Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

6.1 Earthquake hits the Santa Cruz Islands.

5.7 Earthquake Alamagan region, Mariana Islands.

5.5 Earthquake hits northern Qinghai, China.

5.5 Earthquake hits the Kuril Islands.

5.3 Earthquake hits the Sea of Okhotsk.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Big Island, Hawaii.

5.1 Earthquake hits New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

Iran Nuclear Plant Damaged by Recent Earthquakes

Tehran claimed the Bushehr nuclear facility was untouched by recent tremblers, but large cracks have apparently been seen in its structure.

Diplomats say countries monitoring Iran’s nuclear program have picked up information that the country’s only power-producing nuclear reactor was damaged by one or more recent earthquakes. Two diplomats say long cracks have appeared in at least one section of the structure. One concrete section of the structure appears to have developed cracks several meters long as a result of the quakes on April 9 and April 16.

Iran has refused to join an international nuclear safety convention, and technical problems have shut the plant for lengthy periods since it started up in September 2011 after years of construction delays. Kuwait and other Arab countries are only a few hundred kilometers (miles) away from Iran’s Bushehr reactor, on the other side of Persian Gulf coast south of Tehran, and are particularly worried about the safety of the Russian-built reactor. But Iran insists the plant is technically sound and built to withstand all but the largest earthquakes unscathed. Officials in Tehran reassured the international community after the quakes struck in April and early May that the facility was undamaged.

Storms and Floods

Floods in Central Europe – Update

German flood threat heads north towards Dresden

Thousands of German troops have been sent to help flood-hit regions as rising rivers threaten more cities. Surging waters that have already caused extensive damage across central Europe are moving north and east along rivers including the Elbe and Danube.

Meanwhile river levels in the Czech capital Prague have begun to fall. Large areas of suburban Prague were flooded but metal barriers protecting the historic city centre held as the floods peaked and the high waters moved north towards Germany.

Around 4,000 German troops have been deployed in four states, reinforcing dykes with sandbags and providing help to thousands of people forced to leave their homes.

All the signs were that the waters of the Danube were subsiding, but other rivers further north started to look more threatening.

In Saxony, the Elbe was rising to dangerous levels, as waters poured in from the Czech Republic. The latest cities to be hit include Meissen on the Elbe. Nearby Dresden is preparing for water levels 5m higher than normal. Officials in Saxony – home to both Meissen and Dresden – have warned that rivers could rise even higher than in the record floods of 2002, when both cities were devastated.

Global Warming

Causes of Global Warming – Reference Article

Earth’s climate has always been in a state of flux, according to data gleaned from the geological record, ice core samples and other sources.

Los angeles smog

Smog over Los Angeles, USA

However, since the Industrial Revolution began in the late 1700s, the world’s climate has been changing in a rapid and unprecedented way.

Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) over the past century, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports. What are the causes of global warming?

The greenhouse effect

Earth’s climate is the result of a balance between the amount of incoming energy from the sun, and energy being radiated out into space.

Incoming solar radiation strikes Earth’s atmosphere in the form of visible light, plus ultraviolet and infrared radiation (which are invisible to the human eye), according to the Earth Observatory of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation has a higher energy level than visible light, and infrared (IR) radiation has a weaker energy level. Some of the sun’s incoming radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere, the oceans and the surface of the Earth.

Much of it, however, is reflected back out to space as low-energy IR radiation. For Earth’s temperature to remain stable, the amount of incoming solar radiation should be roughly equal to the amount of IR radiation leaving the atmosphere.

As Earth’s atmosphere changes, however, the amount of IR radiation leaving the atmosphere also changes. And since the Industrial Revolution, the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gasoline have greatly increased the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.

Along with other gases like methane and nitrous oxide, CO2 acts like a blanket, absorbing IR radiation and preventing it from leaving the atmosphere. The net effect causes the gradual heating of Earth’s atmosphere and surface. [Related: Effects of Global Warming]

This is called the “greenhouse effect” because a similar process occurs in a greenhouse: Relatively high-energy UV and visible radiation penetrate the glass walls and roof of a greenhouse, but weaker IR radiation isn’t able to pass out through the glass. The trapped IR radiation keeps the greenhouse warm, even in the coldest winter weather.

Greenhouse gases

There are several gases in Earth’s atmosphere known as “greenhouse gases” because they exacerbate the greenhouse effect: CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor and ozone are among the most prevalent, according to NASA.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were once commonly used as refrigerants and aerosol propellants (they’re now largely phased out by international agreement because they caused significant damage to the ozone layer). CFCs also function as greenhouse gases.

Not all greenhouse gases are the same: Some, like methane, are produced through agricultural practices including livestock manure management. Others, like CO2, largely result from natural processes like respiration and from the burning of fossil fuels.

Additionally, these greenhouses gases don’t all contribute equally to the greenhouse effect: Methane, for example, is about 21 times more effective at trapping heat from IR radiation than carbon dioxide, according to the EPA.

This difference in heat-trapping ability is sometimes referred to as a gas’s “global-warming potential,” or GWP.

Greenhouse effect

Natural causes vs. human causes of global warming

Earth’s historic climate changes have included ice ages, warming periods and other fluctuations in climate over many centuries.

Some of these historical changes can be attributed to changes in the amount of solar radiation hitting the planet. A drop in solar activity, for example, is believed to have caused the “Little Ice Age,” a period of unusually colder climate that lasted from about 1650 to 1850, according to NASA.

However, there is no evidence that any increase in solar radiation could be responsible for the steady increase in global temperatures that scientists are now recording, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In other words, natural causes cannot be held responsible for global warming. “There is no scientific debate on this point,” the NOAA website states.

Indeed, virtually every credible source of scientific research from around the world indicates that human causes — primarily the burning of fossil fuels and the subsequent increase in atmospheric CO2 levels — are responsible for global warming.

Disease

Novel Coronavirus – Saudi Arabia – Update

The Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia has notified WHO of an additional laboratory-confirmed case with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).