Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global
5.1 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.
5.1 Earthquake hits New Ireland, Papua New Guinea.
5.1 Earthquake hits the Kuril Islands.
5.0 Earthquake hits east of the Volcano Islands.
5.0 Earthquake hits eastern New Guinea, Papua New Guinea.
Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:
Typhoon 04w (Maysak), located approximately 524 nm east of Manila, Philippines, is tracking westward at 10 knots.
Tropical depression 05w (Five), located approximately 227 nm east of Chuuk, is tracking west-northwestward at 09 knots.
France – Five skiers have been killed in two separate avalanches in the French Alps on Wednesday. Three skiers, two Austrian and one Italian, were killed in an avalanche on the Massif des Ecrins in the French Alps. The avalanche occurred in the Col Emile Pic near France’s Ecrins national park. The victims were part of a group of 11 tourists. In another incident, two mountaineers were found dead in Dévoluy.
Earth Greening Up With More Vegetation
Despite wholesale deforestation in some areas, satellite observations reveal that the total amount of vegetation worldwide has increased by about 4 billion tons of carbon since 2003.
“The increase in vegetation primarily came from a lucky combination of environmental and economic factors and massive tree-planting projects in China,” said lead author Dr. Yi Liu of the University of New South Wales.
“Vegetation increased on the savannas in Australia, Africa and South America as a result of increasing rainfall, while in Russia and former Soviet republics we have seen the regrowth of forests on abandoned farmland.”
Liu pointed out that China was the only country that intentionally increased its vegetation by planting trees.
Despite the trend, the world’s greatest loss of plant life was observed on the edges of the Amazon forests, Sumatra and in Indonesian portions of Borneo.
Greening of savannas in Australia, South America and Africa helped reverse global forest loss in recent years.
New Map Charts Every Lightning Bolt
Every second, as many as 100 lightning bolts strike the Earth. Now, a new map reveals a tally of those flashes over the last two decades, tracing where they strike the planet each year.
Westward on the map, lightning flashes run down Mexico and Central America, before reaching their peak in Colombia and Venezuela; eastward, they peak in Singapore and Malaysia. But neither region compares to the dramatic strikes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa.
The data reveal that lightning is more likely to strike land than water, and these flashes occur more on land close to the equator. But the different intensities also reveal subtle differences in the storms themselves.
Lighting results from processes occurring within clouds. As ice particles within a cloud collide and break apart, the smaller particles acquire positive charge and the larger particles acquire negative charge. Updrafts of wind then push the small particles upward, until the top of the cloud is positively charged, while the bottom of the cloud is negatively charged. This separation of charge creates a huge electric potential within the cloud, and between the cloud and the ground.
Eventually, the electric potential grows strong enough to overcome the air’s resistance to electrical flow. Negative charges venture toward the ground from the bottom of the cloud, causing positive charges to surge up toward the cloud from the ground. This electrical discharge is a surge of lightning.
Massive Wildfires Speed Loss of Northern Trees
When it comes to tree cover loss, the spotlight usually rests on midlatitude hot spots like Brazil and Indonesia, where agriculture, logging and other development have threatened the existence of rainforests for years.
But an analysis released today by a Washington, D.C.-based think tank reveals that people worried about the world’s forests may want to turn their attention north.
According to new data from the World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch initiative, Russia and Canada saw “massive” forest losses in 2013. The nations had the top two highest annual average tree cover losses in the world between 2011 and 2013, WRI data show, at an estimated 10.7 million acres in Russia and 6.1 million acres in Canada.
On the other hand, Indonesia—which is ranked the No. 1 deforester in the world—saw a “substantial” decline in tree cover loss in 2013, the new analysis found, although experts said it’s too soon to say the nation has solved its deforestation problem.
In Canada and Russia, wildfires were likely the biggest driver of forest cover loss in 2013, WRI reported. The think tank cited higher temperatures and dry conditions linked to climate change as key factors behind the trend. Research by Canada’s Forest Service found that in 2013, the nation saw more than 10 million acres consumed in wildfires. Greenpeace Russia reported a big spike in wildfires over the past three years, as well.
Global Temperature Extremes
The week’s hottest temperature was 111.6 degrees Fahrenheit (44.2 degrees Celsius) at Atbara, Sudan.
The week’s coldest temperature was minus 93.6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 69.8 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.
Drug-Resistant Stomach Bug Increasing in US
Americans who travel abroad are bringing back a drug-resistant stomach bug. The bacteria caused several outbreaks in the United States in the past year, according to a new report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The bacteria, called Shigella sonnei, can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever and is typically treated with the antibiotic ciprofloxacin. But between May 2014 and February 2015, there were 243 cases of Shigella sonnei in 32 states, and the vast majority were resistant to ciprofloxacin, the report found.
Some of the largest outbreaks occurred in Massachusetts (45 cases), and Pennsylvania (18 cases). Among patients who gave information about whether they had traveled abroad, about half said they had, mostly to the Dominican Republic and India. There was also an outbreak of 95 cases in San Francisco that was not linked with international travel.
International travelers can reduce their risk of getting Shigella or another types of diarrhea by washing hands frequently, eating only hot foods and drinking from sealed containers.
Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity
Chirpoi (Kurile Islands, Russia): A thermal anomaly on satellite images and steam-gas emissions continued during the past week at Snow volcano. Aviation Color Code remained at Yellow. (Smithsonian / USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report 25-31 March 2015)
Chirinkotan (Northern Kuriles): A thermal anomaly at the volcano remains visible on cloud-free satellite images.
Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity at the volcano has remained essentially unchanged, but dropped overall during the past week.
At 21:13 on 24 March activity at Popocatépetl increased and a four-hour series of explosions produced steam, gas, and ash emissions that rose 3 km. Incandescent tephra was ejected 800 m onto the NE and SE flanks. The last explosion in the series was detected at 0118 on 25 March. Additional explosion on 25 March ejected tephra and generated steam, gas, and ash plumes; the plumes rose 2 km and drifted NE and SE causing ashfall in Atlixco, Puebla.
During 26-31 March the seismic network recorded between 21 and 86 emissions per day that sometimes contained ash. Cloud cover often prevented observations of the crater, although ash plumes and nighttime crater incandescence were noted. Continuous steam, gas, and ash emissions on 26 March rose 600 m and drifted ENE.