The Kumamoto prefecture on the isle of Kyushu was first struck on Thursday evening local time by a magnitude 6.4 earthquake, which triggered a number of aftershocks. Early on Saturday morning, the region was hit again by a more powerful quake measuring a magnitude of 7.3 and triggering warnings of a potential tsunami. It was reported by NHK Television that at least 4 people had been confirmed dead as a result of the Saturday quake, compounding with the 9 deaths and over 1000 injured by the quakes on Thursday.
As a result of the quakes, Sony put a halt to work at its Kumamoto factory, which produces the digital image sensors used in many devices including Apple’s iPhone. It is currently unclear how long the factory will be out of action or if it will be long enough to affect the availability of products that rely on the sensors. Renesas Electronics and Mitsubishi Electric also possess manufacturing plants in the region which have currently been suspended with the former making chips for the automotive industry and the latter power devices. Addition Mitsubishi Electric facilities in the nearby area have also ground to a halt, including an LCD parts facility and semiconductor plant.
The worst of the earthquakes have now passed for the region, as the Japan Meteorological Agency reported that Saturday’s quake was the main quake and Thursday’s was just a precursor. We can only hope that this natural disaster-torn part of Japan and its people will start to recover soon and the region can begin working to return to normal.
NASA is preparing to be able to prevent one of the few existential threats to our planet and humanity: giant asteroids. To this end, they have formerly re-designated the ongoing program that currently works to track and detect hazardous near-Earth objects as the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO). Their responsibilities will be to oversee all NASA-funded projects to document asteroids and comets that pass close to Earth’s orbit and play a key role in coordinating any inter-agency or international efforts to respond to threats.
The long-term objectives of the PDCO are to attempt to discover and detail as many near-Earth objects (NEOs) as possible, as well as develop countermeasures to a potential asteroid impact. Currently, they are pursuing two main lines of investigation into impact prevention; the first is NASA’s Asteroid Redirection Mission, which redirects asteroids using the gravity created by a high mass object to a lunar orbit; the second is the NASA-ESA joint Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) which will assess the effects of high-speed impacts on asteroids.
Should an unavoidable impact occur, the PDCO would be able to provide detailed information about the impact long in advance to emergency agencies. This information could include impact timings, locations, and potential global effects, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to prepare and respond to the ensuing disaster. So far NASA has been able to discover and classify over 90 percent of NEOs larger than 3,000 feet (1 kilometer) and over 13500 discovered to date. Now NASA is focused on meeting the goal of documenting 90% of NEOs 450ft (140m) or larger by 2020, which the formation of the PDCO should help them meet.
While there are no reported threats to our planet as of yet, the amount of NEOs is sizable and the formation of task forces such as the PDCO are certainly better safe than sorry. Increases to NASA’s budget going into 2016, research into NEOs and disaster prevention should go from strength to strength and with plans for a manned mission to an asteroid in the works, humanity should be in a much better place to defend from asteroid disasters potentially in our future.
Natural disasters. We can be warned about some of them, such as Storms and Volcano’s erupting but sometimes that just isn’t enough. Earthquakes strike fast, and even with preparation, they can be deadly. Not to fear, a clever designer has created a range of beds designed to keep you safe should an earthquake ever happen while you are in bed.
In case you were wondering these are miracle saviours, the beds are designed as metal bunkers that would protect you while your building collapses, giving the rescue services enough time to find you while avoiding any harm from the fall or debris. If that wasn’t enough you even have a choice of how you want to spend those dark days, and how you even get out of bed and into the metal casket.
With several different ways to protect yourself, from magician like falling bottoms to a four-poster bed with a collapsing roof. Some designs even look a little less safe, such as the design where the roof is held up in the middle and drops down on either side, potentially cutting your limbs off before burying you in safety.
While all these designs are nifty, the water, emergency rations, medical kit, fire extinguisher and gas masks go a long way to making these beds a mini-bunker for a short-term stay.
There’s nothing like a good apocalyptic news story to get you intrigued, but thankfully we are not the bringers of doom today. Cleveland Leader reports that Scientists have discovered an asteroid on a potential collision path with the earth. The asteroid in question is the “1950 DA” which was spotted once on February 23rd 1950 and again on December 31st 2000. The asteroid apparently has a 0.3% chance of colliding with the earth on March 16th 2880 during a 20 minute window. Of course 0.3% is still a ridiculously low number but the scientists point out this makes it about 50% more likely to hit earth than the chance of impact from other asteroids known to have a potential collision course.
The cause for concern is however very minimal. Scientists claim dusting the surface of the asteroid with chalk, charcoal or white glass beads would be enough to allow sunlight reflectivity to divert its path away from the earth. While a potential collision with an asteroid is never good news, having 866.5 years notice is always useful!
NASA have released a few images showing an Island that newly formed off the coast of Pakistan on September 24th. The island formed after a devastating earthquake struck mainland Pakistan causing over 500 fatalities, RT reports. However, one of the consequences of that quake was this new island which formed 380 kilometres from its epicentre in Paddi Zirr Bay near Gwadar, Pakistan, in the Arabian Sea.
Two comparative shots of the same area just a few months between, April 17th above and September 26th below, show the newly formed island popping up offshore. The new island is called “Zalzala Jazeera” literally meaning earthquake island. Scientists say the formation of the new island in the area is due to the relatively low water level of 15 to 20 metres.
The Zalzala Jazeera island is described by scientists as “just a big pile of mud from the seafloor that got pushed up”. The island will not last very long and scientists claim the island will remain above sea level for about a year before sinking back to the bottom again.
Local people have visited the new island with boats in abundance.
Images #1,#2 and #3 courtesy of NASA, Image #4 courtesy of Reuters / Stringer
A environmental lobbying organisation going by the name of Climate Name Change are lobbying the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) to change the current naming system used for hurricanes and tropical storms. The activists say that instead of naming them after normal people they should instead be named after politicians who deny the existence of climate change.
Just two of the big names pulled out as examples are Senator Marco Rubio and House Speaker John Boehner.
“Since 1954, the World Meteorological Organization has been naming extreme storms after people. As scientific evidence shows that climate change is creating increasingly frequent and devastating storms, and with climate scientists declaring these extreme weather events as the new normal, we propose a new naming system. A system that names extreme storms caused by climate change, after the policy makers who deny climate change and obstruct climate policy.” States the online petition.
Ever since Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant was struck by a Tsunami and an Earthquake back in March 2011 it has been crippled to a state of near-meltdown. Fukushima today acts as the most prominent argument against Nuclear technology as Chernobyl did pre-2011. Japanese TEPCO employees have had to pour water over the spent fuel rods for the last 2 years to prevent over-heating that might lead to another meltdown or even a chain reaction. The consequences of the “worst case scenario” would indeed have international consequences as radiation fallout obeys no borders.
That is why Russia have offered to come to the help of Japan in their TEPCO crisis. Russia have become international field leaders in decommissioning nuclear power plants after the Chernobyl disaster gave them ample experience. Eco News report that Vladimir Asmolov, first deputy director general of Rosenergoatom – the state-owned Russian nuclear utility, has extended a helping hand to TEPCO.
“In our globalised nuclear industry we don’t have national accidents, they are all international,” Mr Asmolov told Bloomberg news agency. “It was clear for a long time that TEPCO was not adequately coping with the situation…It looks like TEPCO management were the last to realise this.”
Japan’s Fukushima crisis is being labelled as the world’s most serious Nuclear incident since Chernobyl. Experts say it is significantly more serious because the amount of nuclear fuel involved is much higher. Levels of radiation in close-by water sources are already unsafe for human habitation. The government had evacuated everyone in a 20km radius of the site but that no go zone is being gradually lifted as radiation levels start to fall.
The recent Russian meteor that struck back on February 15th earlier this year in Russia’s Chelyabinks region apparently produced a shock wave which was able to circle the entire world two times. These findings published in the recent issue of the Scientific Journal of Geophysical Research Letters, available here, suggest that the shock wave was equivalent to 460 kilotons of TNT exploding in one go.
“For the first time since the establishment of the IMS infrasound network, multiple arrivals involving waves that traveled twice round the globe have been clearly identified…This extraordinary event is, together with the 1908 Tunguska fireball, among the most energetic events ever instrumentally recorded”
The blast which was believed to be caused by a meteor still has no such supporting evidence yet – thought researched Victor Kvasnytsya claimed to have analysed rock fragments left behind by the meteor. Sceptics are already claiming it was the testing of some secret government weapon that went wrong and that government’s are using the “meteor threat” to control the minds of the masses. Either way, whatever the truth behind the matter, the shock waves it created are among some of the biggest on record and the blast packed the energy 3-5 megatons of TNT – impressive stuff.
Tornadoes seem to be striking the USA with vengeance currently and several have ripped through the USA in recent weeks killing many and injuring many more as well as causing substantial damage to property. On Friday May 31st several tornadoes made landfall close to Oklahoma City in its Western Suburbs before making their way towards the downtown area and then turning south before dissipating. At its peak this particular tornado managed to become a staggering 1.6 kilometers, or 1 mile, wide.
According to Sky News the storm that has caused these tornadoes has so far killed a total of five people and injured about 50. Of those 5 killed 2 were reported to be a mother and her daughter, their bodies were later dropped down by the tornado near Interstate 40. Furthermore, the storm also rained out large hailstones. The areas around the cities of El Reno and Yukon were reportedly worst hit by this storm which covered an extensive area and generated several tornadoes.
Our thoughts and condolences go out to those affected by these natural disasters. You can see a video below of the tornado which ripped through Oklahoma City.
A report by GeoNet suggests that a magnitude 7 earthquake has been occurring underneath New Zealand’s North Island now for over 5 months. Citizens in the city of Wellington and in other places on the North Island have yet to feel anything either despite a magnitude 7 earthquake taking place 40km below the ground.
The earthquake is said to be New Zealand’s largest earthquake in 150 years yet nothing is felt at the surface and recording instruments are struggling to pick it up. The reason is that unlike “normal” earthquakes that release their energy in minutes, this is a silent or slow-slip earthquake that takes ages to release its energy over a longer period.
The current silent earthquake beneath New Zealand involves the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates and affects 100 square kilometers of land from Levin to Marlborough Sounds. Specialists expect it to continue, largely unnoticed, for another few more months.
“GeoNet’s continuously-running GPS instruments in Wellington and Kapiti show that the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates are slipping past each other more rapidly than usual. This has been going on since January of this year, and will most likely continue for several months.”
While slow-slide events are unlikely to cause any damage, they can trigger other damaging earthquakes so New Zealand definitely isn’t out of the woods yet.
Just two days ago Eastern Russia was struck by an earthquake of magnitude 8.3. In itself that strength makes this earthquake very significant but what is most significant is that it occurred a staggering 608.9 kilometers below the Earth’s surface. According to reports by Nature this is unusual because we very rarely see earthquakes of this magnitude at this depth, the only other one on record that is comparable is the 8.2 magnitude earthquake that occurred in Bolivia in 1994 at a depth of 631 kilometers.
The reason why this giant Russian “Deep Temblor” was able to occur is because beneath the Sea of Okhotsk (where the earthquake happened) the Pacific crust is descending under the Eurasian plate. Given the relative speed of its descent, 8cm/3.15 inches per year, the plate gets to stay “cool” enough to be prone to rupturing thus allowing the earthquake to occur.
Reports suggest that the earthquake was felt as far away as Moscow but preliminary reports suggest little damage and no fatalities, surprising for a magnitude 8.3 earthquake but not surprising given how sparsely populated the Russia Far East is.
It is now expected that this earthquake will provoke further study and perhaps teach us something new about earthquakes:
“A series of smaller quakes, up to about magnitude 6.0, had shaken just south and east of Petropavlosk-Kamchatsky over the past several days. But they were far shallower. Figuring out how the shallow earthquake swarm and the large deep quake are related — if they are — is likely to be a topic of intense study.”