Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

6.1 Earthquake hits Taiwan.

The very strong earthquake in Taiwan today claimed the lives of at least 7 people and toppled several buildings in Tainan. 35 people are still trapped in the rubble. About 6,000 households in the Yungkang, Shanhua, Kueijen, and Yujing districts are suffering power outages, while some 400,000 households have no water supply. Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported that bullet trains would not run in southern Taiwan until at least 5 p.m.

Tainan earthquake damage photo

5.5 Earthquake hits Fiji.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Xizang-Nepal border region.

5.1 Earthquake hits Fiji.

5.0 Earthquake hits Vanuatu.

5.0 Earthquake hits New Ireland, Papua New Guinea.

5.0 Earthquake hits New Guinea, Papua New Guinea.

Drought

Drought in Hawaii

Drought fears rise as lack of January rain sets records. Last month’s weather may have been great for the beach, but the lack of rain made it the driest January on record in several locations in Hawaii. “Drought impacts, mainly to the agriculture sector, started on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island and will likely spread and intensify over the coming weeks.”

All of Oahu’s rain gauges recorded below average rainfall. Only .03 inches fell at the Honolulu Airport, about 1 percent of the normal 2.3 inches for January, setting a new record for the month. All of the rain gauges at lower elevations on Oahu — from Downtown Honolulu to Waianae — got less than 10 percent of normal rainfall. The highest rainfall total of 5.6 inches was recorded at Poamoho, but that is still 31 percent of the average for January.

Philippines

Farmers in 17 of Maguindanao’s 36 towns lost their rice and corn crops to the now two-month dry spell, feared to cause widespread hunger without downpours until summer. Field workers are still validating reports on the extent of crop damage in the other 19 Maguindanao towns. Rats have also destroyed vast swaths of rice and corn farms in Maguindanao in January.

Environment

Regrowing Rain Forests

Scientists have long promoted rain forest preservation as a way to mitigate climate change, but now it turns out that regrowing forests is just as important.

Newly grown tropical forests can capture harmful carbon from the atmosphere at a rate up to 11 times faster than older forests, according to a study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday. The study includes a map of Latin America (pictured below) that shows the regions with the greatest potential for carbon capture.

The researchers examined the biomass recovery of young “secondary” tropical forests, which are less than 100 years old, and compared it with that of “old-growth” forests, which are at least a few hundred years old. They looked at 45 forest sites of varying ages across Central and South America, which involved measuring more than 168,000 trees in all.

This data allowed the researchers not only to build the map, but also to analyze how much carbon secondary forests can take up — which turned out to be more than expected, said Dr. Saara J. DeWalt, an associate professor of biological sciences at Clemson University in South Carolina and a co-author of the study.

“I was very surprised by how quickly secondary forests uptake carbon,” DeWalt said. “Younger forests capture more carbon because the trees are actively growing and are quickly converting carbon into leaves and wood. Growth of trees in older forests is much slower because of more limited space, sunlight and nutrients.”

Disease

Zika Virus Outbreak in South Pacific

The tiny South Pacific kingdom of Tonga said Friday it has a Zika epidemic after five people tested positive for the virus and another 265 are suspected of having it.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said in addition to Tonga, the Pacific islands of American Samoa and Samoa have also reported Zika outbreaks and it is warning Pacific travellers to protect themselves from mosquitoes, which spread the virus.

Newcastle Disease in the Philippines

An outbreak of Newcastle disease in Central Luzon in the Philippines has killed more than 40 000 chickens according to the Department of Agriculture.

It is suspected that the spread of the virus was enhanced by recent typhoons that have stressed the birds and weakened them.

The department had already implemented measures to prevent the further spread of the disease, including the distribution of vaccine and disinfectant particularly to backyard raisers.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Santiaguito (Guatemala): A strong explosion occurred from the active Caliente lava dome this morning around 10:30 local time. It generated a pyroclastic flow that traveled down the southeast flank of the dome complex reaching a length of approx. 2-3 km. No damage or injuries were reported. Ash plumes from both the explosion and the pyroclastic flow rose to an elevation of 17,000 ft (5.5 km) and produced moderate ash falls in the southern sectors of the volcano, in particular in the village and coffee farm of El Palmar. Authorities ordered preventive evacuations in areas to the S and SE closest to the volcano.

Bardarbunga (Central Iceland): Over the past few months, seismic activity at the volcano, mainly under the volcano’s large, ice-covered caldera has been increasing again, suggesting that magma might be filling the volcano’s reservoir underneath the caldera. Since the beginning of the year, more than 300 shallow earthquakes of magnitudes up to 3.8 on the Richter scale were recorded, clustered in areas near the southern and northeastern caldera rim.

Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): After several months of unusual calm, the volcano had a moderately strong vulcanian explosion from the Showa crater this morning. An ash plume rose to approx. 10,000 ft (3 km) altitude. Until the end of Sep 2015, Sakurajima had been producing such explosions, of varying intensity, at rates of typically 3-5 or more per day. This activity ceased around 28 Sep 2015 and until now, the volcano had only manifested surface activity in the form of minor ash emissions, degassing, as well as, very rarely, minor explosions. Whether the volcano is back to its previously typical behaviour with more frequent and stronger explosions, as it had been during most of the recent years, remains to be seen.

Sinabung (Sumatra, Indonesia): Recently, explosions from the active summit lava dome have become more frequent, producing ash plumes that rose 1-2 km above the summit. Extrusion of viscous lava also continues at slow pace, generating small to moderate pyroclastic flows from time to time.

Fuego (Guatemala): Activity at the volcano is again increasing and seems to be heading towards another (the 3rd in 2016) paroxysm. Explosions have become stronger, and possibly, one or several short lava flows are active on the upper flanks. The thermal output of the volcano, measured by NASA’s satellite-based MODIS spectroradiometer, also shows a clear increasing trend.