Fire Earth

Earth is fighting to stay alive. Mass dieoffs, triggered by anthropogenic assault and fallout of planetary defense systems offsetting the impact, could begin anytime!

Archive for June, 2008

Lightning Safety Awareness Week: June 22-28

Posted by feww on June 29, 2008

Unable to speak to “He,”Bush declares emergency for fires in N. California


More than 8,000 lightning strikes and record-low rainfall led to an estimated 1088 fires which charred up to 400,000 acres in 30 counties throughout California. Image Credit: NOAA

California’s Last Chance: Do a U-Turn, or Turn to Desert!

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Image of the Day: Three men we admire most

Posted by feww on June 28, 2008

The Conciliary, the Prez and the unholy ghost

George W Bush: “He” no longer speaks to me!


He only knows, I have been trying to speak to Him about flooding and fire, but He is avoiding me!

U.S. President George W. Bush takes part in a briefing on Midwest flooding with Vice President Dick Cheney (L) and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, June 17, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES). Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

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Anyone For More Biofuels?

Posted by feww on June 28, 2008

The Future of Biofuels: Bleak!

As the 36th levee along the Mississippi River broke flooding another 1,500 hectares of agricultural land and about one hundred homes, the death toll in the Midwest storms and torrential rains topped 24 souls since early June. About 40,000 people were displaced from their homes mostly in Iowa where 83 of 99 counties were declared disaster areas.

Flooding has caused billions of dollars of crop damage destroying several million hectares of corn and soybeans and pushing corn and livestock prices to new record highs.


[A few damaged] Corn plants stand in a field that was flooded by overflowing waters of the Cedar River in Mount Vernon, Iowa June 16, 2008. More storms dumped crop-drowning rains on parts of the U.S. Midwest on Thursday [June 26], threatening strained levees and slowing recovery from a multibillion-dollar flood disaster in the heart of the world’s biggest grain and food exporter. REUTERS/Frank Polich. Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

“On Thursday, Chicago Board of Trade corn for July 2009 delivery set another record high at $8.22 a bushel, more than double the 40-year average for corn prices. Corn is the main feed for meat animals, main source for ethanol fuel, and used in hundreds of other food and industrial products.” Reuters reported.

Unsurprisingly, rising corn and soy prices in addition to other factors have reportedly forced up to fifteen U.S. biofuel plants out of business.

“Corn prices are making the feasibility of ethanol plants every day more and more questionable,” said Alex Moglia, president of Moglia Advisors in suburban Chicago, which helps biofuel companies restructure.
About 12 small to midsize biodiesel and ethanol plants have declared bankruptcy since early 2008 including Renova Energy LLC, a company with a partially built 20 million-gallons-per year ethanol plant in Idaho, which declared bankruptcy last week. Ethanex Energy Inc, another midsize company based in Kansas declared bankruptcy in March, said Moglia. “There will be more to follow.”

VeraSun one of the major players announce earlier that it will delay the opening of three ethanol plants with a total capacity of 330 million gpy (gallons per year) due to soaring corn costs. Poet energy, another major player, scrapped plans for a 70 million gpy Minnesota plant in May.

The outlook was not entirely bad, said Todd Alexander, a partner at Chadbourne & Park LLP in New York specializing in energy finance. Biofuel output from plants that survive the current high feedstock prices should continue to be in demand because the U.S. mandates that require the blending of biofuels into gasoline are set to rise in volume year after year.

Clearly, “the majority of ethanol plants are not as happy as they once were,” said Todd Alexander, a partner at Chadbourne & Park LLP in New York specializing in energy finance.

Despite the U.S. mandates that demand the blending of biofuels into gasoline, which are set to rise in volume year after year, the full effect of high corn prices will only be felt once the distilleries current contracts, agreed on at much lower prices, run out and new, skyrocketing prices take effect.

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What’s a Hydrokong?

Posted by feww on June 27, 2008

A Shrinking World Series

Is it a mega-tropical storm system, or an extra-tropical cyclone (ETC), i.e., a non-tropical, large-scale low pressure storm system like a Nor’easter?

“Hydrokong” is a colossal atmospheric phenomenon. It’s an extreme precipitation event which is enhanced by circulation changes that increase and concentrate the distribution of water vapor.


Hydrokong! The Storm System as it appeared over the central United States June 12, 2008 04:15 UTC. The still image is an aviation color enhancement of a satellite image.

Globally, as total precipitation increases, the duration or frequency of precipitation events decreases. However, warmer temperatures and regional variation can significantly affect those offsetting behaviors. For example, reduced total precipitation in one region, the Western United States, can significantly increase the intensity of precipitation in another region, the Midwest. Hydrokongs essentially create two extreme events, droughts in one region and flooding caused by mega-intense precipitation in another. As the global temperatures rise, more hydrokongs should be expected.


Another Hydrokong in the making? A new System as it appeared over the central United States June 27, 2008 04:15 UTC. The still image is an aviation color enhancement of a satellite image.


An aviation color enhancement of a floater [updated periodically] satellite image GEOS Eastern U.S. Imagery, NOAA SSD. For full size image right-click on the image and select “View Image.”

In the words of Brian Pierce, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, describing the aftermath of flooding last week: “We are seeing a historic hydrological event taking place with unprecedented river levels occurring.”

Are Extreme Precipitation Events Earth’s Natural Defense Mechanisms?

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Image of the Day: Typhoon Fengshen Over China

Posted by feww on June 26, 2008

Fengshen [Frank] downgraded to tropical storm hits southeast coast of China


Tropical Storm Fengshen is seen in this NOAA-17 image taken at 0210 UTC on June 25 after it made landfall at Shenzhen, Guangdong Province early this morning, bringing torrential rain and high winds. (Source: OSEI)

Photos of Fengshen impact on Hong Kong:

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Image of the Day: Heat Wave in Northern Europe

Posted by feww on June 25, 2008


On the calendar, Scandinavian summer starts on June 21 in 2008, but summer temperatures had already settled over much of northern Europe by early June. This image shows land surface temperatures—how hot the ground is to the touch, a measure that is different than the air temperatures reported in the news—as observed by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite between June 2 and June 8, 2008.

The image compares the average temperature between June 2 and June 8, 2008, to average temperatures recorded during the same period in June 2000 through 2007. Areas that were warmer than average are red, while cooler than average conditions are represented in blue.The heat that dominated the weather in northern Europe in early June is evident in the dark red that covers Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and parts of Germany and Poland. Southern Europe experienced cooler than average temperatures during the period.

The intense heat and dry weather led to dangerous fire conditions in Scandinavia. Both Norway and Sweden were plagued with several forest fires in early June. A fire that burned for several days in southern Norway was the largest in the country’s history, causing an estimated ten million dollars worth of damage, reported The Norway Post on June 17, 2008.

You can download a 9-kilometer-resolution KMZ file of global land surface temperature anomaly suitable for use with Google Earth.

NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using data obtained from the Goddard Land Processes data archives. Caption by Holli Riebeek.


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The Bad News: You Have Diabetes

Posted by feww on June 25, 2008

Nearly 24 Million in the United States Have Diabetes: CDC

The Good News: Don’t need to have both your legs amputated

Diabetes now affects nearly 24 million people in the United States, an increase of more than 3 million in approximately two years, according to new 2007 prevalence data estimates released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means that nearly 8 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes. [More precisely, about 13 percent of the adults in the ]

  • Number of people with diabetes: About 24 million, or 8% of the population
  • Cases of diagnosed diabetes: 18 million
  • Undiagnosed cases: 6 million
  • New cases diagnosed in adults in 2007: About 2 million
  • Younger than 20 with diabetes: About quarter of a million
  • Percent of population 60 years and older with diabetes in 2007: 25 percent.
  • Percent of all adults in the U-S with diabetes: 12.5 percent

The seventh leading cause of death in the U-S, diabetes is a disease associated with high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production that causes sugar to build up in the body. It can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations.

For more information on diabetes, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes. To access the National Diabetes Fact Sheet and county-level estimates of diagnosed diabetes, click on the “data and trends” link at the left.

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Elevated Risk of Leptospirosis Infection

Posted by feww on June 25, 2008

Before you opt for a kidney transplant, please ensure the kidney is obtained ethically!

See Original Entry:

Visitor Health Warning: Elevated Risk of Leptospirosis Infection in New Zealand

 

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Is 350 ppm Safe? Hell, NO!

Posted by feww on June 24, 2008

Folks, don’t be fooled by the hype: 350 ppmv NOT safe!

  1. There is a 30-year time lag between the release of CO2e greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and the cumulative impact of heat-trapping mechanism taking effect.
  2. The positive feedback system whose impacts we are now witnessing started when the atmospheric CO2 concentration rose above the 330 ppmv in the mid 1970s.
  3. Any concentration level above the 330 ppm is clearly unsafe. To stabilize at levels below 330 ppm, we must aim for much lower levels of about 260-270 ppm.


Average air bubble CO2 concentration versus age in three ice cores taken close to the summit of Law Dome at 67�S, 113�E, around 1390 m elevation. Law Dome is near the Australian Antarctic station Casey. (Source)

Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The red curve shows the average monthly concentrations; blue curve is a moving 12 month average. GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 only as published by the Free Software Foundation. [Credit User Superm401via Wikimedia]

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Image of the Day: Blood, Tears and CO2e

Posted by feww on June 23, 2008

‘Economy’ Throttles Ecology!

Look Ma, No Hands!


A Chinese national flag flutters outside a coking plant in Changzhi, Shanxi province May 29, 2008. Origin unknown. Source: Reuters. Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

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Air Quality in Beijing 2008

Posted by terres on June 23, 2008

News of air quality in Beijing aren’t good

But hey, who cares? The athletes would probably be pumped with so much exotic performance enhancers they wouldn’t feel a thing.

As for the foreign visitors, they’ve got to be wealthy enough to travel to China and stay there for a week or two, right? And if you are wealthy, the discourse goes, you would know what’s good for you!


Air pollution can be seen down the main road of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square June 18, 2008 as paramilitary policemen march across it as part of the flag lowering ceremony at sunset. Australian Olympic officials have defended their decision to ban dozens of athletes from marching at the opening ceremony in Beijing because of concerns about pollution in the Chinese capital. Although it is not unusual for Australian athletes competing in the first few days to skip the ceremony to save their energy, Athletics Australia has ordered the entire team to stay away from Beijing for as long as possible because of concerns about air quality. REUTERS/David Gray (CHINA). Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

What others say about the air quality, Beijing 2008:

Smoggy smoggy smoggy, oi oi oi

China has even changed the way it measures Beijing air quality so that the results appear better than they really are, report The New York Times and Beijing air-quality blogger pyongyangsquare.com. What could be more thoughtful than that when it comes to putting your guests at ease? …

“We have had athletes come back from a recent test event and one athlete has got 10 days off training because of a respiratory problem,” Athletics Australia’s high performance manager Max Binnington told ABC radio. “We don’t want our athletes to be undertaking that sort of risk.” …

They needn’t worry about making excuses. All Australian attempts to avoid upsetting the hosts will be forgotten once the Americans turn up looking like Darth Vader.

Randy Wilber, the lead exercise physiologist for the US Olympic Committee, has urged American athletes to wear specially designed carbon filtration masks over their nose and mouth from the minute they set foot in Beijing until they begin competing …

Pollution cloud over the Olympics

With 47 days to go to the Olympics China has admitted pollution fears remain high and endurance events may have to be re-scheduled.

China insists Beijing’s air quality will meet World Health Organisation standards in August [Olympics from Aug. 8-24 and the Paralympics from Sept. 6-17.] It is limiting car traffic during the event, suspending construction work and closing and moving factories away from the city.

But it is one of the most polluted cities in the world and, with 3.5 million vehicles on the road, it’s among the most congested.

Beijing Announces Traffic Plan for Olympics

Beijing has 27 air-quality monitoring stations, but some observers have questioned whether the stations, many of which are in rural and mountainous areas in the city’s suburbs, accurately reflect the quality of air in the crowded urban center of the city where most people live — and where most Olympic events will take place. In recent days, one reporter at the news conference remarked, the hazy air has seemed polluted, though the environmental agency’s daily figures say the pollution level has been low.

Blood over Beijing

The Beijing Olympics will not be the world’s least controversial. China is under fire by human rights activists, the Olympic Torch relay has become a focal point for protests, while athletes from some nations have signed gag orders to stop them commenting on anything but sport. So much for sport and politics says Jacqui Lund. …

People and pollution ? two commodities China has in abundance. Both are badly managed, both are currently in the international eye. “This will be the People’s Olympics,” China promised when they were awarded the Olympic Games. “We will make the preparations for the Olympic Games a process of substantially improving the people’s living standards, both materially and culturally,” they claimed.

China budgeted around $37bn on the Olympics in Beijing. Their state-of-the-art Olympic facilities, the ‘Bird?s Nest’ National Stadium and the ‘Water Cube’ Aquatics Centre are structural wonders to behold.

Lurking in the shadows are China’s 40 million people living below the poverty line with no national healthcare system. No-one has been able to say how the Water Cube will feed and medicate the millions.

According to the China Rights Forum, the number of people displaced by Olympics-related development in Beijing is over 1.4 million.

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A Few Extreme Events Away

Posted by feww on June 22, 2008

Our world is a few extreme events away from total catastrophe

India

Widespread flooding caused by extreme monsoon rains has claimed about 100 lives in east and northeast India and left up to a million people homeless. As many as five million people are affected.

Philippines

As Typhoon Fengshen with gusts of of about 200kph lashed across the Philippines, flash floods and landslides killed about 155 people in south of the country. Dozens of people drowned, some of them buried alive after a landslide at a municipal garbage dump.

Meanwhile a 24,000-ton passenger and cargo ferry capsized off central Sibuyan island, with 626 passengers and 121 crew. Only 4 bodies have so far been found.

Guatemala

Large landslides caused by torrential rains have killed up to 10 people and injured others scavenging at a garbage dump near the Guatemalan capital.

California

An “unprecedented” lightening storm sparked about 840 fires in Northern Calif destroying dozens of homes and forcing thousands of residents to flee the area. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered the Calif National Guard to assist the firefighters.

Mars

Meanwhile, as climate change melts the arctic ice mush faster than most scientist had anticipated, NASA reported that the Phoenix Lander has discovered ice on the surface of Mars, near its arctic circle [where else !] The discovery of ice/water on Mars is a key step in establishing whether life has ever existed on the red planet.

It really makes a whole lot of sense worrying about life on Mars as life becomes extinct on Earth! Right?

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Mississippi Levees Breached in 23 Places

Posted by feww on June 20, 2008

A Shrinking World Series

‘We are seeing a historic hydrological event taking place with unprecedented river levels occurring.’ —Brian Pierce, meteorologist, National Weather Service.

Mississippi river surges over at least 23 levees and another 30 barriers are at risk, as the Midwest floods move south.

In 1993, devastating floods, sweeping down Missouri and Mississippi rivers, surged levees and destroyed communities from St. Louis to northern Louisiana.


Mississippi River floodwaters engulf a farm about 15 miles north Quincy, Ill. after the south portion of the Indian Graves levee breached. (Tribune photo by Michael Tercha / June 18, 2008). Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

Midwest Flood Victims Feel Misled by Feds

“They all told us, `The levees are good. You can go ahead and build,”‘ said Parks, who did not buy flood coverage because her bank no longer required it. “We had so much confidence in those levees.”

“People put all their hopes in those levees, and when they do fail, the damage is catastrophic,” said Paul Osman, the National Flood Insurance Program coordinator for Illinois. “New Orleans is the epitome; a lot of those people didn’t even realize they were in a floodplain until the water was up to their roofs.”

“We reported to the president in ’94 that the levee system was in disarray, the levees were not high enough to take care of any potential problem. People didn’t understand their flood risk and there wasn’t good co-ordination across federal, state and local governments,” said Gerald Galloway, a professor of engineering and flood control expert.

“The same thing applies today,” Galloway said. “It’s amazing that in the face of [Hurricane] Katrina and now this particular challenge that we continue to relearn the same lessons.”

Galloway’s recommendations to improve the levee system were basically ignored. He said that he’s experiencing much the same response now from officials as in 1993.

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Image of the Day: Drought in Egypt

Posted by feww on June 20, 2008

What Happened to my Rice?


An Egyptian rice farmer shows his drought damaged rice crop and cracks in the rice terrace soil caused by more than 30 days of no rain in a village near Balqis, 260 km northeast of Cairo. EGYPT: June 17, 2008. Reuters. Photo by NASSER NURI. Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

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China “Frankenstein”

Posted by feww on June 18, 2008

Nature Angry About Beijing Olympics?

China competes with Venice


Residents row boats along a flooded street in the township of Yuecheng in Deqing county, west of Guangdong Province, June 18, 2008. REUTERS/Aly Song. Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

Here’s what the China “Frankenstein” looks like:

Hundreds of troops, police and rescue workers are shoring up dams which might burst under torrential rain that has already flooded an area of about 24,000 square kilometers, including homes, businesses and farmlands.

The damage:

  • Floods have killed about 180 people so far in Guangdong
  • Another 60 people are missing
  • More rain is expected in the annual flood season
  • Six reservoirs are in “danger of bursting” in southern Guangxi region
  • About 1.7 million people have been evacuated in nine southern provinces since the start of the flood season earlier this month.
  • Floodwater has collapsed about 150,000 homes,
  • About 2.4 million hectares (~ 6 million acres) of crops have been damaged or destroyed
  • The mounting economic losses already exceed $4 billion

All of this comes in addition to the soaring food prices the have already plagued China, record snowstorms last winter and, of course, the Sichuan earthquake which killed about 70,000 people and left five million homeless. Serious danger of epidemics in the soaring summer temperatures looms.

Droughts, floods and other human-enhanced disasters throughout China are nothing new, of course, but their frequency and intensity this year are alarming experts.

The biggest disaster yet to strike China in 2008 may prove to be a major drought causing water shortages throughout the country later in the summer.

It’s as if nature is mad at China: Drop the Olympics, or have your annual quota of H2O now!

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350 or 450ppm? Neither, Actually!

Posted by feww on June 18, 2008

Submitted by Dione, CASF Member

What would the future be like for my daughter?

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about science books
Don’t know much about the French I took
But I do know that I love her

What a wonderful world this would be

Don’t know much about geography
Don’t know much trigonometry
Don’t know much about algebra
Don’t know what a slide rule is for
But I know that one and one is two

What a wonderful world this would be

[From a Herman’s Hermits song, Wonderful World, lyrics by Cooke/Alpert/Adler. Lyrics may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!]

Creating A Sustainable Future (CASF) received an emotional email from a young mother, “Kay,” who wishes to remain anonymous. Kay has a 6-year-old daughter and lives with her family in NW United States. Kay says she is not high on science, “in all probability the Herman’s Hermits famous song, ‘don’t know much about history, biology, science books, geography, trigonometry, algebra, and slide rule’ was written about me!”

She says her knowledge of climatology is even poorer than her French(!) “But I do know that I love my daughter and husband and ‘what a wonderful world this would be’ if we could rein in the greenhouse gases, and reverse the global warming.”

“I have read a number of articles about CO2 pollution in the atmosphere including a few written by the famed NASA scientist, Dr J. Hansen … but he is a government scientist …”

She wants to know the safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere and asks which of the 350, 450, or higher levels of CO2 pollution would be a “safe” level, and whether our reply could be put simply so that a “layperson” could understand the answer.

Hi, Kay – thanks for visiting our blog and email!

The CASF members believe even the lower atmospheric CO2 levels of 350ppm CO2 are unsafe! Here are the reasons why. Our findings put as simply as we could:

  1. Our climate models show that when the atmospheric CO2 levels leaped over the 330ppmv “threshold” in the mid 1970s it triggered a positive feedback loop, which is now impacting the climate. [The atmospheric CO2 inventory has risen by about 17 percent since then.]
  2. The “acid test,” if you’ll excuse the pun, of the accuracy of our models lies in the future, namely how much worse the environmental impacts will be in the 2008-2010 period. If the impacts of CO2 pollution worsened significantly, by a factor of 20% or more, by 2010 (we have a system for quantifying the adverse effects, see Index of Human Impact on Nature for an introduction), as we expect them to do so, then we know our models are accurate.
  3. The catch? By 2010 it would be too late to do anything to slow down the runaway positive feedback system [other than say a prayer for the dead!]
  4. While the preindustrial levels of 260-270ppm were [and they probably still would be ] “safe,” the longer term environmental impacts of CO2 at levels of about 290-300ppm, even if those levels were achievable [assume some miraculous means were introduced to wipe the slate clean,] in the current climatic state are uncertain!
  5. Based on the above, we recommend an immediate shift to zero-emissions, the benefits of which, although by no means immediate, would far outweigh the ultimate cost of playing Russian roulette with climate change.

We hope the above helps. Feel free to visit us anytime!

Best wishes
Dione, FEWW Moderators and rest of CASF Team

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dione

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Mt. Kurikoma Coughs, Still Comatose!

Posted by feww on June 18, 2008

The Year of Volcanoes, Too?

Steam, hot volcanic plumes rise near Mt. Kurikoma

Japan’s Self-Defense Forces personnel observed Monday hot volcanic plumes about seven kilometers southwest of the summit of Mt. Kurikoma, a 1,627-meter-high volcano located on the border of Miyagi, Iwate and Akita prefectures, Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

Aerial observation from a helicopter showed plumes rising from several spots near both Hanayama in Kurihara, and Yu no Hama hot-spring spa.

Sadato Ueki of Tohoku University’s Research Center for the Prediction of Earthquakes and Volcanic Eruptions said the plumes might be volcanic gases rising to the surface, or steam coming from underground hot water channels whose course was diverted by the powerful Mw 6.8 quake Saturday. The Iwate quake struck about 22km NW of the Mt. Kurikoma summit.

“There’s a possibility that volcanic gases that had been confined below ground are gushing out through fissures in the mountain created by the earthquake,” he said. However, he ruled out increased volcanic activity on Mt. Kurikoma, because the plumes were very far from the volcano’s summit.

Kurikoma volcano last erupted in 1950.

MT. KURIKOMA is a dormant stratovolcano stretching across three prefectures (states) of Miyagi, Iwate and Akita, standing high at an altitude of 1,627.7m.


Kurikoma volcano seen from the SSE with its summit at the right-center, the satellitic cone of Daichimori on the left, and Higashi-Kurikoma on the right. On the opposite side of the volcano, the summit is cut by a 4-km-wide caldera breached to the north that is partially filled by the Tsurugi-dake central cone, once mined for sulfur. (Caption: Source) Image Copyright: Shingo Takeuchi (Japanese Quaternary Volcanoes database, RIODB, http://www.aist.go.jp/RIODB/strata/VOL_JP/index.htm). See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

Coordinates: 38° 57′ 0″ N, 140° 46′ 48″ E
Decimal: 38.95°, 140.78°

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Outbreak of Dangerous Group A Streptococcus Bacterium in NZ

Posted by feww on June 17, 2008

[New Zealand Death Syndrome (NZDS), Health Bulletin # 12. Outbreak of Dangerous Group A Streptococcus Bacterium, June 17, 2008]

Urgent Visitor Health Warning: Keep Your Kids OUT of New Zealand!

Health workers revealed an outbreak of group A streptococcus bacterium, which causes rheumatic fever and can lead arthritis and heart damage, had infected at least 32 children in Kaikohe, New Zealand.

Original Entry Blocked by Google:

Urgent Health Warning: Outbreak of Dangerous Group A Streptococcus Bacterium


Photomicrograph of Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria, 675x Mag. A pus specimen, viewed using Pappenheim’s stain. Last century, infections by S. pyogenes claimed many lives especially since the organism was the most important cause of puerperal fever and scarlet fever. This media comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #2110.

News Links:

Previous Visitor Health Warnings for New Zealand:

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Google Censorship Violates the US Constitution and International Law

Posted by feww on June 16, 2008

The Human Rights of an Octogenarian Chinese Woman

Google has effectively blocked the following posts from its search engines:

Brave New Zealanders Bash Octogenarian Chinese Woman to Death and

New Zealand Racist Storm Worse Than China Quake at

New Zealand: Plumbing the Depth of Depravity

Google Censorship is a Flagrant Violation of Our Freedom of Speech!

Freedom of speech is being able to speak freely without censorship. The United States Constitution protects opinions under inalienable 1st Amendment free speech rights.

The right to freedom of speech is also guaranteed under international law through numerous human-rights instruments, notably under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

How much longer is Google allowed to continue its censorship in violation of the United States Constitution and the international law?

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Image of the Day: Southern Spain

Posted by feww on June 15, 2008

Desertification of Southern Spain


The land of southern Spain has dried, leading to rationing and disputes over water. Photo: Monica Gumm for The International Herald Tribune. Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

The average surface temperature in Spain has risen 2.7 degrees compared with about 1.4 degrees globally since 1880, records show. (Source)

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Powerful Earthquake Strikes Honshu, Japan

Posted by feww on June 14, 2008

Japan Quake Update [June 18, 2008]

  • Death toll: At least 10 people
  • Missing: 12 people
  • Injured: About 250 people
  • Evacuees: About 300 people spent Saturday night in evacuation centers

Recent quake history:

  • October 2004. A magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck Niigata prefecture in northern Japan, killing 65 people and injuring about 3,500 others.
  • January 1995. A Mw 6.8 [the Moment magnitude scale, USGS,] struck the city of Kobe in 1995, killing 6,434 people, many were injured and up to 500,000 people lost their homes.
  • September 1923. The worst earthquake in Japan, the Great Kantō earthquake, estimated to have had a magnitude between 7.9 and 8.4, claimed up to 142,000 lives. The biggest cause of death was the fires which spread rapidly due to high winds from a typhoon. In the worst single incident, up to 40,000 people who had fled their homes and businesses gathering in an Army Parade Ground in central Tokyo were incinerated by a firestorm. Tokyo, the port of Yokohama, neighboring prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa, and Shizuoka were devastated by the quake. the quake caused the equivalent of about $200 billion in damage, more than 2.5% of Japan’s GDP that year.

6.8Mw Quake Occurred Near Akita, Japan

A Magnitude 6.8 Earthquake struck Japan’s Iwate prefecture, east of the main island of Honshu Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 08:43:46 AM local time. At least six people have been killed with 8 others missing and more than 200 injured.

The mainshock was followed by a cluster of aftershocks including at least 12 strong aftershocks measuring between 4.5 to 5.5Mw as of 07:11:57 PM (time at epicenter.)


A highway bridge lies in ruins in Ichinoseki city, Iwate Prefecture, June 14, 2008. A powerful earthquake rocked rural northern Japan on Saturday sparking huge landslides that blocked roads and isolated residents. REUTERS/KYODO.
Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

The following details were reported by USGS:

  • Magnitude: 6.8
  • Date-Time: Friday, June 13, 2008 at 23:43:46 UTC
    Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 08:43:46 AM at epicenter
  • Location: 39.103°N, 140.668°E
  • Depth: 10 km
  • Region: EASTERN HONSHU, JAPAN
  • Distances: 80 km SSW of Morioka, Honshu, Japan
    85 km SE of Akita, Honshu, Japan
    95 km N of Sendai, Honshu, Japan
    390 km NNE of TOKYO, Japan


Image: USGS


Map of Japan. Source: USGS

The local news sources in Japan have reported the quake as 7.2 magnitude [presumably using the old, or the revised JMA magnitude scale.]

Tectonic Summary
The Mw 6.8 Honshu earthquake of June 13th 2008 occurred in a region of convergence between the Pacific Plate and the Okhotsk section of the North American Plate in northern Japan, where the Pacific plate is moving west-northwest with respect to North America at a rate of approximately 8.3 cm/yr. The hypocenter of the earthquake indicates shallow thrusting motion in the upper (Okhotsk) plate, above the subducting Pacific plate, which lies at approximately 80 km depth at this location.

The earthquake occurred in a region of upper-plate contraction, probably within the complicated tectonics of the Ou Backbone Range, known to have hosted several large earthquakes in historic times. The largest of these events occurred in 1896, approximately 70km north of the June 13th event, and killed over 200 people in the local area. [Source: USGS]

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Environmental Disasters: Too Close for Comfort?

Posted by feww on June 14, 2008

submitted by a reader

“You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

Beginning to feel that the environmental disasters are getting up close and personal?

One minute you are in your comfortable home near Paradise, north of Sacramento, the next minute you are being consoled by the firefighters as you stand in the front garden watching your home turn into blackened cinder. They apologize for failing to help you, but it wasn’t their fault. They ran out of water!

Wondering why?


Butte Valley fire, Humboldt, Thursday night. Image: Jason Halley / Chico Enterprise-Record. Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

Into the SUV with what little you could snatch away from the mouth of the fire heading east to Iowa to stay with Aunt Molly. On interstate 29 a twister is about to touch down. Whoosh! You swerve out of the way just in time.


Parkersburg Tornado.
Photo AP. Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

Aunt Molly’s house in Cedar Rapids wasn’t so lucky. It didn’t have wheels to drive away and avoid the floodwater; it is completely deluged.


An aerial photo shows a flooded area of downtown looking North over Cedar Rapids, Iowa June 13, 2008. Interstate I-380 can be seen at top while Mays Island, with Cedar Rapids City Hall, is seen on the left with its bridges under water. Floodwaters have inundated about 100 city blocks of Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second-largest city with 200,000 residents. REUTERS/Ron Mayland. Photo AP. Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

Five hours and a dozen phonecalls later, you are finally heading to the calm of Wisconsin to stay with Cousin Thelma and her family. Turn the radio on. Homes on Lake Delton in central Wisconsin have been ripped apart by deadly storm and washed away by floodwaters. Chilly gooseflesh grow on your forearms. Something tingles deep inside your gut, that uncomfortable feeling something is wrong. And you are right! Well, It’s Friday the 13th, you hear yourself murmuring.


Lake Delton is a popular tourist spot south of the Wisconsin Dells. Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

Distant Cousin Joe and his family are in deep mourning in Loveland. Two of their kids with four of their classmates and a teacher didn’t make it back from a fishing trip. And his 5,000 acre cornfield is submerged in floodwater …


Corn crop submerged in floodwaters near Loveland, Iowa, June 12, 2008.
REUTERS/Dave Kaup. Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

Back to Iowa to stay with an old classmate who lives in Marshal Town, Iowa, and who invited you to visit her last summer. A rain check is as good as … a rain check! Finally you arrive in Marshal Town. But the whole town has been evacuated and the power plants have been shut down!

Well, at least you have the good old, reliable SUV, and it’s not as if the world is running out of corn to make ethanol for you!

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Bering Sea Drilling Revisited!

Posted by feww on June 13, 2008

Update: Bush to urge lifting of ban on offshore drilling
“With gasoline now over $4 a gallon, tomorrow he will explicitly call on Congress to also pass legislation lifting the congressional ban on safe, environmentally friendly offshore oil drilling,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said on Tuesday.

Offshore Drilling

The following post is a reply to Dan Daniels who recently visited this blog and left a comment at Bering Sea Drilling .

Dan Daniels wrote:

I was the District Manager for Sedco Forex responsible for exp[l]oration activities on the West Coast of the US including the Bering Sea. I had two semi-submersible drilling vessels working in the Bering Sea when environmental concerns required us to cease drilling activities.

In the 8 plus years we, as a company, operated in this area we NEVER had an environmental issue (not so much as a st[y]rofoam cup going over the side) – this with daily high scrutiny from the Department of the Interior. I even received an award on behalf of our company for this accomplishment.

I believe strongly that with proper controls, commitment from management, training and overview offshore drilling can be accomplished without detriment to the environment. The issue lies almost exclusively with shipping the product, not developing the field. We should make every effort to carry out the require exploration and focus our efforts on improving the transportation aspects of moving the petroleum products


An offshore Oil/Gas platform.

Mr Daniels,

We [the FEWW moderators] believe the problems are much more extensive than you have stated. The areas of greatest concern are

  1. Impacts of excessive energy consumption.
  2. Climate Change.
  3. Other impacts of excessive CO2 and other GHG pollution created by the consumption of fossil fuels, e.g., oceans acidification.
  4. Marine pollution, habitat destruction and other damage caused by offshore oil and gas drilling including
  • Exploration
  • Production
  • Transportation
  • Storage
  • Delivery

The specific items of concern include:

  • Flaring and venting
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • Decommissioning of oil and gas installations
  • oil storage tank disposal
  • Pollution created by drill cuttings
  • Produced waters, muds and fluids
  • Subsidence
  • Spills
  • piping
  • Environmental impact of products
  • Health impact of processes in products
  • Spoilage of sensitive ecological areas and habitat destruction
  • Waste disposal
  • Health impact of processes in products
  • Impact on Marine Mammals and other life forms
  • Human Health Impact
  • Climate Change
  • Release of benzene, methanol, sulfur and other harmful chemicals to the environment
  • Discharge of ballast waters
  • Release of tank cleaning water
  • Impact on ecosystems

The following excerpts are from Sense and Nonsense:The Environmental Impacts of Exploration on Marine Organisms Offshore Cape Breton, by David Lincoln.

Sense and Nonsense

The environmental impacts of the Oil and Gas Industry’s exploration operations are pervasive. No country or province which has been exposed to a prolonged history of offshore hydrocarbon exploration has been left untouched by the inevitable accidents and unforeseen consequences of the petroleum industry.

The fishing industry is usually the first sector to be impacted by these exploration activities. This normally occurs when fishermen are told to remove their boats and gear from an area so that a seismic vessel can begin generating noises.

By far the loudest noises generated by the offshore petroleum industry are those produced by seismic survey equipment. This equipment is designed to create very loud noises, the echoes of which reflect off geological strata deep within the seabed and are used to locate likely places for drilling wells. The sounds were at one time made by explosives, which could kill fish at a range of some hundreds of meters, but the almost universal seismic equipment now used offshore is an array of “airguns”.

Seismic Effects on Fish and Marine Mammals

Experiments on the effects of seismic shooting on abundance and catch of cod and haddock were conducted in the Barents Sea. The Norwegian studies looked at the effects of an airgun using a combination of scientific-survey and commercial fishing techniques. The fish survey work extended across a circle 40 nautical miles in diameter (a maximum range of some 33 km from the airgun survey area) and continued until five days after the seismic work was completed..”

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, information has begun to flow out about the Russian experience with decades of exploration activity in the Caspian and Barents Seas. These reports differ markedly from the rather subdued observations in Western Bloc countries. Dr Stanislav Patin in his 1999 book entitled “Environmental Impacts of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry” recalls a catastrophic ecological situation in the Caspian Sea in the 1960’s. “I was a member of the Special Government Committee on this issue and witnessed firsthand the dramatic ecological consequences of the explosive use, including mass mortality of Caspian sturgeons (up to 200,000 large specimens).”

Exploration Drilling

Despite industry claims, the companies do not yet know for certain which type of hydrocarbon (oil, gas, condensate or a combination of these fluids. will be encountered). Vintage seismic data from the 1980’s cannot accurately distinguish between oil and gas and geochemistry, if available, is often difficult to interpret. Before drilling, the companies will conduct a hazard survey primarily to reduce the chances of encountering shallow gas which could be disastrous.

Shallow seismic surveys of the upper few hundred meters of the seabed are often carried out to determine the structure of the sediments and scan for potential hazards to drilling (e.g., shallow gas pockets). These hazards will be described in greater detail in the section on shallow gas blowouts.

The Drilling Phase

Under normal circumstances, the predominant discharges during drilling, would be the “cuttings”; small chips of rock cut by the drill in forming the well, and the “muds” used in the drilling process to cool and lubricate the drill, carry the cuttings out of the hole and counter-balance the pressure of gas, when that is reached. These discharges, their fates and their environmental effects have been the most intensively studied (and argued) aspect of the offshore petroleum industry’s environmental effect.

Mud and Cuttings Discharges: Water Based Muds (WBMs)

Besides their intended constituents, drill muds, both Water Based Muds (WBMs) and Oil Based Muds (OBMs), often contain high levels of heavy metal contamination. WBMs, despite their water base, also often contain appreciable amounts of oil: under some circumstances, it is necessary to add a “pill” of oil to the circulating WBM and this is usually left in the mud, gradually being dispersed through it and ultimately discharged
with it.

The overall quantities of WBM discharged can be high. While the water naturally disperses into the ocean, the other constituents represent substantial contamination. The eight exploratory wells drilled with WBM on Georges Bank in 1981-2, for example, resulted in some 4000 tons of barite and 1500 tons of bentonite clay being discharged.

Mud and Cuttings Discharges: Water Based Muds (WBMs)

Besides their intended constituents, drill muds, both Water Based Muds (WBMs) and Oil Based Muds (OBMs), often contain high levels of heavy metal contamination. WBMs, despite their water base, also often contain appreciable amounts of oil: under some circumstances, it is necessary to add a “pill” of oil to the circulating WBM and this is usually left in the mud, gradually being dispersed through it and ultimately discharged with it.

The overall quantities of WBM discharged can be high. While the water naturally disperses into the ocean, the other constituents represent substantial contamination. The eight exploratory wells drilled with WBM on Georges Bank in 1981-2, for example, resulted in some 4000 tons of barite and 1500 tons of bentonite clay being discharged.

Water-Based Mud

The composition of drilling mud may be changed often during drilling in response to conditions encountered. In practice, this usually means that mud weight is gradually increased by adding barite and other chemicals to control the natural pressure increase with depth. When this happens suddenly, the mud is dumped in bulk and a new batch is mixed (often with heavier properties in anticipation of increased pressure). Analysis of the drilling waste scenario data (volume density and weight) could yield a likely
composition. It is indeed strange that adult scallops are highly sensitive to barite but show relatively low sensitivity to used water based mud cuttings.

Furthermore, dozens of organisms have already been subjected to varying compositions of drilling mud and the toxicity results are known and well reported. Of 415 acute lethal bioassays lasting 48-144 hrs with 68 drilling muds involving 70 species, 8% showed 50% mortality (LC50) below 10,000 ppm.

Ecosystem Impacts

“There is concern that the routine discharge of wastes during drilling for oil and gas could impact valuable fishery resources. Recent studies have indicated that intensive drilling efforts in the North Sea have caused detrimental effects in adult and larval fish and benthic invertebrates at greater distances from drilling platforms than previously envisaged”.

Abundance of benthic organisms near one N.J. rig site plunged from 8011 animals /sqm before drilling to 1729 animals /sq m. during drilling. One year after drilling was completed, the number had risen to only 2638 animals /sq m. Diversity was also impacted from 70 to 38 species /0.02 sq m rebounding only to 53 species /0.02 sq m one year afterwards.

Discharges and Shellfish

Laboratory experiments have shown barium uptake, from WBM-contaminated sediments and foods, by both flounder and lobster juveniles but there does not seem to be any evidence for its biomagnification up the food chain. In the experimental setting, the contaminants suppressed growth of both species and enhanced lobster mortality but this was with concentrations of 9 g barium per kilogram of sediment and a 98 or 99-day …

Certainly, its finer grain size should ensure that it is at least as mobile as the barite and probably more so. Recent research has shown that scallops are peculiarly susceptible to barite and bentonite, prolonged exposure to even concentrations as low as 10 mgl-1 (less than 10 ppm) being fatal, while levels as low as 2 mgl-1 can affect scallop growth.

“As mush as 90% of the discharged solids settle directly to the bottom. (Brandsma 1980). The remaining 10% including clay-sized particles and soluble materials is diluted by the current and dispersed over large areas8. ” Furthermore “during the entire [one well] scenario a total of 468 MT of drilling mud and 2569 MT of cuttings are released to the marine environment.

Now that it has been shown that drilling eight wells spread detectable levels of barite over much of Georges Bank, the COPAN drilling near Sable Island spread flocculant material some kilometers from the source, Norwegian oil production has affected benthic communities over some 100 sq km around major platforms and that background sediment hydrocarbon levels seem to be rising in the United Kingdom sector of the North Sea, the relevance of such impacts can no longer be ignored.

Shallow Gas Blowouts

One of the greatest risks to the environment during the exploration phase is a shallow gas blowout. This is particularly true if the flow is associated with a condensate discharge which frequently occurs. […] Once flow has started, it is almost inevitable that a blowout will occur.

“Cratering occurs when flow outside the casing displaces large volumes of surface sediment. The eruptive force of blowouts can be dramatic and has been documented as lifting large boulders weighing several hundred pounds into the air and dropping them as much as 150 ft from the well site.

“Records show that if a shallow gas blowout does not bridge within the first one to two days, then the well will probably continue to blow for an extended period of time, i.e., weeks or months. Some have continued for years.”

Adams includes a chart condensed from a database of 950 shallow gas blowouts. Of the 56 rigs listed more than half suffered extensive damage or the total loss of the rig.

The truth is that the biological impacts of gas and condensate spills have been poorly studied until recently. Even the Uniacke gas blowout which released condensate in 1984 was not evaluated for biological impacts. Gas blowouts such as occurred in India in 1999 are poorly reported and not studied in detail. It is ludicrous for the industry to argue that gas wells have little impact on the ecosystem when they have not looked carefully at the marine organisms effected and no long-term studies on productivity or reproductive success following exposure are known to exist.

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List of references cited for Sense and Nonsense:The Environmental Impacts of Exploration on Marine Organisms Offshore Cape Breton, by David Lincoln, is available at the URL: http://www.sierraclub.ca/national/oil-and-gas-exploration/sense-and-nonsense.pdf

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Schwarzenegger Proclaims Water Emergency in Nine Counties

Posted by feww on June 13, 2008

A Shrinking World Series

Could California Turn to Desert by 2011?

Water, water, my bloody kingdom for a drop of water. ~ King Conan

Water Emergency in Calif

As most of the croplands in the Central U.S. is submerged under floodwater, the heart of California’s farming area is feeling the heat. Gov. Schwarzenegger who proclaimed last week a drought in California, declared yesterday a state of emergency in nine counties in Central Valley.

“Just last week, I said we would announce regional emergencies wherever the state’s drought situation warrants them, and in the Central Valley an emergency proclamation is necessary to protect our economy and way of life,” Mr Schwarzenegger said.

“Central Valley agriculture is a $20 billion a year industry. If we don’t get them water immediately the results will be devastating,” he added. “Food prices, which are already stretching many family budgets, will continue to climb and workers will lose their jobs—everyone’s livelihood will be impacted in some way.”

“His declaration covers Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties and directs California’s Department of Water Resources to work with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to deliver more water through the State Water Project to where it is most needed.” Reuters reported.

Conservation Action:

  • Water rationing is imposed in Long Beach, Roseville and the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which serves 1.3 million people in the San Francisco Bay area.
  • Water agencies serving about 18 million people throughout Calif have declared a water supply alerts.
  • Officials are planning for reduced water use through this year because lower water supplies are anticipated next year.
  • Schwarzenegger is asking lawmakers to back a “comprehensive solution” to expanding water and says he needs $11.9 billion bond to finance water projects. (Source)


Coyote Dry Lake, Mojave Desert. Image: Jeff T. Alu via Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation.

Coyote Dry Lake is a dry lake bed in the Mojave Desert located about 24 km northeast of Barstow, and north of Interstate 15 in southern California. The lake measures about 10 km long and about 6 km wide at its widest section.

California’s Last Chance: Do a U-Turn, or Turn to Desert!

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Tornado Kills 4 Scouts

Posted by feww on June 12, 2008

A Shrinking World Series

Deadly twister kills 4, injures 48

A deadly twister, one of about 30 that hovered over four U.S. Midwestern states Wednesday, hit the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in western Iowa , where dozens of scouts were gathered for a “Pohuk Pride” training, killing four people and injuring about 40 others.

“We still have a threat of tornadoes, along with large hail and damaging wind gusts,” said a Storm Prediction Center meteorologist.

GOES Eastern U.S. Imagery Showing the Storm System Over the Central United States


An aviation color enhancement of a floater satellite image [this image is updated periodically.] GEOS Eastern U.S. Imagery, NOAA SSD.


The Storm System as it appeared over the central United States June 12, 2008 04:15 UTC. The still image is an aviation color enhancement of a satellite image.

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