Locust Swarm in N Africa/Middle East

Locust swarms are natural biological events – and one is spreading across parts of Egypt right now. This report describes 20 swarms, each of about 80 million locusts – where a single swarm can eat up to 100,000 tons of crops. That could mean famine or huge quantities of imported grains, potentially raising the price of grains worldwide.

Locusts are like giant grasshoppers, but they can fly, and they sometimes group together into these enormous swarms.

Aerial spraying of pesticide is the main preventative treatment for them (The Guardian)

Locusts land on a sand dune in Negev Desert, southern Israel on Tuesday.


Asteroid Set to Come Really Close on Friday 2/15/13

Asteroid 2012 DA14 will come really close to hitting Earth while traveling South to North. It is expected to come closest at 2:25pm ET. It is estimated to miss us by 17,230 miles, closer than the moon is with respect to Earth. This article goes on to discuss that it is not a matter of if an asteroid will hit, but when. The statellites that affect devices such as iPhones are even further away. This means that the asteroid will pass between Earth and these statellites. We need to come to the realization of the potential risk we are constantly being faced with. Atmospheric matter hits Earth all the time, but just do not hear about it when it happens.

Meteor’s hit Russia

A meteor shower hit central Russia on friday which caused damage to the citizens and also the towns. The meteor had fallen from clear skies and was not expected by the people who were going on with their day to day activities.  There is isn’t really a way to predict that this is going to happen so it is important to react fast when it does.  A meteor shower is a celestial event and most are smaller than a grain of sand so therefore they never really damage Earth’s surface.

In the case of this meteor shower, Russia was able to intercept with their air defense. There isn’t much information associated with the storm as of now, but once time has elapsed people will be able to investigate what happened.

Asteroid 2012 DA14

UPDATE: JPL is ‘streaming live’ at – so you could watch this asteroid fly past! It comes closest at 19.25 GMT (time in London, 5 hours ahead of us, so 2.25pm for us). If you look at the time stamp on this video you’ll notice that it is GMT.

Very easy to follow discussion and video on the BBC here


Check out this simple animation of the orbit of the asteroid (2012 DA14) that will come close to earth next Friday – Feb 15:

You can make it move by using the slider at the bottom of the animation, or by clicking on the arrows below: single arrow > advances one day at a time (see date) – double arrows animates it for continuous motion. Best viewed zoomed in from the default!

Earth’s orbit is clear in white. The asteroid orbit is blue, changing color as it traverses earth’s orbit. You can extend well in to the future if you change from Day to longer time periods and let it run!

You can check out NASA’s Near Earth Object Program here where you can see press releases and other information about NEOs. This page has all the ‘close approaches’ indicated!

Washington Post has a diagram, news story and shows another (in my opinion not so good) animation, all here.

Cyclone Felleng

There is a very strong cyclone off the coast of Madagascar named Felleng.  It formed as a tropical storm in the Indian Ocean on January 26, 2013 ,becoming a cyclone on the 29th.  The US Navy’s warning center reported the storm to be 780 kilometers north of Reunion Island, which is east of Madagascar.  The maximum winds reached 170 kilometers per hour with gusts up to 205 kilometers per hour.  Within a matter of hours, gusts increased to reach nearly 260 kilometers per hour.  The storm is projected to move southward east of Madagascar before veering east.  The storm is not supposed to directly hit Madagascar, but the entire island nation will feel its affects.

Discovery News posted this picture of Felleng at night.  The bright colors represent the temperature differences in certain parts of the storm.  The coldest upper regions reached up to 52,000 meters above sea level.  Since the storm is so high up, the stratosphere will be directly effected.  Storms like this one help man-made pollutants travel and damage to the ozone layer is more likely.

Hazards on the Battlefield

Early in the morning on April 7th thousands of tonnes and ice blanketed the Gayari army base in Pakistan.  There is no longer any reminisce of the base that had been there since 1988.  The avalanche carried boulders that were 30 meters wide and 20 meters tall.  What remains of the camp and its inhabitant is buried under 200ft of rock and ice.  For the last two weeks the Pakistan army has been working to search for the 129 soldiers and 11 civilians that were there the night of the avalanche.  The site of the base was regarded as low risk area for landslides and avalanches.

Throughout the decades of conflict between India and Pakistan conflicts have been waged high up in the mountains of the Kashmir.  Though this recent development has prompted talk of abandoning such treacherous battlegrounds. Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani believes that in light of recent events it might be time to negotiate with India about the issue.  Whether anything comes from this or not is hard to speculate.  It is very interesting to see how natural hazards can even have an effect on diplomacy between two countries.



Solar Storm

I don’t think we would normally consider solar activity a natural hazard – but the sun has entered a very active phase in its 11 year cycle of geomagnetic activity. A ‘cloud of charged particles’ will reach earth today (March 8th) and is likely to ‘shake’ earth’s ionosphere and magnetic field such that satellite communications and perhaps electricity will be disrupted. I really liked the graphic on the BBC web site today!

The scientists quoted in this article say that this storm is not particularly strong, but is the biggest in years – and during those years we have put MORE satellites into space, and MORE people have come to rely on GPS and other satellite based communications systems (think about that; do you? how much? is it different from, say, 5 years ago?)

I found most interesting the impacts of earlier REALLY BIG geomagnetic storms on the sun:

In 1972, a geomagnetic storm provoked by a solar flare knocked out long-distance telephone communication across the US state of Illinois.

And in 1989, another disturbance plunged six million people into darkness across the Canadian province of Quebec.

Sun activity cycles over 11 years; this cycle is expected to peak in 2013 – so we may see some more dramatic effects in the near future.

Earthquakes, Severe Thunderstorms, Tropical Cyclones & Hurricanes…

These are the things we learn about in Natural Hazards, GEOG 240! Right after the earthquake I got a couple of emails from students who took my class…  mostly they said that they knew WHAT to do (take cover under a piece of furniture) – but that they didn’t necessarily DO that! Another former student sent the following images:

Thanks to Ian Pope, Purdue Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science

Thanks to Ian Pope, Purdue Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science

Impacts and responses by the City of Fredericksburg can be seen in the Free Lance-Star

On Thursday we had a severe thunderstorm, resulting in power outages on campus and around town, and upsetting the Honor Convocation, that blew down trees and tree limbs, lamp posts, and peeled the roof off the Virginia Deli downtown (see the Free Lance-Star’s blog on this storm here). The UMW weather station (on top of GW Hall) recorded a top windspeed of 57 mph at 4.39 pm (check out the weather archive here!)

And Hurricane Irene rolled up the coast east of here on Saturday – we had a rainy, windy day, but with no major damage. The UMW weather station recorded 3.88 inches of rain though!

If you’d like to tell about your experiences, in Fred or elsewhere, feel free to comment here!!




Freaky dust storm in Germany…

There was an 80-car pile up on a motorway in northern Germany, which left at least 10 people dead on Saturday. This BBC site has some pretty disturbing video – quiet, really windy, seriously reduced visibility… and lots of twisted metal. They say that the weather was dry and windy and field alongside the road had recently been ploughed – presumably providing the debris that significantly reduced visibility.

Indonesian Jungle River Waves

There is apparently this  surf team which goes around looking for great, new surf spots. This group, Rip Curl, found one within the jungles of Indonesia, in which waves break up-stream, “by a powerful tidal bore.” Whatever that means. Anyways, the waves occur in an organized distribution, in which the waves crash in succession, in a row, at 8-10 feet high.

Anyways, I just thought this would be interesting to share since we recently talked about waves and shorelines and such. Watch the video at the link I post because it looks really cool and different from any waves I’ve seen.

Source (and video site):