News Article | April 15, 2016
Nine people were killed and hundreds were injured when a 6.4 magnitude hit Japan Thursday night, reports say. The 6.4 quake that hit Kyushu, Japan's third largest island, surprised most residents as it happened at 9:26 p.m. (1:26 GMT) April 14 at a depth of 7 miles near Kumamoto city. Majority of the victims affected by the earthquake come from Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture, about 9 miles east of Kumamoto city. Kumamoto prefecture disaster management official Takayuki Matsushita said that as of Friday morning, about 44,400 people were evacuated in 500 shelters in Mashiki town hall. 14,500 households have no power supply, while more than 25,000 homes have no water supply. Saibu Gas Co also suspended gas supply to about 1,100 homes following 54 reports of gas leaks. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressed reporters Friday morning and shared that the government now has firefighters, police officers, and troops of Self-Defense Forces working on rescue operations. Abe also said that the government will extend support, including food and medical support to the affected victims. A total of 1,084 officers coming from 19 different prefectures are now mobilizing to hit the disaster areas, said the National Police Agency. Yasuhiro Soshino from the Japanese Red Cross Kumamoto Hospital said that they have treated more than 200 injuries, 15 of which were serious cases. "Red Cross medical teams in other areas are also gathering at our Red Cross hospital," Soshino said. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga estimated that the earthquake collapsed 19 houses, as hundreds of calls about damaged building came in. Suga said his office also received reports that a number of people were trapped or buried under debris. Kumamoto police reported that the nine casualties of the earthquake include five women and four men: Fujito Aramaki, 84; Toshiaki Ito, 61; Masataka Murakami, 61; Sueko Fukumoto, 54; Tomoko, Tomita, 89; Tatsuya Sakamoto, 29; Yoko Miyamori, 55; Yumiko Matsumoto, 68; and Hanae Murakami, 94. Total number of injured individuals is now reported to be more than 800. Japan Meteorological Agency did not issue a tsunami warning. The earthquake hit about 74 miles northeast of Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, but Suga said there were no reported abnormalities in the facilities. Kyushu Electric said that they are monitoring the plant to look for any possible damage or abnormalities. The U.S. Geological Survey reported an initial magnitude of 6.2, but upgraded it after thorough damage assessment. The Meteorological Agency reported multiple aftershocks that ranged from 3 to 5.7 magnitudes Meteorological Agency earthquake and tsunami division director Gen Aoki said that more aftershocks are likely to follow. "Generally speaking, an inland earthquake with the focus relatively near the surface tends to be followed by many aftershocks," said Aoki. The quake happened just five months after a magnitude-7 quake hit the southern coast of Japan and five years after the magnitude-9 earthquake that claimed thousands of lives. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | September 9, 2016
(Reuters) - The U.S. Geological Survey reported a 5.3-magnitude seismic event in North Korea on Friday, near a nuclear test site in the northeastern part of the county.
News Article | February 2, 2016
Massive underwater landslides that occurred during the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964 likely caused the formation of tsunami waves that destroyed a small coastal village near Prince William Sound, according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The discovery highlights the dangers posed by such submarine landslides to ports and residential areas located near fjords. On March 27, 1964, a magnitude 9.2 earthquake shook Alaskan region of Prince William Sound. The tremor began around 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) below ground, with its epicenter located around 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of the city of Anchorage. The seismic event produced a tectonic tsunami, as well as about 20 other smaller and local tsunamis, resulting in damages to coastal communities near the quake's location. One of the communities hit hardest by the tsunamis was the village of Chenega found on Chenega Island. A giant wave destroyed all but two buildings in the village and killed 23 of the 75 residents. Shortly after the earthquake, scientists tried to investigate the likely cause of the massive tsunami. While they suspected that underwater landslides could have played a major role in the formation of the waves, the investigators were not able to find evidence of such an occurrence near Dangerous Passage or any other waterway surrounding Chenega. Through the use of modern scientific equipment, such as multibeam sonar technology, geophysicist Daniel Brothers and his colleagues from the USGS discovered a large complex of underwater landslides in Dangerous Passage. This complex can be found in an area of the ocean deeper than what scientists could reach in 1964. "What makes this slide unusual is that much of the material that slid was at a water depth of 250 to 350 meters (820 to 1150 feet)," USGS geologist and study co-author Peter Haeussler said. "The deeper initiation depth made it particularly good at generating a tsunami." Evidence found in the landslide complex matched the reports given by eyewitness during the Great Alaska Earthquake. The USGS team calculated that a tsunami produced in the area of the landslide would reach Chenega within three to four minutes. This was consistent with the estimated arrival time of the most damaging tsunami waves. The findings of the U.S. Geological Survey study are featured in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
So when thousands of common murres were found dead at the southwest Alaska lake—part of a massive die-off of a species whose preferred winter habitat is at sea—seabird experts were puzzled. "We've talked about unprecedented things about this die off. That's another one," said John Piatt, research wildlife biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. "You figure it's a misguided individual. To have 6,000, 8,000 birds in the lake is pretty mind-blowing, really," he said. "I've never heard of any such a thing anywhere in the world." Abnormal numbers of dead common murres, all apparently starved, began washing ashore on Alaska beaches in March 2015. After late-December storms, 8,000 were found at the Prince William Sound community of Whittier. The confirmed carcass count is now up to 36,000, but most don't wash ashore. Also, Alaska has more coastline than the rest of the United States put together and relatively few beaches have been surveyed. Common murres catch finger-length fish to feed their young in summer and can forage on krill. Less is known about what they eat in winter. Because of a high metabolism rate, they can use up fat reserves and drop to a critical threshold for starvation in three days of not eating. Researchers trying to find out the cause of the deaths would not have thought to look on a freshwater lake but were alerted to the Iliamna carcasses by Randy Alvarez, a member of the Lake and Peninsula borough assembly. A commercial fisherman, Alvarez has lived in Igiugig on the west end of 77-mile long Lake Iliamna since 1983. He had seen a few dead murres on the beach, but on a mid-February flight with the borough mayor and manager, they saw thousands. "We came up with a guess of 6,000 to 8000 birds in about 12 miles," Alvarez said. Nobody he knows remembers common murres at the lake. Alvarez speculates the birds could not find food in the Pacific and flew to the lake to eat salmon smolt. Lake Iliamna has not frozen the last two winters, which itself is strange. His friends and relatives in Naknek, a Bristol Bay port, in normal winters catch smelt, another small, silvery fish. "This was the worst anybody had ever seen it for smelt," he said, and he wonders if it's connected to the North Pacific's third-straight year of above-normal temperatures. If seabirds can't find enough to eat, he worries that salmon won't either. "I think something is not right," he said. Scientists in multiple federal agencies are trying to determine if the murre deaths are connected to lack of food, parasites, disease, weather or something else, but they keep being pitched curves, like birds showing up in surprising places. "This is the thing about this die-off," Piatt said. "We don't even know what we don't know."
Thousands of dead seabirds have washed up on Alaskan shores over the past nine months. And while a dead bird washing ashore is a fairly common occurrence, these large numbers are leaving scientists concerned and confused. Nearly 8,000 common murres (Uria aalge) were found along the shores of Whittier, Alaska, in early January. Over the New Year's holiday, Alaska experienced four days of gale-force winds from the southeast that resulted in dead birds washing ashore, said Robb Kaler, a wildlife biologist for the Alaska branch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Scientists have known for some time that the key to surviving strong storm winds is having an energy reserve, according to an expert at Tufts University, and Kaler and his colleagues think that the common murres were not finding enough food this season, which may be why so many didn't make it through the storm. In cases like these, experts typically measure the number of dead birds per kilometer, said Julia Parrish, a professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle and executive director of the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST), which is one of the organizations studying areas where these birds are washing ashore, alongside the USFWS and the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC). For the Whittier survey, the final measurements came to approximately 4,600 birds per kilometer, Parrish told Live Science. [5 Mysterious Animal Die-Offs] The common murre is "one of the most abundant and widespread seabirds in Alaska," Kaler told Live Science in an email. While other dead seabirds are being reported on Pacific shorelines, current reports indicate that about 99 percent of the animals are common murres, Kaler said. Seeing a dead seabird on the beach is not altogether unusual, especially during September and October, when the birds are leaving their breeding colonies, Parrish said. However, dead common murres started showing up in Alaska in March. "This is really weird, because that is the beginning of the breeding season," Parrish said. "That's when [seabirds] are [usually] fat and sassy." So far, the NWHC has examined 100 bird carcasses, and most of the birds seem to have died due to starvation, Kaler told Live Science. "While we know murres are starving," Kaler said, "we do not understand the mechanism." There is a chance that saxitoxin, a toxin related to paralytic shellfish poisoning, or domoic acid, a toxin that causes amnesic shellfish poisoning, could be responsible for some of these deaths, he said. But both of these toxins are difficult to detect in birds that have nothing in their stomachs or gastrointestinal tracts, which was the case with most of these animals, Kaler said. In the past, seabird die-off events — in which thousands of birds die in a short period of time — have been associated with strong El Niño events, Kaler said. In 1993, there was another die-off of common murres recorded in the northern Gulf of Alaska, where scientists found about 3,500 dead or dying common murres along the shoreline over a period of six months. Scientists calculated that over that period, about 10,900 bird carcasses actually made it to shore, according to a 1997 study published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin. Because researchers were able to monitor only a small fraction of the beaches in Alaska, that study's scientists projected that the actual final death count in 1993 was at least 120,000 birds. With this most recent event, "[w]e assume the die-off is connected to one of the largest oceanographic-atmospheric events, known as 'The Blob,'" Kaler said. This event is the presence of a large area of water that falls well above the average temperature usually observed in the North Pacific, he said. "We do not know how [that] this relates to El Niño or climate warming, but we believe they are factors," Kaler said. The USFWS also noted in a recent bulletin that common murres have turned up at locations as far inland as Fairbanks, Alaska, where the birds have been seen swimming in rivers and lakes. Wildlife biologists consider this to be unusual behavior, since common murres are seabirds and so don't usually show up so far inland, Parrish told Live Science. Additionally, while the die-off has been most visible in Alaska, similar events affected seabird populations in Washington, Oregon and California during the months of September and October, Parrish said. The behaviors of seabirds are often indicators of what is happening in the marine system, said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Current estimates of the common murre death toll in the recent die-off have suggested that more than 100,000 birds have probably died over the past nine months, and dead birds are likely to continue showing up through the spring, Kaler said. It is important to note that this high death count doesn't mean that common murres are in danger as a species. There are an estimated 2.8 million common murres in Alaska, Parrish said. This means that current estimates of the die-off account for only approximately 3 percent of the total common murre population in the state. That's not to say that the appearance of large numbers of dead birds on beaches isn't of concern, Parrish said. Scientists are speculating that this event indicates a species struggling to deal with altered circumstances, he said. "When there are heat waves during the summertime, you always hear about mortalities in the inner city [from people who don't have air conditioning] and [so] they just have to deal with" the heat, Parrish said. "None of these birds have air conditioning." 6 Extinct Animals That Could Be Brought Back to Life Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.