Reporting System

5.1 Magnitude EQ – Northern Italy

At approximately 08:06:35 UTC on Wednesday, January 25th, an earthquake based on land struck at a shallow depth of 10.2 km (6.3 miles) in the Northern Italy region, 13 km (8 miles) NE of Parma, Italy, and 75 km (46 miles) SSW of Verona, Italy. Coords: 44.868°N, 10.470°E

United States Geological Survey – The event has been reviewed by a seismologist and confirmed, at present, to be a 5.1 magnitude earthquake at a depth of 10.2 km (6.3 miles). The European Mediterranean Seismology Agency has the earthquake’s parameters reviewed as a 4.9 magnitude earthquake at a depth of 33 km.


Northern Italy was hit by an earthquake early Wednesday sending scared people into the streets but causing no death, injury or severe damage.

The 4.9 magnitude trembler struck at around 9:10 am local time and was centred in Reggio Emilia, a city with a population of around 170,000 located some 400 kilometres north of Rome.

The quake was felt Italy’s business hub Milan where schools were temporarily evacuated.

Italy is a seismic area, though quakes in Italy’s north are relatively rare. A quake in April 2009 levelled swaths of the central Italian city of L’Aquila and surrounding towns, killing more than 300 people. In 1980 more than 2,700 people were killed by a quake with its epicenre 80 kilometres south of Naples. near Naples.



January 25, 2012 Posted by | Seismic | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Geomagnetic Storm Brings Amazing Show of Aurora Borealis

Northern Lapland, Finland. Credit: Andy Keen

STORM RECAP: As expected, a CME hit Earth’s magnetic field on Jan. 24th at approximately 1500 UT (10 am EST). The impact produced a G1-class geomagnetic storm and bright auroras around the Arctic Circle.

Even veteran aurora watchers were impressed. “This was one of the best displays that I’ve ever seen, and I mean ever in over 5000 hours on the ice,” says Andy Keen of Finland. “It was, in short, truly spectacular and something that will live with me for a lifetime.” In the Abisko National Park of Sweden, aurora tour guide Chad Blakely contributed a similar report: “Eight tourists and I were treated to one of the most wonderful displays I have ever seen. The auroras began as we were eating dinner and continued into the very early hours of the morning. Words can not describe the excitement we shared.”

The storm subsided as it crossed the Atlantic and petered out almost completely by the time it reached North America.  Aurora alerts: textvoice.

…(Space Weather)

SUBSIDING STORM: A geomagnetic storm caused by Monday’s M9-class solar flare and Tuesday’s CME impact is over. The aurora watch is cancelled for all but the higher latitudes around the Arctic Circle.

The geomagnetic field was quiet to major storm on January 24.

Solar wind speed ranged between 347 and 732 km/s. A strong solar wind shock was observed at SOHO at 14:34 UTC, the arrival of the CMEs observed early on January 23. The geomagnetic disturbance peaked 17-20h UTC when the planetary A index reached 80. The radiation storm peaked at the arrival of the CMEs with the above 10 MeV proton flux reaching a high of 6310 pfu, the strongest radiation event since 2003.


January 25, 2012 Posted by | Radiation, Solar | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

4,200 Evacuated as Flooding Hits New South Wales, Australia

About 4,200 people have been evacuated from their homes on the New South Wales far north coast, after the same weather system that drenched Queensland moved south. Ten flood warnings are in place for rivers in the state’s north-east, where up to 550 millimetres of rain has fallen in some areas over three days. People have been evacuated from parts of Chinderah, Fingal Head, South Murwillumbah, Condong and Tumbulgum. The Lower Tweed River at Chinderah peaked lower than expected about midnight (AEDT) and is causing only minor flooding.

Major flooding was also expected in the Tweed Valley. The Tweed River was predicted to exceed the major flooding level at Murwillumbah at 6pm, but it ended up peaking below at 4.7 metres. Minor to moderate flooding is expected in other catchments on the Northern Rivers. Warnings for minor to moderate flooding are in place for river valleys further south between Brunswick Heads and Tareewhile several other communities remain isolated by floodwaters.

Scott Hanckle from the Richmond Tweed State Emergency Service says more heavy rain is predicted to fall over the next 24 hours. “The greatest risk is for localised flash flooding and people that are moving around the district, could I just reiterate, not to under any circumstances go into floodwaters. Don’t drive, walk or ride in floodwaters,” he said.

“We’ve got a number of days of wet weather forecast. We need to be very cautious,” he said.

Police are urging people in the region not to drive after many drivers have been ignoring safety warnings. The SES is monitoring the Rocky Creek Dam near Lismore and the Clarrie Hall Dam near Uki which are both full, with water flowing over the spillways.

Residents downstream from the dams are being asked to prepare for possible evacuation.


January 25, 2012 Posted by | Climate, Flooding, Weather | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arctic Ice News and Analysis

Ice extent for Dec. 2011. Purple line = Median ice edge.

Arctic sea ice extent remained unusually low through December, especially in the Barents and Kara seas.  In sharp contrast to the past two winters, the winter of 2011 has so far seen a generally positive phase of the Arctic Oscillation, a weather pattern that helps to explain low snow cover extent and warmer than average conditions over much of the United States and Eastern Europe.  In Antarctica, where summer is beginning, sea ice is presently above average.

Overview of Conditions
Arctic sea ice extent in December 2011 averaged 12.38 million square kilometers (4.78 million square miles). This is the third lowest December ice extent in the 1979 to 2011 satellite data record, 970,000 square kilometers (375,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average extent.

Ice extent was particularly low on the Atlantic side of the Arctic, most notably in the Barents and Kara seas. The eastern coast of Hudson Bay did not freeze entirely until late in the month: normally, Hudson Bay has completely frozen over by the beginning of December. In the Bering Sea, ice extent was slightly above average.

2011 year in review
Arctic sea ice extent fell to its seasonal minimum on September 9, 2011, falling just short of the record low set in September 2007, when summer weather conditions were extremely favorable for ice loss. This summer, the weather was not as extreme as 2007, so it was surprising that ice extent dropped so low. The low ice extent, along with data on ice age, suggests that the Arctic ice cover remains thin and vulnerable to summer melt.

Northern Hemisphere snow cover retreated very rapidly last spring, with record and near-record low snow cover extents in May and June despite higher-than-average winter snow extent as of February and March.

Arctic temperatures 
Air temperatures in December were lower than average over much of the Arctic Ocean, but higher than average over the Kara and Barents seas. Higher-than-average temperatures in these regions stemmed from two major factors.

First, where sea ice extent is low, heat can escape from areas of open water, warming the atmosphere. Second, surface winds in the Kara and Barents Sea ice blew persistently from the south, bringing in heat from lower latitudes. This imported heat also helped to keep sea ice extent low in this area. Conditions over Canada were also unusually warm during Dec, but conditions over SE Greenland have been 6 to 8 degrees Celsius (11 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit) colder than average, partly because of northerly winds in the area.


January 25, 2012 Posted by | Arctic Ice | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Introduction Into Solar Eruptions

The sun erupted on January 22-23, 2012 with an M8.7 class flare, captured here in a movie by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

Solar flares are giant explosions on the sun that send energy, light and high speed particles into space. These flares are often associated with solar magnetic storms known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). While these are the most common solar events, the sun can also emit streams of very fast protons — known as solar energetic particle (SEP) events — and disturbances in the solar wind known as corotating interaction regions (CIRs). All of these can produce a variety of “storms” on Earth that can — if strong enough — interfere with short wave radio communications, GPS signals, and Earth’s power grid, among other things.

The amount of solar activity increases approximately every 11 years, and the sun is currently moving toward another solar maximum, likely in 2013. That means more flares will be coming, some small and some big enough to send their radiation all the way to Earth.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has devised categories for the flares and various storms. The biggest flares are known as “X-class flares” based on a classification system that divides solar flares according to their strength. The smallest ones are A-class (near background levels), followed by B, C, M, and X. Similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes, each letter represents a 10-fold increase in energy output. So an X is ten times an M and 100 times a C. Within each letter class there is a finer scale from 1 to 9.

C-class and smaller flares are too weak to noticeably affect Earth. M-class flares can cause brief radio blackouts at the poles and minor radiation storms that might endanger astronauts. And then come the X-class flares. Although X is the last letter, there are flares more than 10 times the power of an X1, so X-class flares can go higher than 9. The most powerful flare measured with modern methods was in 2003, during the last solar maximum, and it was so powerful that it overloaded the sensors measuring it. The sensors cut out at X15, but the flare was estimated to be as high as an X28.

The biggest X-class flares are by far the largest explosions in the solar system and are awesome to watch. Loops tens of times the size of Earth leap up off the sun’s surface when the sun’s magnetic fields cross over each other and reconnect. In the biggest events, this reconnection process can produce as much energy as a billion hydrogen bombs. As the sun moves towards its next solar maximum and heats up, we are already seeing an increase in activity. The first X-class flare of the current solar cycle erupted on February 15, 2011, and there were more over the summer.

On January 23, 2012, the sun unleashed an M8.7 flare followed by a CME and an SEP that created one of the strongest radiation storms since ’05.

…(Science Daily)

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Radiation, Solar | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama Pushes Natural-Gas Fracking to Create 600,000 U.S. Jobs

Half of the quakes shown here (from the past week or so) are right beside fracking/drilling sites.

President Barack Obama pushed drilling for gas in shale rock and support for cleaner energy sources to boost the economy in his final State of the Union address before facing U.S. voters in November.

Hydraulic fracturing, the process of injecting water, sand and chemicals underground to free gas trapped in rock, could create more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade, Obama said yesterday. The process, called fracking, is among a list of energy policies Obama said would fuel economic growth.

“We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years, and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy,” Obama said.

Obama reiterated support for conservation and cleaner sources of power and pledged more oil drilling as part of an ‘all-out, all-of-the-above” policy “that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.” He said domestic energy production is at an eight-year high and imports of foreign oil were declining, prompting criticism from Republicans.

“It’s just a blind accident, if in fact we are producing more oil or natural gas than in previous years, because it’s not because of any of his efforts,” Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican and head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said after the speech.

…(SF Gate)

YouTube link to State of the Union address at the point of natural gas discussion.

Proposed Plan – Compare to the image to the left.

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Seismic | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Severe Weather in Texas Brings Thunderstorm Warning and Tornado Watch

“You can see a wall of heavy rain,” KPRC Local 2 meteorologist Anthony Yanez. “From 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock is the time to watch for these dangerous storms.”

“Do not take these warnings lightly. Typically, whenever we get these and see a pattern like we had this morning, we’ll see a handful of tornadoes,” Yanez said.

Gusty winds and scattered showers moved through the area at 2 a.m., knocking out power to 30,000 CenterPoint Energy customers. As of 6:30 a.m., approximately 18,000 people remained without electricity.

“Earlier this morning, we had wind gusts of 50 to 55 mph,” Yanez said. “That’s what knocked down some of those trees and power lines. We could still see some 60 mph straight-line winds, hail and lots of lightning.”

A low-pressure system is responsible for strong storms in central and northern Texas, which are expected to drench the Houston area most of the day.

“There’s a couple of lines that we’re tracking. The strongest one will arrive in Houston around noon. It’s a concern for this morning until early afternoon. The radar is picking up a lot of twisting winds,” Yanez said. “It’s going to be wet from 8 o’clock all the way through 2 o’clock. By 5 p.m., this storm system will be in our eastern counties.”


January 25, 2012 Posted by | Climate, Weather | , , , , | Leave a comment

Dozens Feared to Have Been Buried in Massive PNG Landslide

The landslide struck at 7am AEDT yesterday near the Nogoli base for a ExxonMobil-ledliquefied natural gas plant site, northwest of Port Moresby.

One local said three villages had been covered while another report said only a handful of homes were lost. Radio Australia reported dozens of people were feared buried, quoting a Tari resident as saying about 40 people were missing. The landslide was said to stretch about one kilometre and was 300 metres wide, and had cut a main road in the area. All Australians reported in the area have been accounted for, Radio Australia reported. ExxonMobil said its personnel were all safe.

“We have been in contact with the Natural Disaster and Response Office,” ExxonMobil spokeswoman Rebecca Arnold said. “All our personnel are accounted for.

“We have closed down work in the surrounding area.”

Ms Arnold said the landslide is not expected to hinder the project’s completion in 2014.

The $16 billion LNG project is due to begin production in 2014 and will see PNG’s natural gas sold across Asia for the next 30 years – a plan projected to double PNG’s gross domestic product.

…(Daily Telegraph)

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Landslide | , , , , , , | Leave a comment