Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

Etna (Sicily, Italy): Weak lava effusion from the vent at the eastern base of the New SE crater, as well as sporadic small explosions from its summit crater continue with no significant variations over the past days.

Tungurahua (Ecuador): The volcano could be entering another eruptive phase in the near future, the latest report of IGPEN suggests. After a relatively calm week, a number of small to moderate explosions occurred again during 5-6 March.

The first eruption was around 23:56 (local time) on 5 March. A small explosion was felt in areas near the volcano, followed by a slightly stronger one at 00:40 on 6 March, heard as a gunshot noise in nearby areas such as Pondoa and Bilbao, as well at IGPEN’s volcano observatory. Direct observations could not be made because of cloud cover. When weather cleared in the morning, pulses of steam emissions with low ash content could be noted.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.3 Earthquake hits eastern New Guinea, Papua New Guinea.

5.2 Earthquake hits southern Sumatra, Indonesia.

5.2 Earthquake hits near the south coast of Papua, Indonesia.

5.1 Earthquake hits southwest of Africa.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

Environment

Bikini Nuclear Blast Anniversary

The Marshall Islands has commemorated the 60th anniversary of the most violent manmade event in the Pacific island republic’s history.

On March 1, 1954, the United States exploded a hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll that was far more powerful than even the scientists that built it had expected.

The blast, dubbed “Castle Bravo,” had a force of 15 megatons rather than the expected 6 megatons.

The resulting mushroom cloud of superheated air, water and fallout reached 130,000 feet (24.6 miles) in altitude — soaring well into the stratosphere.

Contamination from the largest above-ground test of a hydrogen bomb in U.S. history eventually spread to four continents.

The blast was 1,000 times more powerful than from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945.

The image of Bikini Atoll to the right was captured by the Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite on August 19, 2013. Clearly visible is the crater left by the “Castle Bravo” bomb.

Between 1946 and 1958, 23 nuclear bomb tests were conducted at the atoll.

Bikini islanders and their descendants have lived in exile since they were evicted from their homes before the first weapons tests in 1946. Some returned after the U.S. declared the atoll safe in the early 1970s.

But they were removed again after ingesting high levels of radiation in food grown in what was found to be still-contaminated ground.

Fallout from the 1954 blast, which had been intended to be top secret, also rained down on nearby Rongelap and Utirik atolls, leading many there to later suffer from radiation sickness.

Crewmembers of the Japanese tuna fishing vessel Daigo Fukuryu Maru (“Lucky Dragon No. 5”) were also exposed to high levels of fallout as they sailed past at 40 miles from the blast site. All of the crew became sick, and many eventually died from their illnesses.

Eighty-year-old survivor Matashichi Oishi described the experience to those gathered at the March 1 commemoration.

“I remember the brilliant flash in the west, the frightening sound that followed and the extraordinary sky which turned red as far as I could see,” he said.

The force of “Castle Bravo” was so great it suprised those who designed the hydrogen bomb that produced it.

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Environment

Momentum Builds for Deforestation-Free Palm Oil

To understand the issue, you need to know that palm oil, derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree, is a sought-after ingredient for thousands of products, from snack foods to shampoo. Its versatility and low cost have made it the most widely used vegetable oil in the world. But so far, palm oil’s popularity has come at a terrible price: Today’s conventional palm-oil production is one of the world’s major drivers of tropical deforestation, wiping out habitat for endangered species and contributing to climate change.

The other piece of the problem is the corruption and lax laws in many regions that have allowed a sometimes shady network of producers to clearcut vast swaths of tropical forests to make way for palm-oil plantations. The clearing of those forests not only harms the habitat of many endangered species, it releases huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere that those forests had formerly stored.

Oil-palm trees grow only in humid, tropical regions such as Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as parts of Africa and Latin America.

In addition to deforestation, palm-oil production has also led to the destruction of peat soils in many regions. While tropical forests store vast amounts of carbon, the peat soils on which some of these forests grow often contain some twenty times more. In fact, the peat soils in Southeast Asia store as much carbon as all above-ground vegetation in the Amazon. When these peat-rich soils are drained to make way for palm-oil plantations, the peat decomposes, releasing large quantities of carbon, and the soils become more susceptible to fire, which can emit even more carbon into the atmosphere.

The problem is far from solved, but in a major development, several large palm-oil purchasers, including Kellogg’s and Hershey’s, have recently pledged to buy only deforestation-free palm oil for their products. Two of the world’s largest palm oil suppliers — Wilmar and Golden Agri-Resources — have made similar commitments for the palm oil they sell. Now pressure is mounting on some of the remaining hold-outs — like Procter & Gamble, Pepsi and McDonald’s — to follow suit and do the right thing for the planet.

Disease

Zimbabwe Battles New Cattle Disease Outbreak

AN outbreak of lumpy skin cattle disease in Masvingo Province, Zimbabwe is feared to have left 5 000 cattle affected.

The worst affected areas include Gutu , Masvingo, Zaka, Bikita, Mwenezi and Chiredzi.

The Department of Veterinary Services is currently carrying out vaccinations of all cattle in the province amid reports of shortages of vaccines and veterinaries.

The outbreak of the lumpy skin cattle disease coincided with farmers in Chiredzi and Mwenezi battling to contain the foot and mouth disease.

Movement of cattle in Chiredzi, Mwenezi and parts of Bikita has been suspended due to the disease.

All public cattle auctions have also been suspended in areas were the disease has wrecked havoc.

Last year, there were no cattle on show at the Masvingo Agricultural Show following an outbreak of foot and mouth in Mwenezi and Chiredzi Districts.

These are traditionally cattle ranching areas in the country.

Such setbacks have hampered plans to rebuild the national herd, which was decimated by the drought suffered in 1992.

Space Events

Bus-Size Asteroid Gives Earth Super-Close Shave Today, Second in 2 Days

For the second day in a row, a space rock is going to zip close by Earth within the orbit of the moon, and you can watch the encounter live online.

The 33-foot-wide (10 meters) near-Earth asteroid 2014 EC will come within 34,550 miles (55,600 kilometers) of Earth’s surface this evening (March 6) — just 14 percent of the distance between our planet and the moon, which is about 239,000 miles (385,000 km) on average.

2014 EC, which was discovered just Tuesday (March 4), is about half as wide as the asteroid that exploded over Russia in February 2013, injuring about 1,500 people. There is no danger that 2014 EC will hit Earth on this pass, researchers stress; the chances that it will ever strike the planet are currently estimated at 1 in 2.7 million.

The flyby of 2014 EC follows closely on the heels of another space rock encounter. On Wednesday (March 6), the 100-foot-wide (30 m) asteroid 2014 DX110 zoomed by Earth, passing inside the orbit of the moon at a range of 217,000 miles (350,000 km).