Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.3 Earthquake hits off the west coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia.

5.2 Earthquake hits Kamchatka, Russia.

5.2 Earthquake hits offshore Atacama, Chile.

5.0 Earthquake hits south of Sumbawa, Indonesia.

Storms and Floods

Storm in Meghalaya, India

Cyclonic storm in West Khasi Hills district in Meghalaya, India has claimed the life of at least one person and injured 25 others.

Environment

Humanity Faces Possible Extinction

A team of mathematicians, philosophers and scientists at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute say there is ever-increasing evidence that the human race’s reliance on technology could, in fact, lead to its demise. The group argues that we face a real risk to our own existence. And not a slow demise in some distant, theoretical future. The end could come as soon as the next century.

“There is a great race on between humanity’s technological powers and our wisdom to use those powers well. I’m worried that the former will pull too far ahead.”

There’s something about the end of the world that we just can’t shake. Even with the paranoia of 2012 Mayan prophecies behind us, people still remain fascinated by the potential for an extinction-level event. And popular culture is happy to indulge in our anxiety. This year alone, two major comedy films are set to debut (“The World’s End” and “This is the End”), which take a humorous look at the end-of-the-world scenarios. Interestingly, well-known threats, such as asteroids, super-volanic eruptions and earthquakes are not likely to threaten humanity in the near future. Even a nuclear explosion isn’t likely to wipe out the entire population; enough people could survive to rebuild society. “Empirical impact distributions and scientific models suggest that the likelihood of extinction because of these kinds of risk is extremely small on a time scale of a century or so.” Instead, it’s the unknown factors behind innovative technologies that pose the greatest risk going forward.

Machines, synthetic biology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence could become our own worst enemy, if they aren’t already, “threats we have no track record of surviving.” “We are developing things that could go wrong in a profound way. With any new powerful technology we should think very carefully about what we know – but it might be more important to know what we don’t have certainty about.”

However, it’s not all bad news. While a lack of understanding surrounding new technology posts huge risks, it does not necessarily equate to our downfall. “The Earth will remain habitable for at least another billion years. Civilization began only a few thousand years ago. If we do not destroy mankind, these few thousand years may be only a tiny fraction of the whole of civilized human history. It turns out that the ultimate potential for Earth-originating intelligent life is literally astronomical.”

Environment

Global Hottest and Coldest Temperatures

The week’s hottest temperature was 114.8 degrees Fahrenheit (46.0 degrees Celsius) at Matam, Senegal.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 86.6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 65.9 degrees Celsius) at the U.S. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, in Antarctica.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Global Warming

Plants Could Be Moderating Climate Change

Small particles released by plants in warmer weather could help to boost cloud production and reduce the effect of global warming, a new study suggests.

By surveying nearly a dozen forests across Europe, North America and southern Africa, a team of Finnish physicists found that in warmer weather, plants tend to emit higher concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere.

When these small, floating chemicals bind with water vapor, they can create the “seeds” of clouds.

With more VOCs in the air, we can expect to see more clouds in the sky.

That could be good news for those concerned about climate change.

As warmer weather leads to higher levels of cloud production, more sunlight will be deflected back into space and prevented from warming the surface of the Earth.

But the authors of the study, writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, caution that the global impact of this cloud-seeding effect is expected to be quite small.

While higher VOC emissions may help to cut rising local temperatures by as much as 30 percent, the study found that it can only be expected to slow the global warming trend by a mere one-percent.

The implications of the study may still be important. As Pauli Paasonen, lead author of the study points out, the role of sun-deflecting “aerosols” in the atmosphere is one of the least well understood factors of climate change.

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Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): Lava continues to intermittently flow over and out of vents at the rim and the base of the NE crater. Yesterday, the active flow front had reached about half way down the Sciara, local guides reported. Today, tremor has decreased again a bit, but overflows remain active at least in the upper parts of the slope. Relatively large explosions and near-constant rockfalls on the Sciara continue during the whole time.

Etna (Sicily, Italy): After 3 days of quiet, strombolian activity has resumed at the New SE crater yesterday. This has been accompanied by a rise of the tremor signal. Most likely, Etna is preparing again for yet another paroxysm in the near future.

Bagana (Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea): Heightened activity continues at Bagana. The latest NOAA satellite data reveal a significant plume of SO2 from the volcano.

Dukono (Halmahera): An unusually large SO2 plume from Dukono suggests the volcano, in semi-permanent strombolian-type eruption for many years, is currently in a phase of elevated activity.

Ambrym (Vanuatu): A SO2 plume is hovering over Ambrym island, suggesting that the lava lakes continue to be active. Our next group going there next week will hopefully be able to confirm this by direct observation.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity has remained low, with only about 1 weak emission of mainly steam per hour. Glow at the summit continues to be seen at night.

Fuego (Guatemala): Activity has decreased – the lava flows stopped being alimented yesterday and the explosive activity has become weaker. Different from previous eruptive phases, this time, it did not culminate in a paroxysmal eruption.

Galeras (Colombia): Activity (seismic and at the surface) has recently calmed down at the volcano.

Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia): More earthquakes have occurred at shallow depth beneath the volcano, including a magnitude 2.6 quake yesterday noon (local time) at 5 km NE beneath the Arenas crater, as well as some larger events later at night (no updates from Manizales observatory yet, though). The seismic swarm continues.

Cumbal (Colombia): Pasto observatory reported an increase in seismic activity during the past week, with many small volcanic-tectonic quakes u to magnitudes of 2.6 at varying depths of up to 20 km underneath of La Plazuela crater on the northern sector of the volcanic complex.

Reventador (Ecuador): Last night, emissions of steam and some ash produced a column rising bout 1 km above the crater.

Tungurahua (Ecuador): Activity remains at moderate levels. Steam and ash emissions produce plumes rising about 2 km from the crater, and occasional stronger explosions with cannon-shot noises can be heard (rarely seen) ejecting blocks that fall onto the outer upper slopes and tumble downhill.

Heard (Australia, Southern Indian Ocean): Effusive eruptive activity at the remote volcano continues. A recent satellite picture shows a new lava flow on the SW flank of Mawson Peak. A MODIS hot spot is visible as well. Starting in October 2012, satellites measured subtle signals that suggested volcanic activity on remote Heard Island. The recent satellite images (NASA Earth Observatory) have now provided proof of an eruption otherwise likely undetected.

Disease

China Bird Flu – Update

Three more people in China have died from severe respiratory infections from the H7N9 virus, pushing the number of deaths so far to 27. Two new cases have also been reported.

Saudi Arabia reports 7 new novel coronavirus cases

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry has reported that five Saudis have died of novel coronavirus (nCoV) infections in the past few days, and two more case-patients are in intensive care.

Newcastle Disease Outbreak in Kazakhstan.

The country’s concerned veterinary authorities have reported an outbreak of Newcastle disease in East Kazakhstan.

Second outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Tibet

Over 500 head of cattle have been culled in the latest outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the Tibetan capital region of Lhasa in central Tibet.