Magnitude 5.5 quake hits shaky California desert region

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RIDGECREST, Calif. (AP) — A magnitude 5.5 earthquake has jolted the region of California desert where a powerful quake last summer was followed by thousands of aftershocks. The U.S. Geological Survey says Wednesday’s quake hit at a fairly shallow depth shortly after 6:30 p.m. and was centered 13.6 miles (22 kilometers) north of the small city of Ridgecrest. A dispatcher with the Ridgecrest Police Department said there were no immediate reports of damage or injury.

The quake was felt as a bump and rolling motion in a high-rise building in downtown Las Vegas. Local television news broadcasts stopped as anchors reported seeing lights sway in their studios. It also shook buildings in downtown Los Angeles. A magnitude 7.1 quake on July 5, 2019, and a magnitude 6.4 foreshock the day before strongly shook the region. Damage from those quakes occurred to facilities on the sprawling Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake as well as in the nearby communities of Trona and Ridgecrest. Seismologist Lucy Jones tweeted that Wednesday’s quake was “a large late aftershock” of last July’s activity. Among the many aftershocks, a handful have reached the magnitude-5 level. –Yahoo News

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Record-breaking Cristobal could approach U.S. Gulf Coast as a hurricane

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Tropical Storm Cristobal unloaded flooding rainfall and made landfall in southern Mexico on Wednesday, and AccuWeather meteorologists are busy looking ahead to where the storm may go after meandering across southern Mexico. The storm is expected to take a northward turn, and it could gain strength over the Gulf of Mexico prior to reaching the southern United States coastline.

Cristobal has already set records in the Atlantic basin. It became the earliest-ever third named tropical storm to form in any Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history on Tuesday. The previous storm to hold that record was Tropical Storm Colin, and it developed during the midday hours of June 5 in 2016. Typically, the third named storm does not brew until way later in the season, occurring on average around Aug. 13. Last year, the third storm of the season, Tropical Storm Chantal, developed months later on Aug. 20.

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The disturbance first developed as a depression over the Bay of Campeche in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico on Monday, June 1, the first official day of hurricane season. AccuWeather forecasters began monitoring the potential for this system last week. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) confirmed that Cristobal made landfall in the state of Campeche near Atasta, Mexico, and just to the west of Ciudad del Carmen at 8:35 a.m. CDT Wednesday. The storm’s maximum sustained winds were 60 mph with higher gusts occurring. Cristobal is forecast to complete a loop over land in southeastern Mexico as it straddles 83-degree-Fahrenheit waters of the Bay of Campeche into Friday. AccuWeather meteorologists predict up to 30 inches of rainfall in the region.

How close to the coast versus how far inland Cristobal travels over Mexico could affect whether the storm regains strength this weekend. “There is a small chance the system will break up over southern Mexico late this week, but the more likely scenario is for the storm to survive, move back out over the warm waters of the central Gulf of Mexico, reorganize, strengthen and turn northward toward the U.S. from Friday night to Sunday night,” said Dan Kottlowski, AccuWeather’s top hurricane expert. Kottlowski has been predicting tropical weather for 43 years at AccuWeather. “On the other hand, if the storm stays near the coast and near the source of moisture, it will retain its circulation and is more likely to rebound faster once turning northward at the end of the week,” he explained.  –AccuWeather

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Apocalyptic swarm of deadly mutant ticks invade Russia with 2,125 children attacked

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Russian Siberia has been rocked by an invasion of blood-sucking ticks that experts said included a new and deadly “mutant” variety. The scale of the swarm left some hospitals – already stretched with rising coronavirus cases and deaths – without vaccines and medicine. It has left some hospitals unable to cope with the onslaught of the mutant ticks. In the Krasnoyarsk region, there are 428 times more ticks than usual – sparking fears of Lyme disease and illnesses that cause brain inflammation.

Medics in the region reported some 8,215 tick bites including 2,125 cases that involved children. The suburbs of Krasnoyarsk city are infested with 214 ticks per square kilometer. Normally, the “safe” figure is only 0.5. Almost 2% carry tick-borne viral encephalitis, which can lead to permanent brain damage, with a third capable of passing on tick-borne borreliosis – or Lyme disease, attacking the joints, heart, and nervous system, reports the region’s Epidemiology and Hygiene Centre.

Several Siberian regions have been hit by swarms of hybrid ticks, reported Zvezda, the Russian defense ministry’s newspaper. “Mutant ticks are attacking – this is not a tabloid headline but a fact,” stated its report. These combine the “worst qualities” of two common types of Russian tick – Ixodes persulcatus, the taiga tick, and the “malicious” Pavlovsky or Far Eastern tick. They attack people on both long and short grass.  –Star

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4 reported dead after DR Congo reports fresh outbreak of deadly Ebola virus

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Kinshasa (AFP) – DR Congo reported a fresh Ebola outbreak in its northwest on Monday, the latest health emergency for a country already fighting an epidemic of the deadly fever in the east as well as a surging number of coronavirus infections. The 11th Ebola outbreak in the vast central African country’s history comes just weeks before it had hoped to declare the end of the 10th in the east. Health Minister Eteni Longondo said that “four people have already died” from Ebola in a district of the northwestern city of Mbandaka. “The National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) has confirmed to me that samples from Mbandaka tested positive for Ebola,” Longondo told a press conference on Monday.

“We will send them the vaccine and medicine very quickly,” he said, adding that he planned to visit the site of the outbreak at the end of the week. The capital of Equateur province, Mbandaka is a transport hub on the Congo River with a population of more than a million. Equateur province was previously hit by an Ebola outbreak between May and July 2018, in which 33 people died and 21 recovered from the disease. “This is a province that has already experienced the disease. They know how to respond. They started the response at the local level yesterday (Sunday),” Longondo said. The World Health Organization said it would be sending a team to help support DR Congo response.

“To reinforce local leadership, WHO plans to send a team to support scaling up the response,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement. “Given the proximity of this new outbreak to busy transport routes and vulnerable neighboring countries we must act quickly.” The Ebola epidemic in the country’s east has killed 2,280 people since August 2018, and officials had hoped to be able to proclaim it over on June 25. For it to be officially over, there have to be no new cases reported for 42 days — double the incubation period. –Yahoo

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Supervolcano Watch: Swarm of earthquakes rattle area near Yellowstone National Park, USGS says

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Nearly a dozen earthquakes have shaken the area near Yellowstone National Park in the past 24 hours, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Eleven earthquakes have been reported near West Yellowstone, Montana, in 24 hours, and 34 quakes have hit the same area in the past 30 days, according to Earthquake Track. Early morning Friday, a 3.1 magnitude earthquake shook the area, Earthquake Track reported. The other quakes reportedly ranged between 2.5 and 1.6 magnitudes. The earthquakes were about 3 miles deep, according to USGS. They were located about 15 miles from West Yellowstone in Yellowstone National Park, MTN News reported. “Yellowstone is one of the most seismically active areas in the United States,” the park said on its website.

“Approximately 700 to 3,000 earthquakes occur each year in the Yellowstone area; most are not felt.” Earthquakes in Yellowstone typically happen in swarms, according to the park. “This phenomenon is related to transport of volcanic fluids along the many small fractures in the shallow rocks over the magma, a pattern that has been noted in volcanoes around the world,” according to the park.  –The Insider

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The mysterious anomaly weakening Earth’s magnetic field seems to be splitting

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New satellite data from the European Space Agency (ESA) reveal that the mysterious anomaly weakening Earth’s magnetic field continues to evolve, with the most recent observations showing we could soon be dealing with more than one of these strange phenomena.

The South Atlantic Anomaly is a vast expanse of reduced magnetic intensity in Earth’s magnetic field, extending all the way from South America to southwest Africa. Since our planet’s magnetic field acts as a kind of shield – protecting Earth from solar winds and cosmic radiation, in addition to determining the location of the magnetic poles – any reduction in its strength is an important event we need to monitor closely, as these changes could ultimately have significant implications for our planet. At present, there’s nothing to be alarmed about. The ESA notes that the most significant effects right now are largely limited to technical malfunctions on board satellites and spacecraft, which can be exposed to a greater amount of charged particles in low-Earth orbit as they pass through the South Atlantic Anomaly in the skies above South America and the South Atlantic Ocean.

Not that the magnitude of the anomaly should be diminished, though. In the last two centuries, Earth’s magnetic field has lost about 9 percent of its strength on average, the ESA says, assisted by a drop in minimum field strength in the South Atlantic Anomaly from approximately 24,000 nanoteslas to 22,000 nanoteslas over the past 50 years. Exactly why this is happening remains a mystery. Earth’s magnetic field is generated by electrical currents produced by a swirling mass of liquid iron within the outer core of our planet, but while this phenomenon appears stable at any given moment, over vast timescales, it’s never really still.

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Research has shown that Earth’s magnetic field is constantly in a state of flux, and every few hundred thousand years (give or take), Earth’s magnetic field flips, with the north and south magnetic poles swapping places. That process could actually occur more frequently than people think, but while scientists continually debate when we might next witness such an event, even the regular, wandering movements of Earth’s magnetic poles keep geophysicists guessing. In any case, it’s not fully clear how those reversals might be tied to what’s currently going on with the South Atlantic Anomaly – which some have suggested could be caused by a vast reservoir of dense rock underneath Africa called the African Large Low Shear Velocity Province.

What is certain, though, is that the South Atlantic Anomaly is not sitting still. Since 1970, the anomaly has been growing in size, as well as moving westward at a pace of approximately 20 kilometers (12 miles) per year. But that’s not all. New readings provided by the ESA’s Swarm satellites show that within the past five years, a second centre of minimum intensity has begun to open up within the anomaly. This suggests the whole thing could even be in the process of splitting up into two separate cells – with the original centered above the middle of South America, and the new, emerging cell appearing to the east, hovering off the coast of southwest Africa.

“The new, eastern minimum of the South Atlantic Anomaly has appeared over the last decade and in recent years is developing vigorously,” says geophysicist Jürgen Matzka from the German Research Centre for Geosciences. “The challenge now is to understand the processes in Earth’s core driving these changes.” Just how the anomaly will develop from here is unknown, but previous research has suggested disruptions in the magnetic field like this one might be recurrent events that take place every few hundred years. Whether that’s what we’re witnessing now isn’t fully clear – or how a split anomaly might end up playing out – but scientists are watching closely, as are we.  –Science Alert

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Earth Watch: Could a major earthquake soon strike the nation of South Korea?

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Could a major earthquake soon strike South Korea? The Korean Peninsula is not typically an area of high seismic activity, but seismologists have been rattled by a recent series of small tremors that they warn could be a sign of a bigger earthquake to come.

A South Korean official explains about seismic wave of North Korea’s nuclear test which measured in South Korea, at National Earthquake Center in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 25, 2009. Seismologists in South Korea are concerned about an unusual rash of earthquakes that have shaken the peninsula in recent weeks, with some suggesting that this sudden upsurge in seismic activity might be a precursor to a major — and potentially very destructive — earthquake.

The Korean Peninsula is not traditionally considered to be a part of the so-called Ring of Fire, the seismically active fault lines that run around the rim of the Pacific Ocean. However, seismologists are looking at whether shifting tectonic plates might become a new normal for the Koreas. Last week, the Korea Meteorological Administration reported a magnitude 2.8 tremor in Wanju County, in the far southwest of South Korea. Although there was no damage reported from the weak quake and nobody was injured, this is the first time since December 2014 that a tremor with a magnitude above 2 has hit the region.

Two days before the Wanju termor, a 3.8-magnitude quake was detected in North Korea. The South’s monitoring agency quickly announced it was natural seismic activity to dispel any concerns that it might have been another underground nuclear test conducted by the regime in Pyongyang. The North conducts its atomic tests at its Punggye-ri proving grounds, in the northeast of the country, with the last detonation on September 3, 2017, of a hydrogen bomb that registered as an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3. But of even deeper concern to the experts have been the more than 400 seismic tremors since April 26 in a single area in South Jeolla Province, in the far south-west of the peninsula. The region has not reported seismic activity since the government first began collating data in 1978.

Experts admit that they do not know for sure what is triggering the activity, but there are some theories as to why it is increasing up and down the peninsula. “We have been monitoring the South Jeolla events closely because they are very unusual and have been happening in a very short space of time,” said Hong Tae-kyung, a professor of seismology at Yonsei University in Seoul. “It is also unusual because they are happening in a very small area and they are much deeper than usual,” he said, adding that quakes on the peninsula usually occur at a depth of around 10 kilometers (6 miles). These latest tremors are happening 20 kilometers beneath the surface.  “We do not know exactly why this is happening, but there are certainly some theories that need to be verified through further research,” said Hong. “My personal speculation is that what we are seeing now is a result of the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan.”  –DW

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New Zealand hit by second earthquake in two days

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New Zealand’s capital shook for a second consecutive day on Tuesday after a magnitude 5.2 magnitude earthquake hit Wellington, data from monitor GeoNet showed. There were no initial reports of damage, according to news reports and a Reuters witness. A slightly stronger 5.8 magnitude quake struck the capital on Monday while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was doing a live TV interview. She calmly continued with the program and later confirmed there had been no damage.

New Zealand lies on the seismically active “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and ocean trenches girdling much of the Pacific Ocean. The city of Christchurch is still recovering from a 6.3 magnitude quake in 2011 that killed 185 people.  –The Jerusalem Post

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