Archive for the ‘natural disasters’ Category

Fatal avalanches in America in the last couple of weeks have caused major concern, but none were this bad.
Dozens killed in Afghanistan avalanche
Aljazeera online
6 March 2012

Army helicopters sent to Badakhshan, a province on the Tajikistan border, where an entire village is buried under snow.

At least 42 people have died in an avalanche that hit a village in northeastern Afghanistan, local officials say. Hundreds more remained trapped on Tuesday under the snow, according to the officials. The avalanche covered at least one village in Badakhshan province, near the border with Tajikistan.

Afghan army helicopters descended on the north of Badakhshan to try to rescue the trapped families.

Afghanistan’s harshest winter in 15 years has led to the deaths of 24 children in IDP camps around Kabul. Six people injured in the snow were evacuated to neighboring Tajikistan for emergency medical treatment.

Hundreds of household animals perished and a number of houses are said to be destroyed in Tuesday’s avalanche, according to Afghan media outlets.

“The way to the village is closed, it is covered in snow,” Abdul Marof Rasikh, spokesman for Badakshan’s governor, said of the village of about 300 people accessible only via helicopter, located in the Shekay district. According to the Pajhwok news service, a hundred residents of nearby villages were the first to reach the site.

The residents launched a rescue effort with their bare hands and shovels, officials told the local outlet. Rasikh told Al Jazeera that it is believed the entire village has been buried under snow.

Freezing cold and avalanches have already claimed the lives of 60 people in Badakhshan this winter. Among them were 35 children who died over two days in late February after roads to districts were blocked by heavy snow.

Two science articles caught my attention today, about events happening in the Artic Circle. Reading the first article lead to my finding the second one.

Artic Ocean freshwater bulge detected
BBC News Science
23 Jan 2012

UK scientists have detected a huge dome of freshwater that is developing in the western Arctic Ocean….

If the freshwater were to enter the North Atlantic in large volumes, the concern would be that it might disturb the currents that have such a great influence on European weather patterns.

These currents draw warm waters up from the tropics, maintaining milder temperatures in winter than would ordinarily be expected at northern European latitudes.

A climate out of balance…
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Beaufort Gyre Exploration Project

Ice, ocean, atmosphere. These three components constitute the health of the Arctic climate. At the heart of this system is one of the least studied bodies of water on the planet: the Beaufort Gyre, a slowly swirling bowl of icy water north of Alaska ten times the size of Lake Michigan.

Recent observations suggest that because of global warming, the natural rhythms of the Beaufort Gyre have been tipped out of balance.

To find out what this means for the future of the Arctic climate, scientists from the United States, Canada, and Japan will set out every summer from 2003 to 2014 for month-long expeditions aboard the Canadian icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent. They are using an array of newly-developed instruments to measure the environment above, below, and within the floating icepack.

(There are many links to further detailed information on this site.)

June 9, 2011

The U.S. electric grid is a complex network of independently owned and operated power plants and transmission lines. Aging infrastructure, combined with a rise in domestic electricity consumption, has forced experts to critically examine the status and health of the nation’s electrical systems.

Here is an informative website on the United States power grid system, with numerous maps:

Right now various components of the United States power grid are experiencing problems from multiple threats.

(1) Arizona Wallow Fire Approaching Power Supplies to Two States (New Mexico and Texas)
Christian Post online June 9, 2011

Firefighters have battled through the night in an attempt to protect numerous Arizona mountain communities from the spreading Wallow fire that has forced thousands to evacuate and flee their homes.

The fire has now become the second largest ever seen in Arizona, and is threatening electricity supplies as far away as Texas.

(2) Extreme weather is causing scattered power outages across Canada and the United States, including Michigan, Illinois, Connecticut, New York, Masssachusetts, Virginia, and others. Some power grids have increased problems due to outdated infrastructure, such as Detroit:

Downtown Detroit left in the dark after power malfunction
Detroit Free Press online 9 June 2011

A major malfunction Thursday at the beleaguered Detroit Public Lighting Department knocked out Fire Department phones and power to traffic lights, municipal buildings, courts, schools and the People Mover, prompting fears that traffic snarls, widespread outages and disruptions likely would continue through tonight.|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

From The Detroit News: City spokeswoman Karen Dumas said the outage was caused by extreme power demand for air conditioning after two days in the 90s.

(3) This Week’s Solar Flare Illuminates the Grid’s Vulnerability
New York Times online June 9, 2011

A massive burst of solar wind that erupted from the sun Tuesday is expected to deliver only a “glancing blow” to the Earth’s vulnerable magnetic field, NASA officials said yesterday. But it will preview what some experts call a potentially existential threat to the power grids of the United States and other nations, and the populations that depend on them.

(4) Cyber Attack on U.S. Electric Grid ‘Gravest Short Term Threat’ to National Security, Lawmakers Say
ABC News May 31, 2011

ABC News’ Huma Khan reports: The United States is ill-prepared to deal with a cyber attack on the nation’s electric grid, one of the biggest national security threats facing the country today, lawmakers warned.

“The sobering reality is this vulnerability, if left unaddressed, could have grave, societal-altering consequences,” Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee today. “We face a menace that may represent the gravest short term threat to the peace and security of the human family in the world today.”

Experiments by federal agencies in recent years have shown that cyber spies have intruded the U.S. electric system, and that it’s increasingly susceptible to attacks by hackers and foreign governments.

Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated By Spies
Wall Street Journal online
April 8, 2009

WASHINGTON — Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.

The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven’t sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war.

The espionage appeared pervasive across the U.S. and doesn’t target a particular company or region, said a former Department of Homeland Security official.

Authorities investigating the intrusions have found software tools left behind that could be used to destroy infrastructure components, the senior intelligence official said.

Weird weather

Posted: February 2, 2011 in natural disasters, Uncategorized

Colossal Winter Storm Roars Across U.S.
FoxNews online
2 Feb 2011

CHICAGO — A massive storm billed as the worst in decades barreled northeast thorough U.S. states on Wednesday, leaving vast swaths from Chicago to New York paralyzed by snow and ice. Hundreds of motorists were stranded overnight, and airports and schools were forced to close.

Chicago had 19.5 inches (49.53 centimeters) of snow, ranking the storm the third-largest on record to hit the city — and still more snow was possible. As much as 18 inches (46 centimeters) fell in Missouri, more than a foot (30 centimeters) dropped on northern Indiana and southeast Kansas, and Oklahoma saw up to a foot.

New York City was expected to get up to three-quarters of an inch (2 centimeters) of ice by midday before the mix of sleet and freezing rain warms up to rain.

Forecasters warned ice accumulations could knock down some tree limbs and power lines across the storm’s more than 2,000-mile (3,220-kilometer) path. Ice also could affect transit service.

The storm was, if not unprecedented, extraordinarily rare, National Weather Service meteorologist Thomas Spriggs said. “A storm that produces a swath of 20-inch snow is really something we’d see once every 50 years — maybe,” Spriggs said.

In Chicago, the city closed public schools for the first time in 12 years and shut down Lake Shore Drive, where hundreds of motorists were stranded for 12 hours after multiple car accidents on the iconic roadway. Bulldozers moved snow away from an estimated hundreds of cars that remained buried up to their roofs Wednesday morning, after drivers had been rescued. Only then could tow trucks move in.

Not only was driving dicey, but flying in and out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport — a major U.S. hub — won’t be possible until Thursday. The decision by O’Hare-based airlines to cancel all their flights for a day and a half was certain to have ripple effects, said transportation expert Joseph Schwieterman.

More than 5,300 flights were canceled nationwide, according to flight tracking service FlightAware. That came a day after airlines grounded 12,630 flights due to the storm.

More than 200,000 homes and businesses in Ohio began Wednesday without power, while in excess of 100,000 customers had no electricity in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which were hit with mostly freezing rain and ice.

Rolling blackouts were in Texas.

In Oklahoma, rescue crews and the National Guard searched overnight for any motorists who might be stranded along its major highways after whiteouts shut down Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

The storm’s powerful punch came from cold air that swept down from Canada, clashing with warm, moist air coming up from the south, explained National Weather Service meteorologist Gino Izzo.


‘Monster’ Cyclone Yasi Strikes Oz Coast
SkyNews online 2 Feb 2011

A huge storm has crashed into northeastern Australia, ripping roofs from buildings and cutting-off power to thousands of homes. Officials have said Cyclone Yasi is likely to cause destruction on a huge scale and probably some deaths.

It has been measured as a category five storm – putting it on a par with Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.

The destructive core of the storm swept in from the Pacific before hitting land at about midnight local time (2pm in the UK). Experts say it will be several hours before the winds ease.

The massive weather system is 310 miles (500km) across, with the eye alone measuring some 60 miles (100km) across. Gusts of almost 190mph (300kmh) are expected.

Then there’s this:

Flights delayed as Japan volcano erupts
ABC news online
2 Feb 2011

Volcanic lightning strikes above Shinmoedake peak as it erupts (Reuters: Minami-Nippon Shimbun)

A volcanic eruption in southern Japan has delayed international flights and shattered windows more than 10 kilometres away. The 1,400-metre Shinmoedake volcano has been belching out smoke and ash since last week, the start of its first major eruption for 52 years. But the eruptions have grown more intense in the last 24 hours, with one gigantic blast shattering windows 12 kilometres away….

Japanese volcano awakens with a vengeance
Earlier story, 31 Jan 2011

Officials in southern Japan have urged more than 1,000 residents of a town near an erupting volcano to evacuate amid reports of large rocks falling in the area.

Mount Shinmoe’s first major eruption in almost 200 years is sending plumes of ash and rocks kilometres into the sky. The eruption, on the southern island of Kyushu, has disrupted flights and train services and sparked warnings about another, even more powerful blast.

Vulcanologists say a giant lava dome on the volcano has now grown to more than 500 metres in diameter. For some people living near the volcano it is nothing more than a nuisance, but for others it is like a biblical curse.

From many sources 13 January 2011 come news of floods, severe snow and ice storms, a new eruption from a very old active volcano – as well as political uprisings in several nations. The most interesting of those to me is the government falling in Lebanon. Here are links to the various stories just from one day…

More floods:



Sri Lanka:

Snow and ice storms across the United States:

Mt. Etna erupts again:

Lebanon government falls:

And the President of Tunisia has left the country due to massive protests in that North African nation:

Stay tuned.

Blood Red Moon and “The Day of the Lord”
(Title quoted from Joel Rosenberg’s webblog, 21 Dec 2010)

This was the first total lunar eclipse – a startling blood red moon – during the Winter solstice since 1638. The next one like this doesn’t occur until December 21, 2094. It’s particularly interesting in light of two Bible prophecies:

  • “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.” (Joel 2:31)
  • “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars.” (Luke 21:25)

It’s also interesting considering the enormous number of natural disasters that have occurred this year, including devastating earthquakes, volcanoes, blizzards and floods.

The following is excerpted from an AP article in the Salt Lake Tribune 19 December 2010:

2010’s world gone wild: Quakes, floods, blizzards

This was the year the Earth struck back. More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters in 2010 than have been killed in terrorist attacks in the past 40 years combined.

Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010 — the deadliest year in more than a generation.

“It just seemed like it was back-to-back and it came in waves,” said Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. It handled a record number of disasters in 2010. “The term ‘100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year.”

Even though many catastrophes have the ring of random chance, the hand of man made this a particularly deadly, costly, extreme and weird year for everything from wild weather to earthquakes.

Poor construction and development practices conspire to make earthquakes more deadly than they need be. More people live in poverty in vulnerable buildings in crowded cities. That means that when the ground shakes, the river breaches, or the tropical cyclone hits, more people die.

Disasters from the Earth, such as earthquakes and volcanoes “are pretty much constant,” said Andreas Schraft, vice president of catastrophic perils for the Geneva-based insurance giant Swiss Re. “All the change that’s made is man-made.”

In the summer, one weather system caused oppressive heat in Russia, while farther south it caused flooding in Pakistan that inundated 62,000 square miles, about the size of Wisconsin. That single heat-and-storm system killed almost 17,000 people, more people than all the worldwide airplane crashes in the past 15 years combined.

Preliminary data show that 18 countries broke their records for the hottest day ever. “The Earth strikes back in cahoots with bad human decision-making,” said a weary Debarati Guha Sapir, director for the World Health Organization’s Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.

“It’s almost as if the policies, the government policies and development policies, are helping the Earth strike back instead of protecting from it. We’ve created conditions where the slightest thing the Earth does is really going to have a disproportionate impact.”

Here’s a quick tour of an anything but normal 2010:

While the Haitian earthquake, Russian heat wave, and Pakistani flooding were the biggest killers, deadly quakes also struck Chile, Turkey, China and Indonesia in one of the most active seismic years in decades. Through mid-December there have been 20 earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or higher, compared to the normal 16.

Flooding alone this year killed more than 6,300 people in 59 nations through September. Inundated countries include China, Italy, India, Colombia and Chad.

Super Typhoon Megi with winds of more than 200 mph devastated the Philippines and parts of China.

Through Nov. 30, nearly 260,000 people died in natural disasters in 2010, compared to 15,000 in 2009, according to Swiss Re. By comparison, deaths from terrorism from 1968 to 2009 were less than 115,000, according to reports by the U.S. State Department and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

After strong early year blizzards — nicknamed Snowmageddon — paralyzed the U.S. mid-Atlantic and record snowfalls hit Russia and China, the temperature turned to broil.

The year may go down as the hottest on record worldwide or at the very least in the top three, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The average global temperature through the end of October was 58.53 degrees, a shade over the previous record of 2005, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

Los Angeles had its hottest day in recorded history on Sept. 27: 113 degrees. In May, 129 set a record for Pakistan and may have been the hottest temperature recorded in an inhabited location.

In the U.S. Southeast, the year began with freezes in Florida that had cold-blooded iguanas becoming comatose and falling off trees. Then it became the hottest summer on record for the region. As the year ended, unusually cold weather was back in force.

Northern Australia had the wettest May-October on record, while the southwestern part of that country had its driest spell on record. And parts of the Amazon River basin struck by drought hit their lowest water levels in recorded history.

Disasters caused $222 billion in economic losses in 2010 — more than Hong Kong’s economy — according to Swiss Re.

A volcano in Iceland paralyzed air traffic for days in Europe, disrupting travel for more than 7 million people. Other volcanoes in the Congo, Guatemala, Ecuador, the Philippines and Indonesia sent people scurrying for safety. New York City had a rare tornado.

A nearly 2-pound hailstone that was 8 inches in diameter fell in South Dakota in July to set a U.S. record. The storm that produced it was one of seven declared disasters for that state this year.

There was not much snow to start the Winter Olympics in a relatively balmy Vancouver, British Columbia, while the U.S. East Coast was snowbound.

In a 24-hour period in October, Indonesia got the trifecta of terra terror: a deadly magnitude 7.7 earthquake, a tsunami that killed more than 500 people and a volcano that caused more than 390,000 people to flee. That’s after flooding, landslides and more quakes killed hundreds earlier in the year.

Even the extremes were extreme. This year started with a good sized El Nino weather oscillation that causes all sorts of extremes worldwide. Then later in the year, the world got the mirror image weather system with a strong La Nina, which causes a different set of extremes. Having a year with both a strong El Nino and La Nina is unusual.

And in the United States, FEMA declared a record number of major disasters, 79 as of Dec. 14. The average year has 34. A list of day-by-day disasters in 2010 compiled by the AP runs 64 printed pages long.

“The extremes are changed in an extreme fashion,” said Greg Holland, director of the earth system laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

For example, even though it sounds counterintuitive, global warming likely played a bit of a role in “Snowmageddon” earlier this year, Holland said. That’s because with a warmer climate, there’s more moisture in the air, which makes storms including blizzards, more intense, he said.

It was also a year of man-made technological catastrophes. BP’s busted oil well caused 172 million gallons to gush into the Gulf of Mexico.

Sky News online October 02, 2010

Farmers in Australia are preparing for the worst invasion of locusts for up to 75 years, with fears millions of pounds worth of crops could be destroyed.

In the past few days, aircraft have begun spraying farmland with insecticides to try to slow the march of billions of the insects before they mature and begin to fly.

Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia are all affected, with hundreds of farmers reporting that locust eggs have begun hatching on their land.

A record number were laid in autumn, and the conditions have been perfect for them to thrive, with the country enduring its wettest September on record after years of drought.

The weather is also helping the farmers but their hopes of a best-in-a-decade harvest are now threatened by the locust invasion.

Steve Wahn, the primary industries minister in the New South Wales government visited a site near Bourke this week to see for himself the tiny insects which are infesting fields.

He calls it “a plague of biblical proportions”.

“We are seeing survival rates of 80% or more from the locusts, whereas in a normal year you’d only get 20% or so which could survive. This is a huge challenge for us,” he said.

“We’ve got potentially our best crop in a decade but potentially the worst locust plague in 30 years.”

There is now a race against time to spray the insects before they begin to fly.

For the first few weeks of their life the tiny nymphs or “hoppers” are relatively easy to deal with, even though they begin to form huge bands which can travel 100 miles a day.

Aircraft can spray the fields and as the bugs travel through the insecticide they die.

But those which survive will eventually form huge fast moving clouds which can cover a wide area and devour entire crops within days.

Simon Oliver, the state’s deputy plague locust commissioner, says he has been shocked by how rapidly the insects have already increased in number.

“If we don’t get them in the next 10 days we may lose them as this temperature heats up they’ll start to fledge and fly.

“Once they swarm it’s virtually impossible to control them. They’re highly mobile and they’ll move right across the state.”

Farmer Scott Mitchell found signs of infestation in the land where he grazes his sheep.

He and his neighbours have been looking forward to some relief after several years of drought conditions.

“We’ve just come out of one natural disaster and this is just something else we have to put up with,” he said.

Wheat farmers in the area could be hit hard.

“They’re looking at the best crop they’ve had in a long time and they need their crop to get out of financial trouble so if they get down and wreck that it’s going to be probably a bigger disaster than we’ve had in this whole drought really,” Mr Mitchell added.