Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.4 Earthquake hits eastern Turkey.

5.2 Earthquake hits the southern east Pacific rise.

5.1 Earthquake hits Taiwan.

5.1 Earthquake hits off the east coast of North island, New Zealand.

5.1 Earthquake hits offshore Coquimbo, Chile.

5.0 Earthquake hits Fiji.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Kuril Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits the southern east Pacific rise.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

No current tropical storms.

El Niño

The current extreme El Niño is now the strongest ever recorded, smashing the previous record from 1997 -8. Already wreaking havoc on weather around the world, the new figures mean those effects will probably get worse.

El Niño occurs when warm water that has piled up around Australia and Indonesia spills out east across the Pacific Ocean towards the Americas, taking the rain with it. A key measure of its intensity is the warmth of water in the central Pacific. In 1997, at its peak on 26 November, it was 2.8 °C above average. According to the latest measurements, it reached 2.8 °C on 4 November this year, and went on to hit 3.1 °C on 18 November – the highest temperatures ever seen in this region.

Environment

China Cloning Facility to Bolster Meat Production

Sinica, a subsidiary of Boyalife Group, has signed a deal to establish a $31 million commercial animal cloning facility in Tianjin, China, with the intent to produce beef cattle, racehorses and other animals.

The plant will initially produce 100,000 cattle embryos per year, eventually increasing its output to 1,000,000 per year. Chinese farmers are struggling to produce enough beef cattle to meet market demand. China’s meet demand has quadrupled in the last 40 years. Chinese scientists have been cloning sheep, cattle and pigs since 2000. In September 2014, Boyalife and Sooam Biotech opened the first commercial cloning company in China’s Shandong Province. The first animals produced were three pure-blooded Tibetan mastiff puppies.

Cloning animals for human consumption has been a contentious issue. Recently, the European Union (EU) made strides to ban imports of cloned animals and products made from cloned animals. European farmers are facing increasing pressure from Asia due to practices such as cloning.

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008 determined meat and milk from clones and their offspring pose no substantial threat when compared with food eaten every day.

Map of World’s Groundwater Shows Planet’s ‘Hidden’ Reservoirs

A new map of Earth’s groundwater supply shows where on the planet water is locked up and “hidden” underground.

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The map — the first of its kind — provides a visual representation of Earth’s groundwater resources and estimates that the planet’s total groundwater supply stands at approximately 5.5 million cubic miles (about 23 million cubic kilometres).

The researchers calculated that of the 5.5 million cubic miles of total groundwater in the uppermost 1.2 miles (2 km) of the continental crust, only between 24,000 to 129,500 cubic miles (100,000 to 540,000 cubic km) is young (modern) groundwater, which is less than 100 years old.

Old groundwater (more than 100 years old) is found at greater depths and sometimes contains arsenic or uranium. This water can also be saltier than ocean water. While some of it is used in agriculture and industry, much of it is so old and stagnant that it is no longer a part of the active water cycle, which means most of it isn’t usable by humans, Tom Gleeson, lead author of the study and an engineer at the University of Victoria in Canada, said in a statement.

In contrast, modern groundwater (less than 100 years old) is still a part of the active water cycle, which means it has the capacity to renew itself through rainfall or melting snow However, modern groundwater (which is where we get the largest portion of drinking water) is closer to water we see on the Earth’s surface, such as oceans, lakes and rivers. Because this water is close to the surface, it often helps replenish large bodies of water when they deplete through the year. However, because climate change has impacted the amount of rain and snow in certain regions, some groundwater reservoirs are not being refilled as fast as they used to. Human activities are also making it harder for groundwater to replenish quickly, and pollution is causing some of the water in these underground aquifers to become unusable, according to the study.

The maps that were developed from the study show that most modern groundwater is found in tropical and mountainous regions. Some of the largest reservoirs can be found in the Amazon basin, the Congo, Indonesia, the Rocky Mountain regions of North and Central America, and the Western Cordillera of South America.

Disease

Banana Apocalypse?

Eat all the bananas you can now because soon, there won’t be any left. And it won’t be because you ate them all. It’ll be because they’ve gone extinct. A new study in PLOS Pathogens claims that a virus named Tropical Race 4 is about to kickstart the bananapocalypse.

In what must be the worst case of deja vu in food history, this projected banana extinction is actually the second to happen in this century. In the 1960s, the Gros Michel variety of bananas were all the rage, until disaster struck. Panama disease, caused by Tropical Race, essentially wiped out the entire crop of the Gros Michel.

The death of the Gros Michel led to the rise in popularity of today’s Cavendish banana, which was resistant to the old version of the Panama disease virus. While the Cavendish may have been able to survive the previous round of wipeouts, it is susceptible to the new Tropical Race 4 strain currently making its way around the world.

Today’s bananas have been cultivated as a monoculture — all bananas are genetically identical because they’ve been grown as a seedless variety, which means that when one gets sick, they all get sick. Worse yet, the virus, which kills essentially by dehydrating the plant’s root system, can stay in the soil for 30 years.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Etna (Sicily, Italy): It seems that a new episode of strombolian activity has started at the New SE crater a few hours ago. Visibility is not very good, but bright glow and rising tremor suggest that a new eruptive phase is in progress. A new pit crater had been observed on the upper eastern flank of the New SE cone, which had been degassing strongly. In the meanwhile, the strombolian activity inside Voragine had also continued during the past days, occasionally even strong enough to project bombs higher than the rim of the crater.

Momotombo (Nicaragua): As this morning’s webcam images already had suggested, a new fully-blown magmatic eruption is now in progress at the volcano: pulsating lava fountains (or continuous, strong strombolian activity) feed a new lava flow that slowly descends on the NE side of the volcano, and a dense ash plume that rises approx. 2-2.5 km above the volcano and drifts NW.