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Tue, 09 Feb 2016
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Earth Changes


Strong magnitude 6.6 shake near the Kermadec Islands triggered 'ghost quakes' in North Island, New Zealand, but why?

© Massey University
Tuesday's earthquake was centred near the Kermadec's Raoul Island, about 1000km northeast of New Zealand.
The magnitude 6.6 quake that struck off the coast of the North Island on Tuesday was widely felt and triggered false reports of shakes in New Zealand.

It is not uncommon for earthquakes to confuse seismic readings as energy from tremors travels large distances.

These "ghost quakes" register as local earthquakes when the GNS Science system starts to receive data.

© John Ristau
Seismic graphs show the earthquake waves at 8am on Tuesday detected by the northernmost seismographs.
Let's dive right in to the world of ghost earthquakes.

What happened on Tuesday?

A large magnitude 6.6 quake centres about 850 kilometres north of Whakatane at a depth of 360km.

The epicentre was near the Kermadec Islands and the Kermadec Trench.


Dog kills woman in Kamloops, Canada

© Facebook
The victim is being reported as TIB elder Kathleen Green (centre), who lived with her grandson in a home on the band’s reserve. Emergency crews were forced to shoot the dog following the attack.
The BC Coroners Service says a Tk'emlups Indian Band elder who died after she was mauled by a dog Saturday night was trying to feed her grandson's dog at the time.

RCMP and paramedics rushed to a property on West Shuswap Road Saturday night after being called by a frantic relative.

78-year-old Kathleen Green was pronounced dead at the scene.

"We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family who have suffered a recent loss. She was a well respected elder in the community," says Chief Fred Seymour, Tk'emlups Indian Band.


Timelapse video captures spectacular explosion of Mexico's Colima volcano

© webcamsdemexico / YouTube
A pillar of ash shot 10,000 feet into the sky in a violent explosion of the Colima volcano in south-central Mexico. The event was captured on a web camera installed by scientists to monitor the active volcano in the Jalisco province.

The awe-inspiring timelapse footage shows the volcano as it burst last Friday. The mountain is still erupting intermittent explosions varying from 3,000ft to 9,800ft in height, according to VolcanoDiscovery.

Bizarro Earth

6.6 magnitude earthquake strikes north of New Zealand

The location of the quake - deep quakes off the coast were often recorded by Geonet's automatic system as multiple quakes.
A 6.6 magnitude earthquake 1100km off the North Island was responsible for the tremors that shook New Zealanders this morning.

Geonet seismologist John Ristau said the tremors felt in Bay of Plenty, Tararua and Canterbury were not official earthquakes.

There had been reports that a 5.3 magnitude quake was recorded 35 km south of Murupara and that 5.0 magnitude quake struck 20 km north west of Pongaroa.

A third quake was said to have hit 15km south-west of Amberley.

The shakes weren't official earthquakes but ripple effects of a 6.6. earthquake near Raoul Island.

Geonet received more than 500 reports of people who had felt shakes, Mr Ristau said.

There would be few aftershocks because the earthquake was so deep, he said.

Snowflake Cold

Heavy snowfall disrupts China's pre-holiday travel rush

Citizens walk on the snow-covered bank of the Xiangjiang River in Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan Province, Feb. 1, 2016
Rare heavy snow hit several central and eastern Chinese provinces Sunday, disrupting a pre-holiday travel rush that involves millions of people.

Heavy snow blanketed central China's Hubei Province early Sunday, closing down a pivotal airport in its capital Wuhan, delaying trains and causing standstill on expressways, the local government said.

The Tianhe Airport in Wuhan was closed at midday. Sixteen departing flights were canceled, while 18 incoming flights were forced to land in the neighboring cities of Nanchang or Changsha. At least 2,000 passengers were stranded at the airport.

The railway network was also under heavy pressure, as large crowds of passengers, frustrated by flight cancellations and road blocks, flocked into train stations.

"We put four additional trains in service for passengers traveling within Hubei Province," said an official with the Wuhan Railway Bureau. "But the snowy weather slowed down most trains, causing an average delay of 30 to 50 minutes."


First snowfall in 15 years for Arunachal capital, India

Snow in Arunachal Pradesh
Several districts of Arunachal Pradesh witnessed season's first snowfall. The State capital witnessed the season's first snowfall after a gap of over 15 years.

With the mercury going sub-zero, several districts in Arunachal Pradesh witnessed the season's first snowfall since the last couple of days.

Tawang district bordering China witnessed heavy snowfall while Sela Pass situated an altitude of 13,700 feet on the Bomdila-Tawang road, the lifeline of defence personnel travelling to the frontier, was covered with more than one feet of snow in the last three days, additional deputy commissioner (ADC) Jang Dr D K Chutia said.

Bomdila, the district headquarters of West Kameng received moderate snowfall after a gap of over 12 years.

This year snowfall was also reported from Mechuka in West Siang district, Mayudia in Dibang Valley, Kibithu in Anjaw, Lemiking and Taksing in Upper Subansiri.


Blizzard leaves behind rare snow rollers in Vineyard, Massachusetts

© Timothy Johnson

Snow rollers scattered on the field at Fred Fisher's farm in West Tisbury.
Beyond the snow and some downed tree limbs, the weekend blizzard left another, more unusual calling card, as Vineyard fields were strewn with cylindrical pieces of snow.

The meteorological phenomena are called snow rollers. According to the National Weather Service, snow rollers are formed by strong but not too-strong winds and light snow falling on a layer of smooth, crusted-over old snow.

A small piece of snow is picked up by the wind and, as it rolls along, it collects more snow and becomes cylindrical in shape, sometimes with a hole extending lengthwise through the center. It's a bit like an oblong base of a snowman made by the wind. Snow rollers are said to be as large as a foot in diameter.

Snow rollers are rare, the weather service said, because of the combination of conditions required for them to form.

Arrow Up

Karymsky volcano in Russia's Kamchatka region spews ash 3km high - hours after major earthquake

The volcano erupted within 48 hours of the major earthquake

A HUGE volcano has seen a massive eruption of toxic ash and gas just hours after a major earthquake rocked the region, causing shopping centre evacuations.

The Karymsky volcano in Russian Kamchatka's eastern volcanic zone spewed ash up to 3km into the air, according to the Regional Emergencies Ministry.

Airlines have been placed on an "orange" warning to avoid the area following today's eruption.

It came less than 48 hours hours after a magnitude 7.3 earthquake tore through the region, followed by a series of at least seven less powerful aftershocks.

Terrified shoppers fled from a shopping mall after feeling the tremors inside.

The epicentre of the earthquake was within about 20 miles of the 1,486 metre-high magma mountain, prompting fears seismic activity is on the rise and there could be a catastrophic earthquake, volcanic eruption or both.

The quake struck an area close to the Ring of Fire, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Ocean.

It suffers many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, but the National and Pacific Tsunami Warning Centers have said there is no current risk of a tsunami from the powerful quake.

The area has seen much volcanic activity this month.

Comment: See also:

7.0 quake strikes Russia's far eastern Kamchatka

Zhupanovsky volcano in Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula spews ash 8 km high


Rare powerful magnitude 6.0 earthquake recorded in Antarctica

A rare powerful magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck the region around the Balleny Islands, Antarctica on January 31, 2016.

The strong shallow earthquake was recorded at 5:39pm at a depth of 10 km 473km (294mi) NE of Young Island, Antarctica or 2475km (1538mi) S of Wellington, New Zealand.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey:
Earthquakes do occur occasionally in Antarctica, but not very often. There have been some big earthquakes - including one magnitude 8 - in the Balleny Islands.

The boundary between the Scotia Plate and the Antarctic Plate just grazes the north tip of the Antarctic Peninsula (again, look "northwest" from the Pole toward South America). There is also a hint of a line of seismicity off the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula and some activity in the Kerguelen Plateau (in the Indian Ocean "northeast" from the Pole). The Kerguelen Plateau is within the Antarctic Plate but it is not part of the Antarctic Continent. As with the interior area of all tectonic plates, earthquakes can and do occur in Antarctica, but they are much less frequent than quakes on the plate boundaries.

Another reason why there are fewer quakes located in Antarctica than within other plates such as Australia or North America is because smaller quakes are much more likely to go undetected in Antarctica because there are very few seismograph stations. There are only 19 operating seismograph stations (as of 2005 )in all of the continent of Antarctica, and only one of them, at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, is in the interior of the continent. By comparison, there are 42 stations within the State of New Mexico. The closest seismograph station to the one at South Pole is 1350 km or about 840 miles. That's a big area to hide little earthquakes in!

Finally, the interior of Antarctica has icequakes which, although they are much smaller, are perhaps more frequent than earthquakes. The icequakes are similar to earthquakes, but occur within the ice sheet itself instead of the land underneath the ice. Some of our polar observers have told us they can hear the icequakes and see them on the South Pole seismograph station, but they are much too small to be seen on enough stations to obtain a location.


Update: Researchers think Gulf of Alaska seabird die-off is biggest ever recorded; at least 22,000 dead

© David Irons/USFWS
Dead Murres line a beach in Prince William Sound
The mass of dead seabirds that have washed up on Alaska beaches in past months is unprecedented in size, scope and duration, a federal biologist said at an Anchorage science conference.

The staggering die-off of common murres, the iconic Pacific seabirds sometimes likened to flying penguins, is a signal that something is awry in the Gulf of Alaska, said Heather Renner, supervisory wildlife biologist at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

"We are in the midst of perhaps the largest murre die-off ever recorded," Renner told the Alaska Marine Science Symposium on Thursday. While there have been big die-offs of murres and other seabirds in the past, recorded since the 1800s, this one dwarfs most of them, Renner said.

"This event is almost certainly larger than the murres killed in the Exxon Valdez oil spill," she said.

After that spill -- at the time, the nation's largest -- about 22,000 dead murres were recovered by crews conducting extensive beach searches in the four months after the tanker grounding, according to the Exxon Valdez Trustee Council, the federal-state panel that administers funds paid to settle spill-related claims for natural-resource damages.

Now, hundreds and thousands of dead murres are turning up on a wide variety of Alaska beaches, including nearly 8,000 discovered this month on a mile-long stretch in Whittier, she said. A preliminary survey in Prince William Sound has already turned up more than 22,000 dead murres there, she said. Starving, dying and dead murres are showing up far from their marine habitat, in inland places as distant as Fairbanks, hundreds of miles from the Gulf of Alaska coast, making the die-off exceptionally large in geographic scale.

Even if she weren't an expert, the bird die-off would be obvious to Renner. She lives in Homer, where the beaches are "littered" with murre carcasses, she said.