Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.7 Earthquake hits Fiji.

5.2 Earthquake hits offshore Tarapaca, Chile.

5.2 Earthquake hits Vanuatu.

5.1 Earthquake hits Thailand.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Bougainville Region, Papua New Guinea.

5.0 Earthquake hits New Britain, papua New Guinea.

5.0 Earthquake hits Thailand.

Storms and Flood

Tropical Storms

No current tropical storms.

NewsBytes:

Bosnia and Herzegovina – Torrential rain has caused floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The level of the Sava River has risen by some 32 cm over the past 24 hours and there was an overflow of water from the river body close to Gradisci. Currently the Sava level stands at about 688 cm. Radio Saraevo announced there were floods in Jezero Municipality. According to the radio, the levels of two rivers rose sharply. Over 20 houses, a petrol station and a hospital were flooded. An ongoing landslide was affected in the settlement of Prisoe and groundwater threatens the road to it. Other media also report troubles caused by floods in various places in the country.

Britain – Heavy rainfall wreaked havoc in parts of South Surrey and White Rock Sunday and overnight, flooding roads and even triggering a small mudslide.

Environment

Coral bleaching is devastating reefs around the globe

The industrial age of fossil fuels has severely changed the Earth’s ocean ecosystems. Our oceans absorb about one-third of human-caused carbon-dioxide, but unfortunately rising emissions have surpassed what the oceans can sustainably absorb.

As the world continues to burn fossil fuels at an increasing rate, people are pumping more and more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which act like a blanket over the Earth, causing the planet to warm. The warming and the increased carbon dioxide in the oceans are combining to put coral reefs, some of the most biodiverse and important ecosystems on the planet, in jeopardy.

Though associated with warm waters, coral reefs are highly susceptible to increases in water temperature. Most corals get their energy, nutrients and vibrant colour from algae that live symbiotically within the corals’ tissues, but when water temperatures get too high, corals expel these algae, losing their colour and nutrients — the resulting stark white appearance is called coral bleaching. If the coral does not regain algae, the coral polyps eventually die, because they cannot live long-term without these nutrient-supplying algae.

While a variety of stressors can trigger coral to expel their algae, ocean warming is one of the most prevalent causes. Even a minute increase in average temperatures can result in coral bleaching, and in some cases, large areas of coral reefs will expel their algae, resulting in mass bleaching events. Coral reefs build up over thousands of years, yet the rapid pace of global warming can cause coral bleaching — which is disastrous and extremely difficult for reefs to recover from — at a much faster pace.

The changing ocean chemistry is also causing the seas to become more acidic. Ocean acidification threatens coral reefs, as it threatens the ability of corals — as well as other animals like oysters, mussels, clams and pteropods, foundational to the ocean food chain — to create their calcium carbonate skeletons. When carbon dioxide interacts with seawater, chemical reactions deplete substances that are vital for the growth of coral skeletons. When these substances disappear, corals start to grow more slowly. Compounded with this, is the fact that as the oceans become more and more acidic, coral skeletons could actually start to dissolve — a fate already befalling pteropods.

Coral reefs have already faced losses from other human activity, like destructive fishing, pollution and sedimentation. These coral reefs are highly vulnerable to future losses from ocean warming and acidification because of the damages already incurred. Researchers estimate that roughly 80 percent of Caribbean coral cover has been reduced, with an approximate 50 percent reduction rate in the Pacific. Coral reefs are home to one-quarter of all known fish species, and must be protected from future damage.

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Wildlife

New ‘Penguin Flu’ Found in Antarctica

A new version of bird flu unlike any other seen on Earth has been discovered in Antarctica, researchers have announced.

However, the flu’s gene segments show no sign that the virus is particularly deadly, nor is it adapted to transmit to mammals. An attempt to infect ferrets (an animal commonly used in flu studies) with the disease failed to get the ferrets sick.

The study does raise “a lot of unanswered questions,” study researcher Aeron Hurt of the World Health Organization’s centre for flu research in Melbourne, Australia, said in a statement. Mysteries include how often avian flu viruses are introduced to the isolated continent of Antarctica and how they persist year after year.

Previous studies of penguins in Antarctica had found that multiple species of the bird sometimes carry flu antibodies in their blood. Antibodies are proteins created by the immune system in response to an infection.

But no one had ever found the virus itself. Hurt and his colleagues swabbed the tracheas and cloacas (waste and reproductive orifices) of 301 Adélie penguins from Admiralty Bay and Rada Covadonga on the Antarctica Peninsula. The researchers were also able to take blood samples from 270 of the birds.

In eight cases, the swabs turned up an influenza virus. The team was successfully able to culture four of the viruses in the lab, and found that all were strains of H11N2, a version of avian flu.

Intriguingly, these H11N2 strains did not look like strains seen elsewhere on Earth. Because avian flu is spread by migratory birds, strains tend to cluster in two groups defined by bird migrations: North American strains and Eurasian strains. Very little is known about avian flu in the Southern Hemisphere. Of 19,784 publicly available bird flu genetic sequences, only 5.7 percent come from Africa, 1 percent come from Australia and Oceania, and 0.1 percent come from South America.

Four of the gene segments analyzed in the new penguin flu look most similar to North American avian influenzas from the 1960s to the 1980s, while other segments look closer to South American strains, the researchers report today (May 6) in the journal mBio. One gene sequence looks most similar to H3N8, a virus known to infect horses, dogs and seals as well as birds.

Judging by the rate of evolutionary change in the virus, Hurt and his colleagues estimate that the virus has been evolving on its own in Antarctica for between 49 and 80 years. Migratory birds that travel to and from Antarctica, such as skuas and giant petrels, may be responsible for carrying flu viruses to penguin populations, the researchers wrote in mBio. Marine mammals such as seals could spread the viruses, too. Another possibility, they wrote, is that avian flu circulates among penguins and other birds in the summer and becomes frozen in ice over the winter, only to reactivate during the summer thaw.

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Disease

Ebola virus disease, West Africa – update

As of 18:00 on 3 May 2014, the Ministry of Health (MOH) of Guinea has reported a cumulative total of 231 clinical cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD), including 155 deaths. There has been no change in the number of cases confirmed by ebolavirus PCR (127 cases) since the last update of 2 May 2014, but 1 additional death has been reported among confirmed cases (82 deaths).

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – update

On 24 April 2014, the National IHR Focal Point (NFP) of Jordan reported a laboratory-confirmed case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection in a 28 year-old male from Saudi Arabia.

On 2 May 2014, the US IHR National Focal Point reported the first laboratory confirmed Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection in a male US citizen in his 60s, who lives and works in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Etna (Sicily, Italy): Sporadic small explosions continue at the New SE crater sometimes with pyroclastic material ejected outside the crater. In April the seismic tremor was characterized by regular cyclic increases of amplitude forming evident stripes on seismograms. This phenomenon called “banded tremor” gradually became less evident and ended on 2 May coincident with a strong seismo-volcanic event occurred most probably at the Bocca Nuova crater.

Kilauea (Hawai’i): Eruption activity remains high on Kilauea, both at the summit and east rift zone. The lava lake within Halemaumau crater at the summit of Kilauea has fluctuated around an estimated 35m (115ft) below the crater floor. The glow produced at night from this lava lake is as bright as ever! At Pu’u ‘O’o cinder cone on the east rift zone, we have seen several new flows including some spilling over to the south. These flows got so close to the webcams that the USGS had to move some of them (seen in this photo). Flows also continue north east of Pu’u ‘O’o although they seem to be weakening. Earthquake activity and gas emissions continue to be elevated at the summit, as well as along the east rift zones.