Wildlife

Monarchs Go Missing During Kiwi Summer

New Zealanders are wondering where the country’s iconic monarch butterflies have gone this southern summer. They failed to return in some areas after a cold and tough winter dampened their breeding grounds on the South Island.

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While related to their North American cousins, New Zealand monarchs don’t migrate vast distances.

They instead adapt to local conditions, often wintering along the coast where temperatures seldom fall below 50 degrees.

Experts say climate change may be what has affected the monarchs recently.

“Monarchs are an indicator species, telling us a lot about how other insects are going, and this is something to watch closely as we need our insects,” said an expert.

Experts say the colorful insects are likely to rebound in the years to come as colonies recover from last winter’s adverse conditions.

Environment

Global Hottest and Coldest Temperatures

The week’s hottest temperature was 115.5 degrees Fahrenheit (46.4 degrees Celsius) at Gobabeb, Namibia.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 72.2 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 57.9 degrees Celsius) at Russia’s Vostok Antarctic research station.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Space Events

Planetary Meteor Defense Shield Proposed

Russia is proposing a unified international monitoring system to prevent Earth from being struck with a catastrophic blast from space.

Following the destructive meteor breakup over southern Russia on February 15, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev assigned a deputy, Dmitry Rogozin, to find ways to prevent far worse disasters.

Rogozin had proposed in 2011 an “international initiative” to prevent such threats by harnessing the “intellectual and technological efforts of industrial nations.”

Anti-missile and aerospace defense technologies in use today are mostly ground-based and designed to detect incoming objects launched from the ground, rather than those coming from space.

A network structured under the umbrella of the United Nations to detect and deflect meteors or asteroids long before they reach the planet is proposed.

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Wildfires

Wildfires – Australia

Firefighters are being brought in from around Western Australia to help battle a 1 200 Ha bushfire raging through Perth’s semi-rural northeast amid fears that stronger winds will increase its intensity. More than 150 firefighters tackled the blaze near Shady Hills and Bullsbrook.

After burning more than 85,000 hectares of land for over six weeks, the last two bushfires burning in Victoria’s Gippsland region have been contained.

Storms and Floods

Mudslide in Ipoh, Malaysia

Heavy rainfall has caused huge mudslide in Taman Kledang Permai in Ipoh, Malaysia. The mudslide has blocked Ipoh-Lumut highway.

Thailand authorities have declared Narathiwat a natural disaster zone. Continuous rainfall from some days has flooded almost the entire area of Narathiwat.

Mudslide

Tropical Cyclone Rusty

Tropical cyclone Rusty has damaged the power infrastructure in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, leaving thousands without electricity. Fallen trees and high winds have led to power outages in almost all districts. Kupang suffered a power blackout on Tuesday evening after the storm damaged the electricity cable network and forced the shutdown of a local power station.

The remnants of tropical cyclone Rusty are causing major flooding in the Pilbara catchment areas and river levels are expected to remain high for days. Around 4pm yesterday, two hours after all cyclone warnings were cancelled, emergency services said minor to major flood levels had been reached in the Nullagine, Oakover, Coongan and De Grey rivers, with further peaks possible in coming days.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.8 Earthquake hits Vanuatu.

5.2 Earthquake hits off the coast of Oregon, USA.

5.0 Earthquake hits Papua, Indonesia.

5.0 Earthquake hits eastern New Guinea, Papua New Guinea.

Environment

Sandstorm in Beijing.

Beijing and other parts of northern China were stung by hazardous air pollution levels Thursday as strong winds blew a sandstorm through the region.

Air in the capital turned a yellowish hue as sand from China’s arid northwest blew in, turning the sky into a noxious soup of smog and dust.

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Beijing’s municipal government issued a yellow-haze warning late Wednesday while state media urged citizens to stay indoors or to take precautions such as donning face masks before venturing outside.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): The seismic signal signal has increased and probably shows both increased tremor and continuous rockfalls on the Sciara del Fuoco. Activity has increased significantly, judging from visible and seismic data. Small overflows of lava are again occurring from the NE crater and tremor is at comparably high levels.

Stromboli

Etna (Sicily, Italy): Today, we observed an eruptive episode characterized by strombolian explosions and ash emissions took place from a new “player”, the Voragine summit crater (NOT Bocca Nuova). The New SE crater has stayed calm, but now at night, an incandescent fumarole and some glow from its crater are visible (although the latter could still be from the Voragine).

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): No changes in activity occurred at the volcano, which continues to produce small to moderate ash explosions from the dome and weakly alimented block lava flows on its flanks.

Pacaya (Guatemala): INSIVUMEH reports that the small explosions have ceased for now, but expects strombolian activity to resume soon, as the seismicity remains elevated.

Fuego (Guatemala): Weak to moderate strombolian explosions with ash plumes rising about 600 m and drifting for 10 km were reported today.

Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia): Increased SO2 emissions are visible today.

Sabancaya (Peru): (26 Feb) A strong seismic swarm and increased fumarolic activity triggered an eruption warning for Sabancaya volcano (Arequipa, Peru) and the Civil Defense of the Regional Government of Arequipa raised the alert level to yellow, which involves implementing actions to prepare for a probable volcanic eruption. On 24 Feb INGEMMET reported a seismic swarm with 536 earthquakes between 22 and 23 February (more than 20 per hour) and continuous fumarolic emissions from the volcano.

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An dramatic image of volcano smoke blending with a sunset:

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Storms and Floods

Tropical Cyclone Rusty

Rusty made landfall in Pardoo town in Western Australia.

A red alert has been issued by Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services for Pardoo and nearby Whim Creek. Similarly a blue alert is in effect between Nullagine and Newman.

Three main iron ore ports (including Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals) in the Pilbara region (also the world’s largest source of iron ore) were closed, but Port Hedland has escaped the brunt of the cyclone.

Tropical cyclone Rusty is forecast to bring rain to most parts of the Goldfields from today.

Rusty is the third tropical cyclone in Western Australia this season.

The death toll from tropical cyclone Haruna and heavy rains that battered Madagascar has risen to 23 with 16 people still missing

A tornado between Harbour Island and Davis Island in Tampa, Florida has damaged vehicles and roofs of several houses.

Flooding in Agusan del Sur, Philippines

Recent floods in Agusan del Sur have killed one and affected 49,000 persons.

Floods across Veruela, San Luis, Sta. Josefa, La Paz, Prosperidad and Loreto have also destroyed agricultural croplands.

Wildfires

Wildfire in Lone Pine, California

A wildfire has burned a 406-acre area east of Lone Pine, California.

Nearly 500 firefighters are struggling to control the blaze.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Cyclone Rusty

Tropical Cyclone Rusty was located approximately 70 nm north-northeast of Port Hedland, Australia and has been stationary over the past six hours.

Australia’s north-west coast is being buffeted by high winds, hours before the powerful cyclone is expected to make landfall as a category four storm. Weather experts say that the slow speed of Cyclone Rusty is likely to prompt extensive flooding. As much as 600mm of rain (24in) was being forecast over a 24-hour period, the equivalent of Perth’s entire winter rainfall could fall in just three days.

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Flooding in Macedonia

Heavy rainfall has flooded around 300 homes in Josifovo, Macedonia.

Floods in Macedonia have also destroyed two bridges.

Around 20,000 people in Sveti Nikole are without electricity.

Flash floods in Kigali, Rwanda

Torrential rains have killed four people in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda.

Floods also damaged roads and bridges in Kigali.

Landslide in Mati City, Philippines

Landslide in Mati City, southern Philippines has killed three people.

Search and rescue operations are ongoing in the Tagabacid area in Davao Oriental.

Flooding in Kelantan, Malaysia

Flash floods have affected people in Kuala Krai, Pasir Puteh, Tanah Merah in Kelantan and Setiu in Terengganu.

All nine schools in Rantau Panjang will be closed tomorrow.

Floods in Malaysia are regular natural disasters which happen every year during the monsoon season.

Thailand authorities in Trang province have issued a ban on people playing in six different waterfalls due to concern of flash floods. Kachong and Toneplew waterfalls (Na Yong), Sairung waterfalls (Yan Ta Khao), Toete, Tontok and Lamploke waterfalls (Palian) are on alert.

Winter storm in Oklahoma, USA

Recent winter storms in Woodward have killed one person.

Winter storms have caused blizzard conditions in Oklahoma, Texas and parts of Kansas.

A state of emergency has been declared in northwest Oklahoma.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.4 Earthquake hits the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia.

5.2 Earthquake hits Fiji.

5.1 Earthquake hits Tonga.

5.1 Earthquake hits Java, Indonesia.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Kermedec islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits southeast of the Ryukyu Islands off Japan.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

Etna (Sicily, Italy): For now, Etna has stayed quiet. It seems that – if the series continues – the intervals between paroxysms are getting again longer.

Kizimen (Kamchatka): Lava effusion and dome growth continue accompanied by moderate seismic activity.

Shiveluch (Kamchatka): KVERT reports only weak seismic activity today, indicating the volcano is in a phase of lower activity.

Tolbachik (Kamchatka): The eruption continues with little changes. Lava erupts with strombolian activity at the vent on the southern fissure at 1600 m altitude and continues to feed the vast lava flow field that sttreches until the cinder cone Belaya Gorka, 15 km to the west from the vent. Some lava flow fronts to the east were also visible on recent MODIS images. The process is accompanied by stable and still high, although somewhat decreasing levels of tremor.

White Island (New Zealand): Over the weekend, the active vent began producing ash. During a visit yesterday, the crater was found quiet again. Ash emissions had ceased and were replaced by steam and gas explosions from the active vent. Tremor has dropped again to low levels at the same time. Strong continuous volcanic tremor has returned and is now higher than ever, mixed with earthquakes. No unusual activity is visible at the surface.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): No significant changes in activity have occurred. The rate of steam-gas emissions has risen to almost 2 per hour, with some producing small puffs of ash. Incandescence from the crater remains visible at night.

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Weak to moderate explosions generate light ash plumes that drifted to the east towards the las Aldeas Belén and Calaguache areas. The lava flows at the flanks of the dome produced constant avalanches, INSIVUMEH reports today.

Pacaya (Guatemala): The re-awakening of the volcano progresses: Today, INSIVUMEH reports some weak, perhaps strombolian explosions that ejected some material above the Mackenney crater. No further details about this activity were given.

Fuego (Guatemala): Mild strombolian activity continues, with incandescent pulses of about 100 m heigh and ash plumes rising up to about 700 m above the crater.

Sangay (Ecuador): (25 Feb) VAAC Washington reports pilot observations of ash emissions to 25,000 ft (7.5 km) altitude on 22 February. Since the volcano is very remote and one of Ecuador’s most active, it is fair to assume that it might be in a state of elevated activity.

Heard (Australia, Southern Indian Ocean): (25 Feb) A MODIS hot spot was visible yesterday at the summit of the volcano, despite the usual dense cloud cover. This indicates that some sort of activity likely continues.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.4 Earthquake hits the southern Pacific Ocean.

5.4 Earthquake hits southeast of the Ryukyu Islands off Japan.

5.3 Earthquake hits the Santa Cruz Islands.

5.1 Earthquake hits south of the Kermedec Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Santa Cruz Islands.

Environment

Extreme Weather

Extreme weather events have been on the rise in the last few decades, and man-made climate change may be causing them by interfering with global air-flow patterns, according to new research.

The Northern Hemisphere has taken a beating from extreme weather in recent years — the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Pakistan flood and the 2011 heat wave in the United States, for example. These events, in a general sense, are the result of the global movement of air. Giant waves of air in the atmosphere normally even out the climate, by bringing warm air north from the tropics and cold air south from the Arctic. But a new study suggests these colossal waves have gotten stuck in place during extreme weather events.

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2003 Heat Wave – France

A recent study found is that during several recent extreme weather events these planetary waves almost freeze in their tracks for weeks. So instead of bringing in cool air after having brought warm air in before, the heat just stays put. How long these weather extremes last is critical, the researchers say. While two or three days of 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) pose little threat, 20 days or more can lead to extreme heat stress, which can trigger deaths, forest fires and lost harvests.

The researchers created equations to model the motion of the massive air waves, determining what it takes to make the waves plough to a stop and build up. The team then used these models to crunch daily weather data from the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction. During extreme weather events, the waves were indeed trapped and amplified, the scientists found. They also saw a significant increase in the occurrence of these trapped waves.

Here’s how the waves may be getting trapped: The burning of fossil fuels causes more warming in the Arctic than in other latitudes, because the loss of snow and ice means heat gets absorbed by the darker ground, not reflected (as it would by the white snow). This warming lessens the temperature difference between the Arctic and northern latitudes like Europe. Since these differences drive air flow, a smaller difference means less air movement. Also, land areas warm and cool more easily than oceans. The result is an unnatural pattern of air flow that prevents the air waves from circulating over land.

The study’s results help explain the spike in summer weather extremes. Previous research had shown a link between climate change and extreme weather, but did not identify the mechanism. “This is quite a breakthrough, even though things are not at all simple – the suggested physical process increases the probability of weather extremes, but additional factors certainly play a role as well, including natural variability.” The 32-year period studied provides a good explanation of past extreme weather events, the researchers say, but is too short to make predictions about how often such events may occur in the future.