Earth ChangesS

Cloud Lightning

Hurricane speed reveals where storm surges will strike

The speed at which a hurricane progresses across the ocean may help forecasters predict which areas are at risk from flooding by storm surges.

When hurricanes strike, flooding causes more damage than the wind, and kills more people. To predict the severity of a surge, forecasters tend to rely on factors such as the size and the intensity of the storm. Now Joao Rego and Chunyan Li of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge have calculated that a hurricane's forward speed influences the peak height and inland "reach" of surges.

The pair fed measurements from 30 sites in Louisiana and Texas hit by hurricane Rita in 2005 into a computer model that relates the severity of a surge to the hurricane's speed of travel. When they raised the speed in their model to the maximum realistic value, the peak of the surge was 7 per cent higher than Rita's, and the volume of water pushed inland fell by up to 40 per cent. This meant areas close to the coast were hit harder, but sites further inland were left unscathed. For the slowest storms, the opposite happened: peak surge was lower, but inland reach increased (Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: link).


Code red: How deep reef fish keep in touch

On the face of it, what Nico Michiels did was rather pointless and a bit dangerous. Michiels, an evolutionary ecologist from the University of Tübingen in Germany, spends part of each year in Egypt where he dives in the Red Sea, observing life on its coral reefs. In September 2007 he decided to find out how far red light could penetrate the depths, so he attached a piece of red filter foil to his dive mask and began to descend. In theory, once he reached about 15 metres, he should have been plunged into darkness. Instead, something totally unexpected happened.

Like any experienced diver, Michiels knew that seawater selectively absorbs longer wavelengths of light so that somewhere below about 10 to 15 metres - depending on the clarity of the water - red light is all but extinguished, and anything that looks red at the surface fades to grey or black. His red filter would block out all wavelengths except red, revealing the depth at which red disappeared on this particular reef. Sure enough, 20 metres down it was as dark as night and quite disorienting. "All the fish disappeared. With no light from the surface they were effectively black and had become invisible," he says. But it didn't stay black for long. "Then I saw a group of gobies with bright red eyes lit up against the background. After that red spots began to show up all over the reef."


Italian earthquake death toll rises to 100

Italian quake
© Unknown
Over 100 people have been killed after a powerful quake hit the mountainous region of Abruzzo in central Italy, the Apcom news agency said on Monday.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said at a news conference in L'Aquila, the region's capital and close to the quake's epicenter, that about 1,500 people had been injured when the earthquake, measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, struck in the early hours.

He added that the death toll "topped 50 people," but it was likely to rise as rescuers continue their search of the debris.


Italian earthquake: expert's warnings were dismissed as scaremongering

© Unknown
An Italian scientist, Giampaolo Giuliani, predicted the earthquake which has killed at least 90 people in the Abruzzo region but he was reported to the police for scaremongering, it has emerged.

Mr Giuliani told locals to evacuate their houses and posted a video on YouTube in which he said a build-up of radon gas around the seismically active area suggested a major earthquake was imminent.

Several tremors had been felt in the medieval city of L'Aquila, around 60 miles east of Rome, from mid-January onwards, and vans with loudspeakers had driven around the city spreading the warning.

But instead of heeding Mr Giuliani's warnings, the local authorities reported him to police for "spreading alarm" and he was told to remove his findings from the internet.

The predicted earthquake hit L'Aquila at 3.32am local time today, killing at least 90 people and leaving up to 50,000 homeless.


Update: Strong quake kills 27 in Italy

earthquake Italy
© Associated Press/Pier Paolo CitoFirefighters remove debris in the city of L'Aquila, after a strong earthquake rocked central Italy, early Monday, April 6, 2009
A strong earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale has rocked central Italy, killing at least 27 people and causing severe damage.

The early Monday temblor was centered in the Abruzzo region's capital l'Aquila, about 95 Kilometers (60miles) northeast of the capital Rome at a depth of 10 kilometers, according to the US Geological Survey.

Among the dead are an elderly woman and a baby girl who were crushed in a building in the medieval town of Fossa and four other children who died in l'Aquila when their house collapsed, local media reports said.

Police also confirmed that five other people were killed in the small town of Castelnuovo.


Scottish fish farmers 'conducting secret seal slaughter'

© Unknown
Animal rights campaigners claim that a "secret slaughter" of seals was being carried out by fish farmers around the Scottish coast.

The Seal Protection Action Group said as many as 5,000 of the mammals were shot every year.

However, the industry claims the figure is nearer 500, and insists that seals have to be controlled to protect commercial stocks.

Bizarro Earth

Venezuela - Earthquake Magnitude 4.5


* Monday, April 06, 2009 at 00:26:45 UTC

* Sunday, April 05, 2009 at 08:26:45 PM at epicenter

Location 10.665°N, 69.472°W

Depth 38.8 km (24.1 miles)

Distances 70 km (45 miles) NNW of Barquisimeto, Venezuela

90 km (55 miles) SSE of Coro, Venezuela

280 km (170 miles) W of CARACAS, Venezuela

2010 km (1250 miles) SE of Miami, Florida

Bizarro Earth

6.3 magnitude earthquake hits central Italy northeast of Rome

An earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale rocked central Italy on Monday and was felt in the capital Rome, but there was no immediate word of any casualties.

Some residents in the city of l'Aquila, east of Rome in the mountainous Abruzzo region, ran out into the streets and there were reports of wide cracks in some homes.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the quake, which struck at about 3.35 a.m. (0135 GMT), was believed to be some 53 miles northeast of Rome. It initially put the scale of the quake at 6.7 but later lowered it 6.3.

Bizarro Earth

Virgin Islands Region: Earthquake Magnitude 4.5


* Sunday, April 05, 2009 at 17:37:57 UTC
* Sunday, April 05, 2009 at 01:37:57 PM at epicenter

Location 19.327°N, 65.104°W

30 km (18.6 miles)



* 106 km (66 miles) NW (309°) from Settlement, Anegada, British Virgin Islands

* 108 km (67 miles) NNW (337°) from Little Harbour, Jost van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

* 110 km (68 miles) N (351°) from CHARLOTTE AMALIE, US Virgin Islands

* 138 km (86 miles) NE (42°) from Carolina, PR

Bizarro Earth

Guatemala: Earthquake Magnitude 4.6


* Saturday, April 04, 2009 at 20:55:55 UTC

* Saturday, April 04, 2009 at 02:55:55 PM at epicenter

Location 14.382°N, 90.192°W

Depth 10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program

Distances 45 km (30 miles) SE of GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala

80 km (50 miles) WNW of Santa Ana, El Salvador

120 km (75 miles) S of Coban, Guatemala

1110 km (690 miles) ESE of MEXICO CITY, D.F., Mexico