Friday, May 1, 2015

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise Of The Machines - Tiny Robots Can Move Cars Weighing UP TO TWO TONS!

Image from http://new.avertproject.eu

May 1, 2015 - GREECE
- Tiny robots the size of an A4 sheet of paper could soon be disposing of suspicious vehicles and moving cars stuck in a tight spot. The machines, called Avert, can silently and gracefully lift and transport cars weighing up to two tons.

The Autonomous Vehicle Emergency Recovery Tool (Avert) system is much smaller than a tow truck, but just as effective.

The system – the brainchild of a European consortium led by Democritus University in Greece – consists of eight flat robots working together. Each tire is gripped by two machines – one on each side. Once the tires are properly pinched, the robots lift the vehicle off the ground and carry it away.


WATCH: ICRA 2015 AVERT - An Autonomous Multi-Robot System for Vehicle Extraction and Transportation.




The Avert robots work by first surveying the area around them, planning their route, and getting around any obstacles hindering them.

Once this is a done, bogies are released from a deployment unit and are tracked to the target vehicle. They then latch onto the wheels and lift the vehicle.

The bogies come with onboard sensors, including a digital camera and two lasers.


image from http://new.avertproject.eu
Image from http://new.avertproject.eu

The robots are expected to be useful for law enforcement, allowing them to safely remove suspicious vehicles which may contain explosives.

Stressing the dangerous reality of cars being used to host explosive devices, Avert said on its website that the “current methods of bomb disruption and neutralisation are hindered in the event that the device is shielded, blocked or for whatever reason cannot be accessed for examination.”

But Avert also has the capability to assist everyday automobile owners – by helping cars move within a parking lot without a driver, or moving vehicles stuck in a compact parking space.

For example, the technology could remove the stress of parking in a crowded public garage.



image from http://new.avertproject.eu
Image from http://new.avertproject.eu

The system will be showcased at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, taking place in Seattle next month. It has already been demonstrated to five European countries and businesses.

The team behind the project hopes to begin commercial production by 2016. - RT.




 

EXTREME WEATHER: Smoke From Chernobyl Fire Could Spread Radiation Far And Wide - Experts!

RT video screenshot

May 1, 2015 - CHERNOBYL, RUSSIA
- Smoke from burning forests in the Chernobyl exclusion zone is capable of spreading contaminants across great distances, even after the fire has been stopped, ecology experts told RT.

The forest fire near the crippled Chernobyl nuclear power plant started on Tuesday and triggered an emergency alert, with police and National Guard mobilized to bring the flames under control.

By Wednesday, the country's Emergency Ministry, as well as the prime minister, who went to the affected area, said the spread of the fire had been stopped and firefighters were containing the remaining flames. Later on Wednesday, Ukrainian TV reported the flames in areas containing radioactive waste have been put out. New hot spots were discovered, but they are outside the exclusion zone.

The fire occurred within 30 kilometers of the Chernobyl power plant, inside the exclusion zone which was abandoned and cordoned off almost 30 years ago. In 1986, an explosion and fire in Chernobyl's Reactor 4 caused a release of radioactive particles into the air, which contaminated the surrounding area and caused an increase in radiation levels in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and across Europe. It was the worst ever nuclear disaster in terms of casualties and clean-up costs. The crippled reactor itself was sealed under a sarcophagus of reinforced concrete.

Although the sarcophagus remains untouched by the fire, decades-old contaminants could still be released and travel far and wide, borne aloft by the smoke, nuclear safety expert John H. Large told RT:

"Brush fires and forest fires were the greatest concern in terms of the means by which you can disperse a secondary radiological impact from the original dissipation that occurred in 1986," he said.


WATCH: Texas police chase down escaped buffalo.








John went to Chernobyl in 2006 to assess the situation there and spoke to dozens of scientists working on containing the contamination.

"In the exclusion zone and further away you have an area that has been abandoned for farming, abandoned for man management," John says. "That means you've got lots of brush and young wood growing out of control, and that means there's a big fuel load to have a fire."

He says the high temperatures and volumes of smoke produced in a forest fire can take contaminants hundreds of kilometers away from the exclusion zone: "Radiation really doesn't respect any international boundaries."

Forest fires have happened in the area before, but have never been so serious, Timothy Mousseau, biology professor at the University of South Carolina, told RT:

"Previous forest fires had re-released about eight percent of the radiation from the original catastrophe. The fire that we're seeing today seems to be on a much larger scale, and so we could see a re-dispersion of a very significant component of the original radiation."

Another problem is that as the trees that have absorbed contaminants burn up and release smoke, this turns radioactive particles into a much more dangerous form than if they simply lie in the ground.

"Internal radiation from inhalation - in other words, if you inhale something radioactive and it gets inside you - is very much more dangerous than just the background radiation that comes off the ground," says Christopher Busby, the scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risks.
French nuclear safety research institution IRSN created this simulation video, modelling the spread of caesium-137 from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Christopher Busby commented on how far radioactive particles can potentially spread: "After Chernobyl itself, they ended up in the atmosphere and they went right across the Baltic States and into Finland, and over Sweden, and then to the United Kingdom, where they caused significant increases in cancer."

However, other scientists believe the danger is minimal, because instead of being absorbed from the ground into the vegetation, contaminants actually sank deeper: "30 years on, the radiation in the soil is not on the surface, it has sunk down. New plants have grown on the spot, which contain very small doses of radiation," Leonid Bolshov, from the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute for safe atomic energy development, told RIA Novosti.

He said systems are in place to monitor radioactivity in the area: "When there were [forest] fires in 2010, our institute created a special method of determining the impact of the fires. Back then, we found no danger. The sensors that have been placed everywhere, including the Chernobyl zone, are not supposed to react - and they are not reacting. We checked the sensor in Pripyat today; its readings have been the same for the past two days." Pripyat is the abandoned town closest to the Chernobyl power plant. - RT.




INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: Plane Crash Near Gympie, Queensland, Australia - Pilot's Body Found!

Wreckage of Mr Pavan's Jabiru in bushy terrain on a property north-west of Woolooga. (ABC News)

May 1, 2015 - QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA
- Police have found the body of a pilot of a plane that crashed north-west of Gympie in south-east Queensland.

Wreckage of the light plane belonging to missing Queensland pilot Rob Pavan was found yesterday near the town of Woolooga, about 39 kilometres north-west of Gympie.

Authorities had been searching around the area for several days.

The body of 60-year-old Rob Pavan was found this afternoon, but authorities were yet to recover it.

Police Inspector Jon Lewis said the recovery operation might continue for a few days while officers tried to access parts of the wreckage.

"Things could change quite quickly if we do find an access point in those areas," he said.

"We may find that we can locate the majority of the wreckage and as I said, our priority being locating the pilot so we can get him back to his family."

Inspector Lewis said officers have had trouble reaching the crash site.

"The terrain is extremely difficult," he said.


Pilot Rob Pavan beside a Jabiru plane at Monto in central Queensland. (ABC News)

"They're on a mountain ridge, it's very thickly timbered as well as thickly covered with lantana.

"A lot of the wreckage that can be seen is in a ravine on the other side of the ridge which is very steep."

Police will prepare a report for the coroner.

Recreational Aviation Australia is investigating the cause of the crash.

AMSA said yesterday a farmer had found Mr Pavan's crashed Jabiru plane.

When a rescue chopper had trouble accessing the mountainous crash site, the farmer drove to the scene with police in four-wheel drives.

Authorities eventually confirmed the wreckage, strewn across the mountain over several hundred metres, was that of Mr Pavan's plane.



Mr. Pavan's plane crashed in this rugged and mountainous terrain, north-west of Gympie. (Supplied: RACQ Careflight)


It is not yet known what caused the crash but there had been reports of bad weather in the area.

The solo pilot, an experienced aviator, had just completed a trip around Australia.

He took off from Gympie on Saturday morning en route to a small airstrip about 90 kilometres west of Gladstone, in central Queensland.

AMSA was alerted when Mr Pavan failed to arrive and a search began about 4:15pm on Saturday.

- ABC News Australia.



 

EXTREME WEATHER: Tornadoes Hit North Cotabato, Philippines As The Celestial Black Event Nears - The Latest In The Series Of Seven Twisters To Hit The Province In April; Widespread Destruction Of Houses And Crops; At Least 5,000 Banana Plants Damaged; 15 Houses And 11 Schools Torn Apart In M'lang Town Alone; State Of Calamity Declared!

A farmworker checks the banana plants devastated by a twister in Barangay Manongol, Kidapawan City. © WILLIAMOR A. MAGBANUA/INQUIRER MINDANAO

May 1, 2015 - PHILIPPINES
- Tornadoes have ravaged houses and croplands for weeks in some parts of North Cotabato, a province already experiencing a dry spell for months.

The latest of seven twisters to hit the province this month
alone was reported Monday night in Barangay Manongol city.

At least 5,000 banana plants were damaged, but no human casualty was reported.

It was the third to occur in the city this month, officials said. On Monday last week, a tornado damaged some P2 million worth of fruiting banana plants in Barangay Paco.

Another damaged 27 houses in Barangay Magatos in Kabacan town, according to Mayor Herlo Guzman.

In M'lang town a tornado tore apart 15 houses and 11 school buildings in two villages on April 12.

Hundreds of banana plants were felled when a second twister came, according to Mayor Joselito Piñol.

In Alamada town another twister damaged 30 houses during the second week of April, according to the municipality's disaster response office.


Banana trees were felled by the tornado, 29 April 2015, North Cotabato.  © ABNER FRANCISCO

In Davao del Sur province governor Claude Bautista announced the declaration of a state of calamity as he urged his allies to forget politics for the moment and concentrate on efforts to help farmers suffering from the effects of the dry spell.

Marivic Hubac, Bautista's executive assistant, said about 7,000 hectares of cropland had already been damaged in the province and in the newly created province of Davao Occidental, citing initial field reports from the agriculture office.

The ruined fields included about 500 ha of rice, 2,000 ha of corn, 500 ha of banana, and 3,000 ha of coconuts, Hubac said in a text message. - Inquirer Mindanao.




MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: "That Was Really Way Beyond Expectations" - Hundreds Of Methane Gas Flares Discovered Off The Coast Of Gisborne, New Zealand!

Poverty Bay.  © Michael Coghlan

May 1, 2015 - GISBORNE, NEW ZEALAND
- A team of scientists have found around 766 individual methane gas flares within an area of seabed off the coast of Gisborne, in what has been described as a "major advance" for science and a first for New Zealand.

The finding comes as the 11-member expedition ends tomorrow morning with the NIWA deepwater research vessel Tangaroa arriving back in Wellington.

The team, led by marine geologist Dr Joshu Mountjoy, had been investigating the area after German and Kiwi researchers last year revealed 99 seabed gas flares there using state-of-the-art 3D and 2D seismic and echosounder technology.

Following this discovery, Dr Mountjoy and his team sought to find out whether methane was getting through the water column to the ocean's surface and into the atmosphere, and determine what contribution it was making to global greenhouse gas.

The first objective of the voyage was to remap gas flares in the area in fine detail, using a range of acoustic techniques.

Surprisingly, the team discovered that every area of carbonate rock and every fault seen on the seafloor was expelling gas, and in total, they calculated there were near to 766 individual gas flares within the area.

"That was really way beyond expectations,
"
Dr Mountjoy told the Herald tonight.

"Flares can occur in these kind of environments but seeing them in that kind of density is highly unusual - and we've certainly found nothing like it in New Zealand before."


This 3D image shows the seabed environment in which methane
gas flares have been observed off the East Coast of the North Island. 
© NIWA
By sampling methane gas within the ocean and collecting photographs and graphic imagery with NIWA's deep-towed imaging system, Dr Mountjoy and marine ecologist Dr Ashley Rowden were also able to build a picture of the fate of the gas flares, and acquire a deeper understanding of the ecology at the relatively shallow seep sites.

"We have recorded video footage showing columns of bubbles streaming out of the sea bed," Dr Mountjoy said.

"Preliminary indications are that methane is reaching the ocean surface - this is the first time this has been measured in New Zealand,"
he said.

"However, to understand how much methane, and then what this means for atmospheric contributions, will require detailed analysis of the data."

The biological survey of the gas flares zone had secured a major advance for science, he said, with observations suggesting that chemoautophic species - those that depend for food on a symbiosis with bacteria that use the methane - can occur at relatively shallow depths.

Dr Rowden said this meant the scientific understanding of the life that inhabited the area of these gas seeps needed to be re-evaluated, and a new model formulated.

The researchers now had a "massive dataset" to analyse, Dr Mountjoy said, and he believed the discovery warranted a wider investigation along the length of the Hikurangi margin, extending off the east coast of the North Island.

Some of the gas seeps discovered off Poverty Bay last year had been observed venting from the seabed in flares up to 250m high.

The discovery of this high concentration of gas flares in shallow water depths - 100m-300m - on an active tectonic subduction zone was unique, as gas seeps usually ocurred much deeper, at 600m to 1000m below the surface.


The team identified methane gas in the sediment and in the ocean, and vast areas of methane hydrates - ice-like frozen methane - below the seafloor.

This year's research voyage continued the work of an international project focusing on the interactions between gas hydrates and slow-moving landslides called SCHLIP - Submarine Clathrate Hydrate Landslide Imaging Project. - The New Zealand Herald.



WEATHER PHENOMENON: Waterspout Filmed Close To Phuket Beach, Thailand!



May 1, 2015 - THAILAND
- The waterspout could clearly be seen for around a minute before decaying into a cloud above.

The last waterspout to be seen in Phuket was in November last year over Patong beach.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explains that waterspouts are essentially the same as tornados, but over water.


WATCH: Waterspout in Thailand.




"Waterspouts fall into two categories: fair weather waterspouts and tornadic waterspouts.

"Tornadic waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water, or move from land to water. They have the same characteristics as a land tornado. They are associated with severe thunderstorms, and are often accompanied by high winds and seas, large hail, and frequent dangerous lightning. - The Phuket News.



DELUGE: Three Die In Floods After "OFF-THE-SCALE" Downpours In Caboolture, Australia - Nearly 11 Inches Of Rain In 3 Hours!

A car is submerged in flood water in Stones Corner, Brisbane.  © Dan Peled/AAP

May 1, 2015 - AUSTRALIA
- An eight-year-old boy and two adults have been killed after their car was swept away by flood waters in south-east Queensland.

Police were called to Dances Road in Caboolture, north of Brisbane, just after 5.30pm. The boy was pronounced dead at the scene along with a man in his 70s and a woman in her 30s.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk described the deaths as tragic, saying police investigations were under way. "On behalf of all Queenslanders we express our deepest sympathies," she told reporters on Friday night.

She described the storm cell as "off the scale".

Caboolture alone received 333mm of rain from 9am, with 277mm falling within three hours in the afternoon. The average rainfall for Brisbane for the month of May is 74mm but, as ABC weather presenter Jenny Woodward tweeted, the city has received a record amount of 181mm, with the previous mark having been 149mm in 1980. The Bureau of Meteorology has also said that some areas of Queensland experienced winds in excess of 100km/h.




WATCH: Creek turns into raging river as flash floods hit Brisbane.




At one point, the road to Caboolture hospital was cut off and new patients diverted to nearby hospitals.

The state emergency service had responded to 1,400 incidents throughout the day, and there were 19 swift-water rescues, Palaszczuk said.

The wild weather, caused by a low-pressure system, moved south to coincide with peak-hour traffic in the capital. Alistair Dawson, an assistant police commissioner of the Queensland police service offered advice to drivers. "Slow down, remember there are a lot of people trying to get home to their loved ones, and not to drive through flooded roads," he said. "If it's flooded, forget it. It's better to arrive late than not at all."

Dozens of people were rescued from flood waters, train services were suspended, flights delayed and cars were seen floating down roads that turned to rivers.


Dams including Wivenhoe, Somerset and North Pine were forced to release water and the NRL was forced to postpone the Anzac rugby league Test at Suncorp Stadium to Sunday.

The Suncorp Stadium. The Anzac Test between the Australia Kangaroos and the New Zealand Kiwis has been postponed.  © Chris Hyde/Getty Images


"This has been an extreme weather event," Palaszczuk said.

Conditions are expected to ease by midnight after the storm passes further south through the Gold Coast and hinterland, she added. But she urged Queenslanders to remain vigilant, obey road closures and keep away from creeks and waterways.

The low is expected to hit northern New South Wales in the early hours of Saturday morning with authorities preparing for the worst of the rain and winds over the next six to 12 hours, according the Bureau of Meteorology. 150 to 200mm of rain is expected in the region during that time with the possibility of 350mm in some areas. - The Guardian.



GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Sinkholes Keep Popping Up Across The United States - Sinkhole Big Enough To Swallow A Car Opens Up In Oxford, Mississippi!

© via Twitter

May 1, 2015 - MISSISSIPPI, UNITED STATES
- A sinkhole big enough to swallow a car has developed on a busy section of Mississippi Highway 6 in Oxford.

Fortunately, people spotted the hazard and authorities re-routed traffic before anybody drove into it.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports the problem started Wednesday morning in an eastbound lane.

The hole was between the exit for Jackson Avenue and one for Chucky Mullins Drive, leading to the University of Mississippi campus.

City Engineer Bart Robinson says he first feared a water main had broken.

But the culprit appeared to be a culvert buried 31 feet below the highway, which had separated and caused erosion.

Mississippi Department of Transportation crews were working to fix the problem.

It was not immediately clear how long the repair would take. - The Clarion Ledger.



DELUGE: Storms Dump 7 Inches Of Rain In A Day On Havana, Cuba - Leaving 2 People Dead And Several Buildings Collapse; More Rainfall Forecast For The Next 48 Hours!

Floods in Havana, Cuba, 30 April 2015.  © Juvenal Balán / Granma

May 1, 2015 - HAVANA, CUBA
- A storm dumped over 188mm (7.4 inches) of rain on Havana, Cuba, during 30 April 2015, leaving 2 dead and causing several buildings to collapse.

Local media say that one of the victims, an elderly man, drowned in the flood water in the Old Havana District of the city. The other victim was electrocuted after power cables were knocked down by the storm.

Water and power supplies were interrupted during the storm. At least three buildings collapsed and over 20 others were damaged.

Building collapses are not uncommon in the older areas of the city, where housing stock is densely inhabited and generally in poor condition.

In late November 2013, 2 people died in Havana after a building collapsed as a result of flooding.

The heavy rain flooded many of the city's streets. The municipalities of Centro Habana, Old Havana and Cerro were the worst affected, according to local media. Flood water was over 50cm deep in some areas, causing problems for drivers and pedestrians.

More heavy rain is expected in the country over the next 24 to 48 hours,
particularly in western regions. The torrential rains have been caused by thunderstorms that formed rapidly in the Florida Straits, ahead of a cold front, according to Cuba's National Institute of Meteorology (INSMET).

Rainfall Figures

According to WMO figures, between 29 and 30 April 2015, Havana received 188.3mm of rain in 24 hours. Between 30 April and 01 May, Caibarién, Villa Clara saw 80.7 mm and Playa Girón, Matanzas 99.0 mm

Nearby Florida also saw some heavy rainfall. In 24 hours between 29 and 30 April 2015, Key West received 134.1 mm and Miami 53 mm. - Floodlist.




EXTREME WEATHER: Severe Storms Hit Eastern Australia As Emergency Services Put On Alert - Heavy Rainfall, Extreme Flash Flooding, And Dangerously Damaging Wind Gusts Forecast!

Storms pass over the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, heading south towards New South Wales on Friday.
Reproduced with the permission of the Bureau of Meteorology.   © Bureau of Meteorology

May 1, 2015 - AUSTRALIA
- South-east Queensland hit by a deluge, forcing events to be cancelled, and parts of northern NSW warned to expect damaging winds and heavy rainfall

The east coast low battering Queensland is moving south toward New South Wales, with heavy rain and dangerous winds set to hit the northern rivers, mid north Coast and northern tablelands over the weekend.

Queenslanders have been experiencing wind gusts in excess of 100km/hr and extreme flash flooding on Friday, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (Bom).

The rugby league Anzac Test between Australia and New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night has been postponed due to the bad weather.

The Australia-New Zealand Test will now be played on Sunday at 4pm, with the City-Country match going ahead at 2pm.

All tickets purchased for Friday's match will be valid for the rescheduled match, however those unable to attend will be given a full refund.

Rain had earlier forced organisers to call off the trans-Tasman curtain-raiser - the women's Test between Australia's Jillaroos and New Zealand's Kiwi Ferns - although that will now also be rescheduled for Sunday.

That east coast low is expected to cross the state border early on Saturday morning, when the rainfall in Queensland will begin to decrease and the focus will turn to NSW.

"We're going into the most intense period of rainfall in the next six to 12 hours [in NSW] and with that we'll also see those strong winds too," a Bom spokesman said on Friday afternoon.

Rainfall of around 150 to 200mm is expected for northern NSW during that time, with the possibility of localised falls of more than 350mm.

People living along the coast from the Queensland border as far south as Port Macquarie would be hit with the heaviest rain and strongest winds, with very heavy surf also predicted, according to a statement from the Bom.


#Breaking: urgent very dangerous #QLDstorm warning for #Brisbane and #MoretonBay - detail: http://ab.co/1HcI5d6
  ABC Emergency


The State Emergency Service (SES) said it was bracing itself for the impact. "We've moved a lot of resources up into the north of the state in the last few days," an SES spokeswoman said, adding they had already had about 300 calls related to the weather up there.

The SES said there were certainly concerns, considering the damage caused by the last east coast low, but they were prepared.

A particular concern is for the NSW Hunter region. Although the rainfall is only expected to be around 50mm by the time the weakened pressure system hits there, it could still be a headache for the SES.

"It's already very soaked there, so the rainfall they're looking at ... generally isn't that much, but on that already soaked catchment area in the rivers there, that could cause some more damage," she said.

"We've still got some outstanding jobs that our people have been working madly on for over a week now, so that is an area we're very concerned about seeing how it all pans out."

Thunderstorms are also possible along the NSW coast, as far south as the Illawarra region, which could result in localised heavy rainfall.

The SES asked people in NSW to prepare themselves by moving cars away from trees, staying away from flood waters and having their home prepared in case of power outages.

There should be an easing trend in the rain on Sunday morning, before a respite begins on Monday, with warm and sunny conditions predicted for next week.

Thunderstorms and heavy downpours hit south-east Queensland, earlier creating dangerous conditions for peak-hour traffic.

Motorists were being warned to drive carefully through the torrential rain and to be aware of rising floodwaters.

Thunderstorms, generated by a low system, were first detected near Caboolture, north of Brisbane, earlier Friday afternoon dumping up to 100mm of rain in an hour.

Train services have been suspended between Petrie and Caboolture because of water on the tracks, while there's minor flooding in low-level areas.

The wild weather forced the cancellation of the Urban Country Music festival, which was to feature Lee Kernaghan, Cloud Control and British India.

Festival organisers say the weather damaged the Caboolture site and there were safety concerns for the public.

Up to 200mm of rain has been recorded on the Sunshine Coast since Thursday and forecasters are expecting a total of up to 400mm in some areas.

The Bureau of Meteorology's latest forecast warns of damaging winds, heavy rainfall, abnormally high tides and dangerous surf in Wide Bay and Burnett, southeast coast, Darling Downs and granite belt districts.

The premier, Annastacia Palasczuk, said the government would remain in constant contact with the bureau and warned residents to be cautious on Friday night.

"Stay out of floodwaters, make sure you are safe, and once again can I stress to families if you do not have to go out this evening, stay indoors, and just enjoy the night at home," she said.

Australia has had its coolest April since 2006 but rainfall was still below average across the nation, despite heavy rain in NSW and South Australia.

April 2015 was 0.68C below the long-term national average - the coolest result since 2006 and the 18th-coolest since reliable records began in 1910.

Rainfall was 12% below average nationally even in the wake of the ferocious east coast low that battered NSW last week, a major cloud band that dumped rain across much of SA and southern NSW. - The Guardian.




MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Very Strong 6.8 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Papua New Guinea, No Tsunami Warning - Sixth 6.0 Magnitude Or Greater Temblor To Hit The Earth In 7 Days! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location map.

May 1, 2015 - PAPUA NEW GUINEA - A magnitude 6.8 earthquake rocked the South Pacific Friday morning, following an initial quake Thursday of similar strength.

The initial report pegged the magnitude at 7.1 before the U.S. Geological Survey decreased the magnitude.

Friday’s major tremor marks the sixth earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or greater to hit in the past seven days.

The series of earthquakes began after Earth Day, with a 6.6 quake on the West Coast, centered in British Columbia.

The next strong quake to hit was the April 25th Nepal earthquake, that measured 7.8 and triggered widespread destruction and the deaths of over 6,000 people.

A small regionalized tsunami of about a foot was possible from Friday’s New Guinea quake, but the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reports the risk passed just a few hours later.


USGS shakemap intensity.

The quake hit at a depth of 33 miles.

No reports of deaths or damage have come in at this time from Friday’s New Guinea quake.

Strong earthquakes with an epicenter off the coast can trigger tsunamis, depending on the size and type of the fault movement.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center tracks earthquake data for the West Coast. - CBS.


Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the New Guinea Region and Vicinity

The Australia-Pacific plate boundary is over 4000 km long on the northern margin, from the Sunda (Java) trench in the west to the Solomon Islands in the east. The eastern section is over 2300 km long, extending west from northeast of the Australian continent and the Coral Sea until it intersects the east coast of Papua New Guinea. The boundary is dominated by the general northward subduction of the Australia plate.

Along the South Solomon trench, the Australia plate converges with the Pacific plate at a rate of approximately 95 mm/yr towards the east-northeast. Seismicity along the trench is dominantly related to subduction tectonics and large earthquakes are common: there have been 13 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded since 1900. On April 1, 2007, a M8.1 interplate megathrust earthquake occurred at the western end of the trench, generating a tsunami and killing at least 40 people. This was the third M8.1 megathrust event associated with this subduction zone in the past century; the other two occurred in 1939 and 1977.

Further east at the New Britain trench, the relative motions of several microplates surrounding the Australia-Pacific boundary, including north-south oriented seafloor spreading in the Woodlark Basin south of the Solomon Islands, maintain the general northward subduction of Australia-affiliated lithosphere beneath Pacific-affiliated lithosphere. Most of the large and great earthquakes east of New Guinea are related to this subduction; such earthquakes are particularly concentrated at the cusp of the trench south of New Ireland. 33 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded since 1900, including three shallow thrust fault M8.1 events in 1906, 1919, and 2007.


USGS plate tectonics for the region.


The western end of the Australia-Pacific plate boundary is perhaps the most complex portion of this boundary, extending 2000 km from Indonesia and the Banda Sea to eastern New Guinea. The boundary is dominantly convergent along an arc-continent collision segment spanning the width of New Guinea, but the regions near the edges of the impinging Australia continental margin also include relatively short segments of extensional, strike-slip and convergent deformation. The dominant convergence is accommodated by shortening and uplift across a 250-350 km-wide band of northern New Guinea, as well as by slow southward-verging subduction of the Pacific plate north of New Guinea at the New Guinea trench. Here, the Australia-Pacific plate relative velocity is approximately 110 mm/yr towards the northeast, leading to the 2-8 mm/yr uplift of the New Guinea Highlands.

Whereas the northern band of deformation is relatively diffuse east of the Indonesia-Papua New Guinea border, in western New Guinea there are at least two small (less than 100,000 km²) blocks of relatively undeformed lithosphere. The westernmost of these is the Birds Head Peninsula microplate in Indonesia's West Papua province, bounded on the south by the Seram trench. The Seram trench was originally interpreted as an extreme bend in the Sunda subduction zone, but is now thought to represent a southward-verging subduction zone between Birds Head and the Banda Sea.

There have been 22 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded in the New Guinea region since 1900. The dominant earthquake mechanisms are thrust and strike slip, associated with the arc-continent collision and the relative motions between numerous local microplates. The largest earthquake in the region was a M8.2 shallow thrust fault event in the northern Papua province of Indonesia that killed 166 people in 1996.

The western portion of the northern Australia plate boundary extends approximately 4800 km from New Guinea to Sumatra and primarily separates Australia from the Eurasia plate, including the Sunda block. This portion is dominantly convergent and includes subduction at the Sunda (Java) trench, and a young arc-continent collision.

In the east, this boundary extends from the Kai Islands to Sumba along the Timor trough, offset from the Sunda trench by 250 km south of Sumba. Contrary to earlier tectonic models in which this trough was interpreted as a subduction feature continuous with the Sunda subduction zone, it is now thought to represent a subsiding deformational feature related to the collision of the Australia plate continental margin and the volcanic arc of the Eurasia plate, initiating in the last 5-8 Myr. Before collision began, the Sunda subduction zone extended eastward to at least the Kai Islands, evidenced by the presence of a northward-dipping zone of seismicity beneath Timor Leste. A more detailed examination of the seismic zone along it's eastern segment reveals a gap in intermediate depth seismicity under Timor and seismic mechanisms that indicate an eastward propagating tear in the descending slab as the negatively buoyant oceanic lithosphere detaches from positively buoyant continental lithosphere. On the surface, GPS measurements indicate that the region around Timor is currently no longer connected to the Eurasia plate, but instead is moving at nearly the same velocity as the Australia plate, another consequence of collision.

Large earthquakes in eastern Indonesia occur frequently but interplate megathrust events related to subduction are rare; this is likely due to the disconnection of the descending oceanic slab from the continental margin. There have been 9 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded from the Kai Islands to Sumba since 1900. The largest was the great Banda Sea earthquake of 1938 (M8.5) an intermediate depth thrust faulting event that did not cause significant loss of life.

More information on regional seismicity and tectonics

- USGS.