Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.8 Earthquake hits South Island, New Zealand.

Cliffs have collapsed in New Zealand during an earthquake in the city of Christchurch on the South Island. Beaches to the east of Christchurch were busy with swimmers and surfers when rocks began to fall into the sea. No serious damage or fatalities were reported in the Valentine’s Day quake that struck at 13:13 local time (00.13 GMT).

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5.3 Earthquake hits Tonga.

5.1 Earthquake hits Oklahoma, USA.

5.1 Earthquake hits south of Java, Indonesia.

5.1 Earthquake hits Leyte, Philippines.

5.0 Earthquake hits Lake Baykal, Russia.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

Tropical cyclone 11p (Winston), located approximately 474 nm south-southwest of Suva, Fiji, is tracking east-southeastward at 13 knots.

Tropical cyclone 12p (Tatiana), located approximately 386 nm east-northeast of Brisbane, Australia, is tracking south-southwestward at 17 knots.

Tropical cyclone 13s (Uriah), located approximately 295 nm west-southwest of Cocos Island, Australia, is tracking west-southwestward at 11 knots.

NewsBytes:

UK – The Thames River burst its banks yesterday as heavy rain hit the UK, and there are 16 flood alerts put in place on the river by the Environment Agency. Parts of the UK are set to plummet to temperatures as low as -15C over the next few days, with some expecting considerable amounts of snow and flooding. Britain is set for up to four inches of snow over a freezing Valentine’s Day weekend, as cold showers are set to hit both the north and south of the country. The Met Office has issued yellow warning for snow and ice in the north of England and Scotland, and said that are a lot colder than normal for the time of year. Severe weather warnings have also been issued for large parts of northern Scotland warning drivers to take care in potentially hazardous conditions and to expect travel disruption.

Kenya – Three people died in Kajiado County on Friday night after flash floods wreaked havoc in the region. In the first incident, a man and his wife who were travelling in their personal car were swept away by flood waters at Kisaju area. Rescuers are still working to recover the body of the man. In a second incident, a Swedish tourist was swept away by raging flood waters at Kandisi area in Ongata Rongai. His body was recovered Saturday morning. Several rivers in Kajiado County have burst their banks following heavy rainfall in the region. Several goats and sheep were swept away by the flash floods ; houses and flower farms were also destroyed by the flooding. The heavy rains have also affected other parts of the country with Nairobi City, parts of central Kenya and the South Rift being most affected.

Wildlife

150,000 Antarctica penguins die after iceberg grounding: study

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Some 150,000 penguins died after a massive iceberg grounded near their colony in Antarctica, forcing them to make a lengthy trek to find food, scientists say in a newly-published study.

The B09B iceberg, measuring some 100 square kilometres (38.6 square miles), grounded in Commonwealth Bay in East Antarctica in December 2010, the researchers from Australia and New Zealand wrote in the Antarctic Science journal.

The Adelie penguin population at the bay’s Cape Denison was measured to be about 160,000 in February 2011 but by December 2013 it had plunged to an estimated 10,000, they said.

The iceberg’s grounding meant the penguins had to walk more than 60 kilometres (37 miles) to find food, impeding their breeding attempts, said the researchers from the University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) Climate Change Research Centre and New Zealand’s West Coast Penguin Trust.

During their census in December 2013, the researchers said “hundreds of abandoned eggs were noted, and the ground was littered with the freeze-dried carcasses of previous season’s chicks”.

“The ones that we saw at Cape Denison were incredibly docile, lethargic, almost unaware of your existence.

“The ones that are surviving are clearly struggling. They can barely survive themselves, let alone hatch the next generation. We saw lots of dead birds on the ground… it’s just heartbreaking to see.”

In contrast, penguins living on the eastern fringe of the bay just eight kilometres from the fast ice edge were thriving, the scientists said.

The researchers said the study had “important implications” for the wider East Antarctic if the current trend of increasing sea ice continued.

Sea ice around Antarctica is increasing, in contrast to the Arctic where global warming is causing ice to melt and glaciers to shrink

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Wildfires

Wildfires – Tasmania

A watch and act alert has been issued for the fire burning on Pipeline Road, Mawbanna, in Tasmania’s north-west.

The Tasmania Fire Service said this fire may put Meunna, Milabena, Lapoinya, Myalla and surrounds at high risk on Sunday night. The fire will be difficult to control, and there may be embers, smoke and ash falling on surrounding areas.

The communities that may be impacted on by that fire include Rocky Cape, Sisters Beach , Boat Harbour and Muntumana and surrounding areas.

Another 50 fire tankers are being brought in from interstate and 10 command vehicles and 245 firefighters over the next few days.

Two C-17 defence cargo planes will arrive in Hobart this week with infrastructure for a fire fighters base camp to be established at Stanley in the far north-west.

Wildfires – Mississippi, USA

Multiple wildfires are still burning in various parts of South Mississippi this weekend, and weather conditions are only helping to feed the flames.

In east Jackson County, a woods fire has been burning since Thursday in the Forts Lake community. Although the fire began on private property along Grand Bature Road, it quickly spread to the surrounding marshes, threatening several homes and the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

A fire in Hancock County is still burning also, but officials say multiple agencies are working together and it is under control.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Semeru (East Java, Indonesia): A pyroclastic flow (hot avalanche of fragmented volcanic material) occurred on the volcano’s southern side yesterday morning, reaching 4.5 km length and producing an ash plume that rose to 26,000 ft (8 km) altitude. Darwin VAAC raised the aviation colour code to RED.

Another, smaller flow seems to have occurred today. The pyroclastic flow(s) were probably caused by sudden collapse of accumulated lava on the steep upper flank – inside the volcano’s breached summit crater, a flat lava dome has been growing steadily during the past months and overspilling as viscous flow into the upper part of the ravine.

Momotombo (Nicaragua): Another explosion occurred at the volcano yesterday at 10:40 local time. It produced a pyroclastic flow that descended the NE flank through the prominent ravine that also had channeled the recent lava flow from 2015.

The pyroclastic flow, surrounded by yellow-brown ash, was likely the result of collapse of older material at the crater during the explosion. Whether and in which proportion fresh magma is involved in the current activity is difficult to say without an analysis of the ash. Glow continued to be visible at the crater during the night, suggesting that temperatures have increased and maybe magma is now at least close to the vents.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

6.2 Earthquake hits the Sumba region, Indonesia.

5.1 Earthquake hits near the coast of southern Peru.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Solomon Islands.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Santa Cruz Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits offshore Tarapaca, Chile.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

Tropical cyclone 11p (Winston), located approximately 446 nm southwest of Suva, Fiji, is tracking southward at 14 knots.

Tropical cyclone 12p (Tatiana), located approximately 307 nm west of Noumea, New Caledonia, is tracking southward at 08 knots.

Wildlife

South Africa revives ‘extinct’ zebra subspecies

In a spectacular valley less than two hours’ drive north of Cape Town, a small herd of animals provides the chance to travel back in time over more than a century.

The animals roaming over a wide plain encased by jagged mountain ranges look like quaggas, a subspecies of the plains zebra — but quaggas are extinct.

They were wiped out by colonial hunters in the 19th century.

Now, a small group of scientists and conservationists believe they have recreated the quagga, which is distinct from other zebra mainly through the lack of the characteristic black and white stripes on its hindquarters.

Over a period of 30 years the Quagga Project has used selective breeding of plains zebra to produce, in the fifth generation, an animal they say is indistinguishable from those that roamed the same plains centuries ago.

The last of the original quagga, found only in South Africa’s Western Cape region, died in an Amsterdam zoo in 1883.

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New Glow-in-the-Dark Species Discovered in Red Sea

Russian scientists say they have found a new species of glowing “fluorescent lanterns’ living in the coral reefs of Saudi Arabia’s Farasan archipelago, in the southern Red Sea.

The researchers from Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Tussian Academy of Sciences say the green-glowing polyps are a form of hydrozoa, of which only six other species have been found to be fluorescent.

The new Red Sea species attaches itself to the shells of a type of mud snail that comes out only at night. Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers believe the green fluorescent proteins around the hydrozoa’s mouth could be there to attract prey.

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Swarms of Moths Plague Outback Town

Australia’s outback town of Winton, Queensland, was invaded for more than three days by millions of moths that clogged gutters and blanketed parts of the downtown area following heavy rain.

Residents said the swarms were so dense that they sounded like rain banging against the walls and roofs of buildings.

Bartender Max Jurd told the Australian Associated Press that the town is often overrun by insects when they breed after rainfall, but he said he’d never seen anything like this before.

Jurd and others tried to rid the town of the infestation by raking the moths into trash bags and taking them to the local dump.

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Environment

Pollution

About 5.5 million people around the world die prematurely every year from breathing polluted air, and the majority of those deaths are occurring in China and India, where factories and coal-fired power plants are fueling economic growth, according to a report released Friday.

The authors said the findings show that disease from air and household pollution ranks as the No. 2 cause of death worldwide. It comes in right behind smoking, which the World Health Organization says kills six million people annually.

Air pollution is composed of fine particulate matter from power generation, transportation, and open burning.

Household pollution is created by stoves that burn coal, wood, and animal dung for cooking and heat, primarily in India and Africa. Both can lead to heart attacks and strokes, and the researchers found that nearly one million people die annually from these causes in China, more than a half-million die in India, and nearly 300,000 die in the United States and European Union countries.

The Chinese government is moving aggressively to improve air quality by forcing automobiles there to be equipped with cleaner technology, and power plants to lower the amount of particulates they spew. But gains are offset by the country’s drive to become a world economic power – through the very industries it seeks to better regulate.

Two-Thirds of the World Faces Severe Water Shortages

About four billion people, or two-thirds of the world’s population, face severe water shortages during at least one month every year, far more than was previously thought.

In a paper published Friday in the journal Science Advances, Dr. Hoekstra and his colleague Mesfin M. Mekonnen designed a computer model to create what they say is a more accurate picture of water scarcity around the world. Severe water scarcity can lead to crop failure and low crop yields, which could cause food price increases as well as famine and widespread starvation.

An area experiences severe water scarcity when its farms, industries and households consume double the amount of water available in that area.

“That means that groundwater levels are falling, lakes are drying up, less water is flowing in rivers, and water supplies for industry and farmers are threatened.”

Not everyone would suffer equally. In more affluent countries, severe water scarcity could mean water rations for showering and gardening, while in very poor countries it could lead to shortages of drinking water.

Half of the four billion people who experience conditions of severe water scarcity at least one month of the year live in either China or India, Dr. Hoeskstra said. Of the remaining two billion, the majority live mostly in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico and the western and southern parts of the United States, such as California, Texas and Florida.

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Disease

Yellow Fever – Angola

On 21 January 2016, the National IHR Focal Point of Angola notified WHO of an outbreak of yellow fever.

The first cases were identified in the district of Viana (Luanda province) on 5 December 2015. Yellow fever infection was initially confirmed in three patients by polymerase chain reaction at the Zoonosis and Emerging Disease Laboratory of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg, South Africa and at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal.

Microcephaly – United States of America

On 16 January 2016, the National IHR Focal Point for the United States of America notified PAHO/WHO of a male infant with microcephaly born in the state of Hawaii in December.

The mother of the child experienced symptoms compatible with Zika virus infection during her second month of pregnancy, while residing in Brazil; however, at the time, testing for the infection was not performed.

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Guillain-Barré syndrome – Colombia and Venezuela

Between 30 January and 2 February 2016, the National IHR Focal Points of Colombia and Venezuela informed PAHO/WHO of increases in the number of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) cases recorded at the national level.

From epidemiological week (EW) 51 of 2015 to EW 3 of 2016, 86 GBS cases were reported. On average, Colombia registers 242 GBS cases per year or approximately 19 cases per month or 5 cases per week. The 86 GBS cases reported in those 5 weeks is three times higher than the averaged expected cases of the 6 previous years.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): The volcano continues to produce small to moderate vulcanian explosions at rates of a few per day, typically.

Colima (Western Mexico): The volcano continues to produce intermittent explosions, but there might be something new in the making: weak, but continuous glow from the crater has appeared during the last night, something that hasn’t been observed since the latest effusive eruptive phase in July last year. It could indicate that a new lava dome is about to appear. The next days or weeks will probably give a better answer. Washington VAAC reported that during 3-8 February ash plumes from Colima rose to altitudes of 4.9-6.7 km (16,000-22,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted 75-140 km in multiple directions.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

Tropical cyclone (tc) 10s (Daya), located approximately 508 nm south of St Denis, La Reunion, is tracking southeastward at 16 knots.

Tropical cyclone 11p (Winston), located approximately 388 nm west of Suva, Fiji, is tracking southward at 06 knots. Fiji Meteorological Service has issued flood warning for all low lying areas along Rakiraki river including Rakiraki town. Several roads and bridges in the Western Division have been closed because of flooding triggered by heavy rain experienced over the past 24 hours. At least 19 roads and bridges in Rakiraki, Tavua, Sigatoka and Ba are flooded.

Tropical cyclone 12p (Tatiana), located approximately 428 nm west-northwest of Noumea, New Caledonia, is tracking southeastward at 08 knots.

NewsBytes:

Indonesia – Flooding in Aceh Province in Indonesia has caused the evacuation of 7,597 people in five districts. A heavy downpour for a week has caused the overflow of Kreung Peuto, Kreung Pirak and Kreung Arakundo rivers. At least 24 villages have been submerged in the five districts of Aceh.

Global Warming

January Was the World’s Warmest in Satellite- Era Record

A combination of a near-record El Niño and ongoing climate change brought the world’s average temperature during January to a record high for the month.

Using satellite observations, climatologists from the University of Alabama in Huntsville determined the global average temperature last month was just under 1 degree Fahrenheit above the 30-year average for January.

This eclipses the previous record of 0.88 degree above the satellite-era average set during January 1998, which was near the peak of the strongest El Niño ever measured.

Using data gathered by advanced microwave instruments on NOAA and NASA satellites, atmospheric scientists can determine accurate temperature readings for almost all regions of the world.

This includes remote deserts, oceans and rain forests, where reliable climate data are not otherwise available.

The satellite-based instruments measure the temperature of the atmosphere from the surface up to an altitude of about 25,000 feet above sea level.

But such readings only go back about 30 years to the early days of satellite monitoring, limiting the ability to determine long-term trends with the technique.

Much of the planet was warmer than normal during January, with a wide swath of the United States bucking the trend. Northern Russia and the Arctic were the warmest above normal, according to satellite data.

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