Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.4 Earthquake hits Mindoro in the Philippines.

5.2 Earthquake hits the Rat Islands in the Aleutian Islands.

5.1 Earthquake hits Fiji.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits Vanuatu.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Prince Edward Islands.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms

No current tropical storms.

NewsBytes:

India – Over 24,000 people have been affected by floods in four districts of Assam.

Minnesota, USA – As flood waters around the state keep rising, the Governor has extended an emergency declaration for 35 counties for another 30 days.

Global Warming

New Report Puts Price Tag on Climate Change in U.S.

Climate change poses “multiple and significant risks” to the U.S. economy, particularly along coastlines and to the energy and agriculture sectors, a new report released Tuesday concludes.

Bridge hurricane 121029

The report, the first to quantify the damage the American economy could sustain from unabated climate change, was compiled by the non-partisan Risky Business Project, a venture launched in October and co-chaired by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and former hedge fund manager and environmental activist Thomas Steyer. “It makes the true costs for inaction on climate change frighteningly clear,” Bloomberg said at a press conference here announcing the report’s release.

The goals of the project and report, the co-chairs and members of Risky Business’s Risk Committee said, were to urge American businesses to lead the way on mitigating the effects of global warming and to pressure the national government into crafting a coherent public policy around the issue, though it stops short of making specific policy recommendations. Such efforts by businesses could not only protect Americans from the worst effects of climate change, but also grow and better insulate the American economy, the project’s members said.

While the report focused primarily on the most likely climate change scenarios to occur, it also examined the less likely but extremely high-risk scenarios, something the authors emphasized that businesses and individuals naturally do, for example, when they purchase fire insurance.

The report used climate projections through 2100 and what the participants said was a standard risk-assessment approach used by businesses to estimate how rises in temperature, sea level and other impacts of climate change would affect various parts of the U.S. economy and different geographic regions of the nation. “It’s important to look at these things and look at them from an economic perspective,” said Henry Cisneros, a Risk Committee member and former secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

They found that the effects vary from region to region, with sea level rise posing the biggest threat to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and that ever-increasing heat and humidity will particularly impact the Southwest, Southeast and upper Midwest.

Sea level rise and storm surge are likely — defined in the report as having at least a 2-in-3 chance of occurring — to increase the average cost of coastal storms in the East by $2 billion to $3.5 billion over just the next 15 years. When combined with anticipated changes in hurricane activity, such as stronger storms, the report found that average total annual losses from coastal storms could reach $35 billion.

Bloomberg raised the spectre of Hurricane Sandy as an example of how the effects of global warming can exacerbate a storm’s impact. There’s “no question that rising sea levels and temperatures made Sandy worse,” Bloomberg said.

Sea level rise also poses a risk separate from its amplifying effects on storms surge, as it increasingly encroaches on valuable coastal property. The report estimates that by 2050, between $66 billion and $106 billion worth of such property will likely be below sea level nationwide. By 2100, that figure could grow to anywhere between $238 billion and $507 billion.

Sea level rise in the Miami area has led to the intrusion of saltwater into freshwater areas and has increased non-storm related flooding, said Donna Shalala, a Risk Committee member and president of the University of Miami. “The future prosperity of Florida is inextricably linked to the sun and the sea,” Shalala said at the press conference.

The report also found that increasing heat will strain the nation’s energy systems, as it causes efficiency to decline while demand — in the form of a greater need for air conditioning — rises. Those simultaneous trends would drive the need for more power generation, which could simply add more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the climate system.

Heat and humidity pose public health threats, as higher humidity disrupts the body’s natural ability to cool itself since it prevents the evaporation of sweat from the skin. Urban dwellers are particularly at risk from this problem because of the urban heat island effects, as are those who work outside. Productivity of such workers could decline by 3 percent by the end of the century as it becomes increasingly too hot to work outside during parts of the day, the report found.

U.S. agriculture faces threats as a changing climate shifts where and how well particular crops grow. The report found that the production of key crops like corn, soy and wheat could decline by 14 percent by mid-century and up to 42 percent by the end of the century. Some areas, particularly northern states, could actually see increased crop yields, though.

All of the committee members and the three co-chairs emphasized the need for businesses to start examining these issues and pressing for public policy solutions now, due to the fact that greenhouse gases emitted today can last in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, effectively “baking in” a certain amount of warming.

Wildlife

Widespread impacts of neonicotinoids ‘impossible to deny’

Neonicotinoid pesticides are causing significant damage to a wide range of beneficial species and are a key factor in the decline of bees, say scientists.

Researchers, who have carried out a four-year review of the literature, say the evidence of damage is now “conclusive”.

The scientists say the threat to nature is the same as that once posed by the notorious chemical DDT.

Manufacturers say the pesticides are not harming bees or other species.

Neonicotinoids were introduced in the early 1990s as a replacement for older, more damaging chemicals. They are a systemic insecticide, meaning that they are absorbed into every cell in a plant, making all parts poisonous to pests.

But some scientists have been concerned about their impact, almost since the moment they were introduced.

Much of the worry has surrounded their effects on bees.

There’s been a well documented, global decline in these critical pollinators.

Many researchers believe that exposure to neonicotinoids has been an important destabilising factor for the species.

In 2011, environmental campaigners, the IUCN, established an international scientific taskforce on systemic pesticides to look into the impacts of these chemicals.

The members have reviewed over 800 peer reviewed papers that have been published in the past 20 years. Their assessment of the global impact says the threat posed goes far beyond bees.

In their report, to be published next month, they argue that neonicotinoids and another chemical called fipronil are poisoning the earth, the air and the water.

The pesticides accumulate in the soil and leach into water, and pose a significant problem for earthworms, freshwater snails, butterflies and birds.

The researchers say that the classic measurements used to assess the toxicity of a pesticide are not effective for these systemic varieties and conceal their true impact.

They point to one of the studies in the review carried out in the Netherlands.

It found that higher levels of neonicotinoids in water reduced the levels of aquatic invertebrates, which are the main prey for a whole range of species including wading birds, trout and salmon.

“There is so much evidence, going far beyond bees,” Prof Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex told BBC News.

“They accumulate in soils, they are commonly turning up in waterways at levels that exceed the lethal dose for things that live in streams.

“It is impossible to deny that these things are having major environmental impacts.”

The scientists are very worried about the prophylactic use of neonicotinoids, where seeds are coated in the chemicals and the plant grows up with the ability to destroy pests already built in.

“It is a bit like taking antibiotics to avoid getting ill,” said Prof Goulson, one of a team of 29 scientists involved in the research.

“The more they are used, the stronger the selective pressure you place on pest insects to become resistant to them. Using them as prophylactics is absolute madness in that sense.”

Campaigners have protested against the continued use of neonicotinoid chemicals The task force argues that with neonicotinoids and fipronil making up around a third of the world market in insecticides, farmers are over-relying on them in the same way as they once became over reliant on chemicals like DDT.

“We have forgotten those lessons and we’re back to where we were in the 1960s,” said Prof Goulson.

“We are relying almost exclusively on these insecticides, calendar spraying 20 times or more onto a single field, it’s a completely bonkers way.”

While neonicotinoids don’t accumulate in human or animal tissue in the way that DDT once did, the modern pesticides are more lethal, about 6,000 times as toxic compared to the older spray.

Representatives of manufacturers say that there is nothing new in the task force study.

“There is very little credible evidence that these things are causing untoward damage because we would have seen them over 20 years of use,” said Dr Julian Little from Bayer, one of the manufacturers of neonicotinoids.

“If you look at the tree bumblebee, it is eating the same food as the other bees, and is being exposed to the same pesticide load and weather conditions and yet it is flourishing, whereas some other bees are not.

“If it were pesticides causing the mass destruction of our fauna, surely you would see effects on all bees?”

The European Crop Protection Association said the task force was being selective in their evidence, pointing to recent studies carried out by industry showing that the declines in bee populations have been overstated.

“We respect the scientists who have produced this research, but it appears that they are part of a movement that brings together some academics and NGOs whose only objective is to restrict or ban the use of neonicotinoid technology regardless of what the evidence may show,” a spokesperson said.

Europe already has a two-year moratorium in place meaning that neonicotinoids can’t be used on flowering crops such as oilseed rape.

Last week, President Obama announced the creation of a pollinator health task force to look at the impact of pesticide exposure on bees and other insects.

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Disease

Ebola virus disease, West Africa – update

Between 18 and 20 June 2014, there were no new cases of Ebola virus disease, but 3 deaths were reported from Gueckedou (0 cases and 2 deaths) and Telimele (0 case and 1 death). This brings the cumulative number of cases and deaths reported from Guinea to 390 (260 confirmed, 87 probable, and 43 suspected) and 270 deaths.

The geographical distribution of these cases and deaths is as follows: Conakry, 65 cases and 33 deaths; Gueckedou, 226 cases and 177 deaths; Macenta, 41 cases and 28 deaths; Dabola, 4 cases and 4 deaths; Kissidougou, 6 cases and 5 deaths; Dinguiraye, 1 case and 1 death; Telimele, 25 cases and 9 deaths; Boffa, 21 cases and 12 deaths; and Kouroussa, 1 case and 1 death. Currently, 19 patients are in EVD Treatment Centres in Conakry (9), Gueckedou (9), and Telimele (1).

Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – update

On 23 June 2014, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) of China notified WHO of one additional laboratory-confirmed case of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus.

The patient is a 51-year-old male from Taizhou City, Zhejiang Province. He had onset of symptoms on 2 June, was admitted to hospital on 6 June, and is currently in a severe condition. The patient has a history of exposure to live poultry.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Stromboli volcano (Eolian Islands, Italy): intense activity, short-lived lava flow on Sciara del Fuoco. A lava overflow erupted from the NW hornito on Sunday and traveled approx. 200 m down the Sciara del Fuoco. This followed a particularly intense phase of activity at this vent, marked by frequent and strong explosions and continuous spattering. Smaller, short-lived overflows have occurred from the same vent since, and activity remains high, with many explosions from several vents.