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The momentum builds to a breathtaking climax in Gordon’s new novel Glory Zone, a spellbinding story about a future world of body-part clone banks, gene cures, flying prying eyes, perpetual war fought by the old, courageous resistance to oppressive power, and love found late in life.

Gordon’s Blog

Dangerous Volcano Comes Back to Life

Will the world ever see another volcanic blowout like that of Mount Tambora in 1815 that killed 92,000 and darkened our planet’s skies for a year? Or of Mount Krakatau that exploded in 1883 taking 32,000 lives and obliterating an island? Or Mount Vesuvius in 79AD that buried the city of Pompeii in ash and molten rock 23 ft (7m) deep?

According to an article in a recent issue of Nature Communications, scientists believe that could be the case.  The site being watched for a potential major eruption near a highly populated area is the Campi Flegrei, a 7.5 miles wide caldera lying just west of Naples.

The Campi Flegrei, or Burning Fields, is one of a string of volcanoes lying on the Campanian Arc, together with Mount Vesuvius, Mount Etna, and Stromboli. The Arc was formed by the convergence of two tectonic plates underlying the Italian peninsula. The African Plate, which includes the Mediterranean Sea, is pushing under, or subducting the continental Eurasian Plate. This is a very active seismic zone, accounting for Italy’s many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The volcanoes form at rupture points along the fault line, allowing molten magma to rise from the earth’s mantle and flow into the chambers underlying the volcanoes.

The last major eruption of Campi Flegrei happened in 1538 when the volcano spewed enough ash and lava to create a cinder cone mountain. But an even bigger blowout occurred in prehistoric times. A 2010 study published in the journal Current Anthropology suggests that an eruption that occurred 39,000 years ago was so gigantic it changed the course of history. In that event, the volcano projected a trillion gallons of ash and molten rock into the atmosphere, and released so much sulfur that it led to a volcanic winter and the demise of the Neanderthals.

Since 2012, scientists have observed changes in Campi Flegrei. There has been a significant uplift in the ground around the volcano, indicating that magma is flowing into the chambers below the volcano, and that the caldera is releasing water-rich gases that could cause the rock above it to fail, leading to a possible eruption. Scientists say other notable volcanoes have shown acceleration in ground deformation in a pattern similar to Campi Flegrei before a major eruption.

A volcanologist at the National Institute of Geophysics in Rome states that it is impossible to predict exactly when or if a volcano will erupt. The activity may continue to build, ending in a major blowout, or it may gradually subside into a pattern of low level activity. No one knows the outcome for sure, but the scientists are continuing to monitor the situation.

 

 

 

 

 

The Always Active Ring of Fire

The Ring of Fire circles the Pacific Basin in a 40,000km (25,000 mi) series of deep ocean trenches and active fault lines from New Zealand to the southern tip of South America. The trenches and fault lines occur where two tectonic plates meet. In most cases, it is an oceanic plate such as the Pacific Plate pressing into and pushing under a continental plate such as the North American or Eurasian Plate that causes trouble. This constant pressure creates the stress that from time to time causes a fault line rupture resulting in a catastrophic earthquake often followed by a tsunami.

In November, 2016, two strong earthquakes hit on the Ring of Fire. The first was a magnitude 7.8 that struck New Zealand’s South Island near Christchurch on November 14. The quake triggered a tsunami that caused little damage, but the quake itself caused massive infrastructure damage and killed two people.

One week later, on November 21, Japan had a magnitude 7.4 earthquake that occurred in the same area as the disastrous 2011 magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. Although the November 21 quake was felt as far away as Tokyo, it caused no serious damage or loss of life.

The four strongest earthquakes on record all happened on the Ring of Fire. The strongest recorded since modern record-keeping began in 1900 was the magnitude 9.5 Valdivia quake that struck along the coast of Chile on May 20, 1960. It devastated Chilean infrastructure, killed 6,000 people, triggered a 25m (82 ft) tsunami that washed away villages along the Chilean coast, started landslides in the Andes Mountains, and sent a 10.7m (35 ft) tsunami rippling out across the Pacific, hitting Hawaii, Alaska, Japan, and the Philippines 10,000km (6200 mi) away.

The second strongest ever recorded was the Great Alaska Earthquake of March 27, 1964. A magnitude 9.2, the quake resulted from a massive fault line rupture in the Aleutian Trench off the southern coast of Alaska. The Aleutian Trench marks the convergence of the Pacific and North American Plates. The tsunami wave generated by the earthquake reached a height of 67m (219 ft) in one Alaskan inlet. Several coastal villages were wiped out and had to rebuild on higher ground. 131 people died.

The Indian Ocean earthquake of December 26, 2004 was the third strongest on record, but by far the most destructive. A massive 1,000km (600 mi) rupture along the boundary between the oceanic Burma Plate and the continental India Plate triggered a magnitude 9.1 earthquake and a killer tsunami, taking 230,000 lives in 14 countries bordering the Indian Ocean. Indonesia and Thailand were especially hard hit. 15 to 30m (50 to 100 ft) tsunami waves washed far inland, catching many by surprise. The Indian Ocean had no tsunami warning system in place at the time.

On March 11, 2011, the east coast of Japan was hit by the fourth strongest quake on record, followed by a highly destructive tsunami. Waves up to 40m (133 ft) washed 10km (6 mi) inland, causing the Fukushima nuclear power plant to go into meltdown. Authorities reported 19,000 dead or missing, and 230,000 displaced due to massive infrastructure damage and radiation danger. The fault line rupture took place in the Japan Trench where the Pacific Plate meets the continental plate underlying the island of Honshu. The quake was so strong it elevated Japan’s main island of Honshu 3m (10 ft) and moved the island 2.4m (8 ft) east.

More than 10,000 earthquakes occur on the Ring of Fire each year. Most are minor quakes of magnitude 5.0 or less. We don’t know exactly where or when the next big one will strike, but it will not be a surprise if it is somewhere on the Ring of Fire.    

 

 

Our World in 2100

What will our planet look like and feel like in the year 2100? An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report dated Sept. 29, 2016, uses the latest climate models and climate research to give us an idea of probable global conditions at the beginning of the 22nd Century.

The range of conditions depends on how much CO2 we continue to pump into the atmosphere by burning gasoline, oil, coal, and natural gas. If we significantly cut back on the burning of fossil fuels in favor of wind, solar, and other renewable sources, the impact of climate change will be less severe. If we continue burning fossil fuels at the present rate, the impact of climate change will be extreme.

CO2 Levels. Parts per million (PPM) of CO2 in the atmosphere currently stands at 400, a substantial increase over the historical PPM of 280. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) puts forth four scenarios for future climate, depending on the level of fossil fuel burning: The lowest scenario is a rapid curtailing of fossil fuel burning and the PPM remaining around 400. The highest is based on burning fossil fuels at the current rate, in which case we could see a PPM as high as 1,400. The most realistic scenario would be the middle path of 600 to 800 PPM. The higher the PPM, the hotter our world will be.

Temperature Increase. The range of global temperature increase by 2100 will range from 0.5°F to 8.6°F, with a likely increase of at least 2.7°F. The average US temperature is projected to increase 3°F to 12°F by 2100. Among the projections are more intense and more frequent heat waves, and an increase in the number of 90-degree days.

Rainfall & Storms. Global average annual precipitation is expected to increase, but amounts will vary by region. When it rains, the rain will come down harder and there will be more of it than in the past. Wind speeds associated with tropical storms will increase, and amount of rain falling in a tropical storm will be heavier. Flood-prone areas will be at higher risk.

Ice Caps, Glaciers, & Snow. The coastal sections of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are expected to continue to melt and slide into the ocean. Models project a 15% to 25% decrease in amount and extent of arctic sea ice for every 2°F of global warming. Glaciers are expected to continue shrinking, the melt water contributing to sea level rise. Globally, snow cover is expected to decrease by 15%. Snow season will start later and melting will happen earlier than at present. Mountain snowpack will be thinner and melt earlier.

Sea Level Rise. Studies project global sea level rise by 1 to 4 feet, with an outside possibility of 6.6 feet, depending on the rate of ice sheet and glacier melt. A sea level rise of 2 feet will raise the sea level in New York harbor 2.3 feet, Hampton Roads 2.9 feet, and Galveston 3.5 feet. With sea levels that high, storm surges could inflict great damage in those areas.

Ocean Acidity. Acid content of the ocean is projected to increase 30%, weakening the shells of shrimp, crabs, lobsters, and clams, and devastating coral reefs.

It looks like 2100 will see longer, hotter summers, shorter winters, intense rainfall in wet areas, desert-dry drought in others, and stronger storms. We can help ourselves and future generations soften the impact by speeding up the changeover from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

 

 

 

Can Asian Typhoons Hit the USA?

Major tropical storms with high wind speeds and heavy rain have different names in different parts of the world. They are hurricanes in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, and around Baja California. But In the western Pacific they are called typhoons. We generally think of hurricanes impacting the Caribbean, the eastern seaboard, and the gulf coast; and typhoons striking the Philippines, Taiwan, and the southern coast of China.

But once in a while, a typhoon that starts in Asia, instead of following the normal southern track, will drift north into the jet stream and travel 5,000 miles (8300km) on a path south of the Aleutians, to eventually hit the west coast of the United States.

That’s what happened on October 15, 2016, when Typhoon Songda slammed into the coasts of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon.

Typhoon Songda started as a low-pressure system in warm tropical waters southwest of Hawaii on October 3. It drifted west toward Japan, where it developed into a tropical storm on October 8. It strengthened into a typhoon on October 10. According to the Japan Meteorology Agency, Songda reached its peak southeast of Japan as a Category 4 typhoon on October 11 with wind speeds topping 150 mph {250km/h).

Typhoon Songda then drifted north into the jet stream and traveled at the amazing speed of 60 mph (95km/h) eastward to strike the Pacific Northwest 4 days later. By the time the storm reached the US west coast, its winds had diminished to 50-60 mph (85-100km/h). No storm-related fatalities or injuries were reported, but power lines went down and transformers shorted out, leaving thousands of people in Washington and Oregon without electricity for a short period of time.

According to the meteorologists at the University of Washington, typhoons don’t hit the US mainland very often, but they can cause a lot of damage when they do. Seven of the most severe storms to hit the Seattle area over the years were attributed to typhoons. The most damaging was Typhoon Freda that struck the Washington coastline on Columbus Day, October 12, 1962. That storm packed wind speeds of 110 mph (185km/h). 50 people died in the storm and the wind flattened vast areas of forest.

The US being susceptible to both hurricanes and typhoons is reminiscent of the old story of the fighter who says, “If my right fist don’t getcha, my left one will.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Birth of Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew. Where did this monster storm start? How did it grow so big?

Matthew started as a tropical wave, an elongated low pressure system, off the west coast of Africa. The wave drifted west into the Atlantic Ocean, passing south of the Cape Verde Islands 350 miles (570km) from Africa. Thunderstorm activity increased as it moved across the Atlantic into the warm 85° waters of the Caribbean.

As the system approached the Lesser Antilles, a volcanic arc of islands that runs from the Virgin Islands to Grenada, and marks the dividing line between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, tropical storm force winds became associated with the thunderstorm activity, although the wind circulation had not yet organized into a tropical storm.

On September 28, the National Hurricane Center confirmed that the storm circulation had closed, and named it Tropical Storm Matthew with wind speeds of 58 mph (93km/h). On September 29, as the storm moved northwest, wind speeds increased to 75 mph (125km/h) and by September 30 the circulation center of the storm closed up into an eye.

At that point, the storm quickly intensified, doubling the wind speed from 80 mph (130km/h) to 160mph (260km/h), a Category 5 hurricane.

Matthew’s intensity dropped to a Category 4 as it approached Haiti. It struck Haiti straight on with 145 mph (240km/h) wind, torrential rain, and storm surge flooding. Reports indicate loss of life exceeding 1,000, and devastating loss of homes, crops, roads, and infrastructure.

After blowing through the Bahamas with minimal damage, the storm intensity dropped to a Category 3, then a 2, and by the time it turned north 30 miles off the coast of Florida, it was down to a Category 1, but the outer bands packed heavy rain and 75 mph (125km/h) winds that caused extensive damage, and flooded St. Augustine and Jacksonville. A million people in Florida suffered power outages.

Matthew pounded the Georgia coast, especially the Savannah area, and then made landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 105mph (240km/h), flooding downtown Charleston with extreme rain and a 6 ft. (2m) storm surge.  Close to a half million there lost power. Hurricane Matthew was the first hurricane to make landfall on US soil since Hurricane Ike in 2008.

The storm moved north into North Carolina with heavy rain: 16 inches (41cm) in Tar Heel and 15 inches in Goldsboro, causing massive flooding. Rivers are expected to overtop their banks by midweek. So far, 900 people have been rescued from rooftops and trees in North Carolina. 800,000 lost power. In Virginia, heavy rain caused flooding in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Hampton Roads.

The death toll for the storm in Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and the Carolinas stands at 26. Property losses are expected to be in the billions.

As this is being written, Hurricane Matthew has headed out to sea and has been downgraded to a tropical storm with sustained winds of 75 mph (125km/h).The National Hurricane Center predicts Matthew will next make a U-turn onto a southwestern track toward the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Global Warming Info For Doubters

For those who still doubt or deny the existence of global warming, or who are not convinced that burning of fossil fuels is contributing to the heating of the planet, here are a few facts and figures* to consider:

Land Temperatures: 2016 marks the 40th consecutive year that the average global temperature has been above the 20th century average. The January-July 2016 global land surface temperature was 1.66°C (2.99°F) above the 20th century average. 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have occurred since the year 2000.

Sea Surface Temperatures worldwide have mirrored the year-to-year increases in land temperatures. The January-July 2016 ocean surface temperatures were 0.79°C (1.42°F) above average, the warmest in the last 137 years.

Sea Level Rise has been slow but steady, having risen 7 inches (17.78cm) since 1900. The UN estimates an additional 2.5 to 6.0 foot sea level increase by 2100, depending on how rapidly the ice caps and glaciers melt. Some of the Marshall Islands and other low-lying atolls already have been vacated due to sea level rise. Miami has been flooding at high tide.

Ice Caps & Glaciers are melting and shrinking fast. The Greenland Ice Sheet is losing ice at the rate of 270 billion tons a year, and glaciers around the world lose another 400 billion tons each year. 

Ocean Acidification: The world’s oceans absorb a quarter of all CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning. When CO2 mixes with seawater, a chemical reaction increases the acid content of the water. Ocean acidity has increased 30% in the past 200 years, softening the shells of oysters, clams, and other calcifying species, threatening the world’s food chain, and eroding coral reefs. 

Increase of the CO2 Level in the atmosphere caused by the burning of oil, gas, and coal has increased from 280 parts per million (ppm) preindustrial, to over 400 ppm, creating a greenhouse effect that radiates heat back to earth.

Storms, Floods, & Droughts get more robust and last longer as the planet’s oceans, land, and air get hotter.

Snowpack Levels in mountain ranges throughout the world, including the Sierra Nevada, the Rockies, the Alps, and the Himalayas are getting thinner and melting faster, providing less water to populations relying on the runoff.

Carbon Emissions into the atmosphere from the burning of oil, coal, and gas exceed 9.7 billion tons per year. 97% of publishing climate scientists around the world concur that the rapid increase in global warming is due, at least in part, to human activity, namely the unrestrained burning of fossil fuels. 200 worldwide scientific organizations hold that climate change has been caused by human action. Unfortunately, the heating of earth over the past 100 years indicates the planet will keep getting hotter until the burning of fossil fuels to run our cars and factories can be replaced by non-polluting alternative sources of energy such as wind and solar.

 *Data as reported by NASA, NOAA, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and as published in scientific journals.