Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.7 earthquake hits Mindanao in the Philippines.

5.5 earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

5.5 earthquake hits southeast of Easter Island.

5.3 earthquake hits south of Fiji.

5.3 earthquake hits Tarapaca, Chile.

5.3 earthquake hits southeast of the Loyalty Islands.

5.2 earthquake hits eastern Sichuan, China.

5.1 earthquake hits the Ryukyu Islands off Japan.

5.0 earthquake hits Mindanao in the Philippines.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

There are no current tropical Storms.

NewsBytes:

France – Two departments are still on orange alert for flooding in the southwest, after three people died and thousands of homes were left without electricity due to storms over the weekend. The Landes and Charente-Maritime will remain on alert until tomorrow morning, Météo-France has announced. The Adour and Charente rivers are flooded. Drivers are told to take extra care and are warned not to use flooded roads.

Uganda – Five people, including a police marine officer, died and properties worth millions of shillings were destroyed after floods ravaged different parts of Kampala on Saturday.

Malaysia – The flood situation in Johor has improved, as the authorities closed several temporary evacuation centres and allowed many flood victims to return home. In Johor, the number of flood victims has dropped to 8,527 on Tuesday (Dec 17), from 9,151 on Monday. Meanwhile, the state’s wildlife agency has warned people to look out for stray crocodiles. The monsoon rains have caused floods in nine out of 10 districts in Johor as well as two districts in Pahang, and at least three in Sabah.

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Wildlife

Toxic Cities

On Sept. 9, 2019, a mountain lion was found dead in the Santa Monica Mountains. It was the fifth mountain lion to die from consuming rat poison in that region. Rodenticides aren’t the only health risks that urban wildlife face. Wildlife living in cities or suburban areas experience unique health challenges compared to their country cousins, often due to human activities.

A recent study found that overall, urban wildlife had poorer health than wildlife in more natural areas. This was mostly due to urban animals having more toxicants in their tissues. Toxicants are toxic substances artificially introduced into the environment by human activity and include pesticides, industrial pollutants and heavy metals.

Toxicants can potentially harm animals’ reproduction, development and survival. Exposure to heavy metals has been found to weaken the immune system of tree swallows, possibly making animals more susceptible to disease or less able to recover from infection.

Another study demonstrated that exposing amphibians to pesticides increased their susceptibility to infection with a parasitic worm. Amphibian populations are in decline globally, in part due to disease, and so it is important to understand how toxicants influence disease to conserve threatened populations.

Environment

Earth’s Magnetic North Pole Moving Towards Siberia at a Fast Pace

Our planet is restless, and its poles are wandering. Of course, the geographic north pole is in the same place it always was, but its magnetic counterpart – indicated by the N on any compass – is roaming towards Siberia at record-breaking speeds that scientists don’t fully comprehend.

It’s worth stating that while the pace is remarkable, the movement itself isn’t. The magnetic north pole is never truly stationary, owing to fluctuations in the flow of molten iron within the core of our planet, which affect how Earth’s magnetic field behaves.

“Since its first formal discovery in 1831, the north magnetic pole has travelled around 1,400 miles (2,250 km),” the NOAA’s National Centres for Environmental Information (NCEI) says. “This wandering has been generally quite slow, allowing scientists to keep track of its position fairly easily.”

That slow wander has quickened of late. In recent decades, the magnetic north pole accelerated to an average speed of 55 kilometres (34 miles) per year.

The most recent data suggest its movement towards Russia may have slowed down to about 40 kilometres (25 miles) annually, but even so, compared to theoretical measurements going back hundreds of years, this is a phenomenon scientists have never witnessed before.

Heatwave – Australia

Tuesday, 17 December, was Australia’s hottest day on record. Ever. The average maximum temperature across the country was 40.9C. Temperatures of 46C and above were recorded in multiple localities in three states (SA, WA, NT) on Wednesday.

Disease

Lassa fever – Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone health officials, supported by WHO, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other partners, are responding to an outbreak of Lassa fever.

On 20 November 2019, WHO was informed by The Netherlands’ International Health Regulations (IHR) National Focal Point of one imported case of Lassa fever from Sierra Leone. The patient was a male doctor, a Dutch national who worked in a rural Masanga hospital in Tonkolili district, Northern province in Sierra Leone.

On 22 November 2019, WHO was informed of a second laboratory confirmed case of Lassa fever in another Dutch health care worker, who also worked in the Masanga hospital.