Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.6 Earthquake hits the Bougainville region, Papua New Guinea.

5.2 Earthquake hits Seram, Indonesia.

5.2 Earthquake hits the central Mid-Atlantic ridge.

5.1 Earthquake hits New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

5.0 Earthquake hits northern Colombia.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

No current tropical storms.

NewsBytes:

USA – Blizzard conditions hit the U.S. heartland Sunday after a string of severe storms left at least 43 people dead across seven states over the previous four days. Heavy snow fell across New Mexico, west Texas and the Oklahoma Panhandle.

California, USA – More than 6 billion gallons of water have poured into Lake Tahoe in less than two days, helping the lake begin to recover from four years of crushing drought. Since midnight Monday, the lake has gone up 1.92 inches, the equivalent of 6.39 billion gallons of water. The water comes as a winter storm slams the Sierra, bringing several feet of snow to higher elevations and rain at lake level.

Ireland – The Atlantic storm, Frank, will bring downpours, strong winds and high-risk conditions. Storm Frank is set to hit the country today, with fears that the resultant flooding could be even worse than that caused by pre-Christmas torrential rain.

Drought

Land Subsides in California

A canal that delivers vital water supplies from Northern California to Southern California is sinking in places. On farms, well casings pop up like mushrooms as the ground around them drops.

Four years of drought and heavy reliance on pumping of groundwater have made the land sink faster than ever up and down the Central Valley, requiring repairs to infrastructure that experts say are costing billions of dollars.

This slow-motion land subsidence — more than one foot a year in some places — is not expected to stop anytime soon, experts say, nor will the expensive repairs. Land subsidence is largely the result of pumping water from the ground. As aquifers are depleted, the ground sags.

The most severe examples today are in San Joaquin Valley, where the U.S. Geological Survey in 1975 said half of the land is prone to sinking. USGS researchers later called it one of the “single largest alterations of the land surface attributed to humankind.”

A sparse mountain snowpack in California’s driest four-year span on record has forced farmers in the Central Valley, the nation’s most productive agricultural region, to rely on groundwater to irrigate their crops.

Drought has spawned a well-drilling boom with some tapping ancient aquifers 3,000 feet down.

In wet years, groundwater provides about 40 percent of water used in California, but in times of drought, groundwater can amount to 65 percent of the state’s water supply.

Decades of over-pumping have destroyed thousands of well casings and buckled canal linings. To keep water flowing through low spots, irrigation districts raise the sides of sagging canals so they can increase the water level and maintain a gravitational flow.

Parts of the California Aqueduct, a massive canal that delivers water 400 miles to Southern California, also sank by nearly 13 inches.

Space Events

2015 to End with Auroras

After several days of pent-up quiet, big sunspot AR2473 erupted on Dec. 28th (12:49 UT), producing a slow but powerful M1.9-class solar flare. For more than an hour, UV radiation from the flare bathed the top of Earth’s atmosphere, ionizing atoms and molecules. This, in turn, disrupted the normal propagation of shortwave radio signals on the dayside of our planet. Ham radio operators, mariners and aviators in South America, Africa and the south Atlantic Ocean may have noticed fades and blackouts of transmissions below 20 MHz.

2015 could end with an outburst of auroras. NOAA forecasters say there is a 60% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on Dec. 30th when a CME is expected to hit Earth’s magnetic field. There is an equal 60% chance that the storms will spill over into Dec. 31st, New Year’s Eve.

Wildfires

Wildfires – Australia

Lives and homes continue to be threatened by separate out-of-control bushfires burning in Western Australia.

A watch and act alert remains for people on Morgan Road, Bentley Road, Gavins Road and at Meldene Estate on Marginata Drive, west of Donnybrook, in the state’s South West region.

The same alert has been issued for people in the vicinity of Hay Road and South Western Highway in North Greenbushes in the Shire of Bridgetown-Greenbushes.

An earlier alert for the Sawyers Valley townsite and Beelu National Park in the Shire of Mundaring has been downgraded.

Wildfires – California

The fire that scorched about 1,230 acres north of Ventura was 75 percent contained, with full containment expected Tuesday. The blaze erupted Friday night when high winds caused power lines on an oil field to arc. At its peak, the fire closed a 15-mile stretch of an adjacent, six-lane freeway, U.S. 101, and another major north-south route, the Pacific Coast Highway.

Hundreds of firefighters on Sunday mopped up the remnants of a wind-whipped wildfire that threatened dozens of Southern California coastal homes. Authorities said their new worry is a landslide if rain pounds the charred hills.

Wildfires – Spain

Amid unseasonably warm weather, firefighters battled more than 130 wind-fuelled wildfires in northern Spain on Monday which officials suspect were deliberately set.

Nearly 400 firefighters and soldiers struggled against 82 wildfires in Cantabria, a sparsely populated region whose terrain is sliced up by deep mountain valleys, the regional government said.

At least 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) of “extraordinary ecological value” has burned in the region over the past week, much of it located in two natural parks, it added in a statement.

Cantabria has since September received scant rainfall with average high temperatures of 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit), he said.

Strong winds, with gusts of up to 110 kilometres (70 miles) an hour were fanning the flames and preventing the use of water-dropping planes.

Disease

Guinea Declared Ebola Free

Guinea, one of the countries hit by the worst outbreak of Ebola, has been declared free of any cases of the deadly virus.

Because Guinea hasn’t seen any new infections for 42 days, the amount of time in two incubation cycles for the disease, the WHO declared it free of Ebola on Tuesday. The last known patient in Guinea was a 3-week-old girl who tested negative for the virus twice in November.

State Has First Instance of Dual Mosquito-Disease Outbreak

The Arizona state health department says it found more than 100 people contracted both West Nile Virus and St. Louis Encephalitis Virus this year.

The discovery marks the first time the two diseases have been found together. Both are spread to humans by mosquitoes who have fed on infected birds. In both cases, people infected may not know they have contracted the illnesses. When they do make their presence known, both appear as flu-like symptoms, but can cause serious deteriorating cognitive function, though this can be temporary.

The co-outbreaks were between May and October, prime mosquito season.The health department says this discovery is another reason people should protect against mosquito bites year-round.