Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.8 Earthquake hits Vanuatu.

5.6 Earthquake hits north Ascension Island.

5.4 Earthquake hits Nepal.

5.1 Earthquake hits Fiji.

5.0 Earthquake hits off the coast of Central America.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

No current tropical storms.

NewsBytes:

Philippines – Heavy rains pummelled the entire Philippines on Saturday, threatening to aggravate flooding that has prompted the government to declare a state of emergency in affected areas.

Wildlife

Alaska Polar Bears Now Live on ‘Treadmill’

An acceleration in the movement of the Arctic’s sea ice is presenting yet another climate change challenge to polar bears, making them work harder and travel farther just to stay in the same place, according to new research.

The animals have historically just rested beside holes in the ice as they waited for seals to emerge and become their next meal.

But the thinning Arctic sea ice is now drifting more quickly to the west, forcing the bears to become more active to compensate for the movement of the ice.

“In order for an Alaskan polar bear to remain an Alaskan polar bear, it must walk farther or faster to the east on the ‘treadmill,’ or it will end up in Russia,” explained U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist David Douglas.

Polar bear waiting for a seal to emerge from a hole in the Arctic sea ice pack.

Ew151218a

Environment

Beijing’s 2nd Smog Red Alert of the Month

Beijing was enveloped in eye-watering, throat-irritating smog on Saturday as the second red alert of the month went into effect in the Chinese capital, forcing many cars off the roads and restricting factory production.

A wave of smog settled over the notoriously polluted city of 22.5 million overnight and is forecast to last into Tuesday because of a lack of strong winds.

Smog red alerts, the most serious in a four-tier warning system, are triggered when high pollution levels are forecast to last more than 72 hours.

As a result of the red alert, schools were ordered closed and half the city’s cars forced off the roads each day. Barbecue grills and other outdoor smoke sources have been banned and factory production restricted.

Wildfires

Wildfires – Australia

Lightning strikes from a storm band moving across South Australia sparked a string of bushfires from the state’s far north to the southeast on Friday.

Victorian firefighters were called to over 300 fires on a hot, windy day when temperatures topped 42 degrees Celsius in many parts of the state. Thunderstorms developed in the evening, bringing dry lightning which sparked new blazes in East Gippsland. There were several emergency warnings earlier on Saturday for fires at Wandin North and Wonthaggi but they have now been brought under control.

In Tasmania, fire crews respond to four bushfires across the state.

Disease

Cholera outbreak threatens huge refugee camp – Kenya

Kenya’s cholera epidemic has reached the world’s largest refugee camp and doctors worry the outbreak could spread even further.

Seven people have died in Dadaab, in northern Kenya near the border with Somalia, since the outbreak was declared in November, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, or MSF, said in a statement.

In the last three weeks, more than 300 patients have been admitted to treatment centers, and 30 percent of those patients were children under 12, according to MSF.

Lack of proper sanitation and education of the population are among the main challenges in halting infections. The are are not enough pit latrines in the camp for the size of its population, and people often allow their children play in the mud or in flood water.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Sinabung (Sumatra, Indonesia): The eruption, characterized by slow extrusion of viscous lava, continues well into its second year. During the past days, incandescent avalanches, but also explosions (from pressurized gas-rich magma) have occurred, producing small to moderate ash plumes rising up to 2-3 km.

Dukono (Halmahera): Ash emissions from the volcano continue to be intense and near continuous. A plume extending 100 nautical miles (180 km) to the east was reported this morning (Darwin VAAC).