Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.3 Earthquake hits Iceland.

5.2 Earthquake hits Tonga.

5.2 Earthquake hits Simeulue, Indonesia.

5.2 Earthquake hits near the coast of Nicaragua.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Solomon Islands.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

No current tropical storms.

NewsBytes:

Japan – Strong winds and heavy snow in Japan have forced the cancellation of almost 300 flights, halted bullet train services and claimed the life of one person. More than 70 centimetres of snow had fallen on parts of Hokkaido in the 24 hours to 12 noon.

Global Warming

Arctic Is Heating Up Twice as Quickly as Rest of World

Bad news for polar bears: The Arctic is still warming at twice the pace of the rest of the planet, according to a new federal report.

Last year, air temperatures in the northernmost regions of the globe were, on average, 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) higher than normal. Unusually warm years like 2014 have only become more frequent in the Arctic in the past decade, even as the rate of temperature increase slowed for the rest of the world.

In 2014, the Greenland Ice Sheet’s heat-deflecting brightness hit a low; spring snow cover dwindled to record lows in Eurasia; polar regions had a below-average extent of summer sea ice, and as for the polar bears that depend on that ice to survive, some populations have declined, according to the report.

The findings are included in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) annual “Arctic Report Card,” a comprehensive review of the North Pole’s health that is assembled by more than 60 scientists.

The Arctic warms at a higher rate than lower latitudes because of a well-documented effect known as Arctic amplification of global warming, Richter-Menge told reporters. Arctic amplification is a self-feeding cycle. Because of their light colour, sea ice and snow bounces radiation from the sun back into the atmosphere. But when more ice and snow melts, more of the dark-coloured patches of earth and ocean are exposed, locking more heat into the already-warming planet’s surface.

Rising temperatures in the Arctic are thought to affect the rest of the planet. Some research has suggested that warming around the North Pole can cause the typical path of the jet stream to go haywire, though scientists have yet to reach a consensus. Without data for a long period of time, it’s difficult to tell whether this phenomenon is really a trend or part of the “normal chaos” of the atmosphere, said James Overland, an oceanographer with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. Regardless of the cause, a wavy jet stream can have a huge influence on weather, the report illustrates. For example, a twisted jet stream led to remarkable temperature spikes in Alaska in January, when the region experienced temperatures as much as 18 degrees F (10 degrees C) higher than normal.

Disease

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – Saudi Arabia

Between 20 November and 7 December 2014, the National IHR Focal Point for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) notified WHO of 11 additional cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection, including 4 deaths.

Ebola affects food supplies

The Ebola epidemic has seriously affected food supply chains in West Africa, leaving 500 000 people without enough to eat, UN agencies said on Wednesday in Rome.

Without intervention, the number of people facing food insecurity could reach 1 million by March, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) said in Rome.

The global death toll for the Ebola outbreak is now 6,841, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday, December 15.

The WHO also stated that 18,464 cases of the disease had been confirmed in new statistics updated till Saturday, December 13.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Tokachi (Hokkaido): Japanese authorities raised the alert level of the Tokachidake volcano to 2, as signs of volcanic unrest have recently increased. An access restriction is in place of 1 km radius around the crater left by the violent eruption in 1962 (“62-2 crater”). Volcanologist started to note an increase in seismic and fumarolic activity during 1995-2000 and again since 2006. In 2007, deformation of the volcanic edifice started to be noticed. Increased temperatures at depth were detected in 2008 using geomagnetic measurements.