Doomwatch, 15 July 2021

There’s lots of doom stalking the earth, but mostly of the “humans are their own worst enemy” variety. There is only one active tropical cyclone – Hurricane Felicia, off the west coast of Mexico and headed out into open water. The invest area in the Atlantic is nothing to worry about, probably just a bored forecaster. There is a more serious threat potentially developing in the West Pacific that some of the models forecast to be a major storm impacting Okinawa in four or five days before heading towards Mainland China. There has been bad flooding in Germany, and in the western US heat and wild fires continue to be a problem. And the usual scattering of earthquakes, including a swarm on the California/Nevada border, and a half dozen or so volcanoes spewing ash, but none causing significant damage. Here’s a map of natural doom:

Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, other severe weather zones (blue/yellow) this morning (15 July)

In the “doing it to ourselves” category the SARS-COV-2 pandemic continues to do a slow burn through the population lacking natural or artificial (vaccinated) antibodies. It’s hard to get a solid handle on just how dangerous some of the new variants are. The majority of infections are now the notorious “Delta” variant (B.1.617.2 – here’s more about variants then you want to know). It does seem to have a much higher transmission rate – the variants making the rounds last year and this spring had an R of around 2, “Delta” is probably well over 3. What that means is that for the original virus, one person would infect on average two other people. “Delta” seems that one infected person can infect between 3 and 4 people. Of course that doesn’t tell you anything about the consequences of being infected – as we know, a lot of people are asymptomatic, others crash. The statistics don’t seem to indicate that conclusively, but the virus seems to be spreading within younger populations. Of course, that can be an artifact of testing bias, and that a lot of older people have had more of an opportunity to be vaccinated (or survived the virus). The research papers I’ve seen are mixed; some indicate that existing antibodies/vaccines aren’t as effective, some say it’s no big deal. The truth is probably both ­čśŤ – there is some reduction, but it’s not increasing mortality.

The media is of course excited about Delta. For Chatham County, Georgia (Savannah Area) a reporter was breathlessly saying the community transmission index “doubled since the end of June!” Technically true, it has gone from 50 to 98 between June 30 and July 14, but let’s put that in perspective: In January it was over 600 … so while the trend isn’t great as “delta” moves into the area with both cases and CTI, this isn’t something to freak out over. If you have natural or artificial antibodies, you’re in good shape. If you don’t and are an adult, you should get vaccinated unless you have a solid health reason that makes it risky. It’s as safe as any other vaccines out there (which are pretty safe all things considered).

There are a lot of unsettling geopolitical developments that do not bode well for the upcoming weeks. The situation in South Africa is out of control. This has huge implications across southern Africa, as some of the logistics and food distribution facilities looted the last few days are essential not just in South Africa but across the region. There is unrest in Cuba – how much is natural, and how much astro-turf from Miami, and where it is going is debatable. Haiti continues to be in turmoil, and the web of involvement in President Moise continues to expand. NATO continues the risky game of “poke the bear”, conducting provocative exercises across the Black Sea at the risk of goading the somewhat unstable Ukrainian regime in to taking another action in Eastern Ukraine that will result in Russia being forced to respond.

But at least Brittany now has her own lawyer now, so that’s nice.

TC/EQ Update Tue 22 June

The US NHC has stopped advisories on Claudette as it no longer has a closed circulation (one of the requirements to be a tropical cyclone). The remains will continue to the northeast just off the coast of Nova Scotia and Vinland (Newfoundland) today, producing gusty winds and rain but shouldn’t be dangerous with some common sense. Elsewhere, it’s tropical wave season, and NHC is tracking one approaching the Caribbean but it only has a low (30%) chance of development over the next five days. There is a better chance for a system off the west coast of Mexico (70%). In the West Pacific Tropical Depression Six is expected to strengthen into a Typhoon and pass well east of Japan.

NHC/TPC Tropical Analysis, Tuesday Morning 22 June. Click to embiggen …

There was a fairly strong and shallow earthquake just of the coast of Asia Minor, near the Greek islands of Tilos and Nisyros, 70km northwest of Rhodes. No reports of damage yet but I would expect there to be some minor damage.

Doomwatch, 13 April 2021

Lots going on today, with multiple ongoing volcanic eruptions on Saint Vincent (which is becoming a worse humanitarian disaster in part due to the response) and Iceland (which now have multiple cinder cones, are fascinating to watch without guilt as they aren’t hurting anyone at the moment – the cameras are obscured this morning due to weather) , and Cyclone Seroja made landfall in Australia leaving several small towns devastated. In the West Pacific, the second tropical cyclone of the year has already formed – but is weak, well away from land, but bears watching.

But by far the biggest concern is the potential for a major conflict to erupt in Ukraine. Despite rhetoric that on the surface seems geared towards defusing the situation (such as Biden’s offer to meet Putin), under the surface all sides are preparing for war, and all four major parties (the US, Ukraine, the DPR/LPR, and Russia) believe the situation is in their favor. Three of them are right. But we all know who loses: the average person caught up in the conflict zone … more on the situation in Donbass/Ukraine later this week.

Massive eruption of volcano in Caribbean (St. Vincent)

There has been a massive eruption on the island of St. Vincent of the Soufriere Volcano, visible from space from the GOES East satellite …

Eruption of Soufriere at just before 9am ET, Friday 9 April 2021

Here is an animation starting at 6:50am with frames every 10 minutes, through 9:30am …

Click to embiggen …

Evacuations were underway at the time of the eruption. The La Soufri├Ęre is rather notorious, having had multiple severe eruptions over the last 300 years.

Live feed of #Iceland #Volcano from RUV

Here is a link to a live camera view of Fagradalsfjall, provided by RUV TV. This morning (Sunday 21 March) there have been some pretty lava fountains …

Click to go to live feed at https://www.ruv.is/frett/2021/03/20/live-feed-from-iceland-volcano

And here’s a link to some photos I took in that area in 2019, including a trip we took inside a cinder cone (scroll down for the inside views of Thrihnukagigur).

Big #earthquake in #Japan

There has been a significant earthquake just off the coast of Japan, Magnitude 7.0 at a depth of 54 km, at 6:09pm Saturday Tokyo time (5:09am US East Coast time). A tsunami has been generated, early reports are it is small though … on the order of 1 meter (3.28 ft) or so.

click to embiggen

The initial model estimates seem a bit high – the median was $8 Billion – but I think the likely value is $1 to $4 Billion in total economic impact. There are power outages (some deliberate shutdowns), at least one injury. Damage reports are still coming in …

Also, ad update on yesterday’s eruption in Iceland:

Doomwatch for Sunday, 7 March 2021

Busy global map this morning … lots of earthquakes, four tropical systems …

Screen shot from Enki “Doomwatch” system under development …

Zooming in to just off shore from New Zealand, with hundreds of earthquakes along the Kermadec Trench boundary between the Pacific and Australia plates, just off the coast of New Zealand. Three of these were over magnitude seven, one being a magnitude eight that triggered tsunami watches as far away as Hawai’i … each icon represents an event that caused shaking at the surface (sea floor mostly in this case), most of these are M5 or greater events, the red aeras are areas where if you were standing you would have felt it:

That’s a lot of quakes. Click any graphic to embiggen …

That green swath and tropic storm symbol? That’s Cyclone Niran, which reached the equivalent of Category Five intensity before sweeping just offshore from New Caledonia, causing extensive damage across those islands (NZ Herald article).

Models estimate total economic impacts at just under $1 Billion USD. Before anyone asks, the earthquakes and cyclone are unrelated – although tropical cyclones have been associated with earthquakes due to the pressure of the storm surge causing a rupture, or in some cases infiltration of extensive rains perhaps triggering the earthquake. This is an area of ongoing research.

The other cyclones are well offshore, Cyclone Habana in the mid South Indian Ocean is a powerful Category Four (120kt) storm. The Southern Hemisphere season has been pretty active this year with several very strong storms. Naturally some are saying it is climate change related – and that’s very possible. Unfortunately our historical data sets for that region are spotty at best, so the arguments have to be largely theoretical. I hope to do a post on this at some point soon.

On the COVID front, the numbers continue to go up in some places, down in others, causing mood and behavior swings that means the pandemic continues to oscillate and travel in “waves.” Additional vaccines are being approved and distributed, based as much on politics and economics as efficacy and logistics. I find the “news” coverage in the US depressing on this topic (and, again, the real time death counters that CNN is running are misleading, BOGUS fear mongering – it takes weeks to get solid data on mortality). In any event, in big picture terms little has changed in terms of what the average person should do: continue with masking in public (despite what Texas and Mississippi are doing), distance as appropriate, if you are eligible and it makes sense for you specifically from a medical perspective get the vaccine, get it (in other words, balance the consequences of COVID, which are severe, with the unknowns and any specific vulnerabilities you might have, and your personal situation regarding risk – both higher and lower).

I had a great question come in from a reader about the difference between emergency use authorization (EUA) and the standard review and approval process. There is a big difference between “Authorization” and “Approval” in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) world. Here is a discussion with a former FDA official on the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health site. The short version is it is the difference between “might work and shouldn’t hurt” and “has been shown to work with acceptable side effects.” For the vaccines, the main differences are that the threshold for effectiveness is not the same as for an approved vaccine, and most importantly the long term side effect studies and studies on potential interactions and co-morbidity (reactions, impact on fetal or child development, and so forth) are not as extensive and have not had time to collect data. As I noted previously, there is a big difference between making a theoretical argument on those topics and saying “there is no evidence” based on a few months of results, and saying “we tried it, watched for five years, and there were no observed effects.” Given the medical and socioeconomic impacts of COVID, the FDA has made the calculation that the risk of being wrong about adverse reactions and efficacy is outweighed by the benefit of quickly getting a handle on the pandemic. I think they are mostly right about that (with a few reservations I’ve expressed previously). Again, for a lot of people, getting vaccinated makes sense. But everyone should understand the process and risks, free from either blind cheer-leading or paranoid fear mongering.

Second M7 earthquake off of New Zealand; magma moving under Iceland?

This one further offshore to the northeast …

No significant tsunami expected from this one either. Normally there are about 15 Magnitude 7 or higher earthquakes in a year. In this case, the two lie along the Kermadec Trench, a plate boundary between the Pacific and Australia plates:

By Mikenorton – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10735284

In other “Mother Earth Hates Us and Wants Us To Die” (and, seriously, who can blame her) news, there has been a number of earthquake swarms under the Reykjanes peninsula. There is an increasing likelihood this is magma moving around and the Krysuvik volcano …

this is what an EQ swarm looks like; ┬ę Ve├░urstofa ├Źslands

… which is now code orange …

┬ę Ve├░urstofa ├Źslands, http://icelandicvolcanos.is/?volcano=KRI#

If you are planning a trip to Europe this year, keep an eye on this since if it blows the ash could shut down air traffic over the North Atlantic and Western Europe.