Doomwatch, 20 Jan 2021

It’s been super busy and I’ve been swamped trying to reset things after major changes my organizational landscape, but we continue to have the usual share of doom stalking the Earth: it’s hurricane season in the southern hemisphere, there have been a couple of significant earthquakes. The SARS-COV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 continues to be doing fine (humans not so much), and of course there is something happening in Washington DC today …

There are three active tropical cyclones in the Southern Hemisphere, two “invest” areas, and another invest area in the Philippines(!). Most of these are fairly weak systems, but Cyclone Eloise has just made landfall in Madagascar and is headed towards the African Mainland. The forecast models, as well as the official forecasts from MetoFrance (who are responsible for this area) and the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center, show it strengthening into a hurricane before the second landfall. Here’s the impact estimate …

Cyclone Eloise, headed for Mozambique.

There has been a rash of earthquakes causing moderate damage over the last week. The two most significant are a series of quakes in San Juan province of Argentina, and a major earthquake causing significant damage near Sulawesi, Indonesia. Nearly 100 are known dead, while humanitarian situation among survivors in Indonesia is becoming of concern. Damage in Argentina seems mostly confined to infrastructure.

COVID continues a slow burn through the population. It has been over a year since the first warnings were raised, and I have a longish post under construction looking back on the early predictions, as well as where we seem to be going from here. Hopefully will get posted in the next day or so, reviewing some of the latest data. It’s not good, and while it’s not the black death, it is still killing a lot of people who would not otherwise have died, and anyone who says otherwise is wrong. Period. That said, there are some interesting trends in mortality from other causes (such as influenza, which is almost non existent this year).

Due to the inauguration, the normal weekly data update won’t be out until tomorrow, which will give us our first mostly complete look at the 2020 mortality data, so the post will likely be on Friday. To rant once again, there is NO REAL TIME DATA ON COVID19! The “death counters” on TV are bogus. Johns Hopkins (the source most are using) is doing a great job, but the daily totals, especially of mortality, are very noisy estimates. This is a slow moving disaster; it takes a couple of seeks for all of the mortality data to be compiled.

It still astonishes me that people can’t seem to get grip on this thing, and how politicized it has become. Of course, it shouldn’t; sadly the reaction of people and what policies they want to enact are pretty predictable based on party. And like most things a balanced approach would do far better than either extreme. We’ll see how the “new” Administration does. Speaking of which …

The Biden Administration takes over today. A lot of things will likely become more orderly, and while their domestic polices are not accepted by almost half of the population, the rollout and implementation will be well organized given the long government pedigrees of the President and his various appointees. And given the fact the US media is largely on their side, stuff will get done and things will certainly appear to be better. But I’m extremely concerned about Foreign Policy. This group, lead by Blinken, Rice, Powers, and the new torturer in chief, Avril Haines, are responsible for inflaming many of the world’s trouble spots such as in the Middle East (especially Syria and Libya). They are largely responsible for the confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, and advocate policies that are likely to create further dangerous conflicts. Unfortunately, much of that will be “under the radar” as the US public and media focus on the domestic situation.

Administrative note: I’m no longer cross posting any politically focused posts on either Facebook or Twitter. The environment just isn’t conducive for rational discussion, and I don’t want the Enki FB page to become yet another site where people I don’t know engage in poo throwing contests ๐Ÿ˜› … I’m happy to discuss the political implications of various doom we face (and most of them do involve politics), but we need to keep the anger and emotion to a minimum, and try to keep things based on all the facts (not just the ones that support some particular point of view). All that said, the new year is starting off much better (organizationally, if not funding wise) than the last, and the reorganization should finally start to be seen in better stuff on the Patreon page and web sites any day now ๐Ÿ™‚

Major #Earthquake in #Croatia

Over the last few days there have been a series of small earthquakes in Croatia. This morning US time (noon CET) a shallow M6.4 hit, and early reports are to have caused significant damage. At least one person has been killed, and the mayor of Petrinja reports โ€œThis is a catastrophe. My city is completely destroyed.โ€ It is likely the death toll will be higher as the day goes on.

TAOS/EQ simulation of 29 Dec 2020 Earthquake in Croatia

Initial economic impact estimates are $4 to $5 Billion USD, with some models as high as $8 Billion. There are about 1.5 Million people in the hazard zone, and upwards of 150,000 people living in areas with a significant risk of structural collapse.

#Eta gone; AL98 headed to #Honduras/#Nicaragua, Vamco in the #Philippines, #Earthquake in #Nevada

Even though the winds are still above tropical storm strength, Eta has lost its tropical characteristics so NHC has discontinued advisories. However, on the way out flash floods from the interaction of Eta and the front that is finally seeing it off killed at least six (two are still missing) in North Carolina. The remains of the system should stay well south of the Canadian Atlantic Provinces, so we’re done with this one. Here’s the big picture in the Atlantic, the surface analysis from the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch on top of the GOES IR satellite view this morning:

TAFB Analysis, Friday Morning. Click to embiggen. AL98 is the “DVLPG GALE” (Developing Gale) below Eta.

We still have Theta (AL302020) out in the North Atlantic, no threat to land. AL98, located in the middle of the Caribbean, is expected to become a depression later today, and will be given the permanent identification AL312020 (recall that numbers starting with a nine are temporary ID’s for investigation areas). If it becomes a tropical storm as expected, it will be called Iota, the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet. The tracking is pretty tight, focused on the Honduras/Nicaragua border:

Many of the techniques that also estimate intensity are pretty enthusiastic about this storm, with many reaching hurricane status before landfall.

Forecast intensity for AL98 for the next five days

And Typhoon Vamco is in the West Pacific, which just smashed the Philippines and is headed for the coast of Vietnam (which itself has had lots of flooding and damage this year) as a tropical storm.

And if that’s not enough, as further proof the earth just wants us to go away there was an earthquake overnight in Nevada. Although a shallow magnitude 5.5, it is in a pretty sparsely populated area, under 5,000 people in the area at risk of damage.

Oh, and the virus thingee is running rampant again, so maybe I’ll say something about that in the next couple of days in between all the other ways the planet is trying to kill us …

Magnitude 7 #Earthquake in eastern Aegean Sea

There has been a major earthquake in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey, about 65km southwest of Smyrna (Izmir). There are reports of a tsunami impacting both the port there and the Greek Island of Samos, as well as structural collapse and fatalities across coastal Anatolia. The early median computer model estimated economic impacts are approximately $8.3 Billion USD, with upwards of 110,000 people living within the region where the ground motion is sufficient to cause buildings to collapse …

Earthquake in the Aegean

Alaska EQ, Tropical Storm Epsilon

There was a pretty strong 7.5 magnitude earthquake offshore from Alaska last night, along with some pretty powerful aftershocks …

The quake generated a small tsunami, forcing the evacuation of several coastal communities, but it turned out to be small (couple of feet) and the quake itself apparently did not cause extensive damage. Most of the impact is due to disruption rather than damage. No tsunami warnings for the rest of the Pacific.

On the tropical front, two real storms and one example of why you don’t get excited about models. Tropical Storm Epsilon (AL272020) is meandering south east of Bermuda, but should start to move towards the island before making the turn out to sea. It is likely to be near hurricane strength by that time, so folks in Bermuda should be ready just in case.

Typhoon Saudel (WP192020) is a tropical storm force system that is going to cross the Philippines today, bringing gusty winds and rain. It will likely strengthen to near hurricane force as it crosses the South China Sea before hitting China. Invest area WP97 is likely to become a typhoon and parallel the coast of Japan over the next few days.

Finally, remember the thing in the Caribbean that the global models were spinning up into a major storm, hitting Florida next weekend? NHC gives it a 10% chance of spinning up, GFS shows nothing significant this morning, only a weak low drifting across Central America next weekend …

Tropical Depression 27; earthquake on Hispaniola

As of 11am: now Tropical Storm Epsilon … Key Messages regarding Tropical Storm Epsilon

Update a bit late this morning, was waiting on the National Hurricane Center to start advisories on the system southeast of Bermuda that was AL94, now Tropical Depression 27. TD27 will likely become Tropical Storm Epsilon later today, and probably a hurricane in a couple of days as it passes east of Bermuda (who should be watching this thing carefully). Here’s the latest impact swath:

After that, it should stay offshore from the Canadian Maritime provinces (the brown line is the deep layer trajectory model, which may be safely ignored in this case). Here’s the tracks …

In other natural disaster news, there has been a shallow earthquake on the island of Hispaniola, on the north coast of the Dominican Republic this morning that potentially caused some light damage.

Earthquakes on the island are always a scary reminder of the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti. And WP192020, presently a tropical depression, is likely to become a tropical storm before landfall in the Philippines on Tuesday.

Doomwatch 11 Sept 2020

Globally we have a lot going on, and several apocalyptic vistas to describe. Given the peak of hurricane season and eight systems being watched, several earthquakes, the fires in the Western US, Pandemic, and several unstable geopolitical hot spots trying to flare up, you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re doomed. But, when you take them one by one and see what the actual risks are … ok, it doesn’t look great, but hopefully not as bad as you might think. Rather than worry about what might happen, let’s look at what is happening …

Bit busier than I like to see it … click any graphic to embiggen.

Tropics: Leaving aside the watch areas, there are three systems to be concerned about. In the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Paulette is increasingly a threat to Bermuda. Here are the National Hurricane Center’s Key Messages regarding Tropical Storm Paulette. The current forecast track takes the storm right over the island, but wobbles of 100 miles one way or the other will make a big difference and it’s still a ways out. But folks there should be in their initial preparation phases.

Paulette Damage Swath

The second thing to be aware of is there is a system in The Bahamas that will need watching this weekend and early next week. It will just dump rain on Florida, maybe some gusty winds in thunderstorms, but as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico some of the models are showing it becoming a tropical storm before impacting the northern Gulf coast (Louisiana). Tracking and forecasts are just ramping up on this one … but here is what the GFS looks like for Tuesday morning:

GFSForecast for 5am Tuesday Morning – possible weak tropical storm near Louisiana, the big storm off of the east coast is Paulette; Rene is the weak thing on the right.

Rene is weakening and while it may recover some, it’s not heading towards any land anyway. There is a strong system that just moved off the coast of Africa. Models show it becoming a storm in the next few days, and heading towards the Caribbean. Too early to worry about it. There are two systems just off the coast of Mexico – both are likely to stay offshore. Longer term I’m sure that there will be angst over the strong system that has emerged from Africa. The GFS shows a very powerful storm moving near The Bahamas in 10 days – here is the forecast for Monday the 21st:

IGNORE THIS! Yes, dramatic scary picture, BUT it is a long range forecast with very little skill!

You’ll probably start to see more scary graphics like the above, and people talking about the ECMRWF and GFS model runs out 10 to 14 days. Ignore them – there is very little skill that far out. Don’t worry until the official forecasts start, and then only the five day forecasts have enough skill to act on.

And then there’s this …

Lots of rusty tanks of radioactive water. Insert large dinosaur-like creature joke here. Or not – it isn’t really funny.

The third system to watch is the potential for a tropical storm to form in the Western Pacific and impact Japan in a few days. It shouldn’t cause too many problems aside from rain, and the chance some of those highly radioactive waste water storage tanks at Fukushima will leak or even catastrophically fail. There are over 1000 tanks on site, some now approaching a decade old. It’s a disaster waiting to happen, and nobody really knows what to do about it …

Earthquakes: There was a pretty strong earthquake in Chile about 3:30am this morning, part of a series rumbling the country recently. Power outages and light damage have been reported but so far no reports of injuries. Impacts in the low millions of USD if that.

Wildfires: For those watching the fires in the Western US, the CalFire incident site is a great resource. In addition to the fires themselves, the epic smoke is causing air quality impacts across the entire region. Large areas in Oregon are being evacuated and otherwise put on alert. This is worth a separate post and analysis … will try to do that at some point.

CalFire Incident Map

Pandemic: At first glance it would seem things in the US are getting better, but if you look at testing data and the deeper statistics this is likely the calm before the fall/winter storm. Will be doing a longer post on this. As it has been for a couple of months now, we are still in a “slow burn” phase rather than a crisis. Same advice as before – mask up when in public spaces, good hygiene, and while I’m normally a bit ambivalent about flu shots outside high risk groups for a lot of technical reasons, this year I think it’s a good idea for everyone who can get one to do it.

Geopolitics: Hard to know where to start – Belarus, the Eastern Mediterranean has multiple hot spots just waiting to flare up (Greece vs. Turkey, various players in Syria, Lebanon), not to mention Asia (PDRK, South China Sea, India/Pakistan/China, etc.), lots related to Russia (Navalny, hacking/interference allegations, etc). Any one of those would be worthy of a full blown doomwatch post. The stress that the pandemic has put on political and economic systems is extreme, and likely to be expressed in conflicts. Scary stuff, any could spiral out of control. But … much of the coverage of these various conflicts that does leak into the US media obsession with internal US politics is a bit overheated.

So on that note … just remember that there are always potential disasters out there and it can easily be overwhelming and depressing if you let it. Do what you can about the direct threats and don’t worry about the rest. The TL;DR today is: Bermuda needs to watch Paulette. Florida and the Gulf needs to watch the system moving in to Florida and be prepared for a tropical storm late this weekend/early next week. The west is on fire – be aware of rapidly changing conditions; those out there need to be ready to evacuate quickly, so be ready. Wear your (colorful language) mask outside your bubble, and otherwise try to enjoy life this weekend!

Earthquake in Philippines, Atlantic Invest areas

There has been a substantial earthquake in the Philippines overnight, M6.6 and fairly shallow at 10km. Reports are starting to come in on damage, at least one dead and dozens injured. This is a fairly poor area, so economic impacts are out of proportion to the numbers.

In the Atlantic, two “invest” areas (areas of potential tropical cyclone formation) associated with strong tropical waves are getting some attention and angst. The first, AL97, passed over the Windward islands last night and has entered the central Caribbean. The US National Hurricane Center gives it a 60% chance of becoming a depression over the next five days as it makes its way towards the Yucatan. Here’s the current track models, but keep in mind most of these don’t turn it in to a particularly strong storm. If you look carefully many of the colored lines, the major models, kill it off before it even gets across the Caribbean. Don’t get excited about the cloud of faint gray lines – most of those are ensemble members (variations in initial position, etc). Of course, in the mountains of Central America, sub-tropical rain events can turn deadly, so those in the region should keep an eye on it even if it does not become a depression.

The second wave is potentially more of a threat. AL98 is located about half way across the Atlantic and is becoming a bit more organized. NHC gives it a 90% change of becoming a tropical depression in the next five days. The models are a bit more enthusiastic about this storm, with some (like the HWRF) turning it in to a hurricane before it reaches the Leeward Islands in about five days. Here are the latest track models as of 5am Tuesday morning …

It’s way too early to get really excited about this (or any Invest for that matter). As a reminder, not all of these (even those with high formation probabilities) become storms, and fewer still become major storms or threats to land. That said, folks in the northern Caribbean should pay attention and review their hurricane plans, check supplies, and so forth. In the US, if you have a hurricane plan sort of know what you’re going to do in a storm (and that is something you should have done in May every year), that’s all you need to do at this stage. Otherwise, for the US it’s still threat condition “Meh.”

The Five “V”s (Mon 17 Aug Overview)

Lots going on today in Doomwatch. We’re entering the core of the Northern Hemisphere hurricane season and there are a couple storms to look at, and two on the horizon that might make news this week, no major earthquakes, some geopolitical risks (two of the “V”‘s), and a Pandemic update. Here’s the details …

Vortexes (Hurricanes): In the Atlantic Kyle is no more, and Josephine is breaking up. There are two strong tropical waves, only one shows up in the “TC Vitals” files as of 6am ET and has active major tracking models, with the temporary ID AL97. Current guidance has it crossing the Windward islands as a depression before crossing the Caribbean and perhaps long range hitting Yucatan or entering the Gulf. NHC gives it a 50/50 chance of spinning up, the Caribbean Islands should be watching, nothing to worry about elsewhere for a few days. Further east, off of Africa, is another system NHC has tagged at 60%. In the East Pacific, several of the models show Tropical Storm Genevive undergoing rapid intensification over the next two days, jumping from a tropical storm to major hurricane. While not a direct threat to land at the moment, GFS shows it weakening but getting dangerously close to Baja. The Mexican coast definitely needs to be ready for high waves, and maybe some winds as it blows by. Likewise, in the West Pacific, WP99, while presently a weak subtropical storm, is forecast to explode in intensity as it enters the South China Sea before striking southern China and northern Vietnam. No official forecast yet, but worth keeping an eye on for interests in that area.

Vibrations (Earthquakes): Scary quiet. A few scattered events, none causing significant damage. Won’t stay that way of course, but we can’t forecast earthquakes yet.

Voting (geopolitics1): The first geopolitical issue I’d like to say at least a couple of words about is voting by mail. As usual it is fascinating/depressing how issues play out here in the US, with both sides being both right and wrong, and the reasonable middle shouted down and marginalized. Of course people have used absentee voting by mail for decades – I’ve done it myself while in school or out of the country “on government service.” With proper preparation, there isn’t really any reason it can’t be done securely. But for most states, having a few thousands, even 10’s of thousands, of absentee mail votes is a very different thing logistically and from a security standpoint than having to deal with millions, even the the entire balloting system, done by mail. The vast majority of the local jurisdictions (counties) that will have to deal with it aren’t prepared, don’t have the money to do it, and at least half the country doesn’t want to do it both for practical and political (they think it will hurt them) reasons. Both parties have been trying to put their fingers on the scales as this issue comes to a head with the pandemic, rather than deal with it rationally. Either way, it will be a goat rope.

Violence (geopolitics2): I’m seeing some scary signs that a couple of global players are gearing up to take radical action depending on which way the US election goes (Trump, Biden, or chaos). We’re already seeing some opening salvos, as an unknown party (ok, it’s the US and Israel, with likely help from the Gulf States) are taking advantage of Iran’s weakness over the pandemic (they have been hit extremely hard) and fears over a less confrontational policy if Biden wins to start striking various Iranian nuclear facilities. The geopolitical shift last week of the UAE and Israel striking a series of deals was earthshaking – if you haven’t been paying attention for the last 30 years. The Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia, have been working with Israel for decades. This just codifies and makes public what has been the realty for some time: a Jewish/Sunni alliance against the Shiites (Arab vs Persians, lots of cultural and religious divides here beyond the arbitrary national boundaries a couple of English and French dudes literally sketched on a napkin in 1916). It’s not earthshaking (enemy of my enemy is my friend argument), but the public announcement perhaps is part of the groundwork to confront Iran more openly.

Virus(Pandemic): Various researchers (including Enki way back in April) have been saying for some time there were signs the “excess mortality” from COVID-19 was much higher than the reported deaths. CDC has started becoming more public in their statements on this issue as the research has solidified. What do we mean by “excess deaths?” This year significantly more people are dying, especially from pneumonia like illnesses, than we expect based on historical statistics. The logical explanation is COVID, since the more people we test, the more we find have it (and we cant canโ€™t test as many as we should). Of course there could be another virus out there that acts similar to the SARS-COV-2 virus that causes COVID19 and has managed to go undetected, but that’s not likely.

As said many times, COVID is scary and bad enough to need us to take action, but not so “people dropping in the street” bad that it’s obvious. And like everything else in this benighted land it is convolved in partisan politics and the “culture wars” (that are in reality just a manifestation of party manipulation IMNSHO). With schools reopening in some areas, fatigue setting in, a third of the population scared and over-reacting, a third dismissive and irresponsible, and a third just confused, the slow burn is likely to continue.

Vaccines (Pandemic): huh. Guess there are six “V”‘s. Lots written in the US media, virtually all skeptical and much of it snarky, about the Russian announcement of a COVID vaccine going in to wide scale production and distribution. As usual, much of the coverage is based on biased or bad translations of original sources. A couple of things I haven’t seen seriously discussed in these reports. First, Russia has been working on vaccines for related viruses for at least a decade. Second, there has been a variety of testing and human trials in the military since at least June. So while Russia isn’t doing things the way we do here with distinct phases (trails), and perhaps taking chances we wouldn’t (I think it’s unfair to call them shortcuts), that doesn’t mean they are being unreasonable or irresponsible in context. Is politics involved? Of course. But in the US the race for a vaccine is involving politics and enormous amounts of money, maneuvering, and lobbying, so hard to say it’s so different.

So that’s the big picture this Monday morning. Try to stay safe (wear a mask when outside your home).

Big Picture, Monday 10 August

This morning there are three minimal tropical storms in the West Pacific, a strong tropical storm off of Mexico that should become a hurricane as it moves away from land, and a strong tropical wave moving into the central Atlantic that has some potential to spin up before hitting a road bump in the form of drier air and less favorable upper level winds. And we’re watching damage reports from North Carolina after yesterday morning’s rare 5.1 Earthquake. Here’s the details …

Yesterday’s earthquake near Sparta NC was the strongest in that state in over 100 years. The area is somewhat seismically active, with lots of small quakes, but most people don’t notice them. There seems to be some light damage such as cracked walls and roads, a few chimneys collapsed. There is likely some hidden damage so those living in the MMV and higher region in the map below should definitely check foundations and brick structures like chimneys even if there is nothing obviously wrong. Economic impacts are probably a bit higher than the initial estimate yesterday, but should be under $10 million (most likely around $5 million).

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center is tracking three storms in the west Pacific. None are expected to become hurricanes, and aside from some flash flooding unlikely to produce catastrophic damage …

Tropical Storm Elida is expected to become a Hurricane by tomorrow morning as it parallels the coast. Otherwise mostly of interest to fish, fish related activities, and shipping interests.

Given the revised seasonal forecasts last week, the existence of a strong tropical wave being tracked in the Atlantic is a source of angst and speculation. NHC presently has it as a 60% chance of spinning up. It’s looking about the same on this morning’s satellite imagery …

Can you find AL95? It’s the red blob on the right in Infrared …

While there is some potential for this to become a storm, conditions will become more unfavorable as it moves west, and some models kill it off, others make it a tropical storm then kill it off. But it might be able to hang together and make it more of a threat. Here’s the obligatory track models map. Remember most of these lines don’t represent much more than a blob of clouds, not a seriously organized storm. At this point, it’s really not worth a lot of time speculating or worrying about, assuming that you have your hurricane plans up to date.

There’s much less than meets the eye to the revised hurricane season forecasts released last week. There are several factors at play, and many of them don’t have much to do with the actual severity of the season (much less individual storms). For one thing, the scorecard (number of storms) is not a good metric. The criteria for what is and is not tracked by NHC has changed over time – better technology, and changes in methodology means we identify and track more storms than 20 years ago. In addition, the tremendous growth on the US coast means the consequences for even sub-tropical systems is much greater, therefore there is more pressure on forecasters to issue warnings. That is the main reason we are up to “I” already; several of these storms would have been handled differently prior to the early 2000’s. That said, we are just entering the busy part of the season, and conditions are likely to be favorable for storms over the upcoming two months – just like every other year. So double check your insurance and evacuation plans, keeping in mind that for weaker storms you might not be asked to evacuate as in past years due to COVID19 and will need to deal with power outages, or if you do evacuate, maybe it’s time to reconcile with inland family members so you don’t have to go to a hotel or shelter …

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