Disease

Anthrax outbreak: Burkina Faso

An anthrax outbreak was reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Wednesday by the Ministère des Ressources Animales et Halieutiques, Ouagadougou , Burkina Faso. The outbreak registered in Banakeledaga, Bama, Houet killed 70 cattle, registered in four (4) herds that belong to four (4) farmers: three (3) of them from the Fulani camp of Banankeledaga and one (1) from the village of Bama.

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – Saudi Arabia and Qatar

Between 18 March and 20 April 2017 the national IHR Focal Point of Saudi Arabia reported 13 additional cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) including two fatal cases.| On 18 April 2017 the national IHR Focal Point of Qatar reported one additional case of MERS.

Crop-eating armyworm marches on

The fall armyworm – which decimates fields as it marches ever forward – has spread to Angola as the caterpillar eats its way through southern Africa, a U.N. agency said.

With Angola the latest country affected, only Lesotho and island nations in the region have escaped the pest, which devours crops in its path, U.N. officials said. Its spread has undermined hopes for a better harvest this year, they added, with swathes of southern, eastern and western Africa infested.

Native to North and South America, the caterpillar was first detected in Western Africa in 2016 and has since spread across sub-Saharan Africa, ravaging maize and other cereal crops.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity – New Activity for the week of 19 April – 25 April 2017

Ibu | Halmahera (Indonesia) : Based on PVMBG observations the Darwin VAAC reported that during 19-21 April ash plumes from Ibu rose 1.5-1.8 km (5,000-6,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted E and N.

Kambalny | Southern Kamchatka (Russia) : KVERT reported that moderate activity at Kambalny continued during 15-21 April. Observers in the South Kamchatka Sanctuary noted minor ashfall in the Kurilskoe Lake area on 19 April. The Aviation Colour Code remained at Orange.

Langila | New Britain (Papua New Guinea) : Based on analyses of satellite imagery and wind data, the Darwin VAAC reported that during 23-25 April ash plumes from Langila rose to an altitude of 2.1 km (7,000 ft) a.s.l., and drifted S and 55 km SE.

Manam | Papua New Guinea : RVO reported that activity at Manam decreased on 18 April and continued at low levels through 21 April. Roaring noises came from both Main and Southern craters. Both craters were incandescent, but only Southern Crater ejected incandescent tephra, which became intense during 0900-1100 on 20 April. Pale gray-to-brown plumes with a minor amounts of ash rose from both craters and drifted SE. RSAM values were about 75-150 units, but between about midnight and 0100 on 22 April they began to rise. RSAM values were 600 at 0500, and then they fluctuated between 400 and 1,400 units at least through 1400, the time of the report posting. According to a news article from 25 April the Alert Level was raised to Stage 3, and an official on the island noted that women and children have begun to be evacuated to Bogia on the mainland.

Nishinoshima | Japan : Satellite images of Nishinoshima acquired on 19 April and processed by NASA’s Earth Observatory showed an area of hot lava in the crater. According to a news article, observers aboard a plane passing the volcano on 21 April noted intense activity in the crater. Bombs were ejected as high as 100 m above the crater and incandescent rocks rolled down the flanks, reaching the sea. The report noted brown plumes rising from the crater and lava effusing from an area near the top of the vent.

Poas | Costa Rica : OVSICORI-UNA reported that on 20 April a dense water vapor plume rose from a vent in the newly-forming pyroclastic cone at the site of the old dome in the hot lake at Poás. Gas flux increased from 1,000 tons/day (t/d) on 13 April to 2,500 t/d on 20 April. During 20-22 April Strombolian activity ejected tephra that fell around the vent within a 300-m radius. Gas-and-ash plumes rose 200 m above the vent. The Red Cross of Grecia reported ashfall in Alajuela, Fraijanes, San Miguel, Carbonal, Cajón, San Francisco, San Roque, and San Juan Norte de Poás. Events at 1316 and 1603 on 22 April produced plumes of unknown height. Several more eruptive events were recorded that day; an event at 2212 was very intense, ejecting bombs large distances. An event at 1215 on 23 April generated a plume of unknown height.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.3 Earthquake hits Tarapaca, Chile.

5.1 Earthquake hits Fiji.

5.0 Earthquake hits Atacama, Chile.

5.0 Earthquake hits offshore Valparaiso, Chile.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Pacific-Antarctic ridge.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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In the Western Pacific: Tropical Storm 03w (Muifa), located approximately 432 nm borth-northwest of Yap, is tracking north-northeastward at 08 knots.

In the South Indian Ocean: Tropical cyclone (ts) 17s (Seventeen), located approximately 179 nm north-northwest of Darwin, Australia, is tracking southwestward at 08 knots.

NewsBytes:

Dominican Republic – Due to the heavy rainfall throughout the country that started on 18 April, some communities in the northern and central areas of the Cibao region are currently displaced and without communications. Weather forecasts anticipate the rains to intensify over the coming weekend. Some 3,512 homes have been flooded while 9 have been destroyed. A total of 17,560 displaced families are currently housed in the homes of friends or family (approximately 88,000 people). Reported damages to infrastructure include 10 bridges and 13 roadways that connect the affected provinces and towns in the north to the south of the country.

Global Warming

Global Warming – Heatwave Hits Chile’s Glaciers

High, high up in the Andes mountains above Chile’s capital, at the foot of the glaciers that date from the last ice age, the temperatures were almost balmy this summer. That threatens long-term water supplies to the city of seven million spread out on the plain below.

At the Olivares Alfa glacier, 4,420 meters above sea level, temperatures rose above 10 Celsius on several days in January and rarely fell below zero, said Andres Rivera, a glaciologist at the Center of Scientific Studies in Valdivia.

“It is not rare to have above-zero temperatures during summer, but high temperatures day and night, for several days in a row, that was unprecedented,” Rivera said.

The glaciers that supply much of Santiago’s water over the hot, dry summer months shrunk by a quarter to 380 square kilometers in the 30 years to 2013/14, according to a study by the Universidad de Chile. The melt will accelerate if the South American nation sees more record breaking heatwaves as global warming increases. Eventually, the shrinking glaciers may force the citizens of Santiago to follow their counterparts in southern California and give up their green lawns and swimming pools.

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The Echaurren Norte glacier above the Laguna Negra reservoir has shrunk in height by the equivalent of 20 meters of water over the past 40 years, according to the government’s Water Directorate. That standard measure for glaciers means that the height of the ice has been reduced by about 25 meters since 1976.

That was before this year’s heat wave, with the glacier probably shrinking further in the past 12 months.

The worst wildfires the country has seen in generations burned 614,000 hectares of woodland and crops, dumping ash on the glaciers thousands of meters up in the Andes mountains. That meant the ice absorbed more heat, instead of reflecting it back.

Chile’s giant copper industry probably isn’t helping the glaciers either.

State-owned Codelco’s Andina copper mine and Anglo American Plc.’s Los Bronces both sit right next to the Olivares glacier system. Their operations are impacting the glaciers and the planned expansion of Andina could have an even larger effect, Ferrando said.

“The mine pit has often been drilled on both ice glaciers and rock glaciers,” Ferrando said. “Trucks also lift dust that strong winds move to the glaciers and this changes the way solar radiation lands on the ice and increases the effect of heat.”

The situation may be even more critical in neighboring Bolivia where glaciers have shrunk by 43 percent in 20 years, according to research by Manchester Metropolitan University. The study said new lakes have appeared as a consequence of the melting and at least 25 of them are at risk of causing floods or mudslides.

At some point soon, Latin America needs to prepare for life without glaciers.

Wildlife

US Marines Airlift 1,100 Tortoises to New Home

The U.S. Marine Corps had an unusual mission this month: to airlift more than 1,000 desert tortoises across the Mojave Desert.

Desert tortoises are native to the southwestern desert, and a population of the reptiles had made their home near the U.S. Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California. However, plans to expand the Marines’ training grounds for large-scale exercises with live fire would have put the tortoises at risk, so the military took on the massive task of relocating approximately 1,100 desert tortoises.

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Vinegar offers hope in Barrier Reef starfish battle

Coral-munching crown-of-thorns starfish can be safely killed by common household vinegar, scientists revealed Thursday in a discovery that offers hope for Australia’s struggling Great Barrier Reef.

The predatory starfish is naturally-occurring but has proliferated due to pollution and run-off at the World Heritage-listed ecosystem, which is also reeling from two consecutive years of mass coral bleaching.

Until now other expensive chemicals such as bile salts have been used to try and eradicate the pest — which consumes coral faster than it can be regenerated — but they can harm other marine organisms.

Tests by James Cook University, in collaboration with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), showed vinegar was safe, effective and cheap.

Study head Lisa Bostrom-Einarsson said crown-of-thorns were injected with vinegar at four sites on the reef over six weeks, causing them to die within 48 hours with no impact on other life.

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Wildfires

Wildfires – Arizona, USA

The Green Valley fire had now burned 28.1 square miles (72.8 sq. kilometers), the fire management team said Tuesday afternoon.

There are no reports of injuries or structure damage, but the wind-driven fire has resulted in the evacuation of 40 residences as well as notices to nearly 90 additional dwellings whose residents should prepare for possible evacuation.

Disease

Measles Outbreak in Italy

In a follow-up on the measles outbreak in Italy, the number of cases has increased by 136 since the last report, bringing the total to 1739 cases since the beginning of the year, according to Italian health officials.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.3 Earthquake hits Tonga.

5.2 Earthquake hits the Balleny Islands.

5.1 Earthquake hits near the east coast of Kamchatka.

5.0 Earthquake hits Halmahera, Indonesia.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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In the Western Pacific: Tropical Storm 03w (Muifa), located approximately 328 nm northwest of Yap, is tracking northwestward at 06 knots.

NewsBytes:

Melbourne, Australia – Parts of Victoria have already received almost double the average rainfall this month, and some areas have recorded the wettest April in 16 years. As Melbourne dealt with another wintry blast and rainfall that caused the closure of two train stations, the weather bureau revealed Melbourne had received 107 millimetres of rain this month

North & South Carolina, USA – Days of rain are causing floods in several southeastern states including South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee. The heavy rain has swamped homes and businesses in North Carolina. The National Weather Service issued a flood warning until 11:30 p.m. for Raleigh, the state capital, and surrounding counties.

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Global Warming

Climate Change Continues Unabated in the Arctic

Evidence continues to mount that climate change has pushed the Arctic into a new state. Skyrocketing temperatures are altering the essence of the region, melting ice on land and sea, driving more intense wildfires, altering ocean circulation and dissolving permafrost.

A new report chronicles all these changes and warns that even if the world manages to keep global warming below the targeted 2°C threshold, some of the shifts could be permanent. Among the most harrowing are the disappearance of sea ice by the 2030s and more land ice melt than previously thought, pushing seas to more extreme heights.

The findings, released Monday in the Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) assessment, come after a winter of extreme discontent for the region. Sea ice receded a bit in November, a rare occurrence, and hit a record-low maximum for the third year in a row. Temperatures averaged 11°F above normal, driven by sustained mild weather that was punctured by periods of almost unheard of heat when temperatures reached up to 50°F above normal.

The decline of sea ice is well documented. It’s disappearing in all seasons with the fastest shrinkage in the summer months. Old ice, which has formed the bedrock of sea ice for decades, is also declining precipitously. That leaves new ice in its place and susceptible to melt.

The new analysis shows that the average number of days with sea ice cover has dropped by 10-20 days per decade since 1979. Some areas, such as the Barents and Karas seas, have seen even steeper declines. Disappearing sea ice means the darker ocean left in its wake absorbs more energy from the sun, speeding the warming in the region.

Arctic soil holds up to 50 percent of the world’s soil carbon. Rising temperatures are melting permafrost, causing it to release some of the carbon into the atmosphere.

While the carbon release so far has been relatively small, rising temperatures have the potential to rapidly reshape the landscape and speed the melt.

The biggest impact for the globe is the melt of land ice from Greenland’s massive ice sheet. It’s the biggest land ice driver of sea level rise, and it’s been melting at a quickening rate since 2011.

The SWIPA report uses new data and findings to update the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sea level rise estimates made just four years ago.

If carbon emissions continue on their current trends, the report indicates 29 inches would be the low end of sea level rise estimates by 2100, roughly 9 inches higher than the minimum IPCC estimate. And that’s just the low end, with more sea level rise possible as scientists untangle the web of melting in Greenland as well as the Antarctic.

The massive rush of freshwater into the Arctic Ocean is also reshaping ocean circulation and the ecology of the region. Researchers have seen a marked slowdown in North Atlantic circulation as cold, fresh water off Greenland’s southern tip has acted as a roadblock to the currents that steer water through the region. That has the potential to mess with ocean circulation as well as weather patterns, particularly in Europe.

Research shows global warming making oceans more toxic

Climate change is predicted to cause a series of maladies for world oceans including heating up, acidification, and the loss of oxygen. A newly published study published online in the April 24 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled “Ocean warming since 1982 has expanded the niche of toxic algal blooms in the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans,” demonstrates that one ocean consequence of climate change that has already occurred is the spread and intensification of toxic algae.

Toxic or harmful algal blooms are not a new phenomenon, although many people may know them by other names such as red tides. These events can sicken or kill people who consume toxin-contaminated shellfish and can damage marine ecosystems by killing fish and other marine life.

The problem is worsening.

The distribution, frequency and intensity of these events have increased across the globe and this study links this expansion to ocean warming in some regions of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans.

Marine algae are so tiny—50 of them side by side span only the width of a single hair—that they may seem harmless. But when billions of toxic cells come together, they can poison humans, kill marine life, and economically harm coastal communities.

Wildlife

Baby whales ‘whisper’ to mothers to avoid predators

Newborn humpback whales and their mothers whisper to each other to escape potential predators, scientists reported on Wednesday, revealing the existence of a previously unknown survival technique.

Whales are known for their loud calls, congregating fellow members of the pod. Male humpback whales also emit reverberating sounds to attract females during the mating season.

But this is the first time scientists have observed a unique, intimate form of communication between humpback mothers and calves.

Potential predators such as killer whales could listen to their conversations and use that as a cue to locate the calf and predate on it, if the conversations were louder.

While a male’s cry can resound over an area covering several kilometres, the pairs in the study could only hear each others’ calls within a distance of less than 100 metres.

The faint sounds are also a way to keep mate-seeking males from interfering in the humpback’s nurturing, a crucial time in the newborn’s life as it braces for an arduous 8 000km journey back home to the Antarctic, the researchers speculated.

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Environment

Ancient underground water sources not immune to today’s pollution

New research suggests ancient underground water sources long believed to be shielded from modern-day contaminants may not be as safe as previously thought.

The study, led by University of Calgary hydrogeologist Scott Jasechko, involved delving into data collected from 6,000 groundwater wells around the world.

The research yielded two interesting findings – up to 85 per cent of the fresh, unfrozen water in the upper kilometre of the earth’s crust is more than 12,000 years old and it’s possible for ancient and recent water sources to mingle deep underground.

The implication of that finding is that, unfortunately, even deep wells are vulnerable to modern land uses.

The tests released a specific radioactive hydrogen isotope into the environment called tritium, which has been useful in dating water samples. Trace levels of tritium – too low to pose any danger – were found in deep groundwater wells, demonstrating there is a way for old and new water to mix.

“Its presence alone indicates that some of the water in the well is recent rain and snow,” said Jasechko. “And the fact that we find that at deep depths implies that even deep wells are vulnerable to modern-era contaminants.”

Disease

Mystery Disease in Liberia

Health officials in Sinoe County, Liberia announced the investigation into the “mysterious deaths” of at least six people, including students, in the port city of Greenville.

The Ministry of Health reported: “Since 5 a.m. Tuesday, six persons have died from suspected fever of unknown cause”. A rapid response team has taken specimens from the deceased for testing.

Another website titled their post: “Ebola Scare Hits Liberia”. However, there is no evidence as yet that this is Ebola.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

6.7 Earthquake hits offshore Valparaiso, Chile.

A powerful earthquake with an initial magnitude 7.1 has struck off the west coast of Chile, rocking the capital Santiago and generating at least two significant aftershocks. No major damage was immediately apparent, according to an assessment by Chile’s emergency services. The Chilean Navy and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake was not expected to cause a tsunami.

5.5 Earthquake hits off the coast of Valparaiso, Chile.

5.4 Earthquake hits Tonga.

5.4 Earthquake hits offshore Valparaiso, Chile.

Two 5.1 Earthquakes hit offshore Valparaiso, Chile.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Sunda Strait, Indonesia.

5.0 Earthquake hits Guam.