Wild Winds Whip New England Ahead Of Major Snowstorm

The winter storm battering parts of New England Monday isn’t expected to drop 2 to 3 feet of snow in one go, but officials warn that wild winds and blizzard conditions could still cause power outages and tree damage – and make for an uncomfortable, if not dangerous, commute.

snow

The National Weather Service has issued blizzard warnings from the south of Boston to the South Shore, while areas of eastern New England – including Boston, Hartford, and Providence – are under winter storm warnings. Snow, which began after 8 a.m., may fall at rates of more than an inch an hour in parts of eastern New England, The Weather Channel reports.

But “[i]t’s not just the snow we are talking about – very strong winds, coastal flooding concerns – there could be some power outages, especially south of Boston,” said Cindy Fitzgibbon, meteorologist for Boston’s WCVB 5.

“The heaviest snow will fall this morning into mid/late afternoon across the region,’’ forecasters noted, according to the Boston Globe. “The greatest impact from this storm will not be specific snow amounts, but blizzard conditions.’’

The winter storm, dubbed Mars by The Weather Channel, is a result of a low pressure area off the East Coast – an area that went through what meteorologists call “bombogenesis,” or a sudden central pressure drop of at least 24 millibars in 24 hours.

“ ‘Bombogenesis’ follows from ‘cyclogenesis,’ which refers to the development of a cyclone,” wrote Stu Ostro, a senior meteorologist with The Weather Channel. “Bombs are so named because of the rapidity with which they develop, which evokes explosiveness, and the power that they usually attain once they have gone through the intensification phase specified in the definition.”

Winds of up to 45 miles per hour could blow through eastern New England, while the gusts could hit up to 65 miles per hour on Cape Cod.

Boston Public Schools and dozens of other public and private colleges have canceled classes Monday. The Massachusetts Port Authority has also warned travelers to check their itineraries before heading to Boston’s Logan International Airport, noting that some airlines “have already begun cancelling a number of flights and may be making accommodations for those impacted passengers.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker also asked residents to stay off the roads when possible.

Mount Soputan Volcano Erupts In North Sulawesi, Indonesia

Mount Soputan volcano in North Sulawesi province of Indonesia erupted several times on Sunday, spewing a column of hot ash by up to 2.5 km high, official of disaster management agency said.

wpid-chile-volcano

Mount Soputan, located some 60 km from Manado, capital of the province, has high potential for further big eruption which is indicated by persistent tremors with amplitude of 41 mm, Spokesman of National Disaster Management Agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho disclosed.

Several subdistricts in Minahasa Tenggara district were hit by rains of ash and volcanic materials that the local disaster agency distributes masks to protect local residents from the impact, he told Xinhua via phone.

The authorities have banned villagers or visitors from entering the area of 4 km from the crater, but at the southwest of the crater the evacuation zone is at 6. 5 km, Mr. Sutopo said.

The 1,874- meter high Mount Soputan is one of Indonesia’s active volcanoes whose number is about 129, according to the National Volcanology Agency.

Storm Imogen: Britain Faces 80mph Winds And Heavy Rain

Britain is to be hit by 80mph winds and heavy rain on Monday as Storm Imogen, the ninth major storm this winter, sweeps in from the Channel.

storm

The Met Office has issued amber “be prepared” weather warnings for much of the south-west and yellow “be aware” warnings stretch from southern Wales to the Thames estuary.

Storm Imogen comes at the end of a wet winter in which storms Henry, Gertrude, Frank and Desmond also battered the UK. The Met Office only started naming storms in 2015.

The warnings will be in place from 3am until 6pm on Monday and exposed areas on the south coast are on alert for winds of 80mph. The Met Office has warned that there could be “very large waves”, especially along the north coast of Cornwall and Devon.

Forecaster Craig Snell said: “We have issued a broad yellow warning of wind that encompasses Cardiff, Bristol and into the Thames estuary. There is an amber warning for wind mainly focused on Devon and Cornwall but stretching into central England on Monday morning.

“This means people should be prepared for disruption to travel on roads, rail, bridges and ferries and we could see possible damage to structures and downed trees risk affecting power. The wind will be combined with some hefty showers with some thunder along the south coast.”

There remains some uncertainty about how far north and east the strongest of the winds will extend, but gusts are expected to ease up on Tuesday. There is forecast to be a drier, quieter and colder interlude for many on Wednesday before more wind and rain follows later in the week.

South West Trains said it was planning to run a normal weekend timetable on all routes but that the risk of trees and debris being blown onto the railway might require the train line to “make adjustments to trains in certain areas”.

“In particular, the first trains to run over tracks may need to be cancelled to allow us to ensure these routes are clear and safe to run passenger services,” the statement read. “There may also be changes in the number of carriages to some services.”

The British Met Office and its Irish counterpart Met Eireann last year started following the approach taken by the US National Hurricane Centre and giving storms names in order to better communicate with the public.

Names are given in alphabetical order, though the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used. The two Met offices released the official list of storm names in October and the next storm to hit the UK will be named Jake.

Dozens Still Trapped A Day After Taiwan Earthquake

TAINAN, Taiwan – With anxious families waiting nearby, rescuers on Sunday painstakingly pulled more survivors from the remains of a high-rise apartment building that collapsed a day earlier in a powerful earthquake that shook southern Taiwan and killed at least 26 people. More than 100 remained buried in the building’s rubble.

earthqake

The government in Tainan, the worst-hit city, said that more than 170 people had been rescued from the 17-story building, which folded like an accordion after the quake struck.

Mao Yi-chen, 20, was rescued soon after the magnitude-6.4 quake hit before dawn Saturday, and her older sister Mao Yi-hsuan was pulled out Sunday in serious condition. A rescue worker had handed over a photo album and homemade cards found next to her for her family to collect, said local official Wang Ding-yu.

“He said that ‘maybe your home is damaged, but memories of the family can last,'” Wang said.

Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te said authorities estimated that 124 people were still trapped, many at the bottom of the wreckage. He said rescuers were able to reach many people by using information from residents who got out about the possible locations of those still inside.

Wendy Chuang, a reporter in Taiwan, told CBS Radio News that the building was unrecognizable.

“Actually if no one told me, it’s hard to tell that’s a building because it just fell down and you can’t tell which way it fell down actually,” Chuang said. “You can’t find where’s the doors, where’s the front, where’s the back.”

Two of the trapped, a male and a female at different sides of the building, were talking to rescue workers on Sunday evening, Lai said. He told reporters that rescuers intended to pull them out, and then bring in heavier excavators to remove part of the structure on top to allow access to the areas at the bottom.

The spectacular fall of the high-rise, built in 1989, raised questions about whether its construction had been shoddy. Tainan’s government said the building had not been listed as a dangerous structure, and Taiwan’s interior minister, Chen Wei-zen, said an investigation would examine whether the developer had cut corners.

Eighth-floor resident Huang Guang-wei was pulled out Sunday morning from a different section from where he lived, showing how distorted the building is, Lai said. Rescuers could see Huang only through a 10-centimeter (4-inch) crack and it took eight hours to get him out, Lai said.

Among the fatalities was a 6-month-old baby girl who was pulled from the rubble and rushed to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. A deceased man believed to be her father was pulled out 40 minutes later, Wang said.

A man in his 60s, whose son escaped and whose daughter-in-law was in serious condition, was trying to help rescuers pinpoint his grandsons. “My 11- and 12-year-old grandsons are still inside on the ninth floor,” said the man, who gave only his surname, Huang. “I told my son not to buy an apartment here; it was suspiciously cheap.”

Beside him, another man nodded in agreement as he waited for news of his own relatives on the seventh floor.

The city government said that 24 of the 26 confirmed deaths from the earthquake were from the building collapse. It said that 171 had been rescued from the building, 91 of whom were sent to hospitals. More than 100 people were rescued from other parts of Tainan, eight of whom received hospital treatment. Nine other buildings in the city collapsed and five careened.

On Sunday, thousands of rescuers worked on different levels of the folded building, which was supported by steel pillars. Rescuer Su Yu-min said they were trying to cut through walls and pillars.

“It takes a few hours to complete a search for just one household and sometimes it takes two hours just to go forward 30 centimeters (12 inches)” when the way is blocked by a wall, he said.

Taiwanese broadcaster EBC showed video of volunteers trying to comfort the mother of a missing 20-year-old man, Chen Guan-yu. “He always thinks of me,” said the woman, whose name was not given. “He worries about me being single and lonely and that no one is taking care of me.”

The quake came two days before the start of Lunar New Year celebrations that mark the most important family holiday in the Chinese calendar.

Earthquakes frequently rattle Taiwan, but most are minor and cause little or no damage, though a magnitude-7.6 quake in central Taiwan in 1999 killed more than 2,300 people.

Taiwan Earthquake: Tainan Hit By 6.4-Magnitude Quake

The death toll was rising in the historic city of Tainan, which bore the brunt of the 6.4-magnitude quake, as rescuers scoured rubble for survivors.

quake

Nearly 340 people were rescued from the rubble in Tainan, the city hit worst by the quake. About 2,000 firefighters and soldiers scrambled with ladders, cranes and other equipment to the ruins of the 17-floor residential building, which folded like an accordion onto its side after the quake struck.

Local authorities said Saturday night that more than 100 people remained missing and that rescuers were racing to find them. Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported that 172 people were missing.

An entire residential complex of four buildings containing almost 100 homes toppled, left on its side with twisted metal girders exposed and clouds of dust rising from the jumbled concrete.

The official CNA news agency reported that the quake killed 14 people and injured 484 others, according to statistics by Taiwan’s rescue authorities. Most of the injured had been released from hospitals by Saturday night.

CNA said 153 people remained missing and that rescuers were racing to find them. Taiwan’s SETV reported that 101 adults and 41 children were missing. The number of missing was expected to drop because some of those listed might have been listed twice, hospitalized or not in the building at the time of the quake.

Rescuer Jian Zhengshun said the rescue work was difficult because part of the high-rise building was believed to be buried underground, with the quake loosening the earth. He said rescuers had to clear rubble for passages to reach people who were trapped.

Rescuers found the bodies of a 10-day-old infant, three other children and six adults at the collapsed building, the information center said. One other death was reported at the site, but details were not immediately available.

Authorities said two people were killed by falling objects elsewhere in Tainan.

Officials said four buildings collapsed in the quake which struck the island in the early hours of the morning, but rescue efforts are centring on the tower block that tumbled onto its side.

Firefighters pulled survivors from the twisted concrete, trying to access apartments through windows and scaling the rubble with ladders.

Around 800 troops have been mobilised to help the rescue effort, with sniffer dogs also searching through the rubble.

The baby, a man and a woman were pulled dead from the block, officials said, with 29 residents taken to hospital.

“These three people showed no signs of life before they were sent to the hospital,” said Lin Kuan-cheng, spokesman for the National Fire Agency.

“The search and rescue work continues there, home by home.”

Residents at the felled Wei-kuan Building told of their terror as the quake hit, with survivors pulled bleeding and crying from the ruins, some just in their underwear.

“I saw buildings shake up and down and left and right,” said one resident. “The first and second floor just collapsed,” he told local channel SET TV. Another man tied his clothes together to create a rope and lowered himself from his home on the ninth floor to the sixth floor below, Apple Daily reported.

One woman told how she had fought her way out of her home.

“I used a hammer to break the door of my home which was twisted and locked, and managed to climb out,” she told SET TV, weeping as she spoke.

Rescuers have freed more than 250 people from the apartment complex, with over 40 of them hospitalised.

Interior minister Chen Wei-jen said he feared there may be more people in the building than usual as family members would have returned to celebrate the Lunar New Year holidays next week.

“We are concerned that most members of those families may have returned for the coming new year holiday,” he said.

Heartfelt appeals for the missing were posted on social media. “My friend in Wei-kuan is currently missing. His brother is waiting at the scene and other relatives are at the hospital looking among those injured. If anyone has related news, please get in touch,” one user called applexgreen posted on Taiwan’s popular PTT forum.

Another named Ahan asked for information on a family of three with a two-year-old son who lived on the seventh floor of the building.

“My mother is the child’s nanny. We haven’t been able to get in contact,” the post said.

Officials were unable to give an estimate of how many were still trapped as they scoured the building.

As dawn broke, live Taiwanese TV showed survivors being brought gingerly from the building, including an elderly woman in a neck brace and others wrapped in blankets.

The trappings of daily life — a partially crushed air conditioner, pieces of a metal balcony, windows — lay twisted in what appeared to be nearby rubble.

People with their arms around firefighters were being helped from the building, and cranes were being used to search darkened parts of the structure for survivors.
One woman told how she had fought her way out of her home in one of the collapsed blocks.

“I used a hammer to break the door of my home which was twisted and locked, and managed to climb out,” she told local channel SET TV, weeping as she spoke.

Men in camouflage uniforms, apparently military personnel, marched into one area of collapse carrying large shovels.

Aerial images of at least two different buildings showed what appeared to be significant devastation. It was unclear if both were residential structures.

The Taiwanese news website ET Today reported a mother and a daughter were among the 34 people pulled from one of the Wei Guan buildings and that the girl drank her urine while waiting for rescue, which came sooner than expected.

The temblor struck about 4am local time. It was located some 36km southeast of Yujing, and struck about 10km underground, according to the US Geological Survey.

It was felt as a lengthy, rolling shake in the capital, Taipei, on the other side of the island. But Taipei was quiet, with no sense of emergency or obvious damage just before dawn.

Officials said there were 256 people registered as living in the complex, which contained 96 apartments.

Dazed and exhausted residents stood outside the toppled buildings, watching rescue workers free survivors — from infants to the elderly, some strapped to stretchers — and carefully hand them down ladders.

Cranes towered over the disaster zone with diggers trying to move slabs of concrete.

Eight shelters have been set up around the city, with over 100 people taking refuge there, while restaurants and hotels offered free food and rooms to residents.

“The buildings collapsed, but Tainan will stand again! Please treat here like your temporary home, rest well and freshen up. You aren’t alone,” said one Tainan hotel called Adagio Travel on its Facebook page.

Separately, at least 30 people were earlier freed from another residential seven-storey tower.

Officials said several blocks had collapsed or half collapsed in other parts of the city, with some buildings left leaning at alarming angles.

Across Tainan, more than 400 people were injured, with over 60 hospitalised. Around 400,000 had been left without water, authorities said, and more than 2,000 homes are still without electricity.

China has offered rescue assistance if needed, according to state news agency Xinhua.

The quake struck at a depth of 10 kilometres (six miles) at around 4:00am (2000 GMT Friday), 39 kilometres northeast of Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second-largest city.
Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by earthquakes.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami was not expected.

A strong 6.3-magnitude quake which hit central Taiwan in June 2013 killed four people and caused widespread landslides.

A 7.6-magnitude quake struck the island in September 1999 and killed around 2400 people.

Galactic Center’s Gamma Rays Unlikely To Originate From Dark Matter, Evidence Shows

Bursts of gamma rays from the center of our galaxy are not likely to be signals of dark matter but rather other astrophysical phenomena such as fast-rotating stars called millisecond pulsars, according to two new studies, one from a team based at Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and another based in the Netherlands.

galaxy

Previous studies suggested that gamma rays coming from the dense region of space in the inner Milky Way galaxy could be caused when invisible dark matter particles collide. But using new statistical analysis methods, the two research teams independently found that the gamma ray signals are uncharacteristic of those expected from dark matter. Both teams reported the finding in the journal Physical Review Letters this week.

“Our analysis suggests that what we are seeing is evidence for a new astrophysical source of gamma rays at the center of the galaxy,” said Mariangela Lisanti, an assistant professor of physics at Princeton. “This is a very complicated region of the sky and there are other astrophysical signals that could be confused with dark matter signals.”

The center of the Milky Way galaxy is thought to contain dark matter because it is home to a dense concentration of mass, including dense clusters of stars and a black hole. A conclusive finding of dark matter collisions in the galactic center would be a major step forward in confirming our understanding of our universe. “Finding direct evidence for these collisions would be interesting because it would help us understand the relationship between dark matter and ordinary matter,” said Benjamin Safdi, a postdoctoral researcher at MIT who earned his Ph.D. in 2014 at Princeton.

To tell whether the signals were from dark matter versus other sources, the Princeton/MIT research team turned to image-processing techniques. They looked at what the gamma rays should look like if they indeed come from the collision of hypothesized dark matter particles known as weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs. For the analysis, Lisanti, Safdi and Samuel Lee, a former postdoctoral research fellow at Princeton who is now at the Broad Institute, along with colleagues Wei Xue and Tracy Slatyer at MIT, studied images of gamma rays captured by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which has been mapping the rays since 2008.

Dark matter particles are thought to make up about 85 percent of the mass in the universe but have never been directly detected. The collision of two WIMPs, according to a widely accepted model of dark matter, causes them to annihilate each other to produce gamma rays, which are the highest-energy form of light in the universe.

According to this model, the high-energy particles of light, or photons, should be smoothly distributed among the pixels in the images captured by the Fermi telescope. In contrast, other sources, such as rotating stars known as pulsars, release bursts of light that show up as isolated, bright pixels.

The researchers applied their statistical analysis method to images collected by the Fermi telescope and found that the distribution of photons was clumpy rather than smooth, indicating that the gamma rays were unlikely to be caused by dark matter particle collisions.

Exactly what these new sources are is unknown, Lisanti said, but one possibility is that they are very old, rapidly rotating stars known as millisecond pulsars. She said it would be possible to explore the source of the gamma rays using other types of sky surveys involving telescopes that detect radio frequencies.

Douglas Finkbeiner, a professor of astronomy and physics at Harvard University who was not directly involved in the current study, said that although the finding complicates the search for dark matter, it leads to other areas of discovery. “Our job as astrophysicists is to characterize what we see in the universe, not get some predetermined, wished-for outcome. Of course it would be great to find dark matter, but just figuring out what is going on and making new discoveries is very exciting.”

According to Christoph Weniger from the University of Amsterdam and lead author of the Netherlands-based study, the finding is a win-win situation: “Either we find hundreds or thousands of millisecond pulsars in the upcoming decade, shedding light on the history of the Milky Way, or we find nothing. In the latter case, a dark matter explanation for the gamma ray excess will become much more obvious.”

Research May Explain Mysterious Deep Earthquakes In Subduction Zones

Geologists from Brown University may have finally explained what triggers certain earthquakes that occur deep beneath the Earth’s surface in subduction zones, regions where one tectonic plate slides beneath another.

quake

Subduction zones are some of the most seismically active areas on earth. Earthquakes in these spots that occur close to the surface can be devastating, like the one that struck Japan in 2011 triggering the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But quakes also occur commonly in the subducting crust as it pushes deep below the surface — at depths between 70 and 300 kilometers. These quakes, known as intermediate depth earthquakes, tend to be less damaging, but can still rattle buildings.

Intermediate depth quakes have long been something of a mystery to geologists.

“They’re enigmatic because the pressures are so high at that depth that the normal process of frictional sliding associated with earthquakes is inhibited,” said Greg Hirth, professor of earth, environmental, and planetary sciences at Brown. “The forces required to get things to slip just aren’t there.”

But through a series of lab experiments, Hirth and postdoctoral researcher Keishi Okazaki have shown that as water escapes from a mineral called lawsonite at high temperatures and pressures, the mineral becomes prone to the kind of brittle failure required to trigger an earthquake.

“Keishi’s experiments were basically the first tests at conditions appropriate for where these earthquakes actually happen in the earth,” Hirth said. “They’re really the first to show strong evidence for this dehydration embrittlement.”

The work will be published on February 4, 2016 in the journal Nature.

The experiments were done in what’s known as a Grigg’s apparatus. Okazaki placed samples of lawsonite in a cylinder and heated it up through the range of temperatures where water becomes unstable in lawsonite at high pressures. A piston then increased the pressure until the mineral began to deform. A tiny seismometer fixed to the apparatus detected sudden cracking in the lawsonite, a signal consistent with brittle failure.

Okazaki performed similar experiments using a different mineral, antigorite, which had been previously implicated as contributing to intermediate depth seismicity. In contrast to lawsonite, the antigorite failed more gradually — squishing rather than cracking — suggesting that antigorite does not play a role in these quakes.

“That’s one of the cool things about this,” Hirth said. “For 50 years everyone has assumed this is a process related to antigorite, despite the fact that there wasn’t much evidence for it. Now we have good experimental evidence of this dehydration process involving lawsonite.”

If lawsonite is indeed responsible for intermediate depth earthquakes, it would explain why such quakes are common in some subduction zones and not others. The formation of lawsonite requires high pressures and low temperatures. It is found in so-called “cold” subduction zones in which the suducting crust is older and therefore cooler in temperature. One such cold zone is found in northwest Japan. But conditions in “hot” subduction zones, like the Cascadia subduction zone off the coast of Washington state, aren’t conducive to the formation of lawsonite.

“In hot subduction zones, we have very few earthquakes in the subducting crust because we have no lawsonite,” Okazaki said. “But in cold subduction zones, we have lawsonite and we get these earthquakes.”

Ultimately, Hirth says research like this might help scientists to better understand why earthquakes happen at different places under different conditions.

“Trying to put into the context of all earthquakes how these processes are working might be important not just for understanding these strange types of earthquakes, but all earthquakes,” he said. “We don’t really understand a lot of the earthquake cycle. Predictability is the ultimate goal, but we’re still at the stage of thinking about what’s the recipe for different kinds of earthquakes. This appears to be one of those recipes.”