New Images Of Alaska Sub-Seafloor Suggest High Tsunami Danger

Scientists probing under the seafloor off Alaska have mapped a geologic structure that they say signals potential for a major tsunami in an area that normally would be considered benign. They say the feature closely resembles one that produced the 2011 Tohoku tsunami off Japan, killing some 20,000 people and melting down three nuclear reactors. Such structures may lurk unrecognized in other areas of the world, say the scientists. The findings will be published tomorrow in the print edition of the journal Nature Geoscience.

The discovery “suggests this part of Alaska is particularly prone to tsunami generation,” said seismologist Anne Bécel of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who led the study. “The possibility that such features are widespread is of global significance.” In addition to Alaska, she said, waves could hit more southerly North American coasts, Hawaii and other parts of the Pacific.

Tsunamis can occur as giant plates of ocean crust dive under adjoining continental crust, a process called subduction. Some plates get stuck for decades or centuries and tension builds, until they suddenly slip by each other. This produces a big earthquake, and the ocean floor may jump up or down like a released spring. That motion transfers to the overlying water, creating a surface wave.

The 2011 Japan tsunami was a surprise, because it came partly on a “creeping” segment of seafloor, where the plates move steadily, releasing tension in frequent small quakes that should prevent a big one from building. But researchers are now recognizing it may not always work that way. Off Japan, part of the leading edge of the overriding continental plate had become somewhat detached from the main mass. When a relatively modest quake dislodged this detached wedge, it jumped, unleashing a wave that topped 130 feet in places. The telltale sign of danger, in retrospect: a fault in the seafloor that demarcated the detached section’s boundary landward of the “trench,” the zone where the two plates initially meet. The fault had been known to exist, but no one had understood what it meant.

The researchers in the new study have now mapped a similar system in the Shumagin Gap, a creeping subduction zone near the end of the Alaska Peninsula some 600 miles from Anchorage. The segment is part of a subduction arc spanning the peninsula and the Aleutian Islands. Sailing on a specially equipped research vessel, the scientists used relatively new technology to penetrate deep into the seafloor with powerful sound pulses. By reading the echoes, they created CAT-scan-like maps of both the surface and what is underneath. The newly mapped fault lies between the trench and the coast, stretching perhaps 90 miles underwater more or less parallel to land. On the seafloor, it is marked by scarps about 15 feet high, indicating that the floor has dropped one side and risen on the other. The fault extends down more than 20 miles, all the way to where the two plates are moving against each other.

The team also analyzed small earthquakes in the region, and found a cluster of seismicity where the newly identified fault meets the plate boundary. This, they say, confirms that the fault may be active. Earthquake patterns also suggest that frictional properties on the seaward side of the fault differ from those on the landward side. These differences may have created the fault, slowly tearing the region off the main mass; or the fault may be the remains of a past sudden movement. Either way, it signals danger, said coauthor Donna Shillington, a Lamont-Doherty seismologist.

“With that big fault there, that outer part of the plate could move independently and make a tsunami a lot more effective,” said Shillington. “You get a lot more vertical motion if the part that moves is close to the seafloor surface.” A rough analogy: imagine snapping off a small piece of a dinner plate, laying the two pieces together on a table and pounding the table from below; the smaller piece will probably jump higher than if the plate were whole, because there is less holding it down.

Other parts of the Aleutian subduction zone are already known to be dangerous. A 1946 quake and tsunami originating further west killed more than 160 people, most in Hawaii. In 1964, an offshore quake killed around 140 people with landslides and tsunamis, mainly in Alaska; 19 people died in Oregon and California, and waves were detected as far off as Papua New Guinea and even Antarctica. In July 2017, an offshore quake near the western tip of the Aleutians triggered a Pacific-wide tsunami warning, but luckily it produced just a six-inch local wave.

As for the Shumagin Gap, in 1788, Russian colonists then living on nearby Unga Island recorded a great quake and tsunami that wiped out coastal structures and killed many native Aleut people. The researchers say it may have originated at the Shumagin Gap, but there is no way to be sure. Rob Witter, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), has scoured area coastlines for evidence of such a tsunami, but so far evidence has eluded him, he said. The potential danger “remains a puzzle here,” he said. “We know so little about the hazards of subduction zones. Every little bit of new information we can glean about how they work is valuable, including the findings in this new paper.”

The authors say that apart from Japan, such a fault structure has been well documented only off Russia’s Kuril Islands, east of the Aleutians. But, Shillington said, “We don’t have images from many places. If we were to look around the world, we would probably see a lot more.” John Miller, a retired USGS scientist who has studied the Aleutians, said that his own work suggests other segments of the arc have other threatening features that resemble both those in the Shumagin and off Japan. “The dangers of areas like these are just now being widely recognized,” he said.

Lamont seismologists have been studying earthquakes in the Aleutians since the 1960s, but early studies were conducted mainly on land. In the 1980s, the USGS collected the same type of data used in the new study, but seismic equipment now able to produce far more detailed images deep under the sea floor made this latest discovery possible, said Bécel. She and others conducted the imaging survey aboard the Marcus G. Langseth, the United States’ flagship vessel for acoustic research. Owned by the U.S. National Science Foundation, it is operated by Lamont-Doherty on behalf the nation’s universities and other research institutions.

Hong Kong Raises Storm Warning as Cyclone Roke Approaches

The Hong Kong Observatory lowered its warning to strong wind signal No. 3 from the third-highest warning issued Sunday morning as Cyclone Roke weakened after entering the inland area of China’s southern Guangdong province.

The agency said tropical storm signal No. 8 is still in force, and advised the public to stay away from the shoreline. Ferry services were suspended while Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. said delays can be expected. Cathay and Hong Kong Express Airways Ltd. said flight operations remain normal, while MTR Corp. said trains and buses are running as usual. It is the second cyclone warning issued this year.

Cyclone Roke was centered about 60 kilometers (37 miles) north-northwest of the observatory in Tsim Sha Tsui district at 1 p.m. local time, and is forecast to move west or west-northwest at about 20 kilometers per hour, according to the latest update. Hong Kong’s airport authority said 56 flights were delayed as of 11 a.m. local time, according to a government statement.

When typhoon Haima made landfall in China last October after brushing past Hong Kong, the city’s stock exchange was forced to cancel trading for the day, while authorities shut schools.

Measuring Cyclones From Space Has Global Benefits

Researchers may look to the sky to better predict the devastating hurricanes and typhoons that take place around the globe every year.

At a panel on the Benefits for Humanity-Innovations on the International Space Station (ISS) during the ISS R&D Conference 2017, Paul Joss, a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said by viewing cyclones at 400 km above sea level, researchers will be able to better predict their ultimate impact on human life.

“The single quantity that tells you the most about how much damage and how many lives are going to be lost when a cyclone hits land is the pressure at sea level in the clear eye of the center of the storm,” Joss said during the July 18 panel. “Having accurate measurements on the strength of these storms and putting those into numerical weather prediction codes to determine how strong the storm is going to be when it hits land is of great importance in saving both human life and property.

“Since 2013 we’ve been investigating on the ISS a remote method of measuring the central pressure in a tropical cyclone.”

Joss estimated that better predicative measures of cyclones could ultimately save 10,000 lives and $10-billion to $15-billion annually worldwide.

ISS is able to capture exactly how a storm is moving and acting from different angles, which can be used to measure the height of the clouds just outside the central eye of the storm.

Researchers then would be able to create a 3D image of the eye wall—the area immediately outside the eye of the cyclone that is considered most devastating region of a cyclone.

Joss explained that the problem of incorrect estimations is a global issue.

“The only country that does those kinds of measurements is the United States and we share it with nearby countries,” he said. “Other countries have no such protection; they only have the crudest estimates on how strong the storm is going to be before they hit.”

He said there are dangers to both overestimating and underestimating the impact of a cyclone.

By overestimating the potential impact of a storm, government entities go through costly evacuation and protection measures that may not be warranted. This also results in residents not heading future warnings of storms and risking their lives by not evacuating.

Also underestimating storms results in people not following the proper precautions and risking their lives.

Joss said by perfecting this method, the aim is to provide round-the-clock measurements and estimations of every cyclone across the globe.

“Our ultimate goal is to fly a small constellation of four microsatellites, which will enable us to fly over every tropical cyclone worldwide every hour and a half,” he said.

Joss said private capital is likely needed because each of the four satellites would needed to be injected into a very precise orbit, which could be expensive.

He also said in the meantime, they plan on using drones flying about 20 km above sea level to try to capture some information.

Joss said another benefit will be by creating a comprehensive dataset of information on cyclones researchers can learn about the storm, including how global warming is impacting the intensity of storms.

According to Joss, tropical cyclones are considered the most devastating natural catastrophe on Earth, siting the 1970 Bhola cyclone that struck Bangladesh and resulted in more than 500,000 fatalities and superstorm Sandy in 2012 that resulted in more than $70 billion in property damage.

Also speaking during the panel were Randy Giles, Ph.D., chief scientists at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Julie Robinson, Ph.D., ISS chief scientist, Andrew Feinberg, Ph.D., professor of medicine, oncology, molecular biology & genetics at the School of Medicine for Johns Hopkins University, Peter Wayner, Ph.D., professor emeritus at the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Western Pacific Will Roar to Life With First Typhoon of 2017 and a Weird Interaction Called the Fujiwhara Effect

The western Pacific is finally shaking out of its doldrums because of a pair of tropical cyclones that not only could strengthen, but could also perform a rare, bizarre, circular dance east of Japan called the Fujiwhara effect.

Currently, there are two active tropical cyclones well east of Japan. The westernmost one is named “Noru,” with “Kulap” over 1,000 miles to the east of Noru. Another active tropical cyclone, 08W, will eventually push into northern Vietnam this weekend, bringing a threat of locally heavy rain.

Additionally, Tropical Depression 10W formed late Friday over the Luzon Strait. This tropical cyclone will remain weak but could enhance rainfall along the south coast of China, including Hong Kong, late Sunday into Monday.

Noru and Kulap may not look impressive yet, but their future in the week ahead is meteorologically fascinating.

Noru is expected to eventually become a typhoon by early in the week but will meander over the next five days well east of Japan. Kulap, however, should make significant progress toward the west-northwest and may become close enough to begin an intricate, possibly fatal dance with Noru.

Various numerical forecast models have suggested Noru and Kulap may, essentially, pinwheel around each other, something meteorologists call the Fujiwhara effect.

Named for a Japanese researcher who discovered this in experiments with water in the early 1920s, the Fujiwhara effect details how two tropical cyclones 800 to 900 miles apart rotate counter-clockwise about one another. Think of the teacup ride at Disney or the Tilt-a-Whirl at your local county fair, but with tropical systems instead.

“The western tropical cyclone (Noru) is going to be the center of gravity, in a sense, where the smaller system (Kulap) is forecast to cyclonically orbit the larger system for a couple of days,” said Dr. Michael Ventrice, meteorological scientist with The Weather Company.

Typically, the stronger storm will dominate the weaker, either fizzling it or merging with it altogether. In this case, Noru may be the stronger “survivor” of this.

Ventrice said he believes Noru’s outflow will suppress convection for the smaller Kulap once they begin to interact.

Some forecast guidance suggests Noru may essentially ingest Kulap, then become an intense typhoon and still remain sitting in place well into the week ahead, if not the following week. It certainly makes for strange-looking model forecast tracks.

Why is this happening? Blame a clogged-up upper atmosphere.

“The reason for the stalling Fujiwhara tropical cyclones is likely tied to the development of a large blocking ridge over the north Pacific,” said Ventrice. “This is going to stagnate flow over the northwest Pacific, which doesn’t give this future pair – or merged cyclone – much steering flow.”

Given this blocked atmosphere, we can’t completely rule out Noru eventually creeping closer to Japan sometime near the end of July or early August.

Regardless, this long-lasting tropical cyclone will churn up impressive swells that may reach not just Japan’s east coast, but may also propagate farther south and west.

Not to mention, the satellite imagery from this potential Fujiwhara effect may be among the most impressive weather imagery of 2017 to meteorologists and weather enthusiasts alike.

Near-Record-Late ‘First Typhoon’

If you haven’t heard the word “typhoon” in a while, it’s because there hasn’t been one yet in 2017, and we’re nearing a record wait for the year’s first.

Through July 19, there have been only four tropical storms – Muifa in late April, Merbok in mid-June, Nanmadol in early July, Talas in mid-July – in 2017 in the northwestern Pacific Basin.

According to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, Colorado State University atmospheric scientist, three to four typhoons have typically developed by mid-July in an average year. Two of those typhoons would have reached at least Category 3 intensity in a typical year-to-date, as well.

Since 1950, only 1998 (Aug. 3) had a later “first typhoon of the year,” Klotzbach noted.

“One of the reasons for suppression of the (Northwest Pacific tropical cyclone) season to date is that we’ve generally had sinking motion across most of the basin since early May,” said Klotzbach.

Stronger-than-average trade winds, blowing east-to-west near the Philippines, Taiwan and the South China Sea, have also been in place since May, Klotzbach said. This increases wind shear, which tends to either prevent tropical cyclones from forming or rip apart those that have formed.

Klotzbach’s calculations indicate roughly 80 percent of the year’s activity, on average, still lies ahead in the planet’s most active basin for tropical cyclones: the northwest Pacific Ocean.

NASA Sees Tropical Storm Noru East Of Japan

NASA’s Terra satellite captured a visible-light image of Tropical Storm Noru after it formed far to the east of Japan in the Northwestern Pacific Ocean.

Noru joins Tropical Storm Kulap and Tropical Depression 08W as newly formed tropical cyclones all on July 21.

On July 21 at 1:30 p.m. EDT, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured a visible light image of Tropical Storm Noru. Tropical Storm Kulap lies to Noru’s west, and Tropical Depression 08W is in the South China Sea and lies to the east of Noru.

The visible MODIS image showed a large band of thunderstorms north and east of the low-level center of circulation. Strongest thunderstorms were isolated, east of the center. Enhanced infrared imagery showed that the low-level center was partially exposed to outside winds.

At July 21 at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 UTC), the center of Tropical Storm Noru was located near 28.0 degrees north latitude and 154.7 degrees east longitude. That’s about 230 miles nautical miles north-northeast of Minami Tori Shima. Also known as Marcus Island, Minami Tori Shima is a Japanese coral atoll about 1,148 miles (1,848 kilometers) southeast of Tokyo.

Noru had maximum sustained winds near 40 mph (35 knots/62 kph). Noru was moving toward the west near 8 mph (7 knots/12.9 kph). The system is expected to move west, then become quasi-stationary over the next couple of days.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center noted that warm sea surface temperatures were conducive to further development.

State of Emergency Declared in Hamburg, New York, After Three Tornadoes Leave Damage

Officials in western New York declared a state of emergency after three tornadoes left damage Thursday as part of a round of severe thunderstorms that rumbled across parts of the Northeast and Midwest.

The first twister received a rating of EF2 and the second, which followed within 20 minutes, was classified as an EF1, according to the National Weather Service. A third tornado, also rated EF1, was confirmed in the town of Angelica.

Damage was reported at the Erie County Fairgrounds and the Hamburg Gaming casino in Hamburg, New York, after the storm, NewYorkUpstate.com reports.

“We’ve got hundreds of trees that are downed,” said Orchard Park Police Chief Mark Pacholec told the Buffalo News. “We have a couple of houses with no roofs. We have power poles down. Power lines down.”

In Buffalo, the city court was closed Thursday due to damage from flooding brought on by heavy rains, 7 Eyewitness News reported.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced via Twitter that a no unnecessary travel advisory has been issued due to road blockages and downed power lines.

As many as 13,000 homes and businesses were without power after the tornadoes struck, according to the Associated Press. Hamburg is a town of about 57,000 located about 10 miles south of Buffalo.

NASA Announces James Hansen was an Embarrassment to Our Agency

Washington DC: NASA warming scientist James Hansen, one of former Vice President Al Gore’s closest allies in the promotion of man-made global warming fears, is being publicly rebuked by his former supervisor at NASA.

Retired senior NASA atmospheric scientist Dr. John S. Theon, the former supervisor of James Hansen, NASA’s vocal man-made global warming fears soothsayer, has now publicly declared himself a skeptic and declared that Hansen “embarrassed NASA” with his alarming climate claims and said Hansen was “was never muzzled.” Theon joins the rapidly growing ranks of international scientists abandoning the promotion of anthropogenic global warming fears.

“I appreciate the opportunity to add my name to those who disagree that global warming is man-made,” Theon wrote to the Minority Office at the Environment and Public Works Committee on January 15, 2009. “I was, in effect, Hansen’s supervisor because I had to justify his funding, allocate his resources, and evaluate his results. I did not have the authority to give him his annual performance evaluation,” Theon, the former Chief of the Climate Processes Research Program at NASA Headquarters and former Chief of the Atmospheric Dynamics & Radiation Branch explained.

“Hansen was never muzzled even though he violated NASA’s official agency position on climate forecasting (i.e., we did not know enough to forecast climate change or mankind’s effect on it). Hansen thus embarrassed NASA by coming out with his claims of global warming in 1988 in his testimony before Congress,” Theon wrote. NASA scientist James Hansen who runs NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has created worldwide media frenzy with his dire climate warnings, his call for trials against those who dissent against man-made global warming fear, and his claims that he was allegedly muzzled by the Bush administration despite doing 1,400 on-the-job media interviews.

Theon declared “climate models are useless.” “My own belief concerning anthropogenic climate change is that the models do not realistically simulate the climate system because there are many very important sub-grid scale processes the models either replicate poorly or completely omit,” Theon explained. “Furthermore, some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results. In doing so, they neither explain what they have modified in the observations, nor explain how they did it. They have resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists. This is clearly contrary to how science should be done. Thus there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy,” he added.

“As Chief of several of NASA Headquarters’ programs (1982-94), an SES position, I was responsible for all weather and climate research in the entire agency, including the research work by James Hansen, Roy Spencer, Joanne Simpson, and several hundred other scientists at NASA field centers, in academia, and in the private sector who worked on climate research,” Theon wrote of his career. “This required a thorough understanding of the state of the science. I have kept up with climate science since retiring by reading books and journal articles,” Theon added.

Theon was elected a fellow of the American Meteorological Society, given the NASA Exceptional Performance Award twice, elected an Associate Fellow of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, and awarded the AIAA’s Losey Medal for contributions to airborne remote sensing. He was also awarded the Radio Wave Award by the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications of Japan for contributions to the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission — a joint NASA-Japanese Space Agency satellite. Theon has authored or coauthored more than 50 NASA Reports, journal articles, monographs, chapters in books, and edited two books in the scientific literature.

Hansen ‘is a political activist who spreads fear’

Award-winning NASA Astronaut and Physicist Walter Cunningham of NASA’s Apollo 7 also recently chastised Hansen. “Hansen is a political activist who spreads fear even when NASA’s own data contradict him,” Cunningham wrote in an essay in the July/August 2008 issue of Launch Magazine. “NASA should be at the forefront in the collection of scientific evidence and debunking the current hysteria over human-caused, or Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). Unfortunately, it is becoming just another agency caught up in the politics of global warming, or worse, politicized science,” Cunningham wrote.

Theon joins many current and former NASA scientists in dissenting from man-made climate fears. A small sampling includes: Aerospace engineer and physicist Dr. Michael Griffin, the former top administrator of NASA, Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology and is formerly of NASA, Geophysicist Dr. Phil Chapman, an astronautical engineer and former NASA astronaut, Award-Winning NASA Astronaut/Geologist and Moonwalker Jack Schmitt, Chemist and Nuclear Engineer Robert DeFayette was formerly with NASA’s Plum Brook Reactor, Hungarian Ferenc Miskolczi, an atmospheric physicist with 30 years of experience and a former researcher with NASA’s Ames Research Center, Climatologist Dr. John Christy, Climatologist Dr. Roy W. Spencer, Atmospheric Scientist Ross Hays of NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility.

Gore faces a much different scientific climate in 2009 than the one he faced in 2006 when his film An Inconvenient Truth was released. According to satellite data, the Earth has cooled since Gore’s film was released, Antarctic sea ice extent has grown to record levels, sea level rise has slowed, ocean temperatures have failed to warm, and more and more scientists have publicly declared their dissent from man-made climate fears as peer-reviewed studies continue to man-made counter warming fears.

“Vice President Gore’s and the other promoters of man-made climate fears’ endless claims that the ‘debate is over’ appear to be ignoring scientific reality,” Senator James Inhofe, Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee.

A U.S. Senate Minority Report released in December 2008 details over 650 international scientists who are dissenting from man-made global warming fears promoted by the UN. Many of the scientists profiled are former UN IPCC scientists and former believers in man-made climate change that have reversed their views in recent years. The report continues to grow almost daily. We have just received a request from an Italian scientist, and a Czech scientist to join the 650 dissenting scientists report. A chemist from the U.S. Naval Academy is about to be added, and more Japanese scientists are dissenting. Finally, many more meteorologists will be added and another former UN IPCC scientist is about to be included. These scientists are openly rebelling against the climate orthodoxy promoted by Gore and the UN IPCC.

The prestigious International Geological Congress, dubbed the geologists’ equivalent of the Olympic Games, was held in Norway in August 2008 and prominently featured the voices of scientists skeptical of man-made global warming fears. Reports from the conference found that Skeptical scientists overwhelmed the meeting, with ‘2/3 of presenters and question-askers hostile to, even dismissive of, the UN IPCC’. In addition, a 2008 canvass of more than 51,000 Canadian scientists revealed 68% disagree that global warming science is “settled.”

A November 25, 2008, article in Politico noted that a “growing accumulation” of science is challenging warming fears, and added that the “science behind global warming may still be too shaky to warrant cap-and-trade legislation.” More evidence that the global warming fear machine is breaking down. Russian scientists “rejected the very idea that carbon dioxide may be responsible for global warming”. An American Physical Society editor conceded that a “considerable presence” of scientific skeptics exists. An International team of scientists countered the UN IPCC, declaring: “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate”. India Issued a report challenging global warming fears. International Scientists demanded the UN IPCC “be called to account and cease its deceptive practices.”

The scientists and peer-reviewed studies countering climate claims are the key reason that the U.S. public has grown ever more skeptical of man-made climate doom predictions. Global warming ranks dead last, 20 out of 20 in new Pew survey. Pew Survey: & Survey finds majority of U.S. Voters – ‘51% – now believe that humans are not the predominant cause of climate change’ – January 20, 2009 – Rasmussen Reports.

The chorus of skeptical scientific voices grow louder in 2008 as a steady stream of peer-reviewed studies, analyses, real world data and inconvenient developments challenged the UN’s and former Vice President Al Gore’s claims that the “science is settled” and there is a “consensus.”

On a range of issues, 2008 proved to be challenging for the promoters of man-made climate fears. Promoters of anthropogenic warming fears endured the following: Global temperatures failing to warm; Peer-reviewed studies predicting a continued lack of warming; a failed attempt to revive the discredited “Hockey Stick”; inconvenient developments and studies regarding rising CO2; the Spotless Sun; Clouds; Antarctica; the Arctic; Greenland’s ice; Mount Kilimanjaro; Global sea ice; Causes of Hurricanes; Extreme Storms; Extinctions; Floods; Droughts; Ocean Acidification; Polar Bears; Extreme weather deaths; Frogs; lack of atmospheric dust; Malaria; the failure of oceans to warm and rise as predicted.