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Natural Disasters
Hurricane Season 2013: Year Without a Major Hurricane?
September 27, 2013
2013 no major hurricanes
So far this hurricane season, the Atlantic basin has produced nine named storms, two of which have become hurricanes.

Based on long-term averages from 1966-2009, the Atlantic has typically seen nine named storms by Oct. 4 and five hurricanes by Oct. 7. As you can see, the 2013 season is fairly close to average when it comes to the number of named storms, but lagging behind in the hurricane category. Neither of this season's two hurricanes, Humberto and Ingrid, reached major hurricane status, a Category 3 or higher rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Since 1851, roughly 75 percent of all the major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher) have formed during the months of August and September. Given that we've almost made it through September, and are headed for the final two months of the hurricane season, this raises the question of how rare it would be to go an entire season without a major hurricane in the Atlantic.
 
Causes of Pakistan Earthquake & New Island Revealed
September 25, 2013
new island pakistan earthquake
Cartographers might have to put another island on the map after Tuesday's massive earthquake created a new island five kilometres off the southern coast of Pakistan, in the Arabian Sea near Gwadar area.

"It's not a common way for islands to be created," says Andrew Miall, a geology professor at the University of Toronto. "But vertical movement of the crust is really common, and it just so happens that, in this case, the crust was very near the surface of the water."
 
Pakistan earthquake latest: Death toll 238 and rising; New island created
September 25, 2013
earthquake new island created
Officials said 238 deaths had been confirmed so far, 208 in Awaran district, and the toll is expected to rise as rescue teams reach more villages in the remote area.

"We have started to bury the dead," said Abdul Rasheed Gogazai, the deputy commissioner of Awaran, the most affected district in Baluchistan province. He said at least 373 people were wounded.  

The 7.7-magnitude quake hit in the Awaran district of Baluchistan province on Tuesday afternoon, destroying scores of mud-built houses and prompting a new island to rise from the sea just off the country's southern coast. The earthquake was so powerful that it caused the seabed to rise and create a small, mountain-like island about 600 meters (yards) off Pakistan's Gwadar coastline in the Arabian Sea.
 
Pakistan Earthquake: At Least 39 Dead as 7.7-Magnitude
September 24, 2013
pakistan earthquake 2013 disaster
A 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck southern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 39 people according to early reports. The U.S. Geological Survey placed the epicenter 41 miles north-northeast of Awaran in the province of Balochistan. Mirza Kamran Zia, chief spokesman for the country's National Disaster Management Authority, said 39 people are confirmed dead, most of them buried when houses collapsed onto them. The death toll is expected to rise as rescue efforts continue.

The tremor occurred at 7:29 a.m. Eastern time (4:29 p.m. local time) and shook the Pakistani mountain region, according to the USGS. The quake was relatively shallow, occurring just 12 miles (20 km) below ground, raising the potential for violent shaking near the epicenter.
 
Hong Kong Braces for Super Typhoon Usagi
September 21, 2013
super typhoon usagi
Super Typhoon Usagi continued to make its way toward Hong Kong and China's southern Guangdong province on Saturday, as it swept toward the South China Sea with strong winds and heavy rain battering parts of Taiwan and the Philippines.

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and its Dragonair unit will halt operations in the city starting Sunday evening, the airline said, with plans "to gradually resume services on Monday when weather conditions permit." Hong Kong Airlines and its Hong Kong Express Airways unit likewise canceled Sunday flights scheduled to take off after 6 p.m. Chu Kong Passenger Transport Co., which operates ferries between Hong Kong and mainland China, also announced service suspensions.
 
Earth's stongest storm of 2013, packing 160 mph winds, moving toward Hong Kong...
September 19, 2013
super typhoon Usagi
Super Typhoon Usagi, the equivalent of a Category 5 Atlantic hurricane, has intensified rapidly in the western Pacific Ocean and will threaten parts of Taiwan, the far northern Philippines and southern China through the next several days.

A tropical cyclone is dubbed a "super typhoon" when maximum sustained winds reach at least 150 mph. Usagi underwent a period of rapid intensification from early Wednesday through midday Thursday (U.S. Eastern time), going from a 55-knot tropical storm to a 140-knot super typhoon in just 33 hours, or just under a 100 mph intensification, based on satellite estimates of intensity.
 
Colorado Floods: What Happens to All That Water?
September 18, 2013
colorado flooding water
As flood waters slowly begin to recede from central Colorado, new flood warnings have cropped up downstream in Nebraska. Colorado's South Platte River, which runs northeast from the middle of the state into the southwest corner of Nebraska, has taken the burden of much of the record rainwater that hasn't already seeped into the ground.  

A surge in the river began approaching the Nebraska border at about midnight last night (Sept. 17), according to Dave Nettles, an engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources, but the crest of the surge had not yet reached the border as of this morning. The crest will likely arrive today, Nettles said, but the exact timing remains uncertain
 
Still hundreds unaccounted for after Colorado floods...survivors sleeping in cars
September 17, 2013
colorado flooding disaster
The emergency airlifts of flood victims waned Tuesday, leaving rescue crews to systematically search the nooks and crannies of the northern Colorado foothills and transportation officials to gauge what it will take to rebuild the wasted landscape.

More than 3,000 people have been evacuated by air and ground since last week's devastating floods, but calls for those emergency rescues are now dwindling, federal and state emergency officials said
 
Colorado Disaster: What Is a 100-Year Flood?
September 14, 2013
colorado flooding 2013
A massive amount of rain has fallen in the region surrounding Boulder, Colo., causing widespread flooding that's killed at least three people and taken out roads and houses, according to news reports. The event has sent 20-foot "walls of water" rushing down mountainsides, destroying bridges and isolating entire towns, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said in a statement.

The extreme rain and flooding in Colorado was caused when a slow-moving weather system sucked in an unusually large mass of moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, and has been called a "100-year storm." That terminology is a little confusing, though, and requires some explanation.
 
Why Has It Been So Long Since a Major Hurricane Hit the US?
September 12, 2013
hurricanes 2013
he United States hasn't been any stranger to hurricanes in the last eight years. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused about $50 billion in damage and was responsible for more than 150 U.S. deaths last year, although the storm was technically an extra-tropical cyclone when it hit.

But surprisingly, not a single major hurricane, defined as a Category 3 storm or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale —with minimum wind gusts of at least 111 mph (178 km/h) — has directly hit the United States in nearly eight years. That's twice as long as any major hurricane landfall "drought" since 1915, and by far the longest on record since data began being collected prior to 1900. As of today (Sept. 12), it's been 2,880 days since Hurricane Wilma, the last major hurricane to strike the United States, made landfall on Oct. 24, 2005.

 
Largest Volcano on Earth Lurks Beneath Pacific Ocean : Tamu Massif
September 05, 2013
Tamu Massif Largest Volcano
A University of Houston (UH) professor led a team of scientists to uncover the largest single volcano yet documented on Earth. Covering an area roughly equivalent to the British Isles or the state of New Mexico, this volcano, dubbed the Tamu Massif, is nearly as big as the giant volcanoes of Mars, placing it among the largest in the Solar System.

Located about 1,000 miles east of Japan, Tamu Massif is the largest feature of Shatsky Rise, an underwater mountain range formed 130 to 145 million years ago by the eruption of several underwater volcanoes. Until now, it was unclear whether Tamu Massif was a single volcano, or a composite of many eruption points. By integrating several sources of evidence, including core samples and data collected on board the JOIDES Resolution research ship, the authors have confirmed that the mass of basalt that constitutes Tamu Massif did indeed erupt from a single source near the center.
 
Tsunami: Facts versus Movie Myths
September 05, 2013
tsunami fact vs myth
A tsunami or tidal wave is one of those disasters that are rare, difficult to prep for, but interesting to discuss. If you live inland, you might still be interested in this article, in case you are on vacation near the ocean, or simply because it is a fascinating topic. This particular prepping and survival post discusses the difference between a tidal wave in movies and recent real tidal waves. There are several significant differences between the movie version and a real tsunami, and knowing the differences might affect your response.

The height of tidal waves is one thing that movies get wrong or exaggerate. The typical movie tsunami is hundreds of meters high, taller than many skyscrapers. Strictly-speaking, it’s not impossible for a tidal wave to be that high. A comet or asteroid impact in the deep ocean can generate a tsunami hundreds of feet high, 100 km or more from the site of impact. See the Impact: Earth! effects calculator at Purdue University. But the typical tsunami, caused by an undersea earthquake, is several meters in height, or less. See the NOAA Tsunami site. The largest tsunami in recorded history is said to be the 2004 Indonesia tsunami, with a height of 33 meters (per Wikipedia). [PREP-BLOG]
 
Tsunami would swamp California's economy
September 04, 2013
tsunami California disaster
If a monster earthquake struck off Alaska's coast, tsunami waves would rush toward California, crippling the nation's busiest port complex and flooding coastal communities, a report released Wednesday suggests.

The potential impacts, based on a hypothetical magnitude-9.1 jolt off the Alaskan peninsula, were detailed by a team led by the U.S. Geological Survey to help emergency responders prepare. Tsunamis are a rare but real threat in California. After the 2011 Japan disaster, tsunami waves raced across the Pacific and damaged boats and docks in the commercial fishing village of Crescent City.
 
Incredible Technology: How to Fight Wildfires
September 03, 2013
fight wildfires technology
Wildfires, like the Rim Fire raging in Yosemite, Calif., are some of nature's most awesome, and devastating, spectacles, devouring large swaths of forest and grassland in hours.

Battling such blazes requires firefighters to pair traditional techniques, such as firebreaks, to contain the voracious flames, with newer technologies like drones and satellite imaging, to monitor the fire's progress. Wildfire activity has been 50 percent above average for the last five years, said Julie Hutchinson, battalion chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). If uncontained, these fires pose a threat to human life and property.
 
The big one: Natural disasters in the SCV
September 02, 2013
1994 california earthquake damage
As devastating as it may be for local residents, every earthquake provides scientists with a wealth of new information about faults, ground movement and the reactions it causes.

The 1994 Northridge earthquake, for example, measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale, puzzled geologists for years because of its scattered pattern of damage, hitting particularly hard in Sherman Oaks and Santa Monica – relatively distant communities from the epicenter. Seismologists concluded an anomaly in the bedrock underlying the area was responsible for the unexpected pattern of damage. But the question most residents of earthquake-prone areas would like answered is this: How do we know when the big one will hit?
 
Why It's So Hard To Predict Hurricanes
August 29, 2013
hurricane predictions
At 6:10am on August 29, 2005, the eye of Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Buras-Triumph, La., going on to devastate much of the Gulf Coast. In a report only a few months later, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) called it one of the strongest storms to hit the U.S. coast in the last 100 years.

Katrina didn't start out that way. After entering the Gulf of Mexico, it intensified rapidly, going from a Category 1 hurricane when it passed through southern Florida on August 25, 2005, then gaining momentum and jumping from a Category 3 all the way up to Category 5 status over the span of about a day later that weekend.
 
Calm Before the Storm? What August Hurricane Lull Mean
August 26, 2013
NOAA 2013 hurricane season
Calls for an active 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, with six to nine hurricanes, have been met with silence by Mother Nature so far. Deadly typhoons pounded the Pacific Rim this month, but the Atlantic basin has been hurricane-free through late August. Six named tropical storms have appeared in the Atlantic since the beginning of hurricane season on June 1, but none have approached hurricane strength.

Yet even though no hurricane has menaced the Atlantic, the 2013 hurricane season is on track for tropical storms. In an average year, the fifth named storm does not show up until Aug. 31, but it did so this year on Aug. 15 with Tropical Storm Erin, according to Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Tropical storms have wind speeds between 39 to 73 mph (62 to 117 km/h). Once the winds reach a sustained 74 mph (119 km/h), the storm is classified as a hurricane.
 
Slowest Start To A Hurricane Season On Record
August 24, 2013
As we approach the end of August, there have been no Atlantic hurricanes. By this date in the year 1886, there had already been seven hurricanes – including three major hurricanes, one of which wiped the city of Indianola, Texas off the map.
 
Underwater Avalanche! Melting Ice Caps Could Trigger Tsunamis
August 16, 2013
underwater tsunami disaster
If melting ice caps trigger rapid sea level rise, the strain that the edges of continents could experience might set off underwater landslides, new research suggests. Submarine landslides happen on every continental margin, the underwater parts of continental plates bordering oceanic plates. These underwater avalanches, which can happen when underwater slopes get hit by earthquakes or otherwise have too much weight loaded onto them, can generate dangerous tsunamis.

A staggering half of all the Earth moved by submarine landslides over the past 125,000 years apparently happened between 8,000 and 15,000 years ago. "This time period coincides with the period of most rapid sea level rise following the end of the last ice age," said study co-author Daniel Brothers, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Coastal and Marine Science Center in Woods Hole, Mass.
 
Slow Earthquakes May Foretell Larger Events
August 16, 2013
slow earthquake larger
Monitoring slow earthquakes may provide a basis for reliable prediction in areas where slow quakes trigger normal earthquakes, according to Penn State geoscientists. -- "We currently don't have any way to remotely monitor when land faults are about to move," said Chris Marone, professor of geophysics. "This has the potential to change the game for earthquake monitoring and prediction, because if it is right and you can make the right predictions, it could be big."

Marone and Bryan Kaproth-Gerecht, recent Ph.D. graduate, looked at the mechanisms behind slow earthquakes and found that 60 seconds before slow stick slip began in their laboratory samples, a precursor signal appeared. Normal stick slip earthquakes typically move at a rate of three to 33 feet per second, but slow earthquakes, while they still stick and slip for movement, move at rates of about 0.004 inches per second taking months or more to rupture. However, slow earthquakes often occur near traditional earthquake zones and may precipitate potentially devastating earthquakes.
 
One-Shot Volcanoes Can Be Explosively Dangerous
August 15, 2013
dangerous one shot volcanoes
Volcanoes with multiple eruptions get all the glory, earning top spots on lists of the world's most dangerous and most famous fiery mountains. But monogenetic volcanoes, which erupt briefly and then die, are more common on land than volcanoes such as Mount St. Helens and Mt. Etna, which periodically outpour their lava.

Now, a new study of these single-shot volcanoes in Spain finds they are surprisingly complex. With a technique called electrical resistivity tomography (ERT), researchers peered deep inside several volcanoes, including two called Puig d'Adri and Montsacopa, and found lava flows, explosive deposits and even the underground plumbing.
 
Storms Aplenty, But Hurricanes Rare in Hawaii
July 29, 2013
tropical storm Hawaii
Tropical Storm Flossie is expected to make landfall in Hawaii today (July 29), battering the state's black sand beaches and tall, tropical volcanoes with 45 mph (75 kph) winds and localized rainfall of up to 15 inches (38 centimeters).

Though it may not seem like it to those living on the mainland, in the Hawaiian Islands, Pacific tropical storms are pretty common events, said Steve Businger, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. "There have been several in the 20 years I've lived here. They're not so terribly rare," Businger told LiveScience. (Tropical storms have winds between 39 and 65 mph [63 to 105 kph].)
 
Pardon Me! Mother Earth Burps Up Methane Bubbles During Earthquakes
July 28, 2013
Earth Burp Methane Earthquake
The long-suspected link between earthquakes and underwater methane bursts has finally been confirmed, reports a study published today (July 28) in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Though the temblor wasn't caught in the act, the strong shaking left clues in methane-rich mud and sand offshore of Pakistan, where two of Earth's tectonic plates collide at the Makran subduction zone. In 1945, a magnitude-8.1 earthquake struck along the subduction zone, killing at least 300 people and triggering a tsunami. Recently, researchers studying methane seeps in the Arabian Sea discovered unexpectedly large quantities of methane gas and minerals such as barite and sulfate just below the seafloor surface, on a ridge near the Makran subduction zone. The minerals and gas accumulate at a certain rate, so the team could calculate when the methane indicators first appeared — between 1916 and 1962. Combined with other clues, such as seismic surveys of disturbed sediments, the scientists concluded that the 1945 earthquake released methane gas into the ocean.
 
Top 10 Deadliest Canadian Disasters (INFOGRAPHIC)
July 26, 2013
 
FAULTLINE: L.A. council OKs soaring Hollywood skyscrapers
July 24, 2013
LA earthquake risk
The Los Angeles City Council has approved a plan that would radically alter the Hollywood skyline despite warnings from state officials about the project's proximity to a major earthquake fault line.

The 13-0 vote Wednesday in favor of the Hollywood Millennium project allows New York-based developer Millennium Partners to build two skyscrapers and more than 1 million square feet of office, hotel and retail space on several vacant parking lots surrounding the iconic Capitol Records building. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was a leading champion of new development in Hollywood during his three terms representing the neighborhood on the City Council, announced Wednesday that he would sign the deal.
 
China earthquake: death toll rises with thousands left homeless
July 23, 2013
china earthquake 2013
The death toll from two earthquakes in China's western Gansu province has climbed to 89, with more than 500 people severely injured, after 1,200 buildings collapsed and tens of thousands more were badly damaged, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The quakes hit eight towns in the remote and mountainous Minxian and Zhangxian counties, about 105 miles (170 kilometres) south-east of the provincial capital, Lanzhou, from 7.45am on Monday (12.45am BST), Xinhua said. -- "Many have been injured by collapsed houses," said a Minxian county doctor surnamed Du. "Many villagers have gone to local hospitals along the roads."
 
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