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Midwest : predicting big floods after fierce winter
The News - Natural Disasters
March 16, 2010
A huge snowpack from a harsh winter will cause extensive flooding this spring in the upper Midwest and in the major corn-growing state of Iowa, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration said on Tuesday.

"We are looking at potentially historic flooding in some parts of the country this spring," NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco told reporters in a briefing while presenting the government's spring flood risk outlook.

The snowpack in the Midwest is "more extensive than in 2009," with precipitation in December up to four times above average, NOAA said.

"It's a terrible case of deja vu, but this time the flooding will likely be more widespread," Lubchenco said. "As the spring thaw melts the snowpack, saturated and frozen ground in the Midwest will exacerbate the flooding of the flat terrain and feed rising rivers and streams."

Of particular risk is the Red River Valley in Minnesota, with NOAA officials saying it was unusual that the area would face the threat of severe floods for the second year running.

The Red River runs north, dividing North Dakota and Minnesota, before running through the flat southern plains of the Canadian province of Manitoba.

 
7.2 aftershock among 3 during inauguration - Chile
The News - Natural Disasters
March 13, 2010

At least three major aftershocks rocked central Chile on Thursday, striking minutes before its president-elect was sworn into office to take charge of a country still reeling from a devastating earthquake nearly two weeks ago.

Chile's Navy rapidly issued a tsunami alert, and Chilean television carried reports of residents of coastal areas fleeing for higher ground. There were no immediate reports of damage, but in the capital of Santiago, 95 miles north of the epicenters, windows rattled, buildings trembled and cell phone service went down.

In the coastal city of Valparaiso, about 90 miles from the site of Thursday's earthquakes, dignitaries who gathered for the inauguration of President Sebastian Pinera made nervous jokes and glanced at the shuddering ceiling of the congressional building as the quakes hit, according to news reports. (SFGATE.COM)

 
Oil Production to Peak in 2014
The News - Climate-Environment
March 13, 2010
peak oil 2014

Predicting the end of oil has proven tricky and often controversial, but Kuwaiti scientists now say that global oil production will peak in 2014.

Their work represents an updated version of the famous Hubbert model, which correctly predicted in 1956 that U.S. oil reserves would peak within 20 years. Many researchers have since tried using the model to predict when worldwide oil production might peak.

Some have said production already peaked. One earlier model by Swedish researchers suggested that oil would peak sometime between 2008 and 2018. And other researchers have argued there are decades to go before oil production goes into irreversible decline. The only thing they all agree on: Oil is a finite and very valuable resource. 

 
Freak waves as tall as 10 story buildings has finally been proved
The News - Natural Disasters
March 11, 2010
freak waves
The shady phenomenon of freak waves as tall as 10 storey buildings has finally been proved, the European Space Agency (Esa) said on Wednesday.

Sailors often whisper of monster waves when ships sink mysteriously but, until now, no one quite believed them.

As part of a project called MaxWave - which was set up to test the rumours - two Esa satellites surveyed the oceans.

During a three week period they detected 10 giant waves, all of which were over 25m (81ft) high.

Strange disappearances

Over the last two decades more than 200 super-carriers - cargo ships over 200m long - have been lost at sea. Eyewitness reports suggest many were sunk by high and violent walls of water that rose up out of calm seas.

But for years these tales of towering beasts were written off as fantasy; and many marine scientists clung to statistical models stating monstrous deviations from the normal sea state occur once every 1,000 years.

 
Doomsday seed vault hits 1/2 million mark
The News - Current Events
March 11, 2010
Two years after receiving its first deposits, a "doomsday" seed vault on an Arctic island has amassed half a million seed samples, making it the world's most diverse repository of crop seeds, the vault's operators announced Thursday.

Cary Fowler - who heads the trust that oversees the seed collection, which is 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) from the North Pole, said the facility now houses at least one-third of the world's crop seeds.

"In my lifetime, I don't think we'll go over 1.5 million. I'd be rather surprised if we go over a million," Fowler told The Associated Press. "At that point, we'd have all the diversity in the world ... and the most secure samples." (MSNBC)

 
2010 - Disastrous year already
The News - Natural Disasters
March 11, 2010
Just a few months into 2010, and Mother Nature has delivered a slew of costly and deadly natural disasters. From the catastrophic Haiti and Chilean earthquakes to the U.S. blizzard that descended on Washington, D.C., last month, which was mostly just inconvenient by comparison, 2010 is already above average in terms of natural-disaster casualties.

In comparison to previous years, the number of casualties from natural disasters in 2010, which is already well above 200,000, is outside the norm. Yet as in other disastrous years, the high toll this year is due largely to a single event.

Over the decade from 2000 to the end of 2009, the yearly average was 78,000, according to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). For the 1990s, the average was 43,000, and the 1980s was 75,000. Disaster experts say the rise in tragedy is at least partly due to increases in urban populations. Last year was below the decadal average with 10,416 natural disaster-related deaths, according to the ISDR, with most resulting from a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia on Sept. 30. (LIVESCIENCE)

 
Tornado Season 2010 under way after slow start
The News - Natural Disasters
March 10, 2010
tornado season 2010
Forecasters say a wetter-than-usual winter and a jet stream ripping over the part of the country known as "Tornado Alley" could lead to an active spring — perhaps starting with the strong twister that nicked a small western Oklahoma town Monday night.

"It's time to get ready," Michelann Ooten of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said Tuesday as she surveyed damage from a storm that destroyed five homes and tore the roofs off several others in Hammon.

The nation typically will see 70-100 tornadoes by early March, but only 42 had been reported until Monday night's Oklahoma tornado. There was only one tornado nationwide during February.

"No one would argue that we're going to see a pretty good increase in the number of severe storms," said Greg Carbin, the warning coordination meteorologist with the national Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. "But each year's a little different. The number, magnitude, number of days are all very tentative at this point."

 
13 Crazy Earthquake Facts
The News - Natural Disasters
March 09, 2010

1. Earth has been more seismologically active in the past 15 years or so, says Stephen S. Gao, a geophysicist at Missouri University of Science & Technology. Not all seismologist agree, however.

2. San Francisco is moving toward Los Angeles at the rate of about 2 inches per year — the same pace as the growth of your fingernails — as the two sides of the San Andreas fault slip past one another. The cities will meet in several million years. However, this north-south movement also means that despite fears, California won't fall into the sea.

3. March is not earthquake month, despite what some people believe. True, on March 28, 1964, Prince William Sound, Alaska, experienced a 9.2 magnitude event — one of the biggest ever. It killed 125 people and caused $311 million in property damages. And on March 9, 1957, the Andreanof Islands, Alaska, felt a 9.1 temblor. But the next three biggest U.S. earthquakes occurred in February, November, and December. The devastating major earthquake in Chile of 2010 struck on Feb. 27. And the huge 9.3 temblor that spawned the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 occurred on Dec. 26. (Finish Reading : LiveScience.com)

 
Chile earthquake moved whole city 10 feet to the west
The News - Natural Disasters
March 09, 2010

The massive earthquake that struck near Maule in Chile, moved the entire city of Concepcion at least 10 feet to the west, experts have revealed.

The destructive event, which measured a magnitude of 8.8, also shifted other parts of South America as far apart as the Falkland Islands and Fortaleza, Brazil.

earthquake

A graphic created by the Central and Southern Andes GPS Project. It shows the displacement in centimetres of the area surrounding the Chile earthquake epicentre. Concepcion moved the furthest at 303.9cm

Scientists measured the impact of the February 27 earthquake by comparing precise GPS locations from before the event to those 10 days later.

These revealed Chile's capital, Santiago, moved about 11 inches to the southwest. Even Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, which is 800miles from the epicentre, moved an inch.

The earthquake is believed to be the fifth most powerful since seismic measurements began.

It even knocked Earth a little off its axis. Nasa's Dr Richard Gross calculated the tremors moved the axis about which Earth's mass is balanced by about three inches. It even shortened the length of the day by about one-millionth of a second. (DailyMail UK)

 
6.0 earthquake hits eastern Turkey, kills 57
The News - Natural Disasters
March 08, 2010
A strong, pre-dawn earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6 struck eastern Turkey on Monday, killing 57 people as it knocked down stone or mud-brick houses and minarets in at least six villages, the government said.

Turkey's crisis center said about 100 other people were injured in the quake, which hit at 4:32 a.m. (0232 GMT, 9 p.m. EST Sunday) in Elazig province, about 340 miles (550 kilometers) east of Ankara, the capital.

The earthquake, which caught many people as they slept, was centered near the village of Basyurt and followed by more than 50 aftershocks, the strongest measuring 5.5 and 5.3, the Kandilli seismology center said. (YAHOO )

 
Record floods hit Australia
The News - Natural Disasters
March 08, 2010
Melbourne was bracing for more bad weather Sunday after a "beast of a storm" ripped through Australia's second largest city, bringing with it hailstones the size of tennis balls.

The mini-cyclone which smashed into the regional capital with winds of up to 100 kilometres (62 miles) an hour was an event which had likely not been seen since early last century, Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Kevin Parkyn said.

 
Dinosaurs WERE wiped out by an asteroid crashing into Earth
The News - Science-Astronomy
March 05, 2010
asteroid wiped out dinosaurs

Some believe they were killed off by massive volcanoes , others that they were a victim of prehistoric climate change.

Now a major study claims to have conclusive proof that dinosaurs were wiped out within weeks of an asteroid the size of the Isle of Wight slamming into the Earth.

Researchers say the impact sent a vast flume of dust into the atmosphere 65 million years ago, unleashed a torrent of powerful earthquakes and triggered forest fires across North America, blocking out the sun and wiping out half of all species.

The panel of 41 international experts - including British researchers from Cambridge, Imperial College and the University of London - looked at 20 years of research to settle the long-running debate about what killed the dinosaurs.

The mass extinction event also wiped out the bird-like pterosaurs and the large marine reptiles - clearing the way for mammals to become the dominant species on Earth.

 
Northwest US cities at risk of earthquake
The News - Natural Disasters
March 03, 2010

Just 50 miles off the Pacific Northwest coast is an earthquake hot spot that threatens to unleash on Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, British Columbia, the kind of damage that has shattered Chile.

The fault has been dormant for more than 300 years, but when it awakens - today or decades from now - the consequences could be devastating.

Recent computer simulations of a hypothetical magnitude-9 quake found that shaking could last two to five minutes - strong enough to potentially cause poorly constructed buildings from British Columbia to Northern California to collapse and severely damage highways and bridges.

Such a quake also would send powerful tsunami waves rushing to shore in minutes. While big cities such as Portland and Seattle would be protected from severe flooding, low-lying seaside communities may not be as lucky.

 
Chile earthquake: Shock effect on Earth's axis
The News - Natural Disasters
March 03, 2010

The earthquake that struck Chile on Saturday may have shifted the Earth's axis and created shorter days, according to scientists at Nasa. Richard Gross, a geophysicist at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said the 8.8 magnitude quake could have moved the Earth's axis by 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8cm) – enough to shorten a day by about 1.26 microseconds.

A large quake can shift huge amounts of rock and alter the distribution of mass on the planet. When that distribution changes, it changes the rate at which the planet rotates, which determines the length of a day.

"The length of the day should have got shorter by 1.26 microseconds," Gross told the Bloomberg news agency. "The axis about which the Earth's mass is balanced should have moved by 2.7 milliarcseconds."

Gross previously used the technique to estimate the shift caused by the 2004 Sumatran quake that caused the Indian Ocean tsunami. That 9.1 magnitude quake shifted the Earth's axis by 2.3 milliarcseconds and shortened a day by 6.8 microseconds.

 
Why more people are dying in earthquakes than ever before
The News - Natural Disasters
March 01, 2010
more earthquake deaths

Although just a few weeks separated the Haiti and Chile earthquakes, scientists say the two disasters are unlikely to be linked.

While the sort of 8.8 magnitude quake that struck South America at the weekend is an annual event, the sort of magnitude 7 quake that hit Haiti was common - occurring somewhere in the world once a week.

Despite the speculation of some geologists, there is no hard evidence to link earthquakes that occur thousands of miles and several weeks apart, according to Prof John McCloskey, a geologist at the University of Ulster.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1254525/The-tragic-price-poverty-people-dying-earthquakes-before.html#ixzz0gvns9lKJ
 
An explanation of why tsunamis were smaller than expected
The News - Natural Disasters
March 01, 2010
chile earthquake tsunami

It is fortunate that one of the biggest earthquakes in recent history has generated only relatively small tsunamis that crossed the Pacific Ocean from Chile to Japan.

This is almost certainly because the rupture that generated the earthquake occurred quite deep in the Earth's crust. The size of a tsunami, which means "harbour wave" in Japanese, is directly related to the volume of water that is displaced during the movement of the seabed during an earthquake. The bigger the amount of water that is moved up or down, the bigger the tsunami that is likely to be created.

Roger Musson, an earthquake scientist at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, explained that there are two factors to consider. The first is whether or not the movement of the seabed occurred in an area of shallow water – the shallower the water above the rupture, the smaller the tsunami. The second is how deep under the seabed the rupture occurred, with shallow quakes causing a greater displacement of water.

 
Chile earthquake and 2004 - "Megathrust Earthquakes"
The News - Natural Disasters
February 28, 2010

The huge earthquake that struck off the coast of Chile belongs to an "elite class" of mega earthquakes , experts said, and is similar to the 2004 Indian Ocean temblor that triggered deadly tsunami waves .

The magnitude-8.8 quake was a type called a "megathrust," considered the most powerful earthquake on the planet. Megathrusts occur when one tectonic plate dives beneath another. Saturday's tremor unleashed about 50 gigatons of energy and broke about 340 miles of the fault zone, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center.

The quake's epicenter was offshore and occurred about 140 miles north of the largest earthquake ever recorded - a magnitude-9.5 that killed about 1,600 people in Chile and scores of others in the Pacific in 1960.

"It's part of an elite class of giant earthquakes," said USGS geologist Brian Atwater. (source)

 
Chile earthquake death toll jumps to 708
The News - Natural Disasters
February 28, 2010

The number of people confirmed dead after Chile's earthquake has soared to 708 and is expected to rise further, President Michelle Bachelet has said.

Previously about 300 people had been reported to have been killed in Saturday's 8.8 magnitude quake - one of the most powerful recorded.

Massive damage is hampering rescue teams as they struggle to reach those still buried in the rubble.

The Chilean government has declared a curfew in two of the worst-hit areas.

State television reported that the curfew would apply in the regions of Maule and Concepcion, and begin at 2100 local time (midnight GMT).

The army is being sent to support police to prevent unrest in Concepcion.(BBC)

 
Chile Earthquake & Tsunami - Is Mother Nature Out of Control?
The News - Natural Disasters
February 27, 2010
chile earthquake tsunami natural disaster

Chile is on a hotspot of sorts for earthquake activity. And so the 8.8-magnitude temblor that shook the capital region overnight was not a surprise, historically speaking. Nor was it outside the realm of normal, scientists say, even though it comes on the heels of other major earthquakes.

One scientist, however, says that relative to a time period in the past, the Earth has been more active over the past 15 years or so. 

The Chilean earthquake, and the tsunami it spawned, originated on a hot spot known as a subduction zone, where one plate of Earth's crust dives under another. It's part of the very active "Ring of Fire," a zone of major crustal plate clashes that surround the Pacific Ocean.

"This particular subduction zone has produced very damaging earthquakes throughout its history," said Randy Baldwin, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The world's largest quake ever recorded, magnitude 9.5, occurred along the same fault zone in May 1960. Even so, magnitude-8 earthquakes occur globally, on average, just once a year. Since magnitudes are given on a logarithmic scale, an 8.8-magnitude is much more intense than a magnitude 8, and so this event would be even rarer, said J. Ramón Arrowsmith, a geologist at Arizona State University.

 
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