Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

6.4 earthquake hits Taiwan.

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Rescue workers scrambled to search for survivors in buildings left tilting precariously on their foundations in the Taiwanese city of Hualien on Wednesday, after an overnight earthquake killed four and injured more than 200. Authorities said they could not verify how many residents were still missing after the 6.4-magnitude quake which hit the popular tourist city late on Tuesday.

5.4 earthquake hits Taiwan.

5.3 earthquake hits Taiwan.

5.2 earthquake hits Taiwan.

5.1 earthquake hits Taiwan.

5.1 earthquake hits Vanuatu.

5.0 earthquake hits Oaxaca, Mexico.

5.0 earthquake hits Tajikistan.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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In the Southern Hemisphere: Tropical cyclone 07s (Cebile), located approximately 1430 nm east-southeast of La Reunion, is tracking southwestward at 03 knots.

Newsbytes:

Torres Strait – Australia’s Torres Strait Islands have been hit by a literal perfect storm, causing devastating floods. In a world where natural disasters are common, ones where there have been no deaths don’t always get attention. However, these floods provide a frightening preview of the future for island populations worldwide as climate change accelerates, and of governmental failure. There are more than 200 small islands, 14 of them inhabited, in the Torres Strait, which separates Australia from Papua New Guinea. The islands are legally part of Australia, and have a unique culture. Some of the islands never rise more than a meter (3 feet) above sea level, making them very vulnerable to unusually high tides, like those that occur when the Moon is either full or new. When this happens the gravitational influence of the Sun and Moon combine, rather than counteracting. If this occurs when the Moon’s in the closest part of its orbit its pull is magnified, creating a “King Tide”. While half the world was enjoying the supermoon eclipse, low islands worldwide were struggling with the resulting King Tide, worsened in the Torres Strait by the monsoon rains. Climate change-induced sea level rise has removed what little protection the lower islands previously had.

Global Warming

A key part of the Earth’s ozone layer is failing to heal – and Scientists don’t know why

The rescue of the planet’s protective ozone layer has been hailed as one of the great success stories of modern environmental regulation – but on Monday, an international team of 22 scientists raised doubts about whether ozone is actually recovering as expected across much of the world.

“We’ve detected unexpected decreases in the lower part of the stratospheric ozone layer, and the consequence of this result is that it’s offsetting the recovery in ozone that we had expected to see,” said William Ball, a scientist with the Physical Meteorological Observatory in Davos, Switzerland.

In 1987, countries of the world agreed to the Montreal Protocol, a treaty designed to phase out chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, responsible for destroying ozone in the stratosphere. The protocol has worked as intended in reducing these substances, and early healing of the ozone “hole” over Antarctica has been subsequently hailed by scientists.

But the study by Ball and his colleagues – a team of scientists including researchers based in the United States, Britain, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden and Finland – focused instead on the lower latitudes where the vast majority of humans live.

There, the scientists found a relatively small but hard-to-explain decline of ozone in the lower part of the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere that extends from about six miles to 31 miles above the planet’s surface, since the year 1998. Meanwhile, the upper stratosphere has been recovering.

Environment

A Ticking Time Bomb of Mercury Is Hidden Beneath Earth’s Permafrost

According to a new study published Feb. 5 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, theremay be more than 15 million gallons (58 million liters) of mercury buried in the permafrost of the Northern Hemisphere — roughly twice as much mercury as can be found in the rest of Earth’s soils, ocean and atmosphere combined. And if global temperatures continue to rise, all that mercury could come pouring out.

In geology, permafrost is defined as any soil that has been frozen for more than two years. In the Northern Hemisphere, permafrost accounts for about 8.8 million square miles (22.79 million square kilometers) of land — or roughly 24 percent of exposed Earth, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Over time, naturally occurring compounds in the atmosphere, such as mercury and carbon dioxide, can bind with organic material in the soil and be frozen into permafrost, potentially remaining trapped underground for thousands of years before it thaws.

Using the mercury contents of 13 cores drilled in various sites across the North American permafrost as a springboard, the researchers estimated the total amount of mercury sealed away below North American permafrost to be roughly 793 gigagrams — or more than 15 million gallons.

Disease

Measles – Ukraine

In a follow-up to a report on the measles outbreak in Ukraine, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine (computer translated) puts the outbreak case tally at 3,554 in January– 1,165 adults and 2,389 children. The majority of cases were registered in Ivano-Frankivsk (804), Odesa (640), Zakarpattia (549), Chernivtsi (444) and Lviv (242) regions.

India – Monkey Fever

At least 19 people have died from an outbreak of ‘monkey fever’ in India, according to local reports. Kyasanur Forest disease (KFD), spread by ticks, has struck down 322 people since the killer outbreak was confirmed. Victims often report a fever or severe bleeding, but it can lead to tremors, mental disturbances.