Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.9 Earthquake hits the Myanmar-China border region.

5.2 Earthquake hits the Flores region, Indonesia.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Pacific-Antarctic ridge.

Disease

US Measles Cases Reach 20-Year High

The numbers of measles cases in the United States so far this year marks a 20-year high, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention announced.

Just in the first months of 2014, from January 1 through May 23, a total of 288 confirmed measles cases have been reported to the CDC, surpassing the highest number of reported cases happening in a full year since the disease was eliminated in the country almost 15 years ago.

The largest number of cases in previous years had occurred during 2011, with 220 cases. The number of cases so far in 2014 is the largest reported in the first five months of a year since 1994, CDC officials said.

Wildlife

More Whales Bringing More Collisions With Ships

A bumper population of whales feeding off the coast of New England appears to be responsible for the unusually high incidence of ships striking the marine mammals during recent weeks.

Of the three strikes during May, one involved a cruise ship hitting a sei whale and inadvertently dragging it into the Hudson River.

The attached dead animal was not discovered until the ship reached port.

The U.S. agency NOAA said another sei was found dead and attached to a container ship that was docking near Philadelphia three days later.

NOAA believes the whales may be following food sources unusually close to shore when they haplessly swim into shipping lanes.

Operators of whale-watching excursions in coastal waters off Boston report 20 to 30 whales are being spotted on every cruise — 10 times the usual number.

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Extinction Rates Soar to 1,000 Times Normal

Species on Earth are going extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they would be without human influence, new research finds. But there’s still time to save the world from this biodiversity disaster.

Between 100 and 1,000 species per million go extinct every year, according to the new analysis. Before humans came on the scene, the typical extinction rate was likely one extinction per every 10 million each year, said study researcher Stuart Pimm, a Duke University biologist.

These numbers are a big increase from the previous estimates, which held that species were going extinct 100 times faster than usual, not 1,000 times faster or more. But despite the bad news, the research is “optimistic.” New technology and citizen scientists are allowing conservationists to target their efforts better than ever before.

Pimm and his colleagues have long worked to understand the effect of humanity on the rest of the species that share the planet. In the history of life on Earth, five mass extinctions have wiped out more than half of life on the planet. Today, scientists debate whether humanity is causing the sixth mass extinction.

This question is trickier than it may seem. Certainly, humans have driven species from the dodo to the Tasmanian tiger to the passenger pigeon to extinction. There’s no doubt that continuing deforestation and climate change will destroy even more species, including some humanity will never get the chance to discover. But researchers don’t even know for sure how many species exist on the planet. About 1.9 million species have been described by science, but estimates as to how many are out there range from 5 million to 11 million.

“People often say that we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction,” Pimm said. “We’re not in the middle of it — we’re on the verge of it. And now we have to tools to prevent it.”

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 120.2 degrees Fahrenheit (49.0 degrees Celsius) at Jacobabad, Pakistan.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 84.5 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 64.7 degrees Celsius) at Russia’s Vostok Antarctic research station.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Pagan (Mariana Islands): USGS reports that “low-level unrest continued at Pagan Volcano throughout the past week. Seismic activity remains above background. A vapor plume was visible in web camera and satellite images. Volcanic gas from Pagan may be noticed downwind of the volcano as a distinctive sulfurous odor.” The Aviation Color Code remains at YELLOW.

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Ongoing rainfall has been causing a number of mud flows (lahars) in the rivers draining from Santiaguito, including Samala, San Isidro and Tambor. A first large hot lahar descended the Nima I river bed yesterday. The sulfur-smelling mud flow was about 25 m wide and 3 m deep, carrying blocks of up to 50 cm in diameter and pieces of tree trunks and branches of up to 2 m. On its passage near the observatory, it made the ground vibrate. The lahar drained into the Samala river.

Fuego (Guatemala): Activity has decreased a bit. Strombolian explosions produced incandescent ejections to up to about 100 m and ash plumes rose to approx. 500 m.

San Miguel (El Salvador): The amplitude of internal vibration (tremor) at Chaparrastique volcano has suddenly dropped during the past 24 hours indicating that the volcanic system remains unstable, MARN informs in its latest special bulletin. Gas emissions remain elevated. The possibility of an eruption from a summit or flank vent remains high and monitoring continues at highest level.

Galeras (Colombia): Activity at the volcano is currently low. Seismic activity and gas emissions are at low to moderate levels. No recent ash emissions have occurred.

Cumbal (Colombia): Seismic unrest continues at the volcano, still on alert status Yellow, with little variation over the past months. The Pasto volcano observatory reported a 50% increase in earthquakes during the past week. Most earthquakes were associated with internal fluid movements. The other quakes, all very small, were due to rock fracturing at shallow depths. No other signs of unrest were observed at the volcano recently.

Sotará (Colombia): Seismic activity associated with rock fracturing processes under the volcano showed a slight increase during the past week. The earthquakes occurred mainly under the Paletará valley, approximately 12 km northeast of the volcano at depths between 6 and 10 km, and had local magnitudes between 0.3 and 2.2 on the Richter scale. Slight deformation has been detected at the volcano, but no changes or signs of activity are visible at the surface. The volcano remains at Yellow alert.

Cerro Negro de Mayasquer (Colombia): Unrest at the volcano continues in the form of earthquakes under the Chiles-Cerro Negro volcanic massif. During the past week, the monitoring network recorded around 6500 quakes, mostly located less than 4 km SW from the summit at depths ranging between 1 and 8 km and with magnitudes of up to 4.0 on the Richter scale. Most of the earthquakes are volcanic-tectonic, i.e. associated with the fracturing of rock due to fluid pressure underground. On May 21, 3 earthquakes at 02:53, 15:44 and 18:46 local time were felt felt by local inhabitants.