Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.1 earthquake hits the Bismarck Sea.

5.1 earthquake hits Vanuatu.

5.1 earthquake hits the Kamchatka Peninsula.

5.0 earthquake hits the Samoa Islands.

5.0 earthquake hits Kepulauan Talaud, Indonesia.

5.0 earthquake hits New Guinea, Papua New Guinea.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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In the Southern Hemisphere: Tropical cyclone 13s (Gelena), located approximately 961 nm east-southeast of Port Louis, Mauritius, is tracking east-southeastward at 10 knots.

Tropical cyclone (tc) 15p (Fifteen), located approximately 310 nm northwest of Port Vila, Vanuatu, is tracking northeastward at 05 knots.

NewsBytes:

Malawi – Although Tropical Cyclone Desmond did not reach Malawi its effects resulted in continuous rainfall in the southern part of the country since 22nd January through to 26th January 2019. A total of 15,974 people were affected, 3,154 houses damaged or destroyed, and 5,078 people were reported to be displaced across at least seven camps set up by communities and government.

Australia – An estimated 500,000 are feared dead after historic floods inundated Queensland, Australia, according to the state’s cattle industry. Days of “unprecedented” rainfall earlier this month led to widespread flooding across the state, causing power outages, damaging roads and buildings and prompting evacuations. Some areas received three years’ worth of rain in about a week. Tragically, farmers in northwest Queensland initially welcomed the rains, as the region had suffered years of back-to-back drought. The loss of hundreds of thousands of cattle after five, six, seven years of drought, is a debilitating blow not just to individual farmers, many of whom have lost literally everything, but to rural communities as well.

Malaysia – Bintulu district was hit by floods early Tuesday (Feb 12) – with waters rising as high as one metre and inundating several locations in northern Sarawak.

Wildlife

Worldwide Catastrophic Decline Of Insect Species

Nearly half of all insect species worldwide are in rapid decline and a third could disappear altogether, according to a study warning of dire consequences for crop pollination and natural food chains.

“Unless we change our way of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” concluded the peer-reviewed study, which is set for publication in April.

The recent decline in bugs that fly, crawl, burrow and skitter across still water is part of a gathering “mass extinction,” only the sixth in the last half-billion years. “We are witnessing the largest extinction event on Earth since the late Permian and Cretaceous periods,” the authors noted.

The Permian end-game 252 million years ago snuffed out more than 90% of the planet’s life forms, while the abrupt finale of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago saw the demise of land dinosaurs.

“We estimate the current proportion of insect species in decline – 41% – to be twice as high as that of vertebrates,” or animals with a backbone, Francisco Sanchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney and Kris Wyckhuys of the University of Queensland in Australia reported. “At present, a third of all insect species are threatened with extinction.” An additional one percent join their ranks every year, they estimated. Insect biomass – sheer collective weight – is declining annually by about 2.5% worldwide.

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Environment

USA Withdraws from US-Russian Nuclear Treaty

When President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from a long-standing nuclear weapons treaty with Russia on Feb. 1, his actions set the stage for what many fear could be a new arms race between the global superpowers.

Trump’s decision was announced less than two weeks after scientists and policy experts with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) presented the 2019 position for the Doomsday Clock — a hypothetical clock whose time symbolizes how close the Earth is to destruction from nuclear war and other global threats.

On Jan. 24, BAS representatives declared that the clock’s hands would continue to stand at 2 minutes to midnight, the closest to absolute annihilation since the peak of the Cold War in 1953. Their dire warning came on the heels of the Trump administration’s statement of intent in October to withdraw the U.S. from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which was established in 1987 to restrict nuclear arsenals.

On Feb. 2, Russia announced that it, too, would abandon the INF treaty.

Wildfires

Wildfires – Australia

The fire danger in New South Wales will peak today as firefighters battle 33 blazes across the state with some rural properties under threat. Watch-and-act alerts were issued for bushfires at Warrabah near Tamworth and Tingha Plateau in the state’s north-east with Fire and Rescue NSW warning fire activity was increasing in the area.

Wildfires – Chile – Update

Wildfires have now destroyed 41,200 hectares of forest land in southern and central Chile, the country’s National Forestry Corporation (CONAF) said on Monday. The figure represents an increase of 45 percent from last year in the area of forest land razed in the fire season.

California Loses 18 million trees in 2018

It’s a measure of how severe the tree die-off in California has been in recent years that when the state announced Monday it lost another 18 million trees in 2018, a top forestry official pronounced the result “encouraging.”

That’s because California lost far more trees in the three prior years, including a jaw-dropping 62 million dead trees in 2016, due to a combination of drought and bark beetle infestation.

With rain and snow in the state increasing over the last two winters, experts proclaimed an end to the seven-year drought. But the state still faces a heightened fire danger after more than 147 million trees were lost over the last nine years.

Officials at the California Department of Forestry said that it typically takes at least three years of substantial rain and snow for trees stressed by drought to return to good health. That would mean the state’s forests could benefit from at least one more year of wet weather to recover from the brutally dry period of 2010 to 2016.

Disease

Measles – Madagascar

The scale of the measles outbreak in Madagascar is of grave concern, as is its geographical spread-World Health Organization In a follow-up on our coverage of the measles outbreak in Madagascar, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports from Sep. 3, 2018 to Feb. 5, 2019, a total of 53,459 measles cases were recorded (lab confirmed).

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – Saudi Arabia, Oman

The spike in Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infections in Saudi Arabia continues with the kingdom’s health ministry reporting seven additional cases yesterday, bringing the total cases for the year to 50. The town of Wadi Aldwasir has been hit particularly hard reporting 30 cases in just the past two weeks. From 27 January and 31 January 2019, the International Health Regulations (IHR) National Focal Point of Oman reported five cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection.

Yellow Fever – Brazil

Brazil is currently in the seasonal period for yellow fever, which occurs from December through May. From December 2018 through January 2019, 361 confirmed human cases, including eight deaths, have been reported in 11 municipalities of two states of Brazil.