Environment

Utah’s Great Salt Lake Is Shrinking

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Years of drought and over-irrigation have caused Utah’s Great Salt Lake to shrink at an alarming rate, recent satellite photos show.

After the Great Lakes, Utah’s Great Salt Lake is the largest body of water (by area) in the United States. Back in the middle of the 19th century, when pioneers first arrived in the area, the lake spread across roughly 1,600 square miles (4,100 square kilometers). Now, the lake covers an area of only about 1,050 square miles (2,700 square km), new satellite photos from NASA reveal. In October, the Great Salt Lake reached its lowest level in recorded history, at 4,191 feet (1,277 meters) deep.

These dramatic declines in water levels come from years of human activity — namely, diverting river water, which would normally fill the lake, for agriculture and industry, according to NASA. The agency estimates that about 40 percent of the river’s water is diverted from the lake. These activities, along with the ongoing drought in the West, have drained the historic lake.

The Technosphere

Scientists have measured the Earth’s technosphere, an expanding accumulation of everything humankind needs to live, including buildings, electronics and landfill.

University of Leicester geologists estimate the current weight of the technosphere is 30 trillion tons, or about 10 pounds per square foot of Earth’s surface.

The technosphere concept is an offshoot of the Anthropocene — a proposed epoch in which the Earth is shaped by human activities.

“Many of these (manmade items), if entombed in strata, can be preserved into the distant geological future as ‘technofossils’ that will help characterize and date the Anthropocene,” said

Wildlife

Caribou Mystery

Officials at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game report a sharp drop in the number of caribou across the state’s Central Arctic region.

Herds of the grazing animals peaked in numbers during 2010 at about 70,000, but have plunged to only 22,000 this year. Caribou herds in the Western Arctic region have also thinned significantly since 2003.

The late arrival of spring in 2013 was particularly deadly to the herds as caribou were forced to trudge through snow later than usual at a time of the year when their bodies are stressed and in urgent need of nutrition.

Game officials say they don’t believe hunting or predators are significant factors in the decline.

Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 117.0 degrees Fahrenheit (47.2 degrees Celsius) in Nioro, Mali.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 58.0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 50.0 degrees Celsius) in Topolinoye, Siberia.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity – Ongoing Activity for the week of 23 November-29 November 2016

Colima | Mexico : Based on satellite, webcam, and wind data, the Washington VAAC reported that on 26 November an ash plume from Colima rose to an altitude of 4.9 km (16,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted 75 km W. The next day a gas plume with possible ash content rose to an altitude of 5.5 (18,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted almost 20 km N. On 28 November an ash plume rose to an altitude of 5.2 km (17,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted 13 km NE.

Dukono | Halmahera (Indonesia) : Based on analyses of satellite imagery, information from PVMBG, and model data, the Darwin VAAC reported that during 23-29 November ash plumes from Dukono rose to an altitude of 2.1 km (7,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted NE, E, SE, and S.

Kilauea | Hawaiian Islands (USA) : During 21-29 November HVO reported that the lava lake continued to rise and fall, circulate, and spatter in Kilauea’s Overlook vent; the lake level rose as high as 6.5 m below the Halema’uma’u floor. A section of the wall of the Overlook Vent collapsed into the lava lake on 28 November. Webcams recorded incandescence from long-active sources within Pu’u ‘O’o Crater. The 61G lava flow, originating from a vent on Pu’u ‘O’o Crater’s E flank, continued to enter the ocean near Kamokuna at the easternmost lava delta. Breakouts at the upper part of the lava-tube system began on 21 November, sending lava as far as 500 m S and E. These breakouts, and others inland from the ocean entry, continued to be active through 29 November.

Klyuchevskoy | Central Kamchatka (Russia) : KVERT reported that a daily thermal anomaly over Klyuchevskoy was visible in satellite images during 18-25 November. The Aviation Color Code remained at Yellow.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.3 Earthquake hits Antofagasta, Chile.

5.2 Earthquake hits Costa Rica.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Rat Islands in the Aleutian Islands.

Two 5.0 Earthquakes hit Fiji.

5.0 Earthquake hits eastern Iran.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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In the North Indian Ocean: Tropical cyclone (tc) 04b (Nada), located approximately 846 nm south-southwest of Calcutta, India, is tracking westward at 06 knots.

Newsbytes:

Barbados – A day before Barbados’ 50th anniversary Independence celebrations were set to climax, a weather system dropped over six inches of rain, causing islandwide flooding and forcing several of the planned pre-Independence festivities to be postponed. In some areas the rainfall was so high it completely submerged vehicles. It also caused schools to be closed early.

Southern USA – Tornadoes that dropped out of the night sky killed five people in two states and injured at least a dozen more early Wednesday, adding to a seemingly biblical onslaught of drought, flood and fire plaguing the South. The storms tore through just as firefighters began to get control of wildfires that killed seven and damaged or wiped out more than 700 homes and businesses around the resort town of Gatlinburg, Tenn. In Alabama, the weather system dumped more than 2 inches of rain in areas that had been parched by months of choking drought. At least 13 confirmed twisters damaged homes, splintered barns and toppled trees in parts of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, the National Weather Service said.

Global Warming

Global Warming and Drought in Bolivia

For weeks, hundreds of thousands of Bolivians have been stricken with drought, with some neighbourhoods receiving water for only three hours every three days. Armed forces drive tanks into affected communities, where families form long lines to collect water. The drought became so fierce recently that schools in three regions of the country decided to cut the school year short two weeks before summer break.

The country is in the midst of its worst drought in 25 years, as three reservoirs that supply its largest city, La Paz, are almost entirely dried up. For the first time, the government has put into effect water rationing, affecting more than 177,000 families across the country, Reuters reported. In response, the government has provided aid, including bottled water, to about 145,000 drought-stricken families, Reuters reported.

The severity of the drought escalated last week, when President Evo Morales declared a national state of emergency, insisting that Bolivians “have to be prepared for the worst.” And earlier this week, Chile’s government offered to provide humanitarian aid to help Bolivia confront the national emergency, El Deber reported.

Hospitals are working at half capacity, suspending non-emergency surgeries and dialysis, the Guardian reported. In the poor neighbourhoods of southern Sucre, taps have run dry for three weeks, and in the southern highlands, where most of the country’s quinoa is grown, the 2016 crop has been slashed in half. Cattle have been wiped out, and two of the country’s lakes have run completely dry.

Experts say the country’s water shortages are caused or exacerbated by rising temperatures and the El Niño weather phenomenon in the Pacific. Additionally, booming migration to the country’s largest cities has pressured resources, particularly water, and the country’s limited infrastructure has struggled to keep up. Environmental advocates also say the drought reveals the impact of large-scale agriculture and mining projects, which divert water supplies and contaminate lakes and other water sources, Reuters reported.

Disease

Mumps – USA

Washington – Seattle & King County has reported nine confirmed or probable mumps cases in King County, all in the Auburn area, with an additional five cases being investigated. Eight of the nine mumps cases are among children between 8-17 years of age, with one adult case, 23 years of age.

Arkansas – While Arkansas has seen the most mumps cases of any state this year (1652), most being reported in the northwest corner of the state, only a handful of cases have been linked to Arkansas colleges and universities to date. Today, the Arkansas Department of Health has confirmed two cases of mumps involving University of Arkansas.

Missouri – The mumps outbreak continues at the University of Missouri as the school’s Student Health Centre puts the total confirmed and probable mumps cases at 128 through Nov. 30. The Health Centre says the majority of cases continue to have links to students in Greek organizations.

New York – In a follow-up to the mumps outbreak at the State University of New York at New Paltz (SUNY New Paltz) in Ulster County, NY, school health officials have reported an additional 12 confirmed cases in the past week, bringing the total cases to 32.

Streptococcus – Alaska

Four Alaskans have died this year in an outbreak of invasive strep bacteria that has mostly affected the homeless and Alaska Natives in the state’s two largest cities, the state’s epidemiologist said Tuesday. Since then the invasive bacteria has caused 28 cases of severe illness — 10 in Fairbanks and 18 in Anchorage. Results are pending on another three suspected cases in Anchorage.

Among the total, 15 involved homeless people in Anchorage and two homeless people in Fairbanks. Two of the deaths occurred in Fairbanks and two in Anchorage. Another three probable cases in Anchorage have not been confirmed.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity – New – Activity for the week of 23 November-29 November 2016

Sabancaya | Peru : The Technical and Scientific Committee for volcanic risk management of the Arequipa region (comprised of five groups including IGP’s OVS and INGEMMET’s OVI) reported 288 explosions at Sabancaya during 21-27 November. Ash plumes rose as high as 4.5 km above the crater rim and drifted 35-40 km E and SE. Sulfur dioxide emissions were as high as 3,300 tonnes/day and deformation was detected on the SE flank. During 28-29 November ash plumes rose 2 km and drifted 30 km S and SE. The Alert level remained at Yellow; the public was warned to stay at least 10 km away from the volcano.

Rotorua | North Island (New Zealand) : GeoNet reported a small hydrothermal eruption in Lake Rotorua on 28 November, and noted that the occurrence was not unusual. In a news article residents described a geyser that rose 20-30 m above the lake surface. A GNS scientists noted that the last significant steam eruptions in Rotorua occurred about 15 years ago.

Copahue | Central Chile-Argentina border : Based on satellite and webcam images, the Buenos Aires VAAC reported that during 23-25 and 27-29 November diffuse steam-and-ash plumes rose from Copahue to altitudes of 3.3-5.2 km (11,000-17,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted SW, SE, and N. The Alert Level remained at Yellow; SERNAGEOMIN recommended no entry into a restricted area within 1.5 km of the crater.

Chirinkotan | Kuril Islands (Russia) : SVERT reported that on 29 November an ash plume rose from Chirinkotan was visible in satellite images rising to an altitude of 8.8 km (29,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifting 39 km N. The Aviation Color Code was raised to Yellow (on a four-color scale).