Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

7.0 Earthquake hits Chiapas, Mexico.

The tremor, which was felt strongly in the immediate region, shook buildings and light posts as far away as Mexico City and caused power failures in western Guatemala. At least three people have been reported to have died with several dozen people injured. Reports of damaged homes were also received while major disruptions to communications occurred in the region.

5.7 Earthquake hits near Vanuatu.

5.4 Earthquake hits the Banda Sea.

5.1 Earthquake hits Fiji.

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Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms

In the Western Pacific:

Typhoon Neoguri is located approximately 367 nm south of Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan.

Typhoon Neoguri has strengthened into a dangerous Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds late Sunday, and is headed west-northwest at 12 mph towards a Tuesday brush with Okinawa in Japan’s Ryukyu island chain.

Satellite images show a huge and well-organized system, with a prominent eye, and very intense eyewall thunderstorms with cold cloud tops. WInd shear is light, 5 – 10 knots, sea surface temperatures are a very warm 30 – 31°C, and very warm waters extend to great depth along the storm’s path, giving the typhoon plenty of heat energy to power potential intensification into a Category 5 Super Typhoon.

NewsBytes:

South Africa – Rain floods hundreds of shacks in the informal settlements on the Cape flats around Cape Town. More than 26 000 people have been affected.

Environment

Plastic Pollution Now Blankets the Seas

Almost all of the world’s ocean surfaces are littered with plastic, mainly household items like bags, food and beverage containers, kitchen utensils and toys, a new study finds.

Researchers from Spain’s University of Cádiz found that the five largest accumulations of plastic waste in the open ocean are in the five major gyres, or twists in ocean circulation. But the researchers say they found far less of the manmade litter floating on the ocean’s surface than expected.

“Ocean currents carry plastic objects which split into smaller and smaller fragments due to solar radiation,” said researcher Andrés Cózar. “Those little pieces of plastic, known as microplastics, can last hundreds of years and were detected in 88 percent of the ocean surface sampled during the Malaspina Expedition 2010.”

He warns that the microplastics “have an influence on the behaviour and food chain of marine organisms.”

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimates that the oceans contain between 7,000 and 35,000 tons of floating plastic, but scientists had expected to find evidence of 100 times that amount.

Cózar says that the missing plastic may have accumulated in the deep ocean or become attached to marine plants and animals in a process dubbed “biofouling,” which makes the plastic so heavy it can no longer float.

“We are putting, certainly by any estimate, a large amount of a synthetic material into a natural environment,” said oceanographer Kara Lavender Law, who studies plastic pollution at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. She told The Associated Press that we’re “fundamentally changing the composition of the ocean.”

Plastic waste in oceans is causing $13 billion of damage each year, according to a United Nations Environment Program report. Some say that figure is much higher.

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Wildlife

Campaign to End Ape ‘Slavery’

A Kenya-based wildlife conservancy launched a project aimed at protecting some of humankind’s closest relatives from a kind of enslavement.

The Project to End Great Ape Slavery (PEGAS) says the practice of “brutally capturing” and selling wild apes threatens some species with extinction.

It estimates that more than 22,000 chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans were captured from the wild between 2005 and 2011, “many to attract customers for zoos or to become pets for the rich and powerful.”

The Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which manages PEGAS, says chimps and other primate species experience the same kind of emotions as humans, meaning the type of enslavement they suffer causes them severe trauma.

“It must stop for conservation and moral reasons,” Daniel Stiles of PEGAS told Agence France-Presse. “To capture one infant ape, as many as 10 apes are ruthlessly killed. … The orphans are sold into what can only be called slavery.”

The group said that great apes are in high demand at safari parks and zoos, and from private collectors, across the Middle East and East Asia.

PEGAS says the primates are trained to perform in costume and in “silly skits,” or to beg for food from zoo visitors.

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