Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

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

5.4 Earthquake hits the southern Mid-Atlantic ridge.


Tiny Plastic Bits Polluting Great Lakes

Tiny bits of plastic are polluting the world’s waterways, including North America’s Great Lakes.

Scientists are skimming the waters of the North American Great Lakes this summer to see how pervasive a pollutant known as “microplastic” has become.

The waterway’s ecosystems have already suffered other manmade ravages, such as invasive mussels brought in by shipping, industrial pollution and agricultural runoff that has triggered blooms of toxic algae.

But now scientists are finding increasing amounts of tiny plastic particles in the water and lake beds that are, in part, what is left when plastic bottles and other items break down over time.

But many of the particles are abrasive “microbeads” used in personal care products like body washes and toothpaste.

Manufacturers such as Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson have announced plans to phase out the production of the pollutants, which are too small to be filtered out by municipal wastewater systems.

It’s not yet clear how long the microplastic pollution has been in the lakes or if fish are eating it.

Initial studies indicate Lake Erie is the most affected, since it receives outflow from lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron to the north.

But Lorena Rios Mendoza, a chemist with the University of Wisconsin, says that “Lake Ontario is as contaminated (with the particles) as Lake Erie, if not more so.”

New studies hope to find out if the particles are soaking up toxins in the water, possibly contaminating fish that eat them.


Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms

In the Eastern Pacific:

Tropical storm Gil is located about 1405 mi (2260 km) E of of Hilo Hawaii. Disorganized Gil is slowly weakening.

In the Western Pacific:

Strong tropical storm Jebi landed in south China’s Hainan Province on Friday evening, bringing intense rain and strong gales that grounded flights and halted maritime traffic.

The ninth tropical storm to hit China this year, Jebi made landfall in Longlou Township, Wenchang City, at 7:30 p.m., packing winds of up to 117 km per hour near its center.

Affected by the storm, many parts of the island province reported heavy rain on Friday, including Haikou, capital of Hainan, where many city roads were badly waterlogged. In hard-hit Longlou Township, strong winds felled trees and knocked down billboards. Many roadside stores were closed and few pedestrians were seen on the streets.

Other News:

A landslide has disrupted trains on a railway in Southwest China’s Yunnan province.

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Floods hit parts of Quezon City and Manila in the Philippines due to strong rains Saturday afternoon.

Global Warming

Greenhouse Gas Causing Ocean ‘Tooth Decay’

Rising amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) from the burning of fossil fuels are having a catastrophic, decaying effect on some marine life, according to new research.

Scientists from Scotland’s University of St. Andrews say increased acidity in the oceans due to more CO2 in the air is causing something comparable to tooth decay for tiny organisms known as foraminifera, or forams.

They are single-celled creatures that build elaborate shells to protect themselves.

The drop in ocean pH due to the greenhouse gas is reducing the number and sizes of these shells, with many becoming deformed. This makes it far more difficult for the creatures to feed.

And since they are at the base of the ocean food chain, scientists fear losses in the foram population could affect far larger marine life.

“The threat of future acidification is very real, and comes at a time when the human population depends more than ever on a healthy and productive marine environment,” said St. Andrews researcher David Patterson.

It’s feared that the greater ocean acidity could also soon affect shellfish, coral and other creatures.


Space Events

Perseid Meteor Shower

The first Perseid fireballs of 2013 are arriving now. Earth is entering a stream of debris from parent comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, and meteoroids are hitting the top of the atmosphere at 135,000 mph. The maximum is coming. Meteor rates should remain low for the next week as Earth penetrates the sparse outskirts of the debris stream, then skyrocket to 100+ meteors per hour as the calendar turns to the second week of August. Forecasters expect maximum Perseid activity on the nights of August 12-13.


Wildfires in Portugal

Four hundred firefighters are currently battling alongside the Portuguese military to put out a large forest fire that is raging in the north of the country.

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Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

Shiveluch (Kamchatka): An explosion and/or dome collapse event occurred last night at 19:36 UTC, with a likely ash plume rising to possibly up to 20,000 ft (estimated from seismic signals).

Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): The volcano seems to have become less active during the past days, following its own rhythm of alternating phases of weak and strong activity, each lasting from days to weeks typically. After a still very productive 31 July, the rate of explosions has gone down to 0-2 per day during the past days. Also, average sizes of explosions have been weaker recently, compared to mid July.

Veniaminof (Alaska Peninsula, USA): The eruption has been decreasing during the past days, and looks as if it could soon end. Seismic activity has decreased as well, but still indicates that some activity continues to take place. “Elevated surface temperatures were observed during clear periods over the past week, and indicate the continued eruption of lava. Minor ash and steam emissions up to 3.6 km (12,000 ft) above sea level and extending for 20 km (12.4 miles) were reported by pilots and observed in satellite data from July 27-29. Clouds have mostly obscured views of the volcano since then.” (AVO)

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity has been more or less stable at relatively low levels. During 1-2 Aug, the rate of emissions climbed to about 3 per hour, and some tremor episodes were recorded as well as at least one (non observed) explosion event. VAAC Washington reported short but strong ash emissions rising to 28,000 ft (5.5 km) altitude, i.e. not much above the summit elevation of the volcano, at 11:36 and 14:34 UTC yesterday.

Tungurahua (Ecuador): The trend of increasing activity has continued over the past days. The volcano has been producing nearly constant steam and ash emissions to a maximum height of 2 km height, as well as discrete strombolian to vulcanian-type explosions accompanied by atmospheric shock waves and ground vibration. Ash fall has affected numerous inhabited and cultivated areas near the volcano. Heavy rains have been causing trouble, too, because a series of mud flows were generated, especially inside the ravines of the western flank.