Environment

Trade Winds Declining in Hawaii

Experts say trade winds are declining, a drop that’s slowly changing life across the islands. Part of what makes living in Hawaii so pleasant is the gentle breeze. Arriving from the northeast, it’s light enough that it is barely noticeable but strong enough to chase away the humidity.

The effects of the decline in the trade winds can be seen from the relatively minor – such as residents unaccustomed to the humidity complaining about the weather and having to use their fans and air conditioning more often – to the more consequential – including winds being too weak to blow away volcanic smog. The winds also help bring the rains, and their decline means less water. It’s one reason officials are moving to restore the health of the mountainous forests that hold the state’s water supply and encourage water conservation. Scholars are studying ways for farmers to plant crops differently.

It’s not clear what’s behind the shift in the winds. A study has shown a decades-long decline, including a 28 per cent drop in northeast trade wind days at Honolulu’s airport since the early 1970s.

These days there are fewer waves to surf because the winds are arriving less often. Sometimes the winds are too weak to blow away the volcanic smog, or vog, created by sulfur dioxide erupting from Kilauea volcano on the Big Island, leaving a white or brownish haze hanging over Honolulu. This aggravates asthma and other respiratory problems.

For now, the most important consequence will be declining rainfall and a drop in the water supply, particularly as Hawaii’s population grows and uses more water. Trade winds deliver rain to Hawaii when clouds carried from the northeast hit mountainous islands built by millions of years of volcanic eruptions. These rains, together with rainfall from winter storms, are the state’s primary sources of water. On Oahu, the rain feeds ground aquifers that supply water to about 950,000 people in Honolulu and surrounding towns. Residents are reporting streams near their homes are flowing lower than before. Scientists don’t know if this is a downward trend or just the lower leg of a long-term cycle.

Disease

New Drug for MultiDrug-Resistant TB

WHO estimates that up to half a million new cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) occur worldwide, each year. For the first time in over 40 years, a new TB drug with a novel mechanism of action – bedaquiline- is available, and was granted accelerated approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration in December 2012.

Hawaii Warns of Possible Syphilis Outbreak

Hawaii health officials are warning the public about a possible outbreak of a sexually transmitted disease on the Big Island.

The state Department of Health is investigating five cases of syphilis reported over the past five months, primarily on the Big Island.

The health department said Wednesday that while most of the cases were reported in men who have sex with men in West Hawaii, cases related to the outbreak may develop on the other islands.

The disease is passed on during unprotected sex. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that annually about 55,000 people in the United States get new syphilis infections. Untreated syphilis infections can cause long-term complications or death.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

6.1 Earthquake hits the Santa Cruz Islands.

5.7 Earthquake Alamagan region, Mariana Islands.

5.5 Earthquake hits northern Qinghai, China.

5.5 Earthquake hits the Kuril Islands.

5.3 Earthquake hits the Sea of Okhotsk.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Big Island, Hawaii.

5.1 Earthquake hits New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

Iran Nuclear Plant Damaged by Recent Earthquakes

Tehran claimed the Bushehr nuclear facility was untouched by recent tremblers, but large cracks have apparently been seen in its structure.

Diplomats say countries monitoring Iran’s nuclear program have picked up information that the country’s only power-producing nuclear reactor was damaged by one or more recent earthquakes. Two diplomats say long cracks have appeared in at least one section of the structure. One concrete section of the structure appears to have developed cracks several meters long as a result of the quakes on April 9 and April 16.

Iran has refused to join an international nuclear safety convention, and technical problems have shut the plant for lengthy periods since it started up in September 2011 after years of construction delays. Kuwait and other Arab countries are only a few hundred kilometers (miles) away from Iran’s Bushehr reactor, on the other side of Persian Gulf coast south of Tehran, and are particularly worried about the safety of the Russian-built reactor. But Iran insists the plant is technically sound and built to withstand all but the largest earthquakes unscathed. Officials in Tehran reassured the international community after the quakes struck in April and early May that the facility was undamaged.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): Over the past days, Stromboli has returned to normal levels of activity with frequent, mostly small to medium-sized explosions and low to medium tremor. Small lava overflows and frequent rockfalls still occur.

Pavlov (Alaska Peninsula, USA): The eruption continues with no significant changes. Small lava fountaining, explosions, and the explosive interaction of the lava flow with snow and ice generate a plume of steam, ash, and gas, occasionally reaching up to 22,000 ft. above sea level, and extending primarily southeast from the volcano over the North Pacific Ocean visible in satellite images. Minor ash fall is likely occurring on the north, east and southeast flanks of the volcano and possibly on parts of Pavlof Bay and adjacent waters southeast of the volcano.

Concern about risky activity at Kilauea

U.S. Geological Survey officials are concerned over what they say is risky behaviour by visitors to Kilauea Volcano at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The problem is that people continue to get too close to Kilauea’s current ocean entry, approaching both by land and sea.

Areas of ocean entry are dangerous places. Lava entering the sea builds a platform of new land known as a lava delta, which appears stable but is not. Lava deltas can collapse without warning. Kayakers visiting the volcano on the Big Island recently paddled just feet from lava streaming into the ocean. They then went ashore and walked across new land built by the ocean entry and scooped molten lava with their paddle.

Storms and Floods

Typhoon Bopha

-325 dead with at least 379 still missing in Philippines typhoon Bopha.

-A total of 273 people died in and around the towns of New Bataan and Monkayo. 106 people were killed in other parts of the southern island of Mindanao and the central islands.

-About 178,000 people are living in the evacuation centers.

Snow storm in Stockholm, Sweden

-Several flights from the Scandinavian country’s main airport in Stockholm grounded because of the blizzard.

-Some 8 inches of snow fell on Stockholm overnight Wednesday.

Severe weather in Kauai, Hawaii

-Several Hawaiian fights in Lihue Airport cancelled due to bad weather.

-Almost three inches of rain has been recorded in Lihue within the last 24 hours.

New Zealand

Three people have been killed and at least seven injured after severe weather – including an apparent tornado – hit Auckland. 150 homes were damaged after the tornado ripped through an Auckland suburb.

Volcanos

For the first time in 2012, Kīlauea lava flows have entered the Pacific Ocean, adding slivers of new land to Hawai’i Island.

Disease

An outbreak of dengue fever on the Portuguese island of Madeira has worsened as infections of the mosquito-borne disease accelerated. Reported cases of the potentially lethal disease rose to 1,672 as of Nov. 18. The disease is spreading due to many holiday makers returning home. Cases have so far been diagnosed in Britain, mainland Portugal, Germany, Sweden and France. The epidemic is the first sustained outbreak of dengue fever in Europe since the 1920’s.

_______________________________

 

A coral disease outbreak along Kauai’s North Shore in Hawaii has been described as an epidemic by local scientists due to the large numbers of coral infected (59%). The disease appears to be caused by the large amounts of suspended solids in the water coming from nearby human habitation.

A diseased piece of rice coral is pictured below. This photo shows a cyanobacterial/fungal disease attacking a piece of coral — the black ring is the disease, and the white area is the coral’s dead skeleton.

coral disease

________________________________

 

Cholera kills 3 in southern Nigeria. Three people died in the southwestern state of Osun after being infected. Another 42 people were hospitalized in different centers across the region.

Wildfires

A fire destroyed or damaged 76 houses in St Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Many of the homes in the resort town are thatch-roofed. The cause of the fire is unknown at this stage but the SA Police Service forensic unit will be investigating.

st francis bay

 

Two out-of-control bushfires threaten the town of Zeehan on Tasmania’s west coast.

Two wildfires scorched West Oahu, Hawaii on Saturday afternoon.

Earthquakes

7.7 Earthquake hits the Queen Charlotte Islands region off the coast of British Columbia, Canada.

The Alaska Tsunami Warning Center and Environment Canada both issued a tsunami warning for the area from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to Cape Decision, Alaska. Emergency officials advised all coastal residents in those areas to move to higher ground.

Hawaii was hit by a tsunami on Saturday night prompting the authorities to order at least 100,000 people on the island state to move to higher ground. The first tsunami wave was three feet high and less forceful than expected. Some forecasts had predicted a wave of up to six feet high. The Hawaii tsunami warning was later lifted after 100,000 had fled to higher ground.

5.8 Aftershock hits the Queen Charlotte Islands Region. 5.5 Aftershock hits the Queen Charlotte Islands Region . 5.1, 2 x 5.0, 4.9, 3 x 4.8 and 3 x 4.7 Aftershocks hits the Queen Charlotte Islands Region.

5.4 Earthquake hits the Kashmir Valley, India.

5.3, 5.2 and 5.0 Earthquakes hit the Philippines Island region.

5.3 Earthquake hits Pagan in the North Mariana Islands.

5.3 Earthquake hits New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

5.2 Earthquake hits southeast of the Loyalty Islands.

Drought

Kazakhstan, the biggest wheat producer in central Asia, lowered its grain export forecast for this season and sees prices rising after drought cut the harvest by about 55 percent.

Extreme drought conditions have expanded on the Big Island, Hawaii. Scientists say the situation could persist due to a decrease in moisture-bringing trade winds in Hawaii – a trend that has been observed for four decades. The drought continues to affect farmers and ranchers on the Big Island and elsewhere in the state. Like much of the US mainland, the US Department of Agriculture has classified the entire state as being under a federal drought disaster declaration.

Environment

University of Hawaii scientists say a disease outbreak amongst the island’s coral at Hanalei Bay on Kauai’s north shore is killing the coral at an alarming rate. Attempts are being made to stop the spread of the disease by covering the coral with marine putty, to cut the disease off from healthy coral. The underlying causes include overfishing, pollution and sewage spills. Coral is the foundation for the ocean ecosystem, and without it the ecosystem will fail.