Large-scale motion detected near San Andreas Fault System

San Andreas
June 2016CALIFORNIA Analysis of GPS data has revealed new areas of motion around the San Andreas Fault System. Using data collected by the EarthScope Plate Boundary Observatory’s GPS array, researchers identified 125-mile-wide “lobes” of uplift and subsidence. Over the last several years, the lobes, which straddle the fault line, have hosted a few millimeters of annual movement.
Computer models simulating the San Andreas Fault System have predicted such crustal movement, but the areas of motion hadn’t been physically identified until now. Researchers used advanced statistical modeling to identify the movement among the inevitable statistical noise that comes with monitoring minute movements in the Earth’s crust.

San Andreas Motion

“While the San Andreas GPS data has been publicly available for more than a decade, the vertical component of the measurements had largely been ignored in tectonic investigations because of difficulties in interpreting the noisy data,’” lead author Samuel Howell, a researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, explained in a news release. “Using this technique, we were able to break down the noisy signals to isolate a simple vertical motion pattern that curiously straddled the San Andreas Fault.”
The validity of the vertical patterns was confirmed by the fact that similar motions were predicted by an earthquake model designed by researchers at the University of Hawaii’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. “We were surprised and thrilled when this statistical method produced a coherent velocity field similar to the one predicted by our physical earthquake cycle models,” said researcher Bridget Smith-Konter. “The powerful combination of a priori model predictions and a unique analysis of vertical GPS data led us to confirm that the buildup of century-long earthquake cycle forces within the crust are a dominant source of the observed vertical motion signal.” Researchers say their new findings — published in the journal Nature Geosciences — could help scientists use smaller lobes of vertical motion to predict more significant ruptures. –UPI

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Study predicts chance of 9+ magnitude mega-earthquake in the Aleutians

Aleutian Islands EQ
June 2016ALASKA There’s a nine percent chance a magnitude 9 or larger earthquake will strike the Aleutian Islands in the next 50 years. That is the prediction offered by scientists from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa — made with the help of a newly designed computer model. Researchers say an earthquake of that size could send a mega-tsunami in the direction of the Hawaiian Islands.
The Aleutian Islands, which stretch toward Russia from the coast of Alaska, sit along a subduction zone at the convergence of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. Scientists say the chance of a dramatic slip along the fault lines that make up the subduction zone is significant. They detailed the threat of a mega-earthquake in a new paper, published this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Solid Earth.
Aleut Islands“Necessity is the mother of invention,” lead study author Rhett Butler, a geophysicist at the UHM School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, explained in a news release. “Having no recorded history of mega tsunamis in Hawai’i, and given the tsunami threat to Hawaii, we devised a model for Magnitude 9 earthquake rates following upon the insightful work of David Burbidge and others.” Researchers integrated fault system measurements — fault length and convergence rate — with Bayesian probability models, and then tested the predictions against historic tectonic events.
Researchers compared the simulation to recent catastrophic earthquake and tsunami events, including Sumatra-Andaman in 2004; Alaska in 1964; Chile in 1960; and Kamchatka in 1952. “These five events represent half of the seismic energy that has been released globally since 1900,” said Butler. “The events differed in details, but all of them generated great tsunamis that caused enormous destruction.” Researchers further refined the model by incorporating ancient evidence of tsunami events found in the archaeological and geologic records. “We were surprised and pleased to see how well the model actually fit the paleo-tsunami data” concluded Butler. The scientists are now working to augment the model in order to predict smaller earthquakes.   –UPI

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U.S. Southwest braces for heat wave with temperatures reaching 120 F

Heat Wave
June 2016 PHOENIX (AZ) In 120 degree temperatures, some airplanes might not takeoff. Power grids strain as the outside air keeps transmission lines from cooling. And for desert dwellers, a cold bottle of water and some shade can mean the difference between life and death. Parts of the U.S. Southwest, long accustomed to triple-digit temperatures, are preparing for a heat wave and, in Phoenix, officials are warning residents that the mercury may rise to 120, approaching Phoenix’s all-time record of 122.
“If we are going to 115 or 120, people need to realize they are really in a life-threatening situation if they don’t wet themselves down and drink water,” said Kevin Kalkbrenner, Phoenix’s director of homeland security and emergency management. Excessive heat contributed to 84 deaths in the state last year, officials said in Maricopa County, the state’s largest. Officials already confirmed this year’s first heat-related death – an elderly woman who died from heat exposure in her backyard in early June.
Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, is warning residents to watch for signs of heat illness: thirst, red skin, cramping, exhaustion and a lack of sweat. The agency is telling local officials to prepare for an influx of heat-related illnesses. The Phoenix parks department is posting extra rangers at hiking trails warning visitors of the dangers and asking them to be off the trails by noon.
Arizona’s power companies are prepping extra maintenance crews and securing extra power to keep the cool air blowing, said Jacob Tetlow, general manager of operations with Arizona Public Service Co. Airlines will be monitoring temperatures as excessive heat can throw off performance calculations preventing planes from taking off, said Polly Tracey, spokeswoman for American Airlines.  
Record May heat, from Alaska to India and especially in the oceans, put the global average temperature at 60.17 degrees Fahrenheit (15.65 degrees Celsius), according to NOAA. That’s 1.57 degrees (.87 degrees Celsius) above the 20th-century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. June is looking like it may be even worse.  –ABC News

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Strong 6.6 magnitude earthquake strikes Vanuatu

EQ Vanuatu
June 2016VANUATUA 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck off the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu on Sunday, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, and no tsunami warning was issued. Vanuatu is part of the “Ring of Fire,” a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific that is subject to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
The shallow quake struck 101 kilometers (63 miles) southwest of the town of Isangel on Tanna Island, USGS said. Vanuatu has been rocked by a series of quakes this year, including some that prompted tsunami warnings.  –Dnaindia

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Guatemala’s Santiaguito volcano blows its top

Santiago V
June 2016 GUATEMALAGuatemala’s Santiaguito volcano put on a fine show for people in the west of the country Friday. The country’s government newspaper, Diario de Centroamerica, reported the volcano blew its top Friday morning. After a loud bang, the volcano spewed smoke and ash 5,000 m into the atmosphere. The volcano has been showing increased signs of activity since February, with more than 50 eruptions, but had been quiet since late May, according to the Miami-based Diario las Americas.
Aside from the ash, pyroclastic flows were also reported, and emergency officials told Diario las Americas that some debris had been blasted up to two kilometers away. Though the skies in the images above are clear, Guatemala’s national institute of volcanology, seismology, hydrology and meteorology, INSIVUMEH, said in a Friday bulletin that recent heavy rains have raised the risk of lahars, flows of mud, water and pyroclastic material that can cascade down the volcano’s side during an eruption. Though social media pictures posted Saturday morning showed the volcano in a much calmer state, INSIVUMEH and government authorities recommended a state of alert, warning people make sure to pack supplies for 72 hours in case called on to evacuate.  –Weather Network

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Philippines volcano Mount Kanlaon spouts massive ash column

Kanloan Volcano
June 2016PHILIPPINES A rumbling volcano in the central Philippines has shot a huge column of ash into the sky, prompting the official aviation agency to warn aircraft to stay away. Mount Kanloan has launched a plume of whitish-grey ash 1.5 meters into the air. The volcano last erupted in 2006. Philippine authorities have banned hikers from its slopes and warned aircraft to stay away. People are permanently barred from living within a four-kilometer ‘danger zone’ around the volcano
Mount Kanlaon, located in the central island of Negros, launched a plume of whitish-grey ash about 1.5 kilometers into the air, Kenn John Veracruz, of the official Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said. The civil aviation office issued an advisory, saying: “Flights operating in the vicinity of the volcano are advised to avoid flying close to the summit as airborne ash from a sudden eruption can be hazardous to aircraft.” The volcano, located about 510 kilometers south of Manila, has been more active than usual since November, prompting the Government to ban hikers from its slopes.
Mr. Veracruz said that so far the authorities had not detected any lava rising inside the 2.47-kilometre-high volcano, but they were checking how far the ash was being scattered by the wind and whether it could affect nearby communities. “It has been raining in recent days so there was likely water that built up inside the volcano and since the crater is hot, it built up the steam pressure [causing the eruption of ash],” Mr. Veracruz, a member of the institute’s volcano monitoring division, told AFP.
He added that it was possible the volcano could experience another ash eruption. Authorities have been placed on alert. The civil defense office said they had not received any reports of damage or people affected from the ash-fall but that authorities were on alert. Kanlaon has had several eruptions, usually of ash, in the past century, leading the Government to impose a permanent four-kilometer “danger zone” around the volcano where people are barred from living. In August, 1996, the volcano abruptly erupted, sending a spray of heated rocks that killed three hikers who were near the summit at the time.
The Philippines is located in the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire and has over 20 active volcanoes. Earlier this month, Mount Bulusan in the rural eastern province of Sorsogon fired a spectacular column of ash and steam into the air.  –ABC.net

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Wildfires in California, New Mexico trigger evacuations

CA fires
June 2016CALIFORNIA Firefighters worked into early Friday morning to try to contain a growing wildfire in coastal Southern California and a larger blaze in rural New Mexico as hot weather fed flames that triggered hundreds of evacuations. The Sherpa Fire in California grew to about 1,400 acres (560 hectares) overnight after forcing authorities to evacuate 400 homes and businesses and to close part of the 101 Freeway, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and fire information center InciWeb.
About 1,200 firefighters were trying to keep the fire from exploding out of control as airplane tankers and helicopters dropped water, according to officials and online videos. The blaze, which ignited on Wednesday in a wilderness area northwest of Santa Barbara, has consumed chaparral and tall grass in the Los Padres National Forest, according to InciWeb. Because of the fire, officials said they had closed two state beaches and some ranch land, forcing out campers and horses. Southeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Dog Head Fire, which broke out on Tuesday about 6 miles (10 km) northwest of the town of Tajique, has also forced evacuations and grown to about 16,000 acres (6,500 hectares) overnight.

Governor Susana Martinez declared a state of emergency and ordered the state’s National Guard to be prepared to assist if needed, according to a statement from her office. The fire destroyed 24 homes and 21 other structures, InciWeb said. The blaze has burned through timber in central New Mexico, pushing heavy smoke toward cities more than 100 miles (160 km) away as flames spread through a largely unpopulated area, state fire information officer Peter D’Aquanni said in a phone interview on Thursday. D’Aquanni said winds could shift the flames to the east as more than 600 firefighters tackle the blaze.
Torrance County Sheriff Heath White said on Thursday that his office was evacuating about 200 people. The National Weather Service on Friday predicted dry, windy and hot weather for the region through next week, which could lead to more wildfires. The weather service issued excessive heat warnings for areas in the U.S. Southwest, including California, Nevada and Arizona and New Mexico. Its forecast office in Phoenix predicted temperatures as high as 119 degrees Fahrenheit (48.3 Celsius) in the coming days, which would exceed record highs. –Reuters

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Quasi-moon: medium size asteroid found orbiting Earth

Asteroid
June 2016SPACE It seems the moon is not Earth’s only cosmic companion. The newly discovered asteroid 2016 HO3 orbits the sun in such a way that the space rock never strays too far from Earth, making it a “quasi-satellite” of our planet, scientists say.
“One other asteroid — 2003 YN107 — followed a similar orbital pattern for a while over 10 years ago, but it has since departed our vicinity,” Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement Wednesday (June 15).
“This new asteroid is much more locked onto us,” Chodas added. “Our calculations indicate 2016 HO3 has been a stable quasi-satellite of Earth for almost a century, and it will continue to follow this pattern as Earth’s companion for centuries to come.” Indeed, 2016 HO3 is the best example of an Earth quasi-satellite ever found, scientists said. The asteroid was discovered on April 27 by scientists using the Pan-STARRS 1 survey telescope in Hawaii. 2016 HO3’s exact size is unknown, but researchers think it’s between 130 feet and 330 feet wide (40 to 100 meters).
As the space rock circles the sun, it loops around Earth as well, zooming ahead of the planet half of the time and trailing behind the other half, NASA officials said. 2016 HO3’s orbit is tilted slightly relative to that of Earth, so the asteroid also bobs up and down through our planet’s orbital plane.
The path of 2016 HO3 tends to twist and drift over time, but Earth’s gravitational pull keeps the asteroid contained: It never comes closer than 9 million miles (14.5 million kilometers) to our planet, and it never gets more than 24 million miles (38.6 million km) away, researchers said. “In effect, this small asteroid is caught in a little dance with Earth,” Chodas said. This dance is not dangerous: 2016 HO3 poses no threat to the planet, NASA officials said. –Space

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