Global Warming

Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching more widespread than first thought

New aerial surveys have found the devastating coral bleaching event hitting the Great Barrier Reef has a larger footprint than initially thought.

Professor Terry Hughes, who is part of a national coral bleaching taskforce, said research flights on Wednesday between Townsville and Cairns had observed differing levels of bleaching across all 74 reefs that had been surveyed in the region.

That comes on top of the significantly more severe bleaching seen further north on more than 500 reefs surveyed by plane and helicopter last week along a 1000 kilometre stretch from Cairns to the Torres Strait.

“When we initially headed north from Cairns we thought we would encounter a southern border [of the bleaching event] and beyond that in the far north things would get bad,” Professor Hughes said. “We still haven’t found the southern border. We will find it. It is just taking longer than we expected because the footprint of this is substantially bigger than was initially reported.”

Professor Hughes said on the 74 reefs surveyed on Wednesday corals were on average bleached by about 25 to 30 per cent.

Those results are less severe than what has been seen on the reefs north of Port Douglas, where Professor Hughes said the average bleaching was closer to 75 per cent.

In total, Professor Hughes said half the Great Barrier Reef had been severely bleached in the event.

The National Coral Bleaching Taskforce has found record levels of bleaching on the Great Barrirer Reef. An aerial survey photo of a reef in the northern stretches of the Great Barrier Reef last week where the bleaching is most severe. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority last week reported coral death rates of 50 per cent on the reefs in the inner Cape York region.

Professor Hughes said it was known there was no bleaching at the southern tip of the reef from research at Heron Island near Gladstone, adding he hoped the boundary of the bleaching event would be found not too far below Townsville in coming days.

The bleaching has been caused by substantially warmer ocean temperatures than normal. In the northern waters of the Great Barrier Reef sea temperatures have been more than one degree higher than the long-term average in recent months.

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Disease

Angola: Yellow Fever outbreak spreads out of Luanda

459 infections and 178 deaths is the latest information coming out of Angola, where an outbreak of Yellow Fever was first reported in the capital city, Luanda, in December 2015, the first outbreak of the disease in three decades, and has now spread out to ten of the country’s eighteen provinces.

The outbreak is also reaching neighbouring countries, with cases reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Namibia. Other cases in Kenya and the People’s Republic of China have been described as travel-related cases with links to Angola.

India – Second suspected anthrax outbreak in Jharkhand

Thirteen people have been hospitalised in Jharkhand’s Simdega in the second suspected anthrax outbreak within a week and probably caused by infected cattle meat.

Anthrax, a bacterial disease that mainly affects cattle, causes peneumonia, infection of the blood and even death in humans.

Bardega village where the anthrax outbreak is reported is about 145 km west of state capital Ranchi and just 30 km from Kurumdegi where one person was killed by the disease four days ago.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): The activity at the summit craters has been (comparably very) low recently. However, small strombolian explosions continue to occur at irregular rates of 30-60 minutes intervals, mainly from western vent.

Etna (Sicily, Italy): Intermittent weak to moderate ash emissions (presumably from older pulverized rock) have been occurring from the North-East crater, where also weak incandescence can be seen at night. Apart from this and an incandescent fumarole on the New SE crater, no other significant activity is currently occurring at the volcano. Tremor levels have been low.

Shiveluch (Kamchatka): The extrusive-explosive activity of the volcano continues at moderate rate. Glowing avalanches from the active lava dome and strong degassing indicate ongoing magma supply. Occasionally, explosions and larger avalanches that turn into pyroclastic flows occur as well and generate ash plumes that rise several 1000 meters. Last evening, Tokyo VAAC reported an eruption that sent an ash plume to 20,000 ft (6 km) altitude. Whether it was caused by an explosion or avalanche is unknown – only the top of the plume was visible on webcam imagery.

Chikurachki (Paramushir Island): A new eruption is occurring from the remote volcano on Paramushir Island immediately to the south of the Kamchatka peninsula.

Since 29 March, ash emissions have been seen on satellite images. The ash plume increased yesterday, reaching altitudes of 3-4 km (9-12,000 ft) and extending up to 150-200 km into south- and southwesterly directions. KVERT raised the Aviation Colour code to orange (as many trans-Pacific flight routes pass nearby) and warns that “ash explosions up to 32,800 ft (10 km) a.s.l. could occur at any time. Ongoing activity could affect international and low-flying aircraft.”

Alaid (Northern Kuriles): Eruptive activity of some sort continues at the volcano. This is evidenced by a strong thermal signal detected and a gas plume extending south of the small island, both detected on satellite imagery. Contrary to nearby Chikourachki (that started to erupt 29 March), Alaid seems not to have produced any ash recently; no such darker-colored fresh deposits can be seen on the snow-covered flanks or in the plume. This suggests that the activity, at the moment, is non-explosive and confined to the summit crater, perhaps in the form of a small active lava lake.

Sinabung (Sumatra, Indonesia): The volcano continues to produce explosions and occasional small to moderate pyroclastic flows. Early on Tuesday morning, around 05:40 local time, a collapse of parts of the sticky lava lobe on the SE flank generated a pyroclastic flow that reached approx. 3 km length.

Soputan (North Sulawesi, Indonesia): In its latest report, VSI describes continuing elevated seismic activity, including shallow volcanic earthquakes and avalanches that indicate slow magma extrusion from the main vent. Visible activity during the past weeks otherwise consisted in moderate degassing generating a plume of 20-100 m height. The volcano’s alert level is maintained at “siaga” (“alert”), or 3 on the Indonesian scale of 1-4 and recommends an exclusion zone of 4 km radius around the summit of Mt. Soputan.

Makian (Halmahera): Seismic unrest continues at the volcano with a weak tendency of increase in shallow volcanic earthquakes during the past weeks, possibly related to the ascent of a new magmatic body. No surface changes or other alarming signs have been observed at the volcano. While an eruption is not considered likely to be imminent, VSI maintains the alert level 2 (on a scale of 1-4) and advises locals and visitors not to climb Makian’s Kie Besi volcano and stay away from the summit within a radius of 1.5 km distance.

Kerinci (Sumatra): A small eruption occurred at the volcano yesterday morning around 07:00 local time. An ash plume rising a few 100 m from the summit crater was observed.

The nature of the eruption (likely a phreatic explosion) is unknown. As safety precaution, access to the volcano’s summit, Indonesia’s highest volcanic peak and a popular climbing destination, was closed.

Colima (Western Mexico): The activity of the volcano has decreased overall. Explosions have been mostly weak and relatively rare (a few per day) and the previously continuously visible glow at the summit crater, indicative of the small new lava dome, has recently been visible only during increased degassing or explosion events. This in turn suggests that the growth of the dome has been very low or even stopped for now.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): No significant changes in activity have occurred at the volcano recently despite a series of stronger explosions during the past days. One explosion on Tuesday afternoon generated an ash plume that rose up to 3.5 km, and another one during the following night was seen ejecting abundant incandescent material outside the summit crater. During 29-30 March, CENAPRED recorded an increase of degassing events (“exhalations”) and 4 explosions (an average value), as well as two small shallow volcanic earthquakes and 30 minutes of harmonic tremor. Following the larger explosion in the afternoon of 29 Mar, the International Airport of Puebla was temporarily closed.

Bright glow from the summit crater indicates that magma slowly continues to arrive there, filling the inner crater, a process that is regularly interrupted by the explosions (that usually destroy parts of the accumulated, cake-like lava dome again).

Nevados de Chillán (Central Chile): Intermittent ash emissions re-appeared at the volcano during the past days. The emissions originated from several vents, involving both the Arrau crater and the new summit pits that had formed in early and late January this year.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.1 Earthquake hits the Fox Islands in the Aleutian Islands.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Bougainville region, Papua New Guinea.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Mid-Indian ridge.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Carlsberg ridge.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

Tropical Cyclone 17s (Seventeen), located approximately 1270 nm south-southeast of Diego Garcia, is tracking southeastward at 31 knots.

NewsBytes:

Bermuda – Heavy rains soaked the island yesterday and caused flooding in some low-lying areas. The weather also temporarily knocked out power to about 1,000 customers.

Canada – Backyards and farm fields were flooded in Brigham, Quebec following heavy rain on Monday. The flooding occurred after the Yamaska River spilled its banks Tuesday morning.

Wildlife

Plastic found inside beached whales

A post-mortem conducted on 13 beached sperm whales – found ashore near the town of Toenning in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, found their stomachs were filled with plastic.

This plastic included a 13m fisherman’s net and a 70cm piece of plastic from a car. But scientists believed the whales did not die because they ingested plastic, but rather that their hearts failed due to starvation.

Schleswig-Holstein environment minister Robert Habeck said: “These findings show us the results of our plastic-orientated society. Animals inadvertently consume plastic and plastic waste, which causes them to suffer and, at worst, causes them to starve with full stomachs.”

The whales were all male, between 10 and 15 years old, and severely underweight. They all weighed around 15t and the average weight of a sperm whale is between 32t and 41t.

Experts believe storms in the northeast Atlantic shifted the whales’ food source into the North Sea. The whales followed the food source and found themselves stranded in shallow water, where they starved to death.

This news comes after six dead sperm whales were found beached in Norfolk in February.

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Disease

Ebola – West Africa

West Africa’s Ebola outbreak no longer constitutes a threat to international public health, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday, declaring an end to a nearly 20-month emergency that has killed about 11,300 people.

Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, accepted the recommendations of a committee of independent experts who also called for lifting any travel and trade restrictions affecting Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“The Committee provided its view that Ebola transmission in West Africa no longer constitutes an extraordinary event, that the risk of international spread is now low, and that countries currently have the capacity to respond rapidly to new virus emergences,” the WHO said in a statement.

All original chains of virus transmission have ended, but a new chain in Guinea has infected eight people including seven who have died, it said, adding that the virus persists in the semen of some men for over a year.

Hepatitis A – Kenya

Twenty one people have been admitted to various hospitals in Mombasa over the past few days following a new outbreak of hepatitis A, county health officials have said.

Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that is transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food and water or through direct contact with an infected person.

Mombasa Health executive Mohammed Abdi said the disease had been on the rise since January among school children and had escalated due to water contamination in the county.

Yellow Fever – China

On 13 March 2016, the National IHR Focal Point of China notified WHO of an imported case of yellow fever virus infection.

Zika virus infection – Dominica and Cuba

Between 15 and 16 March 2016, PAHO/WHO was notified of cases of Zika virus infection in Dominica and Cuba.

Microcephaly – Panama

On 18 March 2016, the National IHR Focal Point of Panama notified PAHO/WHO of a newborn with concomitant microcephaly, occipital encephalocele and Zika virus infection.

Guillain-Barré syndrome – Panama

On 15 March 2016, the National IHR Focal Point of Panama informed PAHO/WHO of a case of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) with concomitant Zika virus infection.

Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – China

On 18 March 2016, the Department of Health, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region notified WHO of a confirmed case of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): Over the past days, vulcanian-type explosions have again picked up in number and size, after only very few events during the first 3 weeks of March. Ash plumes rose to up to 10-12,000 ft (3-3.6 km) altitude. The remarkable novelty is that most of the recent explosions occurred from the Minamidake crater, the volcano’s old summit vent, and not from the Showa crater on its eastern flank, which had been (an almost exclusive) protagonist during the 10 years since 2006 until very recently.

Santiaguito (Guatemala): Activity continues at the Caliente lava dome with little changes. The volcano observatory reported strong degassing, some weak to moderate explosions with ash plumes rising up to approx. 900 m and constant block lava avalanches on the eastern and southeastern flanks of the lava dome. The latter suggests that effusive activity has been elevated recently compared to during previous months.

Pacaya (Guatemala): Mild activity continues at the intra-crater cone of the Mackenney crater. INSIVUMEH reports a steam and gas plume rising 600 m and glow from lava visible at night.

Fuego (Guatemala): After its latest paroxysm a few days ago, activity of the volcano has returned to normal levels with intermittent (one every few hours) weak to moderate-sized strombolian explosions. During the past week, activity at the volcano gradually increased into the 5th paroxysm in 2016, generating pulsating lava fountains, lava flows and possibly pyroclastic flows. After the previous such episode in early March, the volcano had continued to produce its typical, persistent, but intermittent strombolian activity. The latter started to become more and more intense from around 22 March, and became near-constant during 24-25 March.

Momotombo (Nicaragua): A slight increase in activity occurred last week between 23-26 March, when the volcano again produced some mild to moderate explosions, some of which were strong enough to send bombs to its upper outer slopes. During the past days, activity has again been calmer, although crater glow continues to tell the presence of fresh lava in the summit crater.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.9 Earthquake hits south of the Kermedec Islands.

5.5 Earthquake hits the Gulf of California.

5.5 Earthquake hits the Molucca Sea.

5.3 Earthquake hits the South Sandwich Islands.

5.3 Earthquake hits the Fox Islands in the Aleutian Islands.

5.3 Earthquake hits the Svalbard region.

5.2 Earthquake hits off the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico.

5.2 Earthquake hits southern Sumatra.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Fox Islands in the Aleutian Islands.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Ionian Sea.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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Tropical Cyclone 17s (Seventeen), located approximately 726 nm south-southeast of Diego Garcia, is tracking southward at 15 knots.

NewsBytes:

Nepal – A severe dust storm lashed Nepal including the Kathmandu valley at around 4 pm Monday afternoon injuring seven people and closing the Tribhuvan International Airport.

Disease

Thousands of ducks slaughtered in Korea

In an effort to stop the spread of bird flu, discovered in ducks on a poultry farm near Seoul, South Korean authorities are slaughtering thousands of the suspected infected ducks, just a month after the nation declared itself free of the disease.

The strain is the same as the one found back in November of last year, H5N8, that stopped the exporting of ducks from South Korea to Hong Kong. The country had just re-started the exporting of the ducks, and this new development will surely cause a massive blow to the industry.

A total of 11,604 ducks were killed at the farm, located in Icheon, a city east of Seoul.

Cholera in Kenya

Five people have been confirmed dead in Sarif, Wajir South constituency, following a cholera outbreak in Wajir County.

Medical and health officials at local hospitals and Cholera Treatment Centres (CTC) that have been set up are overwhelmed by the large number of patients seeking medical attention after showing signs of the deadly disease.

There is fear that the disease could spread even faster due to the rising number of patients and overcrowding at treatment centres.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Pavlof (Alaska Peninsula, USA): A new eruption started at the volcano abruptly Sunday (27 Mar) afternoon at 16:16 local time (00:18 UTC). An explosive eruption with lava fountaining produced an ash plume that quickly rose to approx. 20,000 ft elevation (6 km) and the Aviation Color code was raised to red. The activity continued and reached its peak over the next 24 hours, when a sustained, continuous ash plume extended more than 700 km (400 miles) to the northeast over interior Alaska, with a maximum height of 37,000 ft (9 km) altitude. Lava fountaining from the summit crater was observed throughout the night by mariners, pilots, and by residents in Cold Bay, located 37 miles (60 km) to the SW. Volcanic mudflows (lahars), generated by rapidly melting ice and snow, are likely descending on the flanks of the volcano and could present a hazard in the local river valleys.