Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.2 Earthquake hits New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

5.1 Earthquake hits Tonga.

5.0 Earthquake hits near the north coast of New Guinea, Papua New Guinea.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

No current tropical storms.

NewsBytes:

Montana, USA – An avalanche in southern Montana has claimed life of a snowmobiler. Two of the snowmobilers from North Dakota managed to dig themselves from the slide north of Cooke City on the Montana-Wyoming line. According to the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Centre (GNFAC), the avalanche occurred on the SE face of Sheep Mountain between Lulu Pass and Round Lake.

Wildlife

Wild bee populations dwindle in main U.S. crop regions

Wild bees, crucial pollinators for many crops, are on the decline in some of the main agricultural regions of the United States, according to scientists who produced the first national map of bee populations and identified numerous trouble spots.

The researchers on Monday cited 139 counties as especially worrisome, with wild bee numbers decreasing while farmland for crops dependent on such pollinators is increasing.

The counties included agricultural regions of California such as the Central Valley, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas and the southern Mississippi River valley.

The counties grew crops such as almonds, pumpkins, squashes, blueberries, watermelons, peaches and apples that are highly dependent on pollinators, or had large amounts of less-pollinator-dependent crops including soybeans, canola and cotton.

Some crops such as corn and wheat do not need pollinators.

Pesticides and diseases were cited as other factors behind the declines among the roughly 4,000 U.S. species of wild bees.

Their decline may prompt greater dependence on commercial honeybee colonies for pollinating crops, but honeybee numbers also are falling.

Lions Gain New Endangered Species Protections

Two lion subspecies will now be protected by the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced Dec. 21.

Panthera leo melanochaita, a lion subspecies living in eastern and southern Africa, will be listed as threatened, while Panthera leo leo, a subspecies found in western and central Africa and in India, will receive endangered status, FWS officials said. New genetic data prompted the agency to recognize western and central African lions as subspecies P. leo leo, and spurred their”endangered” classification.

Under the ESA, species are listed as “endangered,” which describes “any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range,” and “threatened,” identifying “any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future.” A 2013 list published by the FWS identified 2,054 species worldwide as endangered or threatened, of which 1,436 are native to the United States.

In a statement, the FWS cited decades of alarming and continuous decline in African lion populations as one of the chief reasons for the status change. Factors identified as the biggest threats to lions included habitat loss due to agriculture, killings to prevent or retaliate against lions’ preying on livestock, and inadequate management of protected areas.

In July 2015, the death of the African lion “Cecil” at the hands of an American hunter sparked waves of outrage across social media channels, along with calls for stronger conservation measures to protect African lions. During today’s news briefing, Ashe said that, while hunting is not responsible for the recent sharp decline of African lion populations, steps must be taken to ensure that revenue from hunting provides economic support for lion management and conservation efforts.

Disease

Zika virus infection – Honduras

On 16 December 2015, the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Honduras reported two (2) autochthonous cases of Zika virus infection. Both cases are male and residents of the southern area of Honduras.

Zika virus infection – Cape Verde

On 21 October 2015, the National IHR Focal Point of Cape Verde informed WHO of the country’s first reported epidemic of Zika virus infection.

Circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus – Myanmar

The National IHR Focal Point of Myanmar has notified WHO of 2 cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2).

Wildfires

Wildfires – Australia

The emergency warning for an out of control bushfire burning in Perth’s southeast has been downgraded.

The DFES has issued a watch-and-act alert on Monday night for people in the western part of Wattle Grove in an area bounded by Bickely Road, Roe Highway, Welshpool Road East, Hale Road, Wandoo Road, Lesmurdie Falls National Park and Kelvin Road.

But there is still a possible threat to lives and homes as the fire moves slowly in a northerly direction. An evacuation centre has been set up at the High Wycombe Recreation Centre.

An uncontained bushfire 4km northwest of Kirup in the southwest of Western Australia has been downgraded to advice-level as the fire has moderated.

But the DFES issued a severe fire danger warning for inland parts of the Midwest Gascoyne on Tuesday, advising residents to have their bushfire survival plans and kits ready.