Heat in Beijing

Beijing is currently experiencing higher than average temperatures, with record breaking heat expected tomorrow. Reporters on the ground say the weather feels more like summer than spring, and the 90 degree F weather they saw today is usually not seen until August. Luckily, humidity is low so the heat index will not get too high. Residents are advised to drink plenty of water and reduce time outdoors.

Read the article here.

Virginia Beach Tornado

An EF-2 tornado touched down in Virginia Beach for roughly 8 miles on Saturday, March 31. At least 12 homes are condemned and 32 people are displaced. I was in Virginia Beach this weekend visiting some friends and family (who were not affected by it) and they mentioned it and knew of people who had been affected by it. More than 200 homes total were damaged in some way by the storm. It is believed that 3 tornadoes total touched down in the area, but the one that did the most damage was the EF2. The others were both EF1 and mainly damaged or knocked down trees.

This is one of those situations where a natural hazard hits an area where it is not nearly as common as it is in other parts of the country. Tornadoes are known to hit the midwest United States, but rarely occur on the coasts. Most of the people in Virginia Beach probably have never even thought of a tornado as being a threat to their way of life. There are probably plenty of people who are aware of any and all hazards, but generally people in Virginia only think of maybe an EF0-1 tornado. This EF-2 tornado is relatively intense for what Virginians can be more prepared for.

Article: http://wtvr.com/2017/04/02/virginia-beach-tornado-damage/

An image from NWS with the path of the tornado and other good information about it.

2.3 Magnitude Earthquake shakes Central Virginia

A small, but considerable earthquake occurred this past week just outside of Richmond, Virginia. The United States Geological Survey reported the magnitude-2.3 earthquake struck at about 10:11 p.m. (The quake was first reported as 2.1-magnitude, but was later revised as is often the case.) It was centered about three miles northeast of Goochland Courthouse and not far from Oilville.

While Earthquakes of less than a magnitude of 2.5 are normally not even felt, people from Hanover and Powhatan counties, as well as others in Short Pump and other nearby locations, reported feeling the quake.

No reports of injuries or damages resulting from the earthquake have been reported as of 8:30 a.m. on Monday. Goochland County and VDEM requested citizens to check over their homes and property for any visual or hidden damages. Attention should be paid to foundations, chimneys, and sheetrock of homes and businesses.

While this event is clearly not a disaster in terms of property damage and/or death tolls, I found it a good thing to post about since earthquakes are so rare in Virginia. This goes back to our discussions with people not really knowing what to do when these natural hazards that are so uncommon in our area are able to reach their potential and actually threaten our way of life. Even though we have only experienced a handful of notable earthquakes in Virginia in the last few years, it is still a good wake up call to always be aware of the unpredictability of the world around us.


Alaska’s Bogoslof volcano explodes, warnings sent on North Asia-U.S. flights

A volcano (Bogoslof) in Alaska which has been erupting periodically since December has now released its biggest ash cloud to date. The eruption lasted for 3 hours and spewed ash up to an altitude of 35,000 feet. Ash clouds which are higher than 20,000 pose a threat to aircraft as the ash can damage the engines. This is the 36th eruption in 3 months. The Volcano is 850 miles from Anchorage and is during a high state of alert as more eruptions are possible at any time.








Michael Mumenthaler

This Is Paradise? Mauna Kea Under Blizzard Warning; Rare Severe Thunderstorm Watch Issued as Flooding Rain Pounds Hawaii

The island chains of Hawaii are experiencing strong winds, heavy rain, severe thunderstorms, and even a blizzard warning on top of Mauna Kea. Flash flooding has impacted roadways and have caused rockslides that have blocked major highways. Some areas have experienced up to 14 inches of rainfall. “If that wasn’t enough, on Wednesday morning, the NWS office issued the first severe thunderstorm watch in Hawaii since Aug. 24, 2015, for the threat of large hail and damaging winds.”  (Erdman)


Gas-Fired Power Plants Fail in New South Wales due to Heat Wave

On February 10th, the heat wave broke records which greatly affected their electricity supply. The state government told people to reduce the amount of electricity they use, however, it did not work because there were still a bunch of supply failures. It was reported  yesterday that the Colongra gas-fired plant could not start up due to the low gas pressure, output was reduced from two coal-fired plants, thermal generators reduced their output, and solar and wind generation were also reduced by 300MW. Due to all of these factors, the system failed. In order to fix this problem the government decided to completely shut off the electricity for a couple of days. While the smelter’s pot-lines were shut off, there were workers that still had to work in this excruciating heat to get the electricity supplies to work. The smelter’s pot-lines were turned off for 75 minutes three times in order to save the plant’s equipment. Residents of Western Victoria were warned that they may have a few blackouts due to the pot-lines being shut down.


Southern Africa Deals with Armyworm Infestation

Maize crops in southern Africa are being decimated by armyworms. This infestation has been particularly devastating as the maize crop was already suffering the effects of a severe drought that was brought on by last year’s El Niño. Zimbabwe has reportedly taken the worst damage with up to 70% of crops destroyed in some areas, while Zambia has resorted to using military planes to spread pesticides. Some are worried that if the armyworms continue to spread, the affected countries will be economically devastated. Many of these countries are making efforts to teach farmers how to identify and exterminate the worms to help combat this infestation.


Articles: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/24/africa/armyworm-invasion-africa/ and http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFKBN15I10C?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0


NSW wild weather: Residents warned of flood threat in Hunter, parts of Sydney after storms kill three people in Dungog


New South Wales authorities say they are dealing with the largest storm operation in a decade after three people were killed in “cyclonic” conditions that have battered parts of the state for hours.

Residents in the Hunter region were told to brace for more flash flooding overnight, while authorities door-knocked some Sydney residents to warn they may need to evacuate. Conditions described as “cyclonic” have wrought havoc on the Hunter, Sydney, Central Coast and Illawarra regions, with rescue crews called to more than 1,000 storm-related incidents and more than 200,000 properties losing power.

In the Sydney suburbs of Manly and North Manly, the State Emergency Service (SES) visited homes and sent text messages to warn homes could be flooded if the Manly Dam continued to rise. “The worst-case scenario, if the houses in our flood planning get affected, would be 660 residences,” Samantha Colwell from the SES said. “In saying that, a lot of them are apartments so obviously the people on the higher levels are not going to get inundated. “At the moment, people can stay in their homes, but we do actually encourage them to prepare because the last thing people want to do is find out about it in the middle of the night.” An evacuation centre has been set up at the Hardbord Diggers club.

Further north, authorities warned some low-lying parts of Narrabeen and North Narrabeen, near Narrabeen Lagoon, could also be at risk, with an evacuation centre opened at Pittwater RSL and Mona Vale. On Tuesday morning, three elderly residents were found dead in the town of Dungog, north of Newcastle, where more than 300 millimetres of rain fell in less than 24 hours. Authorities said the circumstances around the deaths were still still being investigated. Locals said several homes were washed away, and a woman and two children were rescued from a house as it was washed down a street in nearby Greta. SES deputy commissioner Steve Pearce said the storm was like nothing he had seen before. “I haven’t seen a storm of this magnitude in my time here at the SES and, indeed, this would be the largest storm operation in the last 10 years,” he said. “We’ve never seen these cyclonic winds last for 24 hours straight. That’s what’s caused the majority of the damage. “We’ve had over 6,500 requests for assistance and on top of that, with the enormous amount of rainfall – up to 320 millimetres in over 24 hours – we’ve seen about 80 flood rescues. We’ve seen homes washed away, whole streets decimated.” He said thousands of emergency services were on the ground and more were coming in from around the state to help on Wednesday.


The SES sent emergency alerts to more than 100,000 mobile phones in the Hunter as it was battered by relentless wind and rain on Tuesday afternoon. The text messages warned of “rapid rises and high velocity flash flood water in local creeks, watercourses and urban areas” in Newcastle and surrounding areas. Newcastle Mayor Nuatali Nelmes told 7.30 the city looked like it had been in a disaster movie. She said roads were under water, trees had been blown down and roofs had been ripped from buildings. “We’re actually bracing for worse to come,” she said. “Overnight, we are bracing for potentially more flooding in Newcastle and the Hunter … so people are being urged to stay at home and to stay on high ground where it’s safe.”

In the eight hours to 5:00pm Tuesday, Maitland received 274 millimetres of rain, Seaham received 152 millimetres and Tocal received 137 millimetres. The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) issued a severe weather warning for damaging winds and surf and heavy rain along the coast from the Illawarra region to the Hunter. It said an intense low pressure system was centred just off the Hunter coast, near Newcastle. “This low is expected to remain slow-moving overnight, maintaining vigorous winds, large seas, and periods of heavy rain and thunderstorms,” BoM said in a warning issued just after 11:00pm. “Conditions are expected to slowly ease during Wednesday as the low weakens.” An evacuation centre was set up at Dungog High School following reports at least 20 homes had been inundated, but it has since been closed. However, evacuation centres have been opened at the Senior Citizens Centre in East Maitland and the Shamrock Multipurpose Centre at Ashton Field.

NSW Police said residents who evacuated their homes should take important documents and photos, spare clothing and medication. Those using the evacuation centres were asked to bring blankets or sleeping bags, pillows and sleeping mats. Local police commander Jeff Loy said the three deaths occurred in different locations in Dungog. “Two males and one female all perished in different circumstances,” he said. “The police are investigating the cause of those deaths.

One talkback caller, David, told 1233 ABC Newcastle he was in the town visiting family but got out before it was cut off on Tuesday afternoon. “I expect there is 50 to 60 people whose houses have flooded,” he said. “There were people sitting on their roofs. “[Some people] have nothing left – they don’t have a wallet, they don’t have anything. They got out within minutes, these people. “Water’s up to their ceilings, people were swimming to try and get up on their roof. “There are animals floating around all over the place.” He said the local timber mill had been “smashed”, which would have lasting repercussions for the local economy.



The weather caused major transport disruptions, including cancellations and delays to train, bus and ferry services. Transport authorities urged people to avoid all non-essential travel, both by car and public transport, and check timetables for updated information. More than 100 sets of traffic lights were blacked out and some major road networks were affected by flooding. Sydney Airport advised passengers to check with airlines for information about delayed and cancelled flights. Electricity distributor Ausgrid said there were more than 4,500 reports of hazards, such as fallen wires, across its network. Crews were responding to thousands of urgent incidents and restoring power to more than 200,000 properties would take several days, he said.



Volcanic Explosion in Pacific Creates New Island in Tonga

In December of last year, an underwater volcano began erupting and has created a new island in the South Pacific. Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai is a submarine volcano located between two islands belonging to the Pacific nation of Tonga. Located 65km (40mi) southwest of the main island Tongatapu, the new land mass is 500 meters long and the highest point is estimated to be about 250 meters. A large crater is visible in satellite photos and the eruption spilled over joining it to one of the existing islands.

A new volcanic island rising from the Pacific Ocean - March 2015.

This video from January shows the eruption of Hunga Tonga: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GxcQIZ339M[/youtube]

These satellite images show the islands before and after the eruption:

Two islands of Hunga Tonga by satellite Satellite image showing two islands and large crater

Recently, three locals from Tonga set foot on the island and took photos of the newly formed land mass. 63 year old Gianpiero Orbassano, a former photographer, told reporters that he could feel heat radiating from the surface. The crater is now filled with bright green water, visible in the photos, that smells like sulfur and chemicals according to Orbassano. The brave adventurers stated that climbing the island was not too difficult, didn’t seem dangerous and they believe it has strong potential to become a tourist attraction.


However, Matt Watson, a natural hazards professor at the University of Bristol, expressed his concerns with the stability of the land mass. The sediments are loose and unconsolidated, and therefore unsafe to walk on. “It’s formed by fragmentation of magma, so it’s basically small pieces of rock on top of each other that have formed an island” he explained to the BBC. This also makes the new island vulnerable to waves and ocean currents.





“Thundersnow” …. the other hazard.

Sometimes it doesn’t take long for mother nature to remind us who’s in charge. As the blizzard bears down on the northeast, meteorologists from a cross the state are calling for periods of intense snow which may include thunder and lightning.

“Thundersnow”, also known as a winter thunderstorm or a thunder snowstorm, is an unusual kind of thunderstorm with snow falling as the primary precipitation instead of rain. It typically falls in regions of strong upward motion within the cold sector of an extratropical cyclone. Thermodynamically, it is not different from any other type of thunderstorms but the top of the cumulonimbus is usually quite low. In addition to snow, graupel or hail falls.


What causes “Thundersnow”? That happens when enough rising air causes a reaction. In other words extreme vertical motion (as in a summer thunderstorm in a cumulonimbus cloud) that will cause thunder and lighting. Usually when that occurs you will have very heavy snow upwards of 2-3in per hour. However this does not occur every time it snows only in very strong snow storms and blizzards with a deepening low pressure system. Lighting can, though rarely, in the winter strike the ground so it is possible to get struck in the winter.