Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.7 Earthquake hits Mendoza, Argentina.

5.2 Earthquake hits Halmahera, Indonesia.

5.0 Earthquake hits near the east coast of Honshu, Japan.

Over 500 homes have been damaged in the village of Bachatsky as a result of the 5.4 earthquake that struck the Kemerovo on Wednesday. It was the strongest earthquake to have struck the region in over 100 years. The earthquake also halted underground coal production in the region’s coal mines.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storm Barry

Tropical Storm Barry formed off Mexico’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday and is located about 40 mi (60 km) NE of Veracruz, Mexico.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the Atlantic hurricane season’s second tropical storm was drenching areas in its path with up to 10 inches of rain in some places, raising the threat of flash floods.

Barry was expected strengthen slightly before making landfall but would weaken soon after. In Veracruz state 2,000 shelters had been readied with mattresses, blankets, water and canned food. Shelters at schools and recreation centres could house up to 306,000 people. The port of Veracruz was closed to small vessels because of the strong winds.

Tropical storm Leepi was located about 132 nm west-northwestward of Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan.

Other News:

Flooding and landslides in Xinjiang’s Uygur Autonomous Region in China have claimed the lives of at least two people and affected 45,000 others. Heavy rainfall has damaged or destroyed 1,305 houses.

A tornado touched down for 10 minutes in Waikato, New Zealand. The tornado was at the lowest end of the scale and didn’t cause any serious damage.

Landslide in Palpa, Nepal has claimed the lives of three people.

Wildlife

Ocean Feast Lures Whales to California Coast

A large number of hungry blue and humpback whales, dolphins and orcas have appeared offshore of Central California this week. The visitors gorged on krill and squid. The pods of whales were drawn in by an upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich ocean bottom water, which spawned a boom in small marine life such as krill. The krill was so thick in parts of Monterey Bay yesterday (June 18) the water appeared red, according to the Monterey Bay Whale Watch Centre.

Blue whales are the biggest animals on Earth. About 2,800 blue whales spend June through October feeding on krill offshore of California near the Channel Islands, Monterey Bay and the Farallon Islands.

California Blue Whale

Environment

The Bering Strait Under Siege

People living in Savoonga, Alaska, like to call their village the “Walrus Capital of the World.” The village sits at the mouth of the Bering Strait, and roughly 80 percent of all North Pacific walruses migrate through those narrow waters every year. They are joined by hundreds of thousands of whales, dolphins and other marine mammals and an estimated 12 million seabirds. These animals gather in the Bering Strait for one of the largest wildlife migrations in the world.

Arctic coastlines have been compared to the Serengeti because of their abundant wildlife corridors, but what many people don’t realize is that deep beneath the water’s surface, another vast migration unfolds every spring and fall. The Bering Strait becomes the Serengeti of the oceans during those seasons, and the abundance of animal life has fed Yup’ik people and cultural traditions for millennia.

Now, climate change has begun to threaten those traditions. Native Alaskan leaders tell me that melting sea ice has made subsistence hunting far more difficult. And warming temperatures introduced another threat to native customs and the marine mammals they depend upon: industrial shipping.

The Northern Sea route — connecting Asia and Europe by skirting along Russia’s far north — has been frozen for much of human history, but climate change has caused the ice to shrink to record-breaking lows, and shipping companies are swooping in. The amount of cargo sent along the Northern Sea route is still relatively small, but it increased ten times since 2010, and Reuters recently reported that traffic along the route could expand thirtyfold in the next several years.

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Most of those ships will cut through the pristine waters of the Bering Strait. Funneling traffic through these vibrant waters is like building a heavy-truck corridor through the bison, wolf and grizzly habitat of Yellowstone National Park, or carving a shipping lane through the Great Barrier Reef.

Marine mammals will be among the first to suffer. The Bering Strait is only about 50 miles wide. It is home to one of the largest marine mammal migration paths in the world, and those creatures swim through the same ice-free pathways the ships will travel. Collisions between the two will increase and could prove deadly for the animals as it has in other oceans, including in the North Atlantic, where ship strikes are the key source of mortality for endangered right whales.

Spills are another hazard. Russian companies have already sent huge tankers of liquefied natural gas to ports in China and Japan. The route had to be cleared by three Russian ice breakers, and no technology has been proven to clean up oil in sea ice.

Yet one of the biggest threats comes from ocean noise pollution. Whales and other marine mammals depend on hearing for life’s most basic functions. They use sound to locate food, find a mate, avoid predators, connect with friends and family and navigate their way through the world. Walrus and seal hearing can be so keen that native hunters learn to walk on ice in ways that don’t make any noise.

Giant cargo ships and nuclear-powered icebreakers take no such precautions. Their booming sounds carry great distances underwater and can scare marine mammals from feeding spots, silence them, drown out the sounds they rely upon and prevent them from feeding and breeding. This is especially a concern in the Arctic. Sound travels more readily through acidic waters, and the cold seas of the North have turned more acidic as more carbon pollution gets pumped into the atmosphere. In other words, climate change is hitting marine mammals with a triple whammy: warming temperatures are making it possible for shipping traffic to increase, and at the same time, ocean acidification threatens important food sources and makes ship traffic even more destructive for sound-guided animals.

Wildfires

Wildfires – Indonesia

Smog in Singapore has reached hazardous levels and is set to persist as forest fires rage on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, with the nations’ governments bickering over responsibility for the haze.

Activists have suggested that Malaysia and Singapore should pressure both the Indonesian government and palm-oil companies that are burning forests to clear the way for plantations to halt the destructive practice.

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Wildfires USA – Update

The massive Black Forest wildfire in Colorado is a lot closer to being contained but a new one in Arizona is getting bigger by the hour. The fire is burning near the town of Prescott in northern Arizona and is forcing homeowners there to evacuated.

Two lightning-sparked fires in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado have grown to 3,280 acres, forcing emergency crews to rescue 13 backcountry campers by helicopter and deploy crews to protect the Wolf Creek Ski Area.

Wildfires have also flared up in northern Alaska.

Disease

Novel Coronavirus – Saudi Arabia – Update

The mysterious new respiratory virus that originated in the Middle East spreads easily between people and appears more deadly than SARS, doctors report.

More than 60 cases of what is now called MERS, including 38 deaths, have been recorded by the World Health Organisation in the past year, mostly in Saudi Arabia.

An international team of doctors who investigated nearly two dozen cases in eastern Saudi Arabia found the new coronavirus has some striking similarities to SARS.

In a worrying finding, the team said on Wednesday, MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) not only spreads easily between people, but within hospitals. That was also the case with SARS, a distant relative of the new virus. They couldn’t nail down how it was spread in every case – through droplets from sneezing or coughing, or a more indirect route. Some of the hospital patients weren’t close to the infected person, but somehow picked up the virus.

“In the right circumstances, the spread could be explosive,” the Doctors said.

Cases have continued to trickle in, and there appears to be an ongoing outbreak in Saudi Arabia. MERS cases have also been reported in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Tunisia. Most have had a direct connection to the Middle East region. In the Saudi cluster that was investigated, certain patients infected many more people than would be expected.

Dengue Outbreak in Angola

The CDC has reported an outbreak of more than 300 cases of dengue fever in the Luanda province of Angola. One death also has been confirmed.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

Tolbachik (Kamchatka): KVERT reports no changes in the ongoing eruption of the volcano. Tremor levels remain stable and lava continues to be effused from the southern fissure vent. The other currently active volcanoes in Kamchatka have not shown significant variations either. Moderate seismic activity was reported by KVERT for Shiveluch, Kizimen (dome extrusion) and Gorely (degassing), while no data were available for Bezymianny (dome extrusion) and Karymsky (intermittent mild explosions) volcanoes. Klyuchevskoy seems to be currently quiet.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): A few hours ago, another moderately strong explosions occurred at 14:48 h local time, which threw incandescent fragments at distances of 100 m from the crater and generated an ash column reaching nearly 2 km in height, which was dispersed towards the northwest. The alert level remains unchanged at Yellow Phase 2. Yesterday’s strong eruption ejected bombs to distances of up to 2 km and many ignited bushfires. There were reports of ashfall in Tetela del Volcán, Ocuituco, Yecapixtla, Atlatlahucan, Cuautla, Tlayacapan, Yautepec, Jiutepec y Xochitepec in the state of Morelos, and also in Ecatzingo, Atlautla y Ozumba in the state of México.

Eruption from Popocatepétl yesterday morning:

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