Tropical Storm Earl forms in the Caribbean; Hurricane watches issued

August 2016 – CARIBBEAN – Tropical Storm Earl has formed in the Caribbean Sea, the first Atlantic basin named storm since late June. Earl will track toward Belize and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where strong winds and heavy rainfall will be threats late Wednesday into Thursday. Current indications are that the chance of a direct impact on the U.S. from Earl is low.
Earl was named late Tuesday morning after a Hurricane Hunter reconnaissance mission found that an area of low pressure had formed. Tropical storm warnings and hurricane watches have been issued for parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, from Punta Allen, Mexico, to the Belize/Guatemala border. A tropical storm warning is also in effect for Honduras from Cabo Gracias a Dios westward to the Honduras/Guatemala border, including the Bay Islands.
This system has already been impactful the last few days prior to being named Earl. Six people were killed in the Dominican Republic Sunday into Monday as this system passed near the island. In the near term, showers and some tropical storm-force winds will impact Jamaica and the Cayman Islands Tuesday and Tuesday night. Some local flash flooding can’t be ruled out over the mountainous terrain of Jamaica. For now, the chance of U.S. impacts appears very low, with the exception of a possible push of moisture and showers into parts of the Texas coast.  –Weather
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NASA to launch probe to investigate ‘Armageddon’ asteroid

July 2016SPACE NASA is planning to launch a probe to collect rock samples from an asteroid it fears could one day hit Earth. The asteroid, named Bennu, can be seen from Earth as it crosses the planet’s orbit every six years. Bennu, which is around 500m in diameter at its equator and travels around the sun at 63,000 mph, will pass between Earth and the moon in 2135.  “That 2135 fly-by is going to tweak Bennu’s orbit, potentially putting it on course for the Earth later that century,” Dante Lauretta, professor of planetary science at Arizona University, told the Sunday Times.
“It may be destined to cause immense suffering and death,” he added. Mr Lauretta, NASA’s principal investigator in charge of the Osiris-Rex probe mission to Bennu, launching in September, said the probe will map the asteroid, pick up some rock samples and then head back to Earth. He said information on the asteroid’s size, mass and composition could be “vital data for future generations.” Osiris-Rex will arrive at Bennu in 2018 and will spend a year surveying the asteroid’s chemical makeup, mineralogy and geologic history. Information gathered during the observation will help scientists understand how its course is affected by absorbing and radiating sunlight as heat. The probe will then take a sample from the asteroid before heading back to Earth for 2023.
The asteroid was discovered on September 11, 1999. Yes, 9.11.1999. Bennu was named by Michael Puzio, a third-grader from North Carolina, one of more than eight thousand students from dozens of countries around the world who entered a “Name That Asteroid!” contest run by the University of Arizona, The Planetary Society, and the LINEAR Project, according to The Planetary Report, June 2013.
According to Egyptian mythology, the Bennu was a self-created being said to have played a role in the creation of the world. It was said to be the ba of Ra and enabled the creative actions of Atum. It was said to have flown over the waters of Nun that existed before creation, landing on a rock and issuing a call that determined the nature of creation. It was also a symbol of rebirth and was therefore associated with Osiris.
Some of the titles of the Bennu bird were “He Who Came Into Being by Himself,” and “Lord of Jubilees;” the latter epithet referred to the belief that the Bennu periodically renewed itself like the sun. The Greek phoenix bird was said to have derived its mythology from the Bennu bird. Osiris was an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld, and the dead – after whom, the NASA space probe that will study Bennu is named.  –Independent, Wikipedia

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Alaska Peninsula volcano spews steam, ash, but no lava

Alaska Pavlof
July 2016 ALASKAScientists have increased the alert level for Pavlof Volcano for the second time this month. On Thursday, the Alaska Peninsula volcano showed signs of low-level eruptive activity, prompting officials to raise its alert level from “advisory” to “watch.” Dave Schneider is a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey at the Alaska Volcano Observatory. “We saw pretty vigorous degassing of steam in our web camera images, and we got some detection of volcanic ash in satellite views,” Schneider said.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be an eruption. Schneider said Pavlof’s current activity is “quite a bit lower” than in March when the volcano erupted, spewing ash 37,000 feet into the atmosphere and causing dozens of flights to be canceled. He also said thermal signals have not indicated that new lava is rising to the surface. But thanks to its ongoing seismic activity, Schneider said are scientists are monitoring Pavlof closely.
“This is a very slippery volcano,” Schneider said. “It can go from low-level activity and ramp up without a lot of precursory activity.” For now, scientists will keep an eye on Pavlof’s temperature and ash emissions by satellite and webcam.  –KT00

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33 earthquakes in 30 days – the town that won’t stop trembling

Australia Shaky Town
July 2016AUSTRALIAThe western Australian town of Norseman has a serious case of the shakes – with a staggering 50 earthquakes hitting the area in the last two months. The gold-mining town – located about 720km east of Perth – has had over 30 quakes this month, with 18 alone on 8 and 9 July. It all began after a 5.0 magnitude earthquake shook the town in the middle of the night on 28 May, followed by an even stronger 5.1 magnitude aftershock about an hour later. John Fry, works manager at the Dundas Shire, said he heard a loud rumbling, and soon after, got a call from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, checking if the town needed assistance.
“I thought it was just a train coming through,” he said. “The last thing you think of is an earthquake.” In its aftermath, a series of smaller quakes shook the town – ranging in intensity from 2.7 to 4.2 – with a third large shock earlier this month reaching 5.6 in magnitude. “With the twos and the threes, you don’t even realize,” John explained. “But over the four to five [magnitude] mark you definitely feel them.” The earthquakes have had varying effects on the town’s infrastructure, from shop stock rattling on shelves to a crack in the local church widening. However, it is not the first time the town has seen (or felt) this amount of tectonic activity, enduring a similar sequence in 1985, when a 5.6 magnitude earthquake triggered four years of smaller aftershocks.
Hugh Glanville, a seismologist at Geoscience Australia, said the area is experiencing a reasonably classic earthquake sequence – characterized by a main shock, followed by a decay in aftershocks. “When a large section of a fault moves quite significantly – that has relieved stress on that part of the fault,” he explained. “So the adjacent parts of the fault will move to release the stress that has been transferred to them.”
As the Australian plate moves northwards, stress is relieved across its boundary, however some builds up on the plate itself and is relieved on the mainland in areas with pre-existing faults and harder rock. “This area just happens to have a lot of older faults – and now some new ones,” Hugh added. While similar levels of tectonic activity have been observed around the country in the past – including the Northern Territory’s Tennant Creek, Queensland’s Fraser Island, and various locations throughout the wheatbelt, Norseman is the most active at present.
And while Hugh says the chance of another large quake is small, the town is set to tremble a little while longer. “There’s likely to be continuing aftershocks – we expect magnitude three and four aftershocks to be ongoing for months, sometimes – like those in 1985 – years,” he said.  –Australian Geographic

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Volcano “super eruption” would come with little warning, scientists say

A Supervolcano
July 2016SUPERVOLCANO A new study has determined that super-eruptions -volcanic events so large they spew out hundreds of cubic kilometers of magma and ash -typically give only one year’s warning before they erupt, a prospect which would leave humanity little time to prepare for the worldwide devastation produced by such an eruption.The 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland disrupted air traffic and coated much of Northern Europe with volcanic ash, while the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State in May of 1980, which was the deadliest and most economically costly volcano blast in U.S. history, covering 11 states with ash and killing approximately 57 people.
But neither of these disasters comes close to the power and devastation of what geologists refer to as super-eruptions volcanic explosions that register highest on the Volcanic Explosivity Index and send up between 100 and 1000 cubic kilometers of ejecta into the atmosphere.
Scientists have long tried to pinpoint when and where the next supervolcano will erupt. Now, researchers at Vanderbilt University and the University of Chicago have used microscopic analysis of quartz crystals to conclude that the decompression process which releases gas bubbles prior to an eruption begins less than a year before the actual event.
“Super-eruptions have been described as the ultimate geologic hazard,” say the study’s authors, whose research is published in the scientific journal Plos One. “And in many ways, understanding the potential hazards associated with super-eruptions is the ultimate geologic exercise, in which we are pressed to learn as much as possible from the geologic record of past super-eruptions.”
Researchers looked at quartz collected from the Bishop Tuff rock formation in eastern California, created by a super-eruption 760,000 years ago, and found that the telltale rims which form on quartz crystals in the lead-up to an eruption had developed in just the days and months before the explosive event. “More than 70 per cent of rim growth times are less than 1 year,” say the study’s authors.
The closest thing to a such an event in recent history was the Mount Tambora eruption in Indonesia in 1815, which ejected approximately 180 cubic kilometres of material in just a few days and precipitated what was called the “Year without a summer” in 1816 – a volcanic winter that plummeted global temperatures and caused massive famine and civil unrest for the decade to follow. The last true super-eruption occurred 26,000 years ago in the Taupo Volcanic Zone in New Zealand, preceded by the Toba super-eruption in Sumatra some 75,000 years ago.
Historically, North America has seen super-eruptions at the Yellowstone Caldera in the state of Wyoming and in Canada at what’s known as the Blake River Megacaldera on the border between Ontario and Quebec. Why is a super-eruption so devastating? Volcanic ash is the main problem, as billions of tonnes of particulate travel through the air, making breathing difficult, blocking out the Sun and covering everything in sight for thousands of kilometres around. The ash from a super-eruption would contaminate lakes and rivers and make much of the region close to the volcanic site uninhabitable, while sulfur compounds in the ash which reflect sunlight would bring about a volcanic winter and threaten agricultural production worldwide.
The chances of a super-eruption occurring in the near future are slim, however, as geologists have not seen the telltale signs of significant magma buildup underneath any of the known supervolcano sites around the world. “As far as we can determine, none of these places currently house the type of melt-rich, giant magma body needed to produce a super-eruption,” says Guilherme Gualda, professor of earth and environment sciences at Vanderbilt University and co-author of the new study. “However, they are places where super-eruptions have happened in the past so are more likely to happen in the future.”  –Cantech Letters
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When will she blow? Iceland’s vicious Katla volcano rumbles

July 2016ICELAND Two earthquakes of magnitude 3.2 occurred in the Katla caldera in Mýrdalsjökull glacier around 4:00 AM this morning. Ten smaller earthquakes followed. Katla is one of Iceland’s largest volcanoes, and with twenty eruptions being documented since the year 930, Katla remains on of the country’s most active volcanoes.
Scientists at the University of Iceland Institute of Earth Sciences (IES) and the Icelandic Met Office have been monitoring activity at Katla lately, but small glacial river floods have been observed in recent weeks in the Múlakvísl river that flows from underneath the glacial cap. The floods are caused by Katla’s geothermal hot spots under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier in South Iceland. “This seems to be an annual occurrence, but we still have a reason to closely monitor the situation,” says Dr. Páll Einarsson, geophysicist at the IES.
“The last large eruption in Katla was in 1918, but in the meantime there have been three events that indicate volcanic activity underneath the glacier. First in 1995, then in 1999 and most recently in 2011 when a glacial flood in Múlakvísl River took out a bridge on the main road,” says Dr. Einarsson. “All of these incidents share some similarities, there were earthquakes, rumbles, and glacial floods. There are signs that suggest that small volcanic eruptions did take place underneath the glacier but they were not large enough to break through the icecap. The icecap is fairly thick and only a large eruption would manage to break to the surface.”
Katla has not erupted for some time and some locals believe the volcano is long overdue. Dr. Einarsson points out that volcanoes do typically not erupt at a certain intervals and any talk of Katla being overdue is misleading. “Katla seemed to be fairly predictable for the past three hundred years, but it erupted twice a century, typically in the 20s and 60s,” Dr. Einarsson says, but the volcano erupted in 1625, 1660, 1721, 1755, 1823, 1860 og 1918. “This perceived predictability led people to expect a large eruption in around 1960, but we’re still waiting for it. Volcanoes are unpredictable,” he adds.
How bad would it be?
How bad will it be if Katla erupts? The Katla eruption in 1918 produced an enormous ash cloud and five times as much ash as the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption that halted air traffic in the North-Atlantic and across Europe. Such a large eruption is likely to disrupt air traffic and cause destruction of property and local infrastructure.
In addition to an ash cloud, large eruptions in Katla are accompanied by enormous floods when melted snow and glacial water, mixed with mud and pieces of ice, break out from underneath the icecap and flow to sea. In the last large eruption in 1918, the Southern coast was extended by 5 km by the laharic flood deposits. The most likely path of such a flood is to the South across Mýrdalssandur area, an unpopulated area east of the town Vík in Mýrdalur.  –Iceland Monitor

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Powerful 6.1 magnitude earthquake hits Australia’s southern coast

Australia EQ
July 2016 AUSTRALIAA 6.1 magnitude earthquake has struck off Australia’s southern coast, according to Geoscience Australia. The quake hit just before 7.00 pm local time on Monday about 1700 km off the coast of Queenstown in Tasmania. It was reported that the earthquake was ‘potentially tsunamigenic,’ but as it turns out the quakes posed no tsunami risk.
Initial information suggested the quake had a depth of 15 km but the US Geological Survey put the quake at a depth of 10 km. It comes after another huge earthquake struck Western Australia three weeks ago.
That quake hit near Norseman in WA’s Goldfields region, and was felt as far away as Esperance on the state’s south east coast. While there were no reports of damage, people in high rise buildings in as far away as Perth experienced some of the aftershocks. There have been more than 30 earthquakes reported near Norseman in the past month.  –Daily Mail
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