Dozens of aftershocks expected on Alaskan islandView galleryRACHEL D’ORO 2 hours ago NatureAlaska ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Dozens of noticeable aftershocks above magnitude 4.0 are expected in the remote Aleutian Island region off Alaska in the days and weeks following a major 7.0 earthquake, the Alaska state seismologist said Saturday.A dozen measurable aftershocks have already hit the region since Friday’s quake, including one reaching 6.1 in strength, said seismologist Michael West. There have been more than 30 aftershocks measuring at least magnitude 2.5.None of the aftershocks are expected to cause a notable tsunami, since the initial quake did not cause one. And West said experts are not too worried this quake will trigger another significant quake nearby in the near future.”This is very common area for earthquakes,” West said. Temblors above magnitude 5.0 are felt every month.The site of Friday’s quake is quite active. Significant quakes were felt just to the east and the west of Friday’s earthquake in 1986, 1996 and 2003.”This was exactly the earthquake that’s supposed to happen,” West said, noting that it’s part of a pattern, when examined in a scientific way.The Pacific tectonic plate is always pushing under America. It builds up stress and then earthquakes happen. Of course, West notes, he has be cautious about saying something will never happen, but he’s not particularly concerned.There have been no reports of damage or injuries from the earthquake, which was strongly felt in Atka, an Aleut community of 64 people, and the larger Aleutian town of Adak, where 320 people live.The earthquake and the aftershocks didn’t trigger any tsunami warnings, but Michael Burgy with the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, said the center is monitoring for potential tsunamis caused by landslides, either on land or under water.View gallery.”This July 19, 2004 photo released by the Alaska Volcano Observatory/U.S. Geological Survey shows the …The Alaska Earthquake Information Center said the primary earthquake was centered 67 miles southwest of Adak, about 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage. Shaking lasted up to one minute.The 6.1 aftershock struck in the same general area at 10:39 p.m. Friday.The 7.0 quake occurred offshore in the subduction zone where plates of the Earth’s crust grind and dive. By contrast, California’s most famous fault line, the San Andreas, is a strike-slip fault. Quakes along strike-slip faults tend to move horizontally.The communities are located in a sparsely populated region and both played roles in World War II.Atka residents were displaced during the war, relocating to Southeast Alaska so the U.S. government could demolish the village to prevent the Japanese from seizing it as they had other Aleutian communities. After the war, the U.S. Navy rebuilt the community and residents returned. Today, the community is a cluster of solidly built utilitarian buildings scattered over rolling hills that turned emerald green in warmer months.Adak, 110 miles to the west, had been home to U.S. military installations that allowed forces to wage a successful offense against the Japanese after they seized the Aleutian Islands of Kiska and Attu. After the war. Adak was transformed into a Naval air station that served as a submarine surveillance center during the Cold War. Later, the facilities were acquired by the Aleut Corp. — a regional native corporation — in a federal land-transfer agreement. It became a city in 2001 and today retains its military appearance.___Associated Press writers Donna Blankinship in Seattle and Alicia Chang in Los Angeles contributed to this report.___Follow Rachel D’Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro
Smoke from Sierra fire reaches Yosemite ValleyView gallery 2 hours ago NatureYosemite National ParkYosemite ValleyYOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Dense smoke from a wildfire burning in and around Yosemite National Park on Saturday hampered both suppression efforts and the prized views sought by holiday weekend tourists.For the first time since the blaze broke out in a neighboring forest two weeks ago, smoke obscured Yosemite Valley, home to the park’s most popular landmarks, spokeswoman Kari Cobb said.”I’m in Yosemite Valley right now, and I cannot see the cliffs around me,” Cobb said. „The wind has shifted and smoke is impacting the entire park. We have been lucky until now.”All the campgrounds in the Valley still were full as of Saturday morning, despite the thick blanket and burning smell that permeated the area and was expected to linger until at least Monday, she said.As a health precaution, visitors were being asked to scale back their outdoor recreation plans and avoid strenuous activities or even stay indoors.View gallery.”A look at the area of the Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park in California. ; 3c x 5 inches; 146 mm …Meanwhile, firefighting aircraft were grounded most of the morning because of low visibility caused by the smoke, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Mark Healey said. The blaze had scorched 343 square miles of brush, oaks and pines and 11 homes, as of Saturday, an area larger than the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose combined.Of that total, 94 square miles of wilderness have burned in the northern section of Yosemite, up from 75 square miles a day earlier.Although containment efforts proceeded on a positive note overnight, officials were concerned Saturday about a 150-acre spot fire that crossed a road and prompted an evacuation order for homes near the west entrance of Yosemite, Healey said.Once planes and water-dropping helicopters were cleared to take off again, the worry lifted some along with the evacuation order.”Air operations are going full-blast to bring this fire under control,” Healey said late Saturday afternoon.View gallery.”In this Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 image provided by the U.S. Forest Service, a member of the BLM Silver …
Chicago area cleaning up after strong storms Thousands of people in the Chicago area are without power Saturday morning, because of strong storms that hit Friday night.WGN – ChicagoStorms Pummel Chicago Area Play video .Storm creates mess throughout Chicago area Play video .Chicago storms do significant damage Play video .2 hrs 23 mins ago 2:03 WGN – Chicago Thousands of people in the Chicago area are without power Saturday morning, because of strong storms that hit Friday night.
California wildfire threatening Yosemite is now size of DallasJonathan Allen 8 hours ago NatureYosemite National ParkCaliforniaView gallery By Jonathan Allen (Reuters) – A massive wildfire that has charred the northwestern edge of California’s Yosemite National Park is heading towards two groves of the park’s famed sequoia trees, National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said as firefighters battled the blaze on Saturday.The so-called Rim Fire, which now has an overall footprint that exceeds the area of Dallas, has burned about six percent of Yosemite’s wilder backcountry but the vast majority of the park was still unaffected, Jarvis said.The sequoias are expected to survive if the fire spreads through the groves of the towering redwoods that are among the park’s most famous features, Jarvis said in a telephone interview. „This is not a catastrophe for Yosemite National Park,” he said in a telephone interview after surveying the affected areas. „These trees are very old and it’s not the first fire they’ve ever seen.”View gallery.”A firefighter uses a headlamp at the Rim Fire at night in this undated United States Forest Service …Firefighters have been carrying out controlled burnings at night around the groves to clear away debris from the forest floor that could otherwise fuel a fire to such an intensity that it dangerously licks at the trees’ crowns.Lower-intensity fires, on the other hand, play a vital role in the reproductive cycle of the tough-barked sequoia, many of which bear the scars of past wildfires, by releasing the seeds from their cones and clearing the soil in which they germinate.The so-called Rim Fire has continued to spread, having now consumed nearly 220,000 acres by Saturday, according to a U.S. Forest Service spokesman. Most of the damage is in the Stanislaus National Forest that spreads out from Yosemite’s western edge.Firefighters have contained about a third of that area.”We’re very, very cautious about the potential today,” Timothy Evans, the spokesman, said. „Yesterday was very hot, there was some wind, and the same was somewhat predicted for today.”View gallery.”Monterey firefighters hold the line at the Rim Fire at night in this undated United States Forest Se …The blaze is now approximately tied with the Matilija wildfire in Ventura County of 1932 as the fourth-largest California wildfire on record.Jarvis estimated that firefighting efforts had so far cost state and federal agencies about $54 million. He criticized a decline in federal funding for fire-prevention work, including the practice of controlled fires that make the chance of a wildfire of this intensity less likely.Nearly 5,000 people are working to put out the fire, including firefighters from agencies across California and nearly 700 specially trained California prison inmates.Tourism-dependent businesses around the park have bemoaned a slump in visitors at the peak of the late-summer tourist season. Jarvis said there was no need to for visitors to stay away.”Yosemite Valley is open to the public and is gorgeous,” he said, referring to one of the park’s most scenic and visited areas, adding that it is more than 20 miles from the edge of the fire.View gallery.”A firefighter and his pump rig stops at the Rim Fire at night in this undated United States Forest S …The cause of the fire remains under investigation.(Reporting By Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone and Sandra Maler)
High radiation readings found at Fukushima tanksView galleryA picture taken by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority on August 23, 2013 shows nuclear watchdog members inspecting contaminated water tanks at the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in the town of Okuma, Fukushima prefecture. (AFP Photo/)8 hours ago NatureEnvironmentJapan The operator of Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant said Saturday it had found new radiation hotspots near tanks storing toxic water, with one reading peaking at 1,800 millisieverts per hour — a potentially lethal dose.Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) detected high radiation readings at four sites around the tanks although none of the containers showed any visible fall in their water levels, according to a statement reported by two Japanese news agencies.Last week the plant operator admitted 300 tonnes of toxic water had seeped out of one of the vast containers — one of around 1,000 on the site — before anyone had noticed.The spill, which sparked fears the toxic water may have seeped into the nearby ocean, was categorised as a Level 3 event, making it the single most serious incident since three reactors went into meltdown after being swamped by a 2011 earthquake-sparked tsunami.The latest radiation hotspots were discovered during daily inspections on Saturday at three tanks and one pipe connecting the containers to the crippled plant, the Kyodo news agency reported.Although it was unclear if the hotspots indicated a fresh spill of toxic water, traces of water leak measuring 230 millisieverts per hour were found below the pipe, the agency added.At the time of last week’s discovered leak the plant operator said the radioactivity of the puddles was around 100 millisieverts per hour.Jiji news agency said the highest reading of 1,800 millisieverts per hour was found at one of the tanks, adding that exposure to that level for four hours would be fatal to humans. The other readings measured between 70 and 230 millisieverts, the agency added.A TEPCO official said the operator could not rule out the possibility of new leaks of radioactive water at the four sites, the agency reported, adding that the operator had not noticed a decline in water levels inside the tanks.Both agencies said that the new radiation hotspots were coming from different tanks to the one that was discovered leaking water earlier this month.TEPCO has long struggled to deal with growing volume of now contaminated water it has used to cool the broken reactors.It said last week that some of the 300 tonnes that leaked from the tank could have made its way through drainage systems into the Pacific Ocean.The pools of water near the holed tank were so toxic, the operator said, that anyone exposed to them would receive the same amount of radiation in an hour that a nuclear plant worker in Japan is allowed to receive in five years.That came on top of the admission that groundwater contaminated by water from the plant was flowing into the sea at a rate of 300 tonnes a day, taking its low-level radioactive load with it.In response to growing domestic and international criticism over TEPCO’s handling of the crisis, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday promised the world his government would play a greater role in stopping leaks of highly radioactive water.”The accident in Fukushima cannot be left entirely to Tokyo Electric Power. There is a need for the government to play a role with a sense of urgency, including taking measures to deal with the waste water,” he said at the time.Abe’s pledge came as the world’s nuclear watchdog urged Japan to explain more clearly what is happening at Fukushima and avoid sending „confusing messages” about the disaster.The International Atomic Energy Agency questioned why the leak last week of 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water merited a rating on its International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), when no other incident since the March 2011 meltdowns had.
Tropical Storm Kong-Rey: 3 Dead as Storm Floods Taiwan Published: Aug 30, 2013, 7:25 AM EDT Associated Press TAIPEI, Taiwan — Three people in Taiwan perished as a result of heavy rains spawned by a destructive tropical storm, the government said Friday.Tropical Storm Kong-Rey battered the island Thursday, dumping more than 19 inches of rain on the heavily populated west coast and causing widespread flooding.(MORE: Hurricanes That Killed 8,000 or More)The government’s emergency operations center said one of the fatalities occurred when a man in Pingtung county in Taiwan’s far south drowned after being thrown into a river from his skidding motorbike. Farther to the north in Yunlin country, one woman was electrocuted in her home after heavy flooding and another woman drowned.Kong-Rey skirted the island’s east coast on Thursday before heading north toward Japan.(MORE: Feet of Snow Fall, Hundreds of Thousands of THESE Killed)Particularly hard hit in Taiwan were the large west coast cities of Chiayi, Tainan and Kaohsiung, where flooding in some areas reached second-story levels. Officials evacuated a total of 3,600 residents and cancelled some train services.Kong-Rey is the second major storm to hit Taiwan this month. Last week, a severe tropical storm dumped up to a meter (39 inches) of rain on the southern part of the island. High winds caused the cancellation of scores of international flights and in conjunction with the rain led to the disruption of high speed rail service between the capital of Taipei and Kaohsiung.Local residents walk through floodwaters from passing Tropical Storm Kong-Rey in Tainan, Taiwan, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (AP Photo)
Kiko Strengthens Quickly in the Eastern Pacific Published: Aug 31, 2013, 11:18 PM EDT weather.com
Keeping a Close Eye on the AtlanticKeeping a Close Eye on the AtlanticKatrina: Message in a BottleEyewitness to Disaster
Kiko formed as a depression just off the western coast of Mexico late Friday night and is now located about 430 miles west-southwest of the far southern tip of Baja California. Kiko will continue tracking toward the north-northwest through Sunday, before slowing down and stalling. Kiko poses no threat to land at present.Kiko rapidly intensified Saturday in an area with relatively low wind shear, moist air and warm seas, but that will be short lived. Kiko will soon be traversing cooler waters and encountering increasing wind shear and dry air; which will act to weaken the storm into Labor Day.
For all the latest on this system, check the information below.
SLIDESHOW: Hurricanes From Space…NASA Satellite Images
Tourist warning as smoke reaches Yosemite valleyView gallery 5 hours ago NatureYosemite Valley Smoke from the huge wildfire in Yosemite National Park reached the heavily-touristed heart of the park Saturday, officials said, warning visitors against strenuous activity.Webcams showed smoke apparently clouding the world-famous Yosemite Valley, the spectacular area in the middle of the California park visited by millions every year.More than usual visitors were expected in the park for the Labor Day weekend, although officials had said the increase could be smaller than usual due to the so-called Rim Fire, which started two weeks ago outside the park.”Heavy smoke is now visible south of the Tioga Road, including in Yosemite Valley,” said the park website’s latest update after a change in wind direction from the blaze.”Visitors to the area should avoid extended strenuous physical activities outdoors. Additionally, those (..) sensitive to air quality impacts should avoid going outside in Yosemite,” it added.Despite the warning, officials said they were optimistic of making further gains on the blaze, known as the Rim Fire, but warned that hot, dry conditions continued to create a challenging environment.”We’re hopeful that we are going to turn the corner, but it’s hot, it’s dry, and there is a westerly wind,” US Forest Service spokeswoman Leslie Auriemmo told AFP. „There’s a lot of fuel out there. We remain in a high state of alert.”According to latest figures early Saturday, the fire has burned 219,277 acres (343 square miles or 888 square kilometers) and continues to threaten 4,500 structures.A total of 4,995 firefighters have been deployed to battle the flames, which have so far destroyed 11 homes and 97 outbuildings.View gallery.”Trees burned by the Rim Fire stand on August 25, 2013 in Yosemite National Park, California. Investi …The fire, which started on August 17, was 35 percent contained as of Saturday, up from 32 percent on Friday.Yosemite National Park officials insisted on Friday that the fire posed no threat to tourists heading to the landmark destination on a busy US holiday weekend.The flames remain some 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Yosemite Valley, the tourist heart of the park where millions of visitors flock every year to see majestic scenery such as the Half Dome and El Capitan rock formations.”The area where it’s burning right now is mostly wilderness… There’s nothing in that location that would potentially be a safety issue,” said Yosemite spokeswoman Kari Cobb.Meanwhile investigators are looking into whether an illegal marijuana farm may have triggered the blaze, US media reports said.Several reports quoted Todd McNeal, a local fire chief in Twain Harte, one of the towns affected by the 219,000-acre (88,630 hectare) inferno, said investigators had not pinpointed the cause of the blaze.”We don’t know the exact cause,” McNeal was quoted as telling a community meeting. However, he added it was „highly suspect that there might have been some sort of illicit grove, a marijuana-grow-type thing.””We know it’s human caused. There was no lightning in the area,” he said.US Forest Service officials say the cause of the fire remains under investigation.The San Jose Mercury News reported that authorities in California have faced increasing problems with marijuana farms hidden deep in the region’s rugged wilderness.
Incredible Technology: How to Forecast Severe Storms Editor’s Note: In this weekly series, LiveScience explores how technology drives scientific exploration and discovery. Predicting how strong a storm, whether a hurricane, tornado or thunderstorm will be is part science and part art — and it wouldn’t be possible without sophisticated measurement and forecasting technology.To create these forecasts, meteorologists combine observations from atmospheric sensors, weather balloons, radar, satellites and aircraft monitoring with complex computer models to predict when a storm will form, where it will strike and how severe it will be.Forecasting a storm is a lot like practicing medicine, said meteorologist Greg Carbin at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman, Okla.”You go to the doctor, you tell the doctor your symptoms and the doctor makes a diagnosis before he makes a prognosis,” Carbin told LiveScience. „We need to diagnose the current state of the atmosphere as best we can before we can attempt to forecast.” [Hurricanes from Above: See Nature’s Biggest Storms]Thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes – The SPC is primarily concerned with forecasting thunderstorms and tornadoes in the continental United States. At the core of its work is climatology, the study of climates and how they change. A basic understanding of how weather works relies on the historical record, Carbin said.View gallery.”Here, a radar map showing the thunderstorms and tornadoes hitting the Oklahoma City metro area on Fr …”We have a pretty good understanding of the time of year when parts of the country are at the greatest risk,” Carbin said. In the middle and southern United States, the greatest storm risk occurs in spring and early summer. At that time, warm, moist air left over from winter cyclones meets winds from the jet stream, creating high winds, tornadoes and dangerous hail, Carbin said.With this knowledge in hand, forecasters can pay close attention to storm systems at this time of year. Storm prediction starts with measuring the current weather conditions, such as air temperature, air pressure and wind speed. Every airport in the country collects this information every five minutes, Carbin said.Meteorologists combine these measurements with information from weather balloons launched to measure conditions at various heights in the atmosphere and geostationary satellites that sense moisture in the atmosphere and reveal the locations of clouds.All of the weather and satellite data is fed into numerical simulations run on supercomputers, which crunch the numbers and spit out a model of the atmosphere’s behavior. Scientists compare that output with weather observations, and if it’s a good match, they use the model to make a forecast.Once a storm is brewing, scientists begin monitoring it using radar. Radar energy is beamed off the precipitation inside clouds, and the strength of the reflected signal reveals the density of moisture, snow, hail or dust in the storm system. The frequency of the signal tells scientists whether the storm is moving toward the radar source or away from it.If the storm is rotating, it could spawn a tornado. Because tornadoes are relatively small, localized features, meteorologists can’t forecast them more than a few hours in advance.View gallery.”The eye of Hurricane Earl was clearly visible during a NASA hurricane hunter flight through the stor …Hurricanes and storm surge–Hurricanes, by contrast, are much larger, slower-moving weather systems that form over water, so forecasters have more lead time to predict when they might hit land.NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami uses a variety of tools for forecasting hurricanes. Some of the most important are the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites(GOES), which monitor the eastern and western portions of the United States and the bordering regions of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Hurricane forecasters use a method called the Dvorak technique with the satellite imagery to estimate the intensity of a tropical storm system. [Infographic: Storm Season! How, When & Where Hurricanes Form]Once a developing hurricane comes within range of a coast, NOAA sends in a hurricane hunter aircraft. The aircraft flies straight into the storm to measure its parameters. „Think of a hurricane hunter as an ‘MRI’ for the storm,” said NHC spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen. Inside the storm, the plane ejects an instrument called a dropsonde, which parachutes down and relays information about air temperature, humidity, and wind speed and direction; the instrument later degrades in the ocean.The data gathered by the hurricane hunter goes into computer models run on computers like those used by the SPC meteorologists.”We use a number of computer models. No single one is perfect,” Feltgen told LiveScience. Forecasters integrate the model data with satellite data, aircraft data and their own experience. „A meteorologist is always looking for as much data as he or she can get,” Feltgen said.Predicting storm damage View gallery.”NOAA’s GOES-12 weather satellites captured this image of Hurricane Katrina at Category 5 strength on …Forecasters use the data to categorize hurricanes on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, a 1 to 5 rating of sustained wind speed. The scale estimates potential property damage, from 1 („Very dangerous winds will produce some damage”) to 5 („Catastrophic damage will occur”).But the greatest threat to life and property from hurricanes is often from storm surge — a rise in seawater due to a storm — which the Saffir-Simpson rating doesn’t take into account. Hurricane evacuation zones are based not on wind, but on water, though there’s no scale for storm surge, Feltgen said. [Storm Surge Video: Deadliest Part of Hurricane]However, the NHC does have a storm surge unit, and beginning in 2015, it will have a storm surge watch and warning system, separate from the hurricane watch and warning system.In June 2012, five months before Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast, scientists modeled how storm surge would impact Staten Island, N.Y. The model matched the actual storm surge from Sandy uncannily well.”Computer forecasts have come a long way,” Feltgen said. But ultimately, emergency managers are the ones who use that information to make decisions about how to prepare for a storm, he said.Follow Tanya Lewis on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.