Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.6 Earthquake hits the Andreanof Islands in the Aleutian Islands.

5.2 Earthquake hits southern Sumatra, Indonesia.

5.1 Earthquake hits Taiwan.

5.0 Earthquake hits Taiwan.

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Storms and Floods

Tropical Storm Dorian forms in the Atlantic and is located about 615 mi (990 km) W of the Cape Verde Islands. It currently appears that Dorian will be a potential threat to the Bahama Islands, Bermuda, and the U.S. East Coast next week.

Huge landslide in Sichuan province, China.

More than 1,400 people have been evacuated following the landslide which swept away 28 houses and 6.6 hectares of farmland in the Caopo Township. Video.

Environment

Arctic Methane an ‘Economic Time Bomb’.

Increasing temperatures in the Arctic region are reducing sea ice cover and increasing the possibility of methane leaching from the sea bed. Scientists say that the release of large amounts of methane from thawing permafrost in the Arctic could have huge economic impacts for the world.

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The researchers estimate that the climate effects of the release of this gas could cost $60 trillion (£39 trillion), roughly the size of the global economy in 2012. The impacts are most likely to be felt in developing countries they say. Scientists have had concerns about the impact of rising temperatures on permafrost for many years. Large amounts of methane are concentrated in the frozen Arctic tundra but are also found as semi-solid gas hydrates under the sea. Previous work has shown that the diminishing ice cover in the East Siberian sea is allowing the waters to warm and the methane to leach out. Scientists have found plumes of the gas up to a kilometre in diameter rising from these waters.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, even though it lasts less than a decade in the atmosphere. the researchers examined the impact of the release of 50-gigatonnes of methane over a decade. They worked out that this would increase climate impacts such as flooding, sea level rise, damage to agriculture and human health to the tune of $60 trillion. “That’s an economic time bomb that at this stage has not been recognised on the world stage. We think its incredibly important for world leaders to really discuss what are the implications of this methane release and what could we indeed do about it to hopefully prevent the whole burst from happening.”

The researchers say their study is in marked contrast to other, more upbeat assessments of the economic benefits of warming in the Arctic region. It is thought that up to 30% of the world’s undiscovered gas and 13% of undiscovered oil lie in the waters. Transport companies are looking to send increasing numbers of ships through these fast melting seas. Investment in the Arctic could reach $100bn within ten years.

But according to the new work, these benefits would be a fraction of the likely costs of a large scale methane emission. The authors say a release of methane on this scale could bring forward the date when global temperatures increase by 2C by between 15 and 35 years. New research suggests that permafrost is also melting in Antarctica. Scientists have found that ground ice in the McMurdo Dry Valley Regions has accelerated consistently between 2001 and 2012, rising to about ten times the historical average. The researchers say that rising temperatures do not account for this increased melting but is due to an increase in sunlight caused by changes in weather patterns.

“We are looking at a big effect, a possibly catastrophic effect on global climate that’s a consequence of this extremely fast sea ice retreat that’s been happening in recent years.” Some scientists have cautioned that not enough is known about the likelihood of such a rapid release of methane. Even though it has been detected for a number of years, it has as yet not been found in the atmosphere in large amounts. But the evidence is growing. “We are seeing increasing methane in the atmosphere. When you look at satellite imagery, for instance the Metop satellite, that’s gone up significantly in the last three years and the place where the increase is happening most is over the Arctic.”

The authors say that the impacts of the extra methane would be felt most in developing countries which are more vulnerable to rising waters, flooding and the agricultural and health impacts of rising temperatures.

Wildlife

Dead Eels in China

Tens of thousands of dead eels have washed ashore in China over the past few weeks.

The eel is just the latest animal to die en masse in China’s waters. In March, thousands of dead pigs were dumped by farmers into the Hangpu River in Shanghai, and hundreds of dead ducks and fish have also turned up in Chinese waterways.

Although no one knows the cause yet, some suspect the China National Offshore Oil Company may be responsible. That company is doubling its crude oil production.

But the company and local administrators say the eels died of natural causes. The company says ocean currents brought a confluence of low temperatures, low oxygen and high salt content that killed off the eels.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

Raung (East Java): Mild strombolian activity is taking place from the intra-crater cone.

Veniaminof (Alaska Peninsula, USA): AVO posted a picture showing the erupting intra-caldera cone emitting a lava flow and producing mild strombolian explosions.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Following the relatively calm phase over the past week, CENAPRED lowered the alert level back to Yellow phase 2 (from 3).