Category: Global Disaster Watch

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Daily News

Updated: Wednesday, November 25, 2015, 11:58 AM

“Kissing Bug” now in Florida and Georgia
WTEV – Jacksonville, FL
Don't let the kissing bugs bite.

Here’s another reason to stay in New York this holiday season — the “kissing bug” has now spread to 28 states.

Texas is the latest to report an outbreak of infections from the Latin American triatomine bug after the pest had been spotted in other southern and western states, including Georgia, Alabama and California, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The creepy crawler resembling a cockroach gets its colorful nickname because it likes to bite around the lips and eyes of people when they are asleep. More than half of the bugs carry a parasite that can cause Chagas disease in humans, dogs and other mammals.

The good news? To actually pass on the disease, the bug not only needs to bite you, but then defecate into the gash. If left untreated, up to 30% of bite victims will develop chronic conditions such as difficulty breathing, heart and intestinal complications, and, in extreme cases, death.

There have been eight million cases in Latin America and South America because of poorly constructed rural homes, according to the CDC.

To prevent an outbreak, the CDC recommends:

Sealing cracks and gaps around windows, walls, roofs, and doors.

Removing wood, brush, and rock piles near your house.


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Floating cars, people in boats: Havoc as Qatar, Saudi Arabia ravaged by heavy rains (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

© carolyn_redaelli
Cars floating in rivers that were once streets, water gushing through ceilings and people sailing to work on boats – that’s the current picture in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, both desert countries, which should be dry and sunny for the whole year.

Qatar’s capital Doha was apparently unprepared for the deluge and flooding that damaged many buildings in the city. The area near the capital’s Hamad International Airport was hammered with around 66mm of rain in just a few days, according to the Qatar Meteorology Department. For the record, Doha has 75mm of rain on average a year.

 Many buildings at the multibillion-dollar airport failed to hold up to the torrent: pictures and videos on social media show water flooding into the passenger terminal.

Cascades of water fell from a ceiling inside Ezdan Mall in Doha, Doha News reported.

“Inclement weather” prompted the closure of schools across the country as well as the US Embassy in Qatar on Wednesday.


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Scientists get first glimpse of black hole eating star, ejecting high-speed flare

November 27, 2015
Johns Hopkins University
An international team of astrophysicists has for the first time witnessed a star being swallowed by a black hole and ejecting a flare of matter moving at nearly the speed of light.

This artists impression shows a black hole consuming a star that has been torn apart by the black hole’s strong gravity. As a result of this massive “meal” the black hole begins to launch a powerful jet that we can detect with radio telescopes.
Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Swift

An international team of astrophysicists led by a Johns Hopkins University scientist has for the first time witnessed a star being swallowed by a black hole and ejecting a flare of matter moving at nearly the speed of light.

The finding reported in the journal Science tracks the star — about the size of our sun — as it shifts from its customary path, slips into the gravitational pull of a supermassive black hole and is sucked in, said Sjoert van Velzen, a Hubble fellow at Johns Hopkins.

“These events are extremely rare,” van Velzen said. “It’s the first time we see everything from the stellar destruction followed by the launch of a conical outflow, also called a jet, and we watched it unfold over several months.”

Black holes are areas of space so dense that irresistible gravitational force stops the escape of matter, gas and even light, rendering them invisible and creating the effect of a void in the fabric of space. Astrophysicists had predicted that when a black hole is force-fed a large amount of gas, in this case a whole star, then a fast-moving jet of plasma — elementary particles in a magnetic field — can escape from near the black hole rim, or “event horizon.” This study suggests this prediction was correct, the scientists said.

“Previous efforts to find evidence for these jets, including my own, were late to the game,” said van Velzen, who led the analysis and coordinated the efforts of 13 other scientists in the United States, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Australia.

Supermassive black holes, the largest of black holes, are believed to exist at the center of most massive galaxies. This particular one lies at the lighter end of the supermassive black hole spectrum, at only about a million times the mass of our sun, but still packing the force to gobble a star.

The first observation of the star being destroyed was made by a team at the Ohio State University, using an optical telescope in Hawaii. That team announced its discovery on Twitter in early December 2014.

After reading about the event, van Velzen contacted an astrophysics team led by Rob Fender at the University of Oxford in Great Britain. That group used radio telescopes to follow up as fast as possible. They were just in time to catch the action.

By the time it was done, the international team had data from satellites and ground-based telescopes that gathered X-ray, radio and optical signals, providing a stunning “multi-wavelength” portrait of this event.

It helped that the galaxy in question is closer to Earth than those studied previously in hopes of tracking a jet emerging after the destruction of a star. This galaxy is about 300 million light years away, while the others were at least three times farther away. One light year is 5.88 trillion miles.

The first step for the international team was to rule out the possibility that the light was from a pre-existing expansive swirling mass called an “accretion disk” that forms when a black hole is sucking in matter from space. That helped to confirm that the sudden increase of light from the galaxy was due to a newly trapped star.

“The destruction of a star by a black hole is beautifully complicated, and far from understood,” van Velzen said. “From our observations, we learn the streams of stellar debris can organize and make a jet rather quickly, which is valuable input for constructing a complete theory of these events.”

Van Velzen last year completed his doctoral dissertation at Radboud University in the Netherlands, where he studied jets from supermassive black holes. In the last line of the dissertation, he expressed his hope to discover these events within four years. It turned out to take only a few months after the ceremony for his dissertation defense.

Van Velzen and his team were not the only ones to hunt for radio signals from this particular unlucky star. A group at Harvard observed the same source with radio telescopes in New Mexico and announced its results online. Both teams presented results at a workshop in Jerusalem in early November. It was the first time the two competing teams had met face to face.

“The meeting was an intense, yet very productive exchange of ideas about this source,” van Velzen said. “We still get along very well; I actually went for a long hike near the Dead Sea with the leader of the competing group.”

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Johns Hopkins University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. S. van Velzen, G. E. Anderson, N. C. Stone, M. Fraser, T. Wevers, B. D. Metzger, P. G. Jonker, A. J. van der Horst, T. D. Staley, A. J. Mendez, J. C. A. Miller-Jones, S. T. Hodgkin, H. C. Campbell, R. P. Fender. A radio jet from the optical and X-ray bright stellar tidal disruption flare ASASSN-14li. Science, 2015; DOI: 10.1126/science.aad1182

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Maldives Independent

Addu City suffers worst floods in 40 years

Photos shared by the MRC show a foot of water inside some households.

Addu City floods

Addu City floods


November 25 14:56 2015

Southern Addu City has suffered the worst storm damage in 40 years after 12 continuous hours of torrential rain left streets inundated and flooded some 200 households.

“This is the worst flooding I’ve seen in decades. The water is knee-deep in most areas, and a majority of houses are under a foot of water,” saud Abdulla Thoyyib, the deputy mayor.

The Feydhoo and Maradhoo-Feydhoo wards suffered the most damage. According to the Maldives Red Crescent, some 32 houses in Feydhoo and 11 houses in Maradhoo-Feydhoo suffered major damage. A majority of household appliances were destroyed, a spokesperson said.

Residents are now worried of water contamination as sewers are full and overflowing. The city, home to some 20,000 people, and the second most populous region, is out of chlorine, according to Thoyyib.

The Maldives National Defence Forces have set up water pumps in the three worst affected wards. Sand bags have been piled up to stop water entering into 17 houses in the Feydhoo ward.


The rain, which started at 3pm on Tuesday, continued for 12 hours. The department of meteorology recorded 228mm of rain, the worst in 40 years in the Maldives.

“This kind of rain is not common and it has damaged houses that are normally safe,” Thoyyib said.


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5. They’ve been around longer than nearly every other living organism.

Tardigrades roamed the earth and seas far before humans did – and will most likely outlast us. Will the tardigrades be nature’s last organisms standing? Only time will tell.


5 Reasons Why The Tardigrade Is Nature’s Toughest Animal

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Earth’s Magnetic Field is Not About to Flip, Like Previously Thought

First Posted: Nov 24, 2015 11:09 AM EST

Magnetic Field

(Photo : Huapei Wang, with source files courtesy of NASA’s Earth Observatory/NOAA/DOD)
Earth’s magnetic field is not about to flip. While the intensity of this field has weakened in the last couple hundred of years, researchers have found that this doesn’t mean it’s about to reverse.

Humans have lived through dips in magnetic field intensity before. However, there are debates about whether reversals of the magnetic field in the distant past had any connection to species extinctions. Today, a magnetic field reversal would have a huge impact due to one very important thing: technology. The magnetic field deflects the solar wind and cosmic rays. This means that with a weaker field, more radiation gets through which can disrupt power grids and satellite communications.

“The field may be decreasing rapidly, but we’re not yet down to the long-term average,” said Dennis Kent, one of the researchers, in a news release. “In 100 years, the field may even go back the other direction [in intensity].”


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Scientific American

Earth’s Magnetic Field Flip Could Happen Sooner Than Expected

Changes measured by the Swarm satellite show that our magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than originally predicted, especially over the Western Hemisphere
Changes measured by the Swarm satellite

Changes measured by the Swarm satellite over the past 6 months shows that Earth’s magnetic field is changing. Shades of red show areas where it is strengthening, and shades of blue show areas that are weakening.
Credit: ESA/DTU

Earth’s magnetic field, which protects the planet from huge blasts of deadly solar radiation, has been weakening over the past six months, according to data collected by a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite array called Swarm.The biggest weak spots in the magnetic field — which extends 370,000 miles (600,000 kilometers) above the planet’s surface — have sprung up over the Western Hemisphere, while the field has strengthened over areas like the southern Indian Ocean, according to the magnetometers onboard the Swarm satellites — three separate satellites floating in tandem.

The scientists who conducted the study are still unsure why the magnetic field is weakening, but one likely reason is that Earth’s magnetic poles are getting ready to flip, said Rune Floberghagen, the ESA’s Swarm mission manager. In fact, the data suggest magnetic north is moving toward Siberia.

“Such a flip is not instantaneous, but would take many hundred if not a few thousand years,” Floberghagen told Live Science. “They have happened many times in the past.”[50 Amazing Facts About Planet Earth]


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Magnitude 6.2 Earthquake Hits Off Chile Coast, No Damage Reported

Magnitude 6.2 Earthquake Hits Off Chile Coast, No Damage Reported

Santiago:  A magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck off the northern coast of Chile on Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, although there were no initial reports of damage.

The USGS said the quake’s epicentre was located 18 miles (29 kilometres) below the seabed, 82 miles (132 km) southwest of Antofagasta.

The quake, initially reported as a magnitude 6.0, struck at 6 p.m. (2100 GMT).

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Chile – 6.2 Magnitude Earthquake 11/27/2015 Total of 7 EQ in last 7 days

7 earthquakes in map area

  1. M 5.2 – 81km WSW of Coquimbo, Chile

    2015-11-28 05:44:40 UTC 10.0 km

  2. M 5.0 – 68km NNW of Taltal, Chile

    2015-11-27 21:45:12 UTC 45.3 km

  3. M 6.2 – 66km NNW of Taltal, Chile

    2015-11-27 21:00:22 UTC 35.0 km

  4. M 4.6 – 103km NW of Coquimbo, Chile

    2015-11-25 20:57:58 UTC 10.0 km

  5. M 4.7 – 104km WSW of Illapel, Chile

    2015-11-24 21:19:55 UTC 10.0 km

  6. M 4.8 – 101km WSW of Illapel, Chile

    2015-11-24 09:14:16 UTC 13.9 km

  7. M 4.6 – 123km SSE of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

    2015-11-23 05:16:24 UTC 121.0 km


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  • By Slma Shelbayah and Kimberly Hutcherson CNN

    10 dead as wintry storm hits Plains

    Millions under winter weather, flood warnings

    UPDATED 4:59 PM CST Nov 29, 2015
    OK ice storm 11.29.15


    (CNN) —The governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, has declared a state of emergency for her state, according to KOCO.

This follows an ice storm and flooding that has knocked out power for thousands of people throughout the state.

Meanhwhile, flooding and wintry precipitation have led to at least 10 deaths in Texas and Kansas as a storm system moves across the central Plains, authorities reported.

Five people died in single-vehicle accidents in Kansas, according to Lt. Adam Winters with the state’s Highway Patrol. He said all of the accidents could be attributed to black ice or hazardous road conditions.

Flooding claimed at least three lives in the Dallas area. The victims include a man in Garland, northeast of Dallas. Benjamin Floyd, 29, was on his way to work when raging floodwaters swept his car off the road, according to CNN affiliate KTVT. He was unable to get out of his vehicle before it was submerged Friday, Garland city officials said.

The two other flooding deaths came in Johnson County, south of Fort Worth, county emergency management officials said.

The National Weather Service reported ice storms in the Texas Panhandle. Three people died in a road accident on Interstate 40 about 45 miles west of Amarillo, the weather service reported.



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Comet fragments best explanation of mysterious dimming star

November 25, 2015
Iowa State University
Astronomers have responded to the buzz about a mysterious dimming star by studying data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. They conclude the dimming was probably caused by a family of comets passing in front of the star.

This illustration shows a star behind a shattered comet. Observations of the star KIC 8462852 by NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes suggest that its unusual light signals are likely from dusty comet fragments, which blocked the light of the star as they passed in front of it in 2011 and 2013. The comets are thought to be traveling around the star in a very long, eccentric orbit.
Credit: Illustration by NASA/JPL-Caltech

Was it a catastrophic collision in the star’s asteroid belt? A giant impact that disrupted a nearby planet? A dusty cloud of rock and debris? A family of comets breaking apart? Or was it alien megastructures built to harvest the star’s energy?

Just what caused the mysterious dimming of star KIC 8462852?

Massimo Marengo, an Iowa State University associate professor of physics and astronomy, wondered when he saw all the buzz about the mysterious star found by citizen scientists on the Planet Hunters website.

Those citizen scientists were highlighting measurements of star brightness recorded by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. Tiny dips in a star’s brightness can indicate a planet is passing in front of the star. That’s how Kepler astronomers — and citizen scientists using the internet to help analyze the light curves of stars — are looking for planets.

But this star had deep dips in brightness — up to 22 percent. The star’s brightness also changed irregularly, sometimes for days and even months at a time. A search of the 150,000-plus stars in Kepler’s database found nothing like this.

So Marengo and two other astronomers decided to take a close look at the star using data taken with the Infrared Array Camera of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. They report their findings in a paper recently published online by The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Their conclusion?

“The scenario in which the dimming in the KIC 8462852 light curve were caused by the destruction of a family of comets remains the preferred explanation …,” wrote the three — Marengo; Alan Hulsebus, an Iowa State doctoral student; and Sarah Willis, a former Iowa State graduate student now with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory.

Questions about the star were launched last month when a research team led by Tabetha Boyajian of Yale University reported on the star in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The astronomers reported how citizen scientists tagged the star’s deep and irregular dips in brightness as “bizarre” and “interesting.”

Boyajian and the other researchers looked at the data and investigated several possible causes. They wrote the “most promising theory” was a barrage of crumbling comets passing in front of the star.

In a subsequent paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal, Jason Wright and colleagues at Penn State University speculated about other causes, including alien megastructures built to harvest energy while orbiting the star.

When the Iowa State astronomers studied the star with Spitzer infrared data from January 2015 — two years after the Kepler measurements — Marengo said they didn’t see much. If there had been some kind of catastrophe near the star, he said there would be a lot of dust and debris. And that would show up as extra infrared emissions.

Marengo said the study looked at two different infrared wavelengths: the shorter was consistent with a typical star and the longer showed some infrared emissions, but not enough to reach a detection threshold. The astronomers concluded there were no excess infrared emissions and therefore no sign of an asteroid belt collision, a giant impact on a planet or a dusty cloud of rock and debris.

So Marengo and his colleagues say the destruction of a family of comets near the star is the most likely explanation for the mysterious dimming. The comet fragments coming in rapidly at a steep, elliptical orbit could create a big debris cloud that could dim the star. Then the cloud would move off, restoring the star’s brightness and leaving no trace of excess infrared light.

And the alien megastructure theory?

“We didn’t look for that,” Marengo said. “We can’t really say it is, or is not. But what the star is doing is very strange. It’s interesting when you have phenomena like that — typically it means there’s some new physical explanation or a new concept to be discovered.”

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Iowa State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Massimo Marengo, Alan Hulsebus, Sarah Willis. KIC 8462852: THE INFRARED FLUX. The Astrophysical Journal, 2015; 814 (1): L15 DOI: 10.1088/2041-8205/814/1/L15

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Zika virus: Health alerts in South America and Caribbean following fears illness may cause birth deformities

Doctors believe the illness may be linked to a rise in cases of microcephaly in infants
  • Alexandra Sims
  • Thursday 19 November 2015 Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease similar to dengue fever VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images


A virus believed to cause under-developed brains and skulls in newborn babies has sparked a public health emergency in Brazil and the Caribbean.

The Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease similar to dengue fever, was first identified on Easter Island, Chile in February last year and has since spread to Brazil, Columbia and the Caribbean.

On Monday, the Caribbean Public Health Agency confirmed five cases of the Zika virus in a territory of the Caribbean Community, according to Liverostrum News Agency.

The territory where the cases were confirmed has not been revealed.

Reports say the disease surveillance system operated by one of the community’s members, Grenada, has since been heightened and health officials are on alert.


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