focus (300-700 km) events and exhibits a similar if not higher volcanic hazard. This arc has also hosted two large, shallow tsunami earthquakes in the recent past which resulted in high tsunami run-ups along the southern Java coast. - USGS.


EXTREME WEATHER: More Signs Of Increasing Magnetic Polar Migration - Two Killed By Lightning Strikes In India!

April 6, 2016 - INDIA - Two persons were killed by lightning in separate incidents in the district on Tuesday evening.

Shankaramma (25), a resident of Vithal Nagar village in Shikaripur taluk, who had been to the farm on the outskirts of the village to harvest coriander crops, was killed when she was struck by lightning.

Four other women working with her have been admitted to the government hospital in Shikaripur town.

Lightning also claimed another life in Muddinakoppa village. Shafi Ahmed, a resident of Bapuji Nagar in the city, was waiting below a tree when the incident took place. Afeez, a friend of the deceased, was also injured. - The Hindu.

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Continues Relentlessly - April Snowstorm Shattered Record In Syracuse, New York!

Runners walk past Firemen's Park to the start of the race. The Syracuse Half Marathon 2016, Sunday April 3, 2016.© Michael Greenlar

April 6, 2016 - NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - The snowstorm that swept through Central New York was a record-smasher.

In Syracuse, 6.6 inches of snow fell Sunday. That sets a new record for the snowiest April 3; the previous record was 2.5 inches, set in 1937.

Sunday also ranks as the fourth-snowiest April day on record in Syracuse. The most was 10.5 inches, on April 2, 2013.

Normal snowfall for the month of April in Syracuse is 3.8 inches.

Sunday's snow puts Syracuse ahead in the national Golden Snow Globe race. Syracuse edged past Lakewood, Colorado.

Through Sunday, Syracuse has had 79 inches. The normal for the entire season is about 124 inches. - Syracuse.

PARADIGM SHIFT: Precursors To The End Of The United States Corporation And The White Supremacy Paradigm - China's Alibaba Surpasses Walmart As The Largest Retail Company In The World!

April 6, 2016 - CHINA - We may not have the exact numbers yet, but in a filing with the SEC on Tuesday, China's online retail behemoth Alibaba Group announced that it had "become the largest retail economy in the world" at the end of its fiscal year on March 31, "as measured by gross merchandise volume (GMV) on its China retail marketplaces."

As IBT notes, the company has yet to declare its financial results for its last quarter and the complete fiscal year, but the announcement makes it clear that BABA surpassed the $482.1 billion in 2015 revenues reported by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for its fiscal year ended Jan. 31. To wit:
Alibaba Group Holding Limited announced on April 5, 2016 that as of March 31, the end of its fiscal year 2016, it has become the largest retail economy in the world as measured by annual gross merchandise volume (GMV) on its China retail marketplaces. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has performed agreed upon procedures on data relevant to Alibaba Group’s GMV
As a reminder, two weeks prior to the SEC filing, Alibaba’s Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai announced in a blog post on March 21 that with 10 days remaining in our fiscal year ending March 2016, Alibaba's China retail marketplace platforms surpassed RMB 3 trillion [yuan] in GMV.

That is about [$]476 billion in U.S. dollars and,
if the platforms we operate were a province, we would rank as the 6th largest provincial economy in China."

Inferring a full year's revenue from that number suggests that Alibaba closed the books with roughly $490 billion, or about $8 billion in sales more than America's flagship discount retailer.

According to another statement from Alibaba, its online trading volume had reached about 10 percent of the total retail volume in China and directly generated 15 million jobs as well.

"We used 13 years to demonstrate the power of a different business model compared with brick-and-mortar retailers,” the statement said, according to the China Daily.

For now WMT's market cap remains modestly bigger, even if BABA's LTM multiple of 19x is about 4 turns greater than Wal-mart's. As for the $275 billion Amazon, well that's a different story entirely...

- Zero Hedge.


EXTREME WEATHER: News Team Saves Man From Raging Inferno While Chasing Oklahoma Wildfires - Oklahoma Forestry Services Issues RED FLAG ALERT, Warning To Residents; At Least 27,500 ACRES Already Destroyed! [VIDEO]

April 6, 2016 - OKLAHOMA, UNITED STATES - US storm-chasing duo Amy and Val Castor dramatically rescued a tractor driver who was almost engulfed by the fiery jaws of death during an Oklahoma inferno.

The pair were tracking the extreme wildfires sweeping the midwest for KWTV News 9, when they came face to face with a wall of flames.

The footage begins with the TV crew sitting in a car recording a large grass fire in Woods County, northwest Oklahoma as a tractor driver in front desperately tries to maneuver his vehicle away from the advancing flames.

With the tractor becoming caught on the roadside verge, the reporters can be heard frantically signalling to the man to abandon the machine and run.

The fire then begins to swallow the farm vehicle, as the driver sprints to the safety of the Castor car.

Video of the terrifying incident shows the stormchasers narrowly avoiding death themselves by putting their vehicle into a rapid reverse.

WATCH: TV crew helps man escape Oklahoma wildfires.

Oklahoma Forestry Services has issued a red flag alert, warning residents that “critical fire weather is on-going and conditions are favorable for rapid fire growth”.

Strong winds and low levels of humidity in the state have led to dry ground conditions, with the forest management division urging extreme caution when handling anything that might cause a spark.

#‎OFSFireResponse‬ Briefing map of 350 Complex fire in Woodward Co taken at 0500. Polygon shows the fire to be roughly 27,500 acres.
Facebook: Oklahoma Forestry Services

The warnings come as emergency services battle to contain fires that have already destroyed at least 27,500 acres of land, report Oklahoma City’s KOCO News 5.
- RT.

ICE AGE NOW & GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: April Cold Threatens "SIGNIFICANT LOSSES" Of Fruit Crop In Northeastern United States - As Another Cold Wave Invade Midwest And Eastern States This Weekend! [VIDEO]

In this photo taken in Syracuse, New York, on April 3, 2016, a female cardinal takes in the wintry scene with snow on blossoming trees. (Photo/Grayson Jones)

April 6, 2016 - UNITED STATES - Ongoing waves of cold during early April are taking a toll on fruit tree blossoms in parts of the northeastern United States.

Farmers are holding their breath as they wait out the cold to inspect the impact on trees and vines.

The combination of a very mild winter, above-average temperatures during March and the most recent bout of below-freezing temperatures have caused damage to some fruit crops.

"The amount of damage varies from orchard to orchard and from tree to tree," according to Jason Coopey, co-owner of Way Fruit Farm in Stormstown, Pennsylvania.

Coopey stated that thus far apricots and plums have sustained the most damage, but overall his orchards, which are on the tops of hills have fared better than some locations farther south and east and those located in valleys, where the cold air tends to settle.

"We expect significant losses, 90-100 percent of peaches and plums, now at full bloom," according to Chris Harner, of Harner Farms in State College, Pennsylvania.

"Apples are farther behind [in central Pennsylvania] but are entering sensitive stages where we can have damage or loss," Harner said.

Fruit trees in the blossoming stage, as opposed to budding, are very susceptible to damage with temperatures in the middle to upper 20s.

According to the Fruit Tree Production Guide, compiled by the Pennsylvania State University, a 90 percent kill of apples, cherries and peaches can occur with temperatures of about 25 F for 30 minutes.

However, the damage at specific temperatures varies from variety to variety.

Additional waves of cold air will follow through the second weekend of April.

A warmup prior to the end of the week could do more harm than good. The brief warmup could push some trees on the verge to blossom and vines to bud break before cold returns.

"The prior warmth is what contributed to blossoming of some trees three to four weeks ahead of average," Coopey said.

There were some days in southern and eastern Pennsylvania, Virginia and New Jersey, where temperatures jumped into the 70s to near 80.

As of late March, the weather has remained chilly enough in much of the New York state Finger Lakes region to prevent or limit bud break of most varieties of grapes, according to Cornell University.

However, the cold blast in mid-February, which was surrounded by mild conditions much of the winter, caused significant damage to some non-native varieties of grapes in the Finger Lakes region. Low temperatures during the outbreak dipped to between minus 18 to minus 8 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fresh snow and single-digit temperatures gripped the Lake Seneca, New York, area Tuesday morning, April 5, 2016. (Photo/Timothy Merwarth)

"As long as temperatures stay where they are projected, we should be okay," according to Timothy Merwarth, of Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard located in Dundee, New York.

Grape growers will utilize wind machines and bonfires where practical, as needed, during cold waves.

There is concern for damage from the cold to vineyards, similar to fruit trees, farther south in the mid-Atlantic region since bud break was further along farther south.

Another cold wave will invade the Midwest and Eastern states this weekend.

"Moderate cold with a little wind is okay and better than a heavy frost with very low temperatures," Coopey said.

The full scope of the damage may not be realized until the trees and vines are setting fruit later this spring. - AccuWeather.

WATCH: Frost Damaged Fruit Crops and Snow Records Doubled Across USA.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Nuclear Expert Arnie Gundersen Says "I've Learned There's A Huge Spike In Death Rates In Fukushima For Young Children" - This Is Being Covered Up By Japanese Authorities; Doctor's Who Treat Patients Suffering From Radiation Illness Are Being Put Out Of Business!

A child is screened for radiation exposure at a testing center in Koriyama city, Fukushima Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, after a nuclear power plant
on the coast of the prefecture was damaged by an earthquake, March 15, 2011. (AP / Wally Santana)

April 6, 2016 - JAPAN - The following is taken from the Fairewinds Japan Speaking Tour Series No. 5 featuring nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen on March 18, 2016 (emphasis added):

Excerpt 1
Gundersen: “I’ve been reflecting a lot over the last week and a half about what the trip meant to me personally and what I learned… The first thing is [the people are] terribly concerned about their country and concerned about their children… The second thing is the inhumanity of the Japanese government, the Japanese utilities and the Japanese banks toward their own population. I’m just appalled at how the power structure in Japan is ignoring what its people want and basically ramming nukes down the throat of their population… I think [the media sources in Japan] still feel pressure under that State Secrets Act. Nobody wants to push too hard against [Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's] administration. As a matter of fact, one of Abe’s prime key ministers came out and said twice now that if… the media doesn’t say what the administration wants them to say, they’re going to pull their licenses.

Excerpt 2

Gundersen: “The one thing I learned when I was in the resettlement communities [of people evacuated after the Fukushima nuclear crisis began] is that they’ve all been told that there will be no resettlement communities by the time the Olympics start. The plan is to move people back into their homes in the contaminated areas, or to move them somewhere else in Japan to permanent homes”… (Maggie Gundersen, founded of Fairewinds Energy Education:) “I was devastated when I saw some of the pictures that you took in Japan, Arnie… these temporary housings – just look like military barracks on bare pavement – is horrific for the people who have been stuck there… And now to hide the radiation – extensive radiation – that’s there and re-depositing in the already cleaned areas from snowmelt and flooding and rain, and to say it’s okay and send everyone back is a death sentence to all these families and children and grandchildren.

Excerpt 3

Gundersen: Yeah, let me get back to the first thing I said about the inhumanity toward their own people. We had doctors tell us when they treated somebody for radiation illness, if they put radiation illness on the hospital forms, the government refused to pay. So doctors were literally going out of business because they were doing their job and treating people. But the other thing I learned on the last day of the trip was that there’s a huge spike in the death rates within Fukushima Prefecture for young children compared to what it was in previous years. But that story has been stifled by the Japanese medical and government agencies. Nobody’s publishing the data that the Japanese have been publishing for years leading up to the disaster. So where are the death data on Fukushima Prefecture? And the answer is it hasn’t been published because the Japanese government doesn’t want it out there. When you control the medical community, the epidemiological data that you need to prove a case is really, really difficult. I think Fairewinds did a good job in the time we were over there getting sample data with a group of scientists that may affect the way the world looks at the disaster. But the other half of that is, you’ve got to get the doctors on board to report honestly what they’re seeing. And the medical community is even more under the thumb of the Abe regime than is the press. It’s very depressing… (Maggie Gundersen:) I want to let you know that Arnie and other scientists are working on some really significant studies from samples that scientists have taken in Japan… Fairewinds will be participating in a report that will be issued on this and we will keep you up to date. It takes time to do this testing, but as soon as it’s ready, it will be publicized.

Full recorded interview available here

- ENE News.

ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Continues Relentlessly - Record Cold Temperatures Sweep Into U.S. Northeast; Another Arctic Blast On The Way!

April 6, 2016 - UNITED STATES - Record cold temperatures for early April have swept into some Northeast and Great Lakes cities to begin this week. Subzero readings were even observed near the Canadian border in northern Michigan, northern New York and northern Maine Tuesday morning.

More record cold is possible on Wednesday morning in the Northeast. Then the cold will become more expansive late this week due to yet another southward dip in the jet stream which will allow more arctic air to push south from Canada.

Current Temperatures

Below are more details on the record cold to start this week and then a look at the next round of arctic air arriving late in the week.

Record Cold Early This Week
On Tuesday morning a number of locations in the Northeast and Great Lakes set new daily record lows for April 5. This includes Marquette, Michigan (7 degrees below zero), Concord, New Hampshire (4 degrees), Glens Falls, New York (7 degrees), Syracuse, New York (9 degrees), Binghamton, New York (12 degrees) and Watertown, New York (12 degrees - tie), Albany, New York (14 degrees) and Rochester, New York (14 degrees). Syracuse crushed its previous daily record low for April 5 of 15 degrees set in 1982 and also tied its second coldest April day on record. In Concord, the low of 4 degrees is a record low for the entire month of April.

In addition to those record lows, several locations on Monday saw record cold high temperatures. Among those cities are Concord, New Hampshire (26 degrees), Hartford, Connecticut (27 degrees), Portland, Maine (25 degrees), Providence, Rhode Island (31 degrees), and Worcester, Massachusetts (22 degrees).

More record lows are possible Wednesday morning in the Northeast, including (current record is in parenthesis):
  • Potential record lows Wednesday: Boston (20 degrees); Concord, New Hampshire (14 degrees); Bangor, Maine (15 degrees); Providence, Rhode Island (20 degrees); Worcester, Massachusetts (15 degrees);  Atlantic City, New Jersey (25 degrees).
Much of Northeast will once again see wind chills in the single digits and teens Wednesday morning. In addition, freeze warnings extend from parts of the mid-Atlantic and Ohio Valley to North Carolina. Frost advisories have also been issued for parts of South Carolina and far east-central Georgia.

Late Week Arctic Cold
Another significant blast of cold air will impact much of the Midwest and East late this week, as another southward dip in the jet stream is expected sweep across those regions.

Weather Pattern Late This Week

Below-average temperatures will return to the Midwest on Thursday, with even colder conditions expected across the Midwest on Friday. The chilly conditions will also begin to expand into parts of the Northeast and southward into portions of the South on Friday.

Highs will be 10 to 25 degrees colder than average on Friday for much of the Midwest. Highs will once again only reach the 30s and 40s for the Midwest, with 50s in the Ohio Valley.

 Forecast Highs

Chilly temperatures will stretch from the Northeast into the Great Lakes and parts of the Southeast on Saturday. High temperatures will be up to 25 degrees below average for numerous locations east of the Mississippi River. The Northeast will only see highs climb into the 30s and 40s, with 50s in parts of the Southeast.

Low temperatures will also be colder than average and a few daily record lows cannot be ruled out Sunday morning in the Midwest and Northeast.

A few cities that could set new record lows include (current record is in parenthesis):
  • Potential record lows Sunday: New York (28 degrees); Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (26 degrees); Buffalo, New York (19 degrees); Erie, Pennsylvania (22 degrees); Detroit (20 degrees); Cincinnati (23 degrees); Indianapolis (23 degrees); Traverse City, Michigan (13 degrees).
Temperatures may drop into the 30s in many areas in the Tennessee Valley and Southeast. A frost or a freeze is even possible this weekend in parts of the mid-South.

Forecast AM Lows

- Weather Underground.

WORLD WAR Z: Plagues And Pestilences - Zika Virus Mystery Deepens With Evidence Of Nerve Cell Infections?!

Zika virus is not usually life-threatening but has been linked to a rise in birth defects (AFP Photo)

April 6, 2016 - HEALTH - Top Zika investigators now believe that the birth defect microcephaly and the paralyzing Guillain-Barre syndrome may be just the most obvious maladies caused by the mosquito-borne virus.

Fueling that suspicion are recent discoveries of serious brain and spinal cord infections - including encephalitis, meningitis and myelitis - in people exposed to Zika.

Evidence that Zika's damage may be more varied and widespread than initially believed adds pressure on affected countries to control mosquitoes and prepare to provide intensive - and, in some cases, lifelong - care to more patients. The newly suspected disorders can cause paralysis and permanent disability - a clinical outlook that adds urgency to vaccine development efforts.

Scientists are of two minds about why these new maladies have come into view. The first is that, as the virus is spreading through such large populations, it is revealing aspects of Zika that went unnoticed in earlier outbreaks in remote and sparsely populated areas. The second is that the newly detected disorders are more evidence that the virus has evolved.

"What we're seeing are the consequences of this virus turning from the African strain to a pandemic strain," said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

 (AFP Photo)

The Zika outbreak was first detected in Brazil last year and is spreading through the Americas. It has been linked to thousands of suspected cases of microcephaly, a typically rare birth defect marked by unusually small head size, signaling a problem with brain development. Evidence linking Zika to microcephaly prompted the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency in February.

The suspicion that Zika acts directly on nerve cells began with autopsies on aborted and stillborn fetuses showing the virus replicating in brain tissues. In addition to microcephaly, researchers reported finding other abnormalities linked with Zika including fetal deaths, placental insufficiency, fetal growth retardation and injury to the central nervous system.

Doctors also are worried that Zika exposure in utero may have hidden effects, such as behavioral problems or learning disabilities, that are not apparent at birth.

"If you have a virus that is toxic enough to produce microcephaly in someone, you could be sure that it will produce a whole series of conditions that we haven't even begun to understand," said Dr. Alberto de la Vega, an obstetrician at San Juan's University Hospital in Puerto Rico.

First discovered in the Zika forest of Uganda in 1947, the virus circulated quietly in Africa and Asia, causing rare infections and producing mild symptoms. A 2013 outbreak in French Polynesia, the largest at that time, led researchers to make the Guillain-Barre link. Other neurological effects were noted but scientists made little of them at the time.

Mosquito-transmitted Zika infection has been linked to increased rates of microcephaly in babies born to infected mothers (AFP Photo/Luis Robayo)

A rare and poorly understood condition, Guillain-Barre can weaken muscles and cause temporary paralysis, often requiring patients to need respirators to breathe.

An estimated 32,000 people in the French Polynesia Zika outbreak were infected, and 42 patients were confirmed to have Guillain-Barre, a 20-fold increase in incidence over the previous four years, the WHO reported. Another 32 patients had other neurological disorders, including encephalitis, meningoencephalitis, myelitis and facial paralysis.

Guillain-Barre is an autoimmune disorder, in which the body attacks itself in the aftermath of an infection. But the newly discovered brain and spinal cord infections are known to be caused by a different mechanism - a direct attack on nerve cells. That has prompted scientists to consider whether the Zika virus also may infect nerves directly in adults, as they already have suspected in fetuses.

In medical journals published last month, doctors described neurological syndromes in two patients that they attributed to Zika. Doctors in Paris diagnosed meningoencephalitis, an infection of both the brain and spinal cord, in an 81-year-old man who was hospitalized after being exposed to Zika on a cruise.

Another French team reported acute myelitis, a paralyzing infection of the spinal cord, in a 15-year-old girl who had been infected with Zika on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. - Yahoo.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Powerful 6.9 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Northwest Of Vanuatu Islands, Pacific Ocean - No Tsunami Warning! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location.

April 6, 2016 - VANUATU ISLANDS - An earthquake of magnitude 6.9 has struck near the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, the US Geological Survey (USGS) says.

The earthquake struck 109km west-south-west of Sola, Vanuatu, at 6.58pm (NZT) at a depth of 33.7 km, the USGS said.

USGS earthquake location.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre did not issue a Pacific-wide tsunami warning.

"Based on all available data a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected," the centre said.

USGS shakemap intensity.

A similarly-sized quake struck the same area on Sunday without causing any damage. - Stuff.

Seismotectonics of the Eastern Margin of the Australia Plate

The eastern margin of the Australia plate is one of the most sesimically active areas of the world due to high rates of convergence between the Australia and Pacific plates. In the region of New Zealand, the 3000 km long Australia-Pacific plate boundary extends from south of Macquarie Island to the southern Kermadec Island chain. It includes an oceanic transform (the Macquarie Ridge), two oppositely verging subduction zones (Puysegur and Hikurangi), and a transpressive continental transform, the Alpine Fault through South Island, New Zealand.

Since 1900 there have been 15 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded near New Zealand. Nine of these, and the four largest, occurred along or near the Macquarie Ridge, including the 1989 M8.2 event on the ridge itself, and the 2004 M8.1 event 200 km to the west of the plate boundary, reflecting intraplate deformation. The largest recorded earthquake in New Zealand itself was the 1931 M7.8 Hawke's Bay earthquake, which killed 256 people. The last M7.5+ earthquake along the Alpine Fault was 170 years ago; studies of the faults' strain accumulation suggest that similar events are likely to occur again.

North of New Zealand, the Australia-Pacific boundary stretches east of Tonga and Fiji to 250 km south of Samoa. For 2,200 km the trench is approximately linear, and includes two segments where old (greater than 120 Myr) Pacific oceanic lithosphere rapidly subducts westward (Kermadec and Tonga). At the northern end of the Tonga trench, the boundary curves sharply westward and changes along a 700 km-long segment from trench-normal subduction, to oblique subduction, to a left lateral transform-like structure.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

Australia-Pacific convergence rates increase northward from 60 mm/yr at the southern Kermadec trench to 90 mm/yr at the northern Tonga trench; however, significant back arc extension (or equivalently, slab rollback) causes the consumption rate of subducting Pacific lithosphere to be much faster. The spreading rate in the Havre trough, west of the Kermadec trench, increases northward from 8 to 20 mm/yr. The southern tip of this spreading center is propagating into the North Island of New Zealand, rifting it apart. In the southern Lau Basin, west of the Tonga trench, the spreading rate increases northward from 60 to 90 mm/yr, and in the northern Lau Basin, multiple spreading centers result in an extension rate as high as 160 mm/yr. The overall subduction velocity of the Pacific plate is the vector sum of Australia-Pacific velocity and back arc spreading velocity: thus it increases northward along the Kermadec trench from 70 to 100 mm/yr, and along the Tonga trench from 150 to 240 mm/yr.

The Kermadec-Tonga subduction zone generates many large earthquakes on the interface between the descending Pacific and overriding Australia plates, within the two plates themselves and, less frequently, near the outer rise of the Pacific plate east of the trench. Since 1900, 40 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded, mostly north of 30°S. However, it is unclear whether any of the few historic M8+ events that have occurred close to the plate boundary were underthrusting events on the plate interface, or were intraplate earthquakes. On September 29, 2009, one of the largest normal fault (outer rise) earthquakes ever recorded (M8.1) occurred south of Samoa, 40 km east of the Tonga trench, generating a tsunami that killed at least 180 people.

Across the North Fiji Basin and to the west of the Vanuatu Islands, the Australia plate again subducts eastwards beneath the Pacific, at the North New Hebrides trench. At the southern end of this trench, east of the Loyalty Islands, the plate boundary curves east into an oceanic transform-like structure analogous to the one north of Tonga.

Australia-Pacific convergence rates increase northward from 80 to 90 mm/yr along the North New Hebrides trench, but the Australia plate consumption rate is increased by extension in the back arc and in the North Fiji Basin. Back arc spreading occurs at a rate of 50 mm/yr along most of the subduction zone, except near ~15°S, where the D'Entrecasteaux ridge intersects the trench and causes localized compression of 50 mm/yr in the back arc. Therefore, the Australia plate subduction velocity ranges from 120 mm/yr at the southern end of the North New Hebrides trench, to 40 mm/yr at the D'Entrecasteaux ridge-trench intersection, to 170 mm/yr at the northern end of the trench.

Large earthquakes are common along the North New Hebrides trench and have mechanisms associated with subduction tectonics, though occasional strike slip earthquakes occur near the subduction of the D'Entrecasteaux ridge. Within the subduction zone 34 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded since 1900. On October 7, 2009, a large interplate thrust fault earthquake (M7.6) in the northern North New Hebrides subduction zone was followed 15 minutes later by an even larger interplate event (M7.8) 60 km to the north. It is likely that the first event triggered the second of the so-called earthquake "doublet".

More information on regional seismicity and tectonics