Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.7 earthquake hits near the coast of Ecuador.

5.7 earthquake hits Kepulauan Batu, Indonesia.

5.5 earthquake hits the Mona Passage, Dominican Republic.

5.2 earthquake hits Greece.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

There are no current tropical storms.

NewsBytes:

New York, USA – Buffalo Creek in West Seneca floods after ice jam. West Seneca Police said residents should take “necessary precaution” following an ice jam downstream in the Buffalo Creek. The water had not yet crested.

Queensland, Australia – Devastating flooding in northeast Australia has forced thousands of people from their homes and brought snakes and crocodiles onto the streets as authorities warn of strong winds and more rain on the way. Much of the city of Townsville in Queensland state is flooded, with residents left without power and some compelled to seek safety on the roofs of their homes. Intense rain on Sunday forced authorities to open the floodgates on the Ross River Dam to relieve pressure, releasing around 1,900 cubic meters of water per second downriver. Hundreds of homes in Townsville have already been inundated, 7 News reported, and there are fears between 10,000 and 20,000 properties could be at risk from the coming bad weather. To make matters worse for the terrified residents fleeing their homes, there have been numerous sightings of crocodiles and snakes being swept along with the floodwaters

Drought in Southern Africa

Affected countries: Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Since the start of the 2018/19 cropping season in October, anomalous dry conditions have developed across parts of Southern Africa, with more intense moisture deficits registered in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, in addition to the western parts of Madagascar. Although there are a few months remaining in the cropping season, with the main harvest period usually commencing in April, the impact of the reduced rains is expected to have caused a contraction in the area planted and lowered yield prospects, particularly in the aforementioned areas. Heavier rainfall since mid‑December provided some respite and helped to alleviate moisture deficits, but concurrently resulted in localized flooding in parts of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Approximately 10.8 million people were facing severe food insecurity in Southern Africa as 2018 came to an end. In Eswatini, the estimated number of people facing Crisis (IPC phase 3) or worse food insecurity more than doubled from 120,000 in October to nearly 250,000 in December. In Zimbabwe, where 2.4 million people in rural areas were severely food insecure, the deteriorating economic situation caused sharp price increases and hampered access to food and agricultural inputs. Shortages of basic food commodities in formal markets, including cooking oil, sugar and bread, were reported, especially in remote areas. In Mozambique, more than 1.78 million people were in IPC phase 3 or above across the country, of whom 814,000 people in five provinces were prioritized for urgent humanitarian assistance. Further attacks by non-state armed actors were reported in Cabo Delgado province in November, increasing food security and malnutrition concerns. Meanwhile, in Madagascar, a Flash Appeal was launched to galvanize funding for rapid response in the Grand Sud region, where 890,000 people are severely food insecure.

Environment

Huge Plume of Magma Under the Galápagos

A fleet of floating robots has figured out why the Galápagos Islands exist. And, according to the robots’ creators, the discovery could help explain why the Earth isn’t a floating ball of ice.

The Galápagos Islands are a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) off the coast of Ecuador. The islands are most famous as hosts to a large number of species not found anywhere else in the world, which helped the biologist Charles Darwin develop the theory of evolution. Now, according to an international team of researchers, we know that the islands were formed by a thin tunnel bringing magma up from a “mantle plume” 1,200 miles (1,900 km) below the surface. Scientists had suspected such a plume might exist before, but this is the most direct evidence yet that it’s down there.

“Mantle plumes” are giant bubbles of very hot magma that sit much closer to the Earth’s crust than usual. For decades, scientists have proposed that plumes like this could explain why certain regions of the planet are very volcanically active, even though they’re far from the edges of tectonic plates where volcanism is more expected. (Hawaii is a famous example.) Not every volcanologist accepts this explanation, but those who do think it explains why the Earth hasn’t run out of heat. The result would be a kind of trickle effect, where the hot innards of the planet would release enough geothermal heat to keep the crust warm, but not so much that it burned itself out.

Magnetic North Pole’s ‘Pretty Fast’

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tends to update the location of the magnetic north pole every five years, but the latest update came nearly a year ahead of schedule because the pole is moving so quickly.

Earth’s magnetic north pole — the north that your compass points toward — is leaving the Canadian Arctic and moving towards Russia’s snowy Siberia at a rate of more than 55 kilometres (34 miles) per year, according to an update by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the British Geological Survey.

In general, the World Magnetic Model (WMM) is updated at five-year intervals to ensure modern navigation keeps up with the changes in the Earth’s magnetic field.

Wildlife

Shark-eating killer whales move into Cape Town

Scuba divers diving along a popular site inside Table Mountain National Park discovered a broadnose sevengill shark graveyard within a protected area known to be home to an exceptionally large group of the sharks.

At any given time, divers in this area typically come across roughly 70 sharks in an hour-long dive, this is the only noted place in the world that is as populated by such a large concentrated number of sevengill sharks.

The cause of the mass deaths remained a mystery at first due to the inability to recover shark bodies for examination, and suspicions fell on great white sharks, humans and killer whales, or orcas.

Months later scientists managed to examine shark carcasses and determined that the culprit was indeed orcas.

After reviewing information on orca behavior, dietary specialisation and population delineation both globally and locally, it was decided these attacks might be due to the arrival of a different sub-group of killer whales that feed specifically on sharks.

At the same time as the dead sharks were first discovered, a local whale-watching charter documented the arrival of two new killer whales in the bay in January 2015. These individuals were easily identifiable by their characteristic bent dorsal fins, and were nicknamed “Port” and “Starboard”. They were sighted near the sevengill aggregation site at the time of both incidents of mass shark deaths in 2015 and 2016.

It is suspected that these same two orcas were also responsible for the deaths of five great white sharks further up the coast in Gansbaai in 2017.

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Global Warming

Climate change: Warming threatens Himalayan glaciers

Climate change poses a growing threat to the glaciers found in the Hindu Kush and Himalayan mountain ranges, according to a new report.

The study found that if CO2 emissions are not cut rapidly, two thirds of these giant ice fields could disappear.

Even if the world limits the temperature rise to 1.5C this century, at least one third of the ice would go.

The glaciers are a critical water source for 250 million people living across eight different countries.

The towering peaks of K2 and Mount Everest are part of the frozen Hindu Kush and Himalayan ranges that contain more ice that anywhere else on Earth, apart from the polar regions.

But these ice fields could turn to bare rocks in less than a century because of rising temperatures, say scientists.

Over the next few decades, the melting could accelerate thanks to warming and increased air pollution from a growing population.

The air pollutants come from the Indo-Gangetic Plain, one of the world’s most polluted regions. The dirty air makes the glacier situation worse by depositing black carbon and dust on the ice, hastening the thaw.

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Wildfires

Wildfires – Tasmania

Two more homes have been destroyed in the Tasmanian bushfires that have burned for weeks across the state. Hot and windy weather caused blazes to flare on Sunday afternoon, with authorities investigating reports of property loss at the Huon Valley in the south and on the state’s central plateau. Particular areas of concern are homes near the towns of Geeveston and Waterloo, both south of Hobart. Authorities say they’ve received reports of property loss from the southern Riveaux Road and central Great Pine Tier wildfires. A total of eight properties have now been lost to the devastating blazes.

Disease

Lassa fever case in Guinea

The Guinea Ministry of Health reported yesterday (computer translated) of a Lassa fever case in a 35-year-old man from Kissidougou Prefecture who was admitted to the Mamou Regional Hospital on Jan. 28. The case was laboratory confirmed on Feb. 1. To date, no other case has been notified.

Dengue Fever – Jamaica

The Senior Medical Officer (SMO) for St Catherine said that the parish recorded more than 520 notifications for dengue in the month of January. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2018, a total of 986 suspected and confirmed cases of dengue including 13 deaths were reported from Jamaica.