Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Real Time Storm Observation: Bloemfontein ( 29 February 2012 16h20 SAST)


Image: Pieter_Myburg, Bloemfontein 16:20 SAST

SAWDOS: The above image was taken by Pieter Myburg this afternoon in Bloemfontein. When I first saw the image the thought of a funnel cloud came to mind. Was this a tornado forming of just a low cloud formation? Pieter indicated that he could not observe rotation. Be as it may, one's never sure what to expect from a thunderstorm. Thank's Pieter for sharing the image with us.

Weather Satellite Image: Cyclone Irina (29 February 2012 12h55 SAST)


Image: NOAA19 (Nic Cronje, Nelspruit) Click on image for larger view.

Real Time Cloud Observation: Potchefstroom (29 February 2012 14h00 SAST)


RT @Lion_for_Truth: Beautiful, massive cloud formations direction Potchefstroom, driving from Klerksdorp.

SA National Severe Weather Warning: 29 February 2012 16h00 SAST


Current warning: Eastern Cape
Updated: 29/02/2012 15:09:21
Warning: Take action
Subject: Heavy swell
Detail: Valid: 29/02/2012 and 01/03/2012 1. Heavy swell in excess of 4m is expected between west of Port Elizabeth in the evening.

Current warning: Northern Cape
Updated: 29/02/2012 15:09:21
Warning: Take action
Subject: Heavy swell
Detail: Valid: 29/02/2012 and 01/03/2012 1. Heavy swell in excess of 4m is expected.

Current warning: Western Cape
Updated: 29/02/2012 15:09:21
Warning: Take action
Subject: Heavy swell
Detail: Valid: 29/02/2012 and 01/03/2012 1. Heavy swell in excess of 4m is expected.

Current warning: All other Provinces
Updated: 29/02/2012 15:09:21
No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No Alerts
Detail: No Alerts.

- SAWS

SA Weather Satellite Images: 29 February 2012 16h00 SAST



Images: Eumetsat (Click on images for larger view.)

Tropical storm Irina is forecast to strike Mozambique as a tropical cyclone at about 12:00 GMT on 3 March.


Tropical storm Irina is forecast to strike Mozambique as a tropical cyclone at about 12:00 GMT on 3 March.Data supplied by theUS Navy and Air Force Joint Typhoon Warning Centersuggest that the point of landfallwill benear23.3 S,36.0 E.Irina is expected to bring 1-minute maximum sustained winds to the region of around138 km/h (86 mph).Wind gusts in the area maybeconsiderably higher.

According to the Saffir-Simpson damage scale the potential property damage and flooding from a storm ofIrina'sstrength (category 1)at landfall includes:

Storm surge generally 1.2-1.5 metres (4-5 feet) above normal.
No real damage to building structures.
Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees.
Some damage to poorly constructed signs.
Some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage.
There is also the potential for flooding further inland due to heavy rain.

The information above is provided for guidance only and should not be used to make life or death decisions or decisions relating to property. Anyone in the region who is concerned for their personal safety or property should contact their official national weather agency or warning centre for advice.

This alert is provided by TropicalStorm Risk (TSR) which is sponsored by Benfield, Royal & SunAlliance,Crawford & Company and University College London (UCL). TSR acknowledges thesupport of the UK Met Office.

- Alertnet

Fish Hoek beach may get shark net

Cape Town - Fish Hoek beach in Cape Town may get a mesh shark net to make its waters safer, the city said on Wednesday.

The 355m long exclusion net would offer a potential long-term solution to safety with little to no risk to the marine environment, said environmental planning mayoral committee member Belinda Walker.

She said the city's proposal for a trial installation at a corner of the beach would be considered by the local sub-council.

The city would then make an application to the national environmental affairs department for a research permit, allowing the trial to go ahead.

The beach has been regarded as unsafe because of three shark attacks in the last eight years.

British tourist Michael Cohen was attacked in September last year, with a shark biting off his right leg above the knee and part of his left leg below the knee.

In January 2010, Zimbabwean tourist Lloyd Skinner was pulled under the surf and dragged out to sea by a great white. His diving goggles and a patch of blood were all that remained in the water.

In November 2004, a 77-year-old woman, Tyna Webb, was taken by a shark while doing the backstroke.

The city believed the high presence of white sharks in False Bay had negatively impacted on the recreational and social use of Fish Hoek beach, as well as local tourism.

KZN Sharks Board

The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board was called in to assess the possibility of an exclusion net for the beach in 2006, but did not recommend it at the time.

Walker said it was time to re-consider.

Exclusion nets were not the same as the shark nets being used in KwaZulu-Natal.

The mesh exclusion net acted as a barrier against sharks but its holes were too small to entangle marine animals. KwaZulu-Natal shark nets were placed further out at sea and were not species selective.

The proposed area to be cordoned off would be smaller than the size of two rugby fields.

If the trial was successful, authorisation for a permanent net would have to be granted in terms of the National Environmental Management Act.

Although public participation is not required under a research permit, citizens would be consulted to raise their concerns.

The project would probably go ahead in October if approved.

- SAPA/News24

Floating whale carcass mistaken for capsized boat

MELKBOSSTRAND Tuesday 28th February 2012.


At 19h09 NSRI Melkbosstrand volunteer sea rescue duty crew were called out following eye-witness reports of what appeared to be a large capsized boat seen floating about a nautical mile off-shore of Melkbos Point.

The duty crew launched a sea rescue craft and responded to the scene but on arrival rescuers were met by the stench of an 8 meter decomposing whale carcass floating on its back with the underbelly giving the distinct impression of the underside of a boat.

Maritime Radio Services confirmed that this carcass may be the same as one reported earlier in the week floating near Robben Island and there are concerns that the wind direction will drive the carcass ashore.

Maritime navigational warnings are being posted by Maritime Radio Services and boaters in the area are urged to be cautious.

- NSRI

Biological Hazard in Zimbabwe on Wednesday, 29 February, 2012 at 03:52 (03:52 AM) UTC.

AT LEAST 20 dogs are being shot daily in Masvingo in a controversial operation by the town council, police and veterinary services to curb the spread of anthrax, it emerged on Monday. Since February 13, police sharp shooters accompanied by municipal security guards have been mowing down unaccompanied dogs. But some residents complain that their dogs have been shot indiscriminately during the exercise which will run until March 14. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has admitted that it was on board with the operation. The organisation, which traditionally offers refuge to stray animals, says lack of funding has curtailed its work. John Chikomo, the SPCA’S regional manager for Masvingo, said they were against “indiscriminate shooting of stray dogs”, but said they were powerless to stop the exercise because they lacked an alternative strategy to the one pursed by local authorities owing to “resource challenges”. Ernest Chadamana, a resident of the Rhodene neighbourhood, told how his dog was shot after it strayed meters from his yard.

“That is cruelty of the highest order, and I wonder what SPCA is doing in that taskforce,” he said. One resident from Mucheke suburb told how his dog jumped a perimeter wall to mate with a bitch which was on heat next door. “That is when it met its fate as municipal police met the dogs outside and opened fire without even talking to the owners. They killed six dogs on the spot,” Tedius Shoko claimed. Provincial veterinary chief Ernest Dzimwazha said residents had been given advance warning to keep their dogs contained to allow them to rid the city of stray animals. He said: “We put notices in all schools and council office notice boards. For the residents to complain that they have been caught unaware is not being honest. “We will continue shooting these stray dogs as a measure to contain anthrax in the city.” He said Masvingo had the highest number of reported anthrax cases countrywide. Stray dogs posed a danger to city residents as they regularly came into contact with wild animals on the city’s fringes. Dzimwazha said there was always the option to vaccinate the dogs, but said it would cost US$100 per dog – money that neither the council nor central government had.

- RSOE Edis

Oudtshoorn Brand net betyds gekeer

OUDTSHOORN NUUS - Die vinnige optrede van die brandweer het Sondag (26 Februarie) verhoed dat 'n veldbrand buite beheer raak en groot skade aanrig.

Die brand het Sondag omstreeks 12:45 op die plaas van Larry Markus uitgebreek. Dit blyk dat 'n groep kinders die brand veroorsaak het terwyl hulle vuur gemaak het om 'n swerm bye uit te rook en die heuning uit te haal.

Volgens nooddienspersoneel wat op die toneel was het die vuur baie vinnig versprei en was daar gevaar dat twee skure naby die brand ook kon vlamvat. Die skure is vol lusernbale en plaasimplimente. Daar is ook 'n aantal arbeidershuise op die stuk grond waar die vuur uitgebreek het.

Die brandweersdienste waarsku dat die droë warm weer en gepaardgaande winde groot gevaar vir brande inhou en maan die publiek om uiters versigtig te wees met oop vure.

- Oudtshoorn Courant

Epidemic in Democratic Republic of the Congo on Wednesday, 29 February, 2012 at 07:53 (07:53 AM) UTC.

A cholera outbreak in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has seen government officials in Kigali locked up in discussions to prevent the disease from spreading to Rwanda. Officials in the DRC say that up to 1,228 cases of cholera have been registered in North Kivu since January 2012, leading to 11 deaths last week. North Kivu is close to the Gisenyi border in Rubavu District, Western Province. The Ministry of Health says that although cholera is now declared an epidemic in DRC, Rwanda was not under threat and that imported cases were being contained. "As a result of this outbreak in DRC, the first case of cholera was diagnosed in Rwanda on February 13, 2012 from an individual returning from North Kivu," a statement from the ministry reads. "Since then, 12 other cases were diagnosed and successfully treated and discharged from our Health facilities a week ago. All registered cases were infected in the DRC but returned for treatment and have since been discharged with no death recorded," said the statement. The ministry also reported that no new cases have been reported since February 22, 2012. Health minister, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, emphasised the need for hygiene, continuous sensitisation, as well as quick and accurate rapid treatment for the sick. "For now we have managed to contain this outbreak, but what I need to remind everyone is that this outbreak is a ticking bomb, especially within our neighbors and, therefore, if we are not prepared, it could spread to our population," she cautioned health officials during a meeting. The meeting, which was held in Rubavu District, was attended by the State Minister for Local Government, Alvera Mukabaramba, provincial governors, district mayors, doctors and nurses. To contain the situation, officials agreed to advise the population bordering DRC to limit cross-border movements, abolish consumption of raw food stuffs, particularly those sold along roadsides, as well as improve hygiene.

- RSOE Edis

Firefighters battling seperate blazes

Firefighters were on Wednesday still battling two separate blazes in the Western Cape.

The fires in Bredasdorp and George have been burning for the past few days.

However, Working on Fire's Leanne Mckrill said another fire in Citrusdal which broke out on Monday, has been extinguished.

- EWN

Cyclone Season 2012: Tropical Cyclone Irina (Southern Indian Ocean) 29 February 2012 08h00 SAST



290300Z POSITION NEAR 16.3S 43.3E. TROPICAL CYCLONE (TC) 14S,(IRINA), LOCATED APPROXIMATELY 270 NM NORTHWEST OF ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR, HAS TRACKED WESTWARD AT 01 KNOT OVER THE PAST SIX HOURS. ANIMATED INFRARED SATELLITE IMAGERY SHOWS TC 14S IS OVERCOMING THE IMPEDIMENTS OF HIGH EASTERLY VERTICAL WIND SHEAR AND IS NOW INTENSIFYING OVER THE MOZAMBIQUE CHANNEL. THE CURRENT INTENSITY ANALYSIS IS BASED ON A COMBINATION OF AGENCY DVORAK ASSESSMENTS AND A PRESSURE REPORT FROM JUAN DE NOVA ISLAND, WHICH IS NEAR THE STORM CENTER. THE SYSTEM HAS BEEN DRIFTING WESTWARD OFF THE CAPE ST ANDRE REGION AND SLOWLY GATHERING STRENGTH. VERTICAL WIND SHEAR OVER THE LOW LEVEL CIRCULATION CENTER (LLCC) IS 20 TO 25 KNOTS, BUT ANIMATED WATER VAPOR IMAGERY SHOWS THE DEVELOPMENT OF A VIGOROUS OUTFLOW CHANNEL ON THE EQUATORWARD SIDE. POLEWARD OUTFLOW IS ALSO IMPROVING, ALTHOUGH THERE REMAINS A REGION OF PRONOUNCED SUBSIDENCE OVER THE SOUTHWEST QUADRANT. THAT IS ALSO REFLECTED IN TOTAL PRECIPITABLE WATER LOOPS, WHICH INDICATE A GENERAL LACK OF DEEP MOISTURE OVER THE CENTRAL AND SOUTHWEST MOZAMBIQUE CHANNEL. 28-29 DEGREE SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURES IN THE CHANNEL ARE SUPPORTIVE OF FURTHER INTENSIFICATION. PREVIOUS SCATTEROMETRY DATA INDICATED AN ELONGATED AND ILL-DEFINED LOW LEVEL CIRCULATION CENTER, BUT RECENT SATELLITE IMAGERY SHOWS BETTER ORGANIZATION AND TIGHTER BANDING. TC 14S IS IN A WEAK STEERING ENVIRONMENT BETWEEN A LOW- TO MID-LEVEL ANTICYCLONE NORTHEAST OF MADAGASCAR, WHICH IS ASSOCIATED WITH THE NEAR-EQUATORIAL RIDGE, AND THE NORTHWEST EXTENSION OF THE SUBTROPICAL RIDGE ALONG THE 30TH LATITUDE. THE NORTHERN ANTICYCLONE IS DEVELOPING INTO THE DOMINANT FORCE AND WILL DRIVE TC 14S ACROSS THE CHANNEL AND INTO MOZAMBIQUE, NORTH OF MAPUTO. PEAK INTENSITY WILL OCCUR BETWEEN TAU 48 AND 72 AS THE STORM MOVES THROUGH THE CENTER OF THE CHANNEL. THIS WARNING SUPERSEDES AND CANCELS REF A, JOINT TYPHOON WRNCEN 280121Z FEB 12 TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION ALERT (WTXS21 PGTW 280130). MAXIMUM SIGNIFICANT WAVE HEIGHT AT 290000Z IS 12 FEET.

- JTWC

SA National Severe Weather Warning: 29 February 2012 04h00 SAST


Current warning: Eastern Cape
Updated: 29/02/2012 04:54:34
Warning: Take action
Subject: Heavy swell
Detail: Valid: 29/02/2012 1. Heavy swell in excess of 4m is expected between west of Port Elizabeth in the evening.

Current warning: Northern Cape
Updated: 29/02/2012 04:54:34
Warning: Take action
Subject: Heavy swell
Detail: Valid: 29/02/2012 1. Heavy swell in excess of 4m is expected in the evening.

Current warning: Western Cape
Updated: 29/02/2012 04:54:34
Warning: Take action
Subject: Heavy swell
Detail: Valid: 29/02/2012 1. Heavy swell in excess of 4m is expected between Lamberts Bay and Cape Agulhas, spreading along the entire coast in the evening.

Current warning: All other Provinces
Updated: 29/02/2012 04:54:34
No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No Alerts
Detail: No Alerts.

- SAWS

SA Weather Satellite Image: 29 February 2012 07h00 SAST


Image: Eumetsat (Click on image for larger view.)

GFS Medium Range Forecasts of Vertical Velocity and Precipitation: 29 February - 1 March 2012


Image: U.S. National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Click on image for larger view.

Disabled Costa Allegra: Cruise Liner Inches Toward Seychelles


The Costa Allegra luxury cruise liner that lost power in the Indian Ocean after a fire broke out in its engine room is now being pulled by two tugboats and a French fishing vessel toward the main island of Mahe in the Seychelles.

According to Genoa Costa Crociere headquarters, the ship is currently traveling at about 6 knots and is expected to arrive in Mahe early Thursday morning.

In a statement today, the company said that a helicopter would deliver 400 flashlights and fresh bread to the more than 1,000 passengers and crew Wednesday. This morning a helicopter brought food and communication devices, including satellite phones and VHF radios.

A small generator brought by a Navy ship was reportedly being used by the ship's crew to "restore basic services on board." The news release said that despite the heat and humidity, "a slight breeze" was making the situation more comfortable.

The company also said that a "Care Team" of 14 executives, managers and technicians also had reached Mahe to prepare for the disembarkation. A smaller "Care Team" group also planned to travel to the liner Wednesday by way of the Navy vessel to speak with crew and passengers.

The Allegra was initially being towed to the island of Desroches before officials ruled the small island lacked the necessary security conditions.

According to the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica, the passengers spent the night on the outdoor decks as ordered by the captain, after temperatures inside soared. The paper also reported that the AIS system had been turned off to avoid detection by pirates and that there is no hot water.

Guests were invited to prepare their luggage in order to be ready for the time of disembarkation, the company said.

Jayne Thomas of England, whose daughter is a performer on the crippled Allegra, said she was happy that the situation appeared to be under control.

"I'm not worried now," she told the BBC today. "I know that the ship's under tow. ... They obviously are not taking any passengers any further than the island so that's good news for me. It means I'll get my daughter home."

The company issued a statement overnight saying that the guests onboard the ship, which left Madagascar Saturday, were being kept continuously informed and assisted by the captain and the onboard staff and that a cold breakfast had been served this morning.

Eight American citizens are on board the vessel, which is carrying 636 passengers and 413 crew members on a nearly monthlong cruise with numerous stops at island nations off the east coast of Africa along the way to Savona, Italy.

The majority of the passengers are European, though 15 Russians, 13 Canadians and two Brazilians are also aboard. Nine members of the Italian Navy are also on board, tasked with security against pirates.

The Italian cruise line had released a statement Monday saying no one was injured and the blaze that broke out in the engine room in the ship's aft had been quickly extinguished.

"The passengers and crew are in safe condition," Cmd. Cosimo Nicastro of the Italian coast guard said Monday. "They are not necessarily comfortable because the ship only has emergency power on board, but they are safe."

The Costa Allegra is also known as the "crystal ship" because of the huge glass windows on its deck. It is the oldest and smallest of the Costa fleet.

This is the second emergency situation this year for Costa Cruises, which is owned by Carnival Cruise Lines. In January, 25 people are known to have died and seven are still missing and presumed dead after the Costa Concordia capsized after hitting rocks off the Italian island of Giglio.

Fuel transfer operations are still underway on the Concordia, which lies on its side in the sea outside the island's port.

- ABC News (AP)

China chemical blast kills 16, dozens missing

BEIJING — Fears of new blasts have halted rescue efforts at a north China chemical plant where an explosion killed at least 16 people, injured more than 40 and left dozens more missing.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Wednesday that about 100 people were working at the Hebei Zhaoxian Keeper Chemical Co. plant in Hebei province's Zhaoxian county when Tuesday's blast flattened a workshop.

Xinhua quoted Zhaoxian deputy chief Wu Haijiang as saying that rescue work had been stopped due to the risk of explosions.

China's State Administration of Work Safety said on its website that the blast happened during the production of a high-energy fuel and propellant, guanidine nitrate.

- AP

Coast Guard helicopter crashes in Mobile Bay; 3 still missing

MOBILE, Alabama -- A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter with 4 crew members aboard crashed Tuesday night in south central Mobile Bay, authorities said.

There was no word late Tuesday on the fate of 3 missing crew members or of the 1 crew member recovered shortly after the 8:30 p.m. crash.

The recovered crew member, whose condition was not immediately known, was taken to a local hospital. The names of the crew members were not released pending notification of their families.

The recovered crew member was taken to U.S. Coast Guard Sector Mobile just north of Mobile Downtown Airport, where a rescue crew from the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department was waiting, spokesman Steve Huffman said.

The helicopter that crashed was an MH-65, and it had departed the U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Training Center earlier Tuesday night on a training mission, according to USCG spokesman Lt. J.G. Timothy Williams.

The chopper went down about 2-3 miles southwest of Point Clear, or about 3 miles west of the Scenic U.S. 98 intersection with County Road 1 north of Mullet Point, the USCG said.

Soundings available on Google Earth state that water in the area averages 13 feet in depth, depending on the tide. The National Weather Service said that Tuesday night winds in the area were southeast at about 15 miles per hour with a water temperature of 63 degrees.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. Elizabeth Bordelon, speaking from New Orleans, said that a number of rescue crews were assisting the Coast Guard in the area of the crash.

Bordelon said that 2 more MH-65s from New Orleans joined a response cuter from Dauphin Island.
Williams said that an HU-144 twin-engine fixed-wing search aircraft was also deployed, and an Alabama Marine Resources boat went to the area, as did a crew from the Mobile County Sheriff’s Flotilla.

The Coast Guard said it set up a command center at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear.
The MH-65, also called the Dolphin, has been a familiar sight in the skies over Mobile for more than 20 years. Its most distinctive feature is a ducted-fan anti-torque device in a circular housing at the back of the craft. It can carry a crew of four.

What caused the crash has not been determined. Bordelon said that the Coast Guard was most concerned with trying to locate the three remaining crew members.

"This is our family that we’re talking about," Bordelon said.

- Al.com

Floods in Northwestern Tunisia



(Click on image for larger view.)

A combination of melting snow, overflowing rivers, and heavy rains flooded parts of northwestern Tunisia in late February 2012. The Tunisian Army evacuated residents of multiple towns in the region of Tunis, Tunisia Live reported. Flood waters reached rooftops in some areas, and at least one vehicle was swept away by fast-moving water. As of February 23, at least two people were confirmed dead, and one person had been reported missing.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured the top image on February 28, 2012. For comparison, the bottom image shows the same region on February 19, 2012. Both images use a combination of visible and infrared light to better distinguish between water and land. Water is blue. Vegetation is bright green. Bare ground and urban areas are earth-toned. Clouds are pale blue-green.
These images show the coastal region of northwestern Tunisia and northeastern Algeria. Multiple water bodies appear slightly enlarged on February 28, and two lakes, one near the city of Tunis and the other west of the Tunisia-Algeria border, are clearly higher. The electric-blue hue of the Algerian lake suggests the presence of sediment, perhaps carried there by rushing flood waters.

References:
Bouraoui, F. (2012, February 24). Continuing floods in the northwest. Tunisia Live. Accessed February 28, 2012.
Shirayanagi, K. (2012, February 23). Several reported dead as floods ravage northwest region. Tunisia Live. Accessed February 28, 2012.
NASA image courtesy LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Michon Scott.

Instrument:
Terra - MODIS

5 Percent of Tsunami Debris Could Reach US Coast


Up to five percent of the debris still floating in the ocean after last year's tsunami in Japan could wash ashore in North America, one scientist said yesterday.

The tsunami triggered by the devastating earthquake that struck off the east coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, produced an estimated 25 million tons of debris. Some 4 million tons of debris was swept into the ocean, with an estimated 2 million tons of debris still afloat. One to five percent of the debris still at sea could arrive on the shores Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, the Associated Press reported.

"The major question is how much of that material has sank since last year, and how much of that remains afloat or still in the water column," debris tracker Nikolai Maximenko, of the University of Hawaii, told the Associated Press.

A new animation released last week shows the probable path of the debris, which is helpful to shipping traffic since some of the debris is dangerously large. Debris-tracking missions have already found two fishing vessels that were carried out to sea by the tsunami.

Since that magnitude 9.0 quake, the debris that has stayed afloat has drifted apart due to winds and ocean currents, with most of it moving eastward. Scientists have predicted the debris could wash up along the West Coast of the United States by next year. It is expected to hit Midway Atoll this winter and the main Hawaiian Islands in the winter of 2012-2013.

All is clear at the Midway Atoll so far this winter, though. The ocean currents have kept any debris away, said Jan Hafner of the International Pacific Research Center, who is part of the team that modeled the debris path.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has urged anyone that spots potential tsunami debris to report it by emailing DisasterDebris@noaa.gov.

- OurAmazingPlanet

Fire sweeps through Burmese refugee camp leaving thousands homeless

Source: Member // Christian Aid - UK

Christian Aid has sent £20,000 to help provide food and shelter for thousands of Burmese refugees made homeless after fire swept through their camp on Friday.

The blaze at Umpiem Mai camp, Tak Province, Thailand destroyed 350 homes, two mosques and two primary schools.

Sally Thompson, Deputy Director of the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), a Christian Aid partner organisation, said a third of the camp was destroyed.

‘Some 2,500 refugees lost everything, including their monthly food ration that had been distributed just a day earlier,’ she said.

‘Twenty people were injured putting out the blaze, thankfully none of them seriously.

‘TBBC staff are on site helping families find food and shelter. Rice, blankets and clothes have been given out and we will be providing building materials well before the rainy season starts in the next few months.’

Repairing the damage is expected to cost in the region of £250,000. The cause of the blaze is unknown.

TBBC is a consortium of 12 international non-governmental agencies, including Christian Aid, which has provided food and shelter to refugees on the Thai-Burma border for more than 27 years.

An estimated 145,000 Burmese refugees currently live in nine camps on the Thai side of the border. Many have been there for more than two decades. With limited access to education, health services and materials, they especially rely on aid to meet their food and shelter needs in times of emergencies.

A resettlement programme has allowed several thousand refugees to move to third countries but the flow of people continues across the border each year as others seek safety from the threat of violence and insecurity.

- AlertNet

NASA develops space weather app for Android smartphones


NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. is pleased to announce that its Space Weather App, previously only available for iPhone users, is now available for users of Android smartphone and tablet users. The Space Weather App, which was developed jointly by Goddard's engineering and science directorates, with support from NASA's Heliophysics Division and the National Science Foundation, is capable of giving users real-time access to solar-event images, model simulations, data, and forecasts as they evolve and affect the near-Earth space environment.

The Space Weather App allows users to view Solar Coronal Mass Ejections, or CMEs, minutes after an event occurs. The CME events are observed from satellites such as the European Space Agency and NASA jointly developed Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO), and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).
The possible effects of these solar storms can also be visualized by accessing one of the many space weather model data products that use observational data to forecast potentially hazardous space environment effects.
"Our folks heard the cry," said Michael Hesse, Heliophysics Science Division Chief at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and former chief of the Space Weather Laboratory. "We started with a space weather app for the iPhone. Now Android phone users can access space weather on the go – anyplace and anytime – downloading the same world-class, state-of-the-art information used by professionals in the space science community."
In addition to the NASA provided observational and simulation data products, the Space Weather App uses space weather resources from a host of collaborators, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and their Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES).
All the data products used in the NASA Space Weather application are selectable, allowing for user customization of display configurations based on the products of interest to each user.

More information: To download NASA's Space Weather App for your Android smartphone, please visit: https://market.and … SpaceWeather

Provided by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Flying Through a Crack in the Ice


(Click on image for larger view.)

In October 2011, researchers flying in NASA’s Operation IceBridge campaign made the first-ever detailed, airborne measurements of a major iceberg calving event while it was in progress. Four months later, the IceBridge team has mapped the crack in Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier in a way that allows glaciologists and the rest of us to fly through the icy canyon.

The above image is a still frame captured from a three-dimensional, virtual flight through the new rift in the Pine Island Glacier. (Web and high-definition versions of the movie are linked below the image.) The animation was created by draping aerial photographs from the Digital Mapping System—a still camera with very precise geolocation ability—over data from the Airborne Topographic Mapper—a scanning laser altimeter that measures changes in the surface elevation of the ice. Both instruments were flown on NASA's DC-8 research airplane, and the data was collected on October 26, 2011.

The crack formed in the ice shelf that extends from one of West Antarctica’s fastest-moving glaciers. The path of the crack in this animation stretches roughly 18 miles (30 kilometers) in length (the actual crack is much longer), with an average width of 240 feet (about 80 meters); it was 820 feet (250 meters) at its widest. The canyon ranged from 165 to 190 feet deep (50 to 60 meters), with the floor being roughly at the water line of the Amundsen Sea. Radar measurements suggested the ice shelf is about 1,640 feet (500 meters) feet thick, with only 165 to 190 feet of that floating above water and the rest submerged.

Scientists have been waiting for the crack to propagate through the rest of the ice shelf and release an iceberg, which they estimate could span 300 to 350 square miles (up to 900 square kilometers). If it does not split off soon, however, the sea ice that forms with the onset of southern winter might keep the ice chunk trapped against the coast for a while.

Pine Island Glacier last calved significant icebergs in 2007 and 2001, and some scientists speculated that it was primed to calve again. But until the IceBridge flight on October 14, 2011, no one had seen any evidence of the ice shelf beginning to break apart. Since then, a more detailed look back at satellite imagery seems to show the first signs of the crack in early October.

Animation by the NASA IceBridge team. Caption by Mike Carlowicz, with reporting from Patrick Lynch and Jefferson Beck.

Instrument:
Aircraft Sensors - NASA

Dust in Sudan



(Click on images for larger view.)

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites observed the intensification of a dust storm in the eastern Sahara Desert on February 25, 2012. The top image shows the Terra overpass (11:20 a.m. local time) and the bottom image shows the Aqua overpass (2:30 p.m. local time).

Multiple dust plumes arise from discrete source points—one such point is near the top edge of the image—and blow southward. Fine sediments from ephemeral rivers and sand seas all provide material for dust storms in this region. The hot, dry environment ensures that such storms rank among Sudan’s most common natural hazards.

The Nile River snakes its way northward through Sudan, taking a big loop to the east before curving back to the west. The river remains discernible throughout its eastern loop in the morning, but by the afternoon, dust has obscured much of that area. Dust over the Red Sea also increases in the afternoon, although skies in the west appear somewhat clearer.

References:
CIA World Factbook. (2012, February 8). Sudan. Accessed February 27, 2012.
NASA image courtesy LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Michon Scott.

Instrument:
Terra - MODIS

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Real Time Cloud Observation: Mossel Bay 28 February 2012 18h05 SAST





Images: SAWDOS (Click on image for larger view.)

Cirrus and cirrocumulus clouds in Mossel Bay 28 February 2012 18h05 SAST. Cirrus clouds arrive in advance of a frontal system, they indicate that the weather conditions may soon deteriorate. While they indicate the arrival of precipitation (rain), cirrus clouds themselves produce only fall streaks (falling ice crystals that evaporate before landing on the ground).

SA National Severe Weather Warning: 28 February 2012 16h00 SAST


Current warning: Eastern Cape
Updated: 28/02/2012 15:16:05
Watch: Be prepared
Subject: Heavy swell
Detail: Watch Valid: 29/02/2012 1. Heavy swell in excess of 4m is expected between west of Coega in the evening.

Current warning: Northern Cape
Updated: 28/02/2012 15:16:05
Watch: Be prepared
Subject: Heavy swell
Detail: Watch Valid: 29/02/2012 1. Heavy swell in excess of 4m is expected in the evening.

Current warning: Western Cape
Updated: 28/02/2012 15:16:05
Watch: Be prepared
Subject: Heavy swell
Detail: Watch Valid: 29/02/2012 1. Heavy swell in excess of 4m is expected between Lamberts Bay and Cape Agulhas, spreading along the entire coast in the evening.

Current warning: All other Provinces
Updated: 28/02/2012 15:16:05
No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No Alerts
Detail: No Alerts.

- SAWS

SA Weather Satellite Image: 28 February 2012 15h10 SAST


Image: NOAA18 (Nic Cronje, Nelspruit) Click on image for larger view.

SA facing a water crisis - Molewa

Cape Town - South Africa could face a "near crisis situation" with its water supply within the next decade if urgent steps are not taken, Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Tuesday.

"It's quite worrying," she told Sapa, speaking at the end of a media briefing in Cape Town that outlined government's plans to spend billions on infrastructure, including water infrastructure, across the country. Experts warn that increasing demand for water is set to place severe strain on the country's ability to supply this finite resource.

Treasury's 2012 Budget Review, tabled by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan last week, says South Africa will start running out of water 13 years from now without better management.

"On current projections, South Africa's water demand will outstrip available supply between 2025 and 2030," the document states.

R75bn for water infrastructure

An amount of R75bn has been allocated over the next three years for "water infrastructure, quality management, resource planning and support to local government" to address the problem.

Speaking at the briefing on Tuesday, Molewa indicated that action needed to be taken sooner rather than later.

"We don't want to wait until we have a situation like we have with electricity," she said.

Her department's hopes were pinned on various initiatives, including the completion of Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which is set to supply an additional 151 million cubic metres of water to the Vaal River system by 2020.

The department was also looking at developing ground water, as well as coastal desalination plants, although the water supplied by the latter would be expensive.

Another option was a "realignment" of water prices. In this regard, the department had drawn up a draft tariff review programme.

Molewa said that each year water boards applied for and set their own tariffs for the various agricultural and industrial users.

Behavioural change

"This inequality is what we want to address at the moment... Every year there is this approach, and we really think this is not on. By the end of the year [2012] we will have that programme in place."

The public would be invited to give inputs to the programme - set to affect the price they will pay for water - before it was taken to Cabinet for approval, she said.

Molewa said the problems of leaks in water supply systems also needed to be addressed. In some areas, up to 41% of the water supplied was being lost before it got to the user.

Further, a major "behavioural change" was needed in the way South Africans used and consumed water.

"If we don't act, we will face a near crisis situation in the future," she said.

In his State of the Nation address earlier this month, President Jacob Zuma said water affairs would "invest heavily in the maintenance and construction of bulk water supply infrastructure over the next two years".


- SAPA/News24

Nuclear debated a year after Fukushima

A year after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a debate was held between environmental organisations and pro nuclear power representatives was held at the University of Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Ayako Oga, a survivor of the nuclear disaster was present to speak about the disaster’s impact.

“People still living in areas affected, schools and nurseries have changed the time spent on activities and almost all kids don’t play outside,” said Oga.

Greenpeace and Green Life Africa spoke against nuclear power and what they called ‘state secrecy’ on matter.

“Information on the nuclear build has been kept from the public where it should be debated. This build will allow the Energy Department to determine tariffs on energy without consulting the public,” said Tristen Taylor of Green Life Africa.

Greenpeace Africa said that nuclear energy was not an option for South Africa.

“South Africa is not learning from what happened in Fukushima. There is also a lot of confusion in that before it was said that a trillion would go into the power station and it is now R300 billion. This only raises concerns,” said Ferrial Adam of Greenpeace.

Andrew Kenny, an environmentalist and engineer with an interest in energy, differed on nuclear power.

“It’s absolute nonsense that wind energy is cheaper and better than nuclear. What happened in Fukushima was an industrial tragedy and with proper precautions disasters can be avoided.

“Nuclear energy is the best way forward for South Africa. We need more energy and nuclear energy is safe, clean, economical and sustainable.”

Regarding Fukushima, Kenny said the disaster was a worst case scenario.

“The earthquake and tsunami killed people in this case, the nuclear disaster had no fatalities.” Kenny explained.

CEO of the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa, Ayanda Myoli said nuclear power was the best way forward and the public was consulted about state nuclear plans.

“Consultations were made on nuclear proposals in various areas. While nuclear energy is expensive to build, in the long term it is cheaper that wind and solar energy.” said Myoli

Myoli also said that in controlled circumstances radiowaves were not dangerous.

“I have seven years of work experience in a nuclear plant and I am healthy.” Myoli said.

- Times Live

German paraglider crashes in Cape Town

Cape Town - A German tourist was seriously injured when his paraglider folded and he crashed near Camps Bay, Cape Town, according to a report on Tuesday.

The Cape Times reported that the tourist, known only as Mr Ulrich, had taken off on his second flight of the day from Lion's Head on Monday.

Birdmen Paragliding owner Barry Pedersen told the newspaper that by the time he opened his parachute it was too late as he was near the ground.

He crash-landed at Maiden's Cove, near Camps Bay, injuring his leg.

"He has been paragliding for years, but this was his first time piloting in South Africa. It was an isolated accident... usually turbulent air can cause something like this," Pedersen said.

The tourist was in a stable condition in hospital.

- SAPA/NEWS24

French vessel reaches stranded cruise ship

NAIROBI, Kenya — A French fishing vessel reached an Italian cruise ship drifting powerless in the Indian Ocean overnight and was towing it to a nearby Seychelles island, the Seychelles Coast Guard said Tuesday.

Seychelles authorities said they are making arrangements to evacuate people to the island of Descroches and then transfer the more than 1,000 passengers and crew members to the main Seychelles island of Mahe.

The Costa Allegra lost power on Monday after a fire in its generator room only six weeks after one of its sister ships, the Costa Concordia, hit a reef and capsized off Italy. No one was injured in the fire Monday, but the blaze set the cruiseliner adrift at sea in a region where Somali pirates prey on ships.

Two tug boats continued to steam toward the stranded cruise ship on Tuesday but were not expected to reach it until the afternoon. The tugs will tow the Costa Allegra back to the Seychelles' main port — Port Victoria — under escort by the coast guard and military.

Photos released by the Seychelles on Tuesday showed hundreds of people milling outside on the decks of the Costa Allegra. Taken by an Indian navy plane, the photos showed calm seas and an upright ship.

The Costa Allegra has 636 passengers and 413 crew members on board. The fire knocked out power to the ship's engines as well as to its lights and air conditioning.

The power burnout came six weeks after the Costa Concordia capsized, killing 25 poeple and leaving seven missing and presumed dead. Both ships are operated by Costa Crociere SpA, which is owned by the Florida-based Carnival Corp.

However, company officials rushed to play down concerns.

The Costa Allegra is adrift "and being pushed by the current. It is stable and upright," Giorgio Moretti, the director of nautical operations for Costa Crociere SpA, told reporters in a conference call late Monday from company headquarters in Genoa, Italy.

Italian Coast Guard officials said emergency generators were keeping the ship's control room illuminated and communications equipment such as radios running. Officials said the cruise liner was holding steady, despite 5-foot (1.5 meter) waves in the area and passengers were being kept in the ship's big communal rooms, not in their cabins.

Moretti, a longtime Costa captain, said he expected the 636 passengers aboard would spend the night on outside decks. Among them were 212 Italian, 31 British and eight U.S. passengers, he said. Four of the passengers were children ages 3 or younger.

The Allegra, whose Italian name means "merry," or "happy," had left northern Madagascar, off Africa's southeast coast, on Saturday and was cruising toward Port Victoria when the fire erupted. Costa said the Allegra had been due in Port Victoria on Tuesday.

The general region where the cruise ship was adrift — off the coast of Tanzania — has seen a rash of attacks by Somali pirates. In 2009, an Italian cruise ship with 1,500 people aboard fended off a pirate attack in the Indian Ocean far off the coast of Somalia.

Moretti said an armed nine-member Italian military team on anti-pirate duty was aboard the Allegra, but he insisted the maritime region where the ship was now "isn't a high risk area for pirates."

"If pirates attack, the armed guards on board will respond. But as far as I am aware, no pirates have been sighted in the area," said Seychelles presidential spokeswoman Srdjana Janosevic.

Moretti said 15 Costa engineers, technicians and other officials were flying to Mahe in hope of reaching the Allegra by air to repair its generators.

- MSNBC/AP

Update: Possible Cyclone Formation Alert: Madagascar


WTXS21 PGTW 280130
MSGID/GENADMIN/NAVMARFCSTCEN PEARL HARBOR HI/JTWC//
SUBJ/TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION ALERT REISSUED//
REF/A/JOINT TYPHOON WRNCEN PEARL HARBOR HI/270121Z FEB 12//
AMPN/REF A IS A TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION ALERT (WTXS21 PGTW
270130)//
RMKS/
1. FORMATION OF A SIGNIFICANT TROPICAL CYCLONE IS POSSIBLE WITHIN 090 NM EITHER SIDE OF A LINE FROM 16.0S 45.1E TO 17.3S 41.2E WITHIN THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS. AVAILABLE DATA DOES NOT JUSTIFY ISSUANCE OF NUMBERED TROPICAL CYCLONE WARNINGS AT THIS TIME. WINDS IN THE AREA ARE ESTIMATED TO BE 22 TO 28 KNOTS. METSAT IM-AGERY AND SYNOPTIC DATA AT 272330Z INDICATE THAT A CIRCULATION CENTER IS LOCATED NEAR 16.1S 45.2E. THE SYSTEM IS MOVING WEST-SOUTHWESTWARD AT 07 KNOTS. 2. REMARKS: ANIMATED INFRARED SATELLITE IMAGERY SHOWS CONVECTION BEING SHEARED SHARPLY TO THE WEST OF THE LOW LEVEL CIRCULATION CENTER (LLCC). THE LLCC IS SKIRTING THE COASTLINE OF NORTHWEST MADAGASCAR AND CONVECTION HAS EBBED IN RESPONSE TO THE LAND INTERACTION. RECENT SCATTEROMETRY DATA INDICATES THAT THE LLCC IS BROAD, WITH A SMALL REGION OF 25-30 KNOT SOUTHERLIES OVER THE OPEN WATERS OF THE CHANNEL. THE 271200Z PGTW UPPER LEVEL STREAMLINE ANALYSIS DEPICTS THE LLCC UNDER A REGION OF HIGHLY DIFFLUENT EASTERLIES, BUT FAR ENOUGH NORTH OF THE SUBTROPICAL RIDGE AXIS THAT THE SHEAR IS IMPEDING DEVELOPMENT. RECENT ANIMATED WATER VAPOR IMAGERY SHOWS SOME MILD IMPINGEMENT TO OUTFLOW OVER THE SOUTHWESTERN QUADRANT ALONG WITH A LACK OF ANY WELL-DEVELOPED OUTFLOW CHANNELS. TOTAL PRECIPITABLE WATER LOOPS INDICATE INCREASING DEEP MOISTURE IN THE MOZAMBIQUE CHANNEL. A LOW- TO MID-LEVEL ANTICYCLONE NORTH OF MADAGASCAR HAD BEEN RETROGRADING SOUTHWEST AND DRIVING THE LLCC SOUTHWESTWARD TOWARDS A A REGION OF REDUCED VERTICAL WIND SHEAR, BUT THE STEERING INFLUENCE OF THE ANTICYCLONE APPEARS TO BE WANING. THE SYSTEM IS BECOMING TRAPPED BETWEEN STRONG LOW- TO MID-LEVEL ANTICYCLONES ON EITHER SIDE OF MADAGASCAR, WHICH WILL CONFINE IT BETWEEN THE 16TH AND 19TH LATITUDES. SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURES NEAR THE CAPE SAINT ANDRE REGION ARE 29 TO 30 DEGREES. FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF THE SYSTEM IS LIKELY AS THE LLCC TRACKS DEEPER INTO THE MOZAMBIQUE CHANNEL. MODEL GUIDANCE IS CONSISTENT IN INDICATING EASTWARD MOVEMENT WITH FURTHER INTENSIFICATION.

- JTWC + CIMSS

SA National Severe Weather Warning: 28 February 2012 04h00 SAST


Current warning: Eastern Cape
Updated: 27/02/2012 15:54:30
Warning: Take action
Subject: High Discomfort and Heavy swell
Detail: Valid 28-02-2012: 1. Extremely uncomfortable humid conditions will be experienced central and southeastern parts. ADVISORIES: 1. Heavy longperiod swell with wave heights greater than 4m are expected Wednesday afternoon between Lamberts Bay and Cape Agulhas spreading overnight to Alexander Bay on the west coast and Port Edward on the east coast.

Current warning: Kwazulu Natal
Updated: 27/02/2012 15:54:30
Warning: Take action
Subject: High Discomfort
Detail: Valid 28-02-2010: Extremely uncomfortable humid conditions will be experienced over the eastern part.

Current warning: Northern Cape
Updated: 27/02/2012 15:52:54
Advisory: Be aware
Subject: Heavy swell
Detail: Valid 28-02-2010: Heavy longperiod swell with wave heights greater than 4m are expected Wednesday afternoon between Lamberts Bay and Cape Agulhas spreading overnight to Alexander Bay on the west coast and Port Edward on the east coast.

Current warning: Western Cape
Updated: 27/02/2012 15:52:54
Advisory: Be aware
Subject: Heavy swell
Detail: Valid 28-02-2010: Heavy longperiod swell with wave heights greater than 4m are expected Wednesday afternoon between Lamberts Bay and Cape Agulhas spreading overnight to Alexander Bay on the west coast and Port Edward on the east coast.

Current warning: All other Provinces
Updated: 27/02/2012 05:36:54
No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No Alerts
Detail: No Alerts.

- SAWS

SA Weather Satellite Image: 28 February 2012 07h15 SAST


Image: Eumetsat (Click on image for larger view.)

GFS Medium Range Forecasts of Vertical Velocity and Precipitation: 28 - 29 February 2012


Image: U.S. National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Click on image for larger view.

Images: Tropical Storm 92 S dumps heavy rain in Madagascar (27 February 2012)






The Tropical Disturbance in Northern Madagascar proof to be a menace again. Got these photos from site just now, it is raining heavily in Taomisina at the moment. (27 February 2012) - Julius Pistorius

Greenpeace launches campaign against nuclear power usage

With the testimony of a young farmer from Fukushima, Greenpeace launched a campaign against the use and expansion of nuclear power in South Africa.

This comes almost a year after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, were more than 150 000 people were evacuated from their homes near the power plant after the disaster.

The disaster is estimated to have cost Japan up to $600 billion.

Ayako Oga said she wanted to share her story while helping people understand that many people had their lives disrupted and continue to live in fear of how the radiation around them affects their health.

Oga was also forced to evacuate and move over 100 kilometres away from home.

Oga told Eyewitness News that the worst part was being uncertain of what was dangerous.

She said despite clean-up in the area, children were no longer free to play outdoors and that residents could not collect vegetables from the mountain or farm the land.

Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organisation.

-EWN

Extreme Weather in United Arab Emirates on Monday, 27 February, 2012 at 03:40 (03:40 AM) UTC.

Airports nationwide experienced minor flight delays and the Jebel Ali Port was temporarily closed due to Sunday's sandstorm. "Selected flights departing Dubai were delayed for a brief time," an Emirates spokesperson told Gulf News, but there were "no cancellations or diversions." Etihad Airways officials couldn't confirm delays at Abu Dhabi International Airport by press time, but did say that disruptions were expected later in the day. Meanwhile, tanker operations at Jebel Ali port were suspended around 2pm due to poor weather conditions, but resumed later as visibility improved over the course of the day, according to a DP World (the port operator) spokesperson.

- RSOE EDIS

Video: Five Solar Eruptions in Two Days (Feb 23 - 24, 2012)


From February 23 through February 24 our Sun produced an astonishing five solar eruptions, launched from the top, bottom, left and right sides of the solar disk. Four of those eruptions came in just a 24 hour period.

One of the eruptions, a large snaking magnetic filament, erupted during the early hours of February 24, 2012 and launched the first of two coronal mass ejections (CME) in Earth’s direction.

The filament eruption, as seen in the video taken by the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) in extreme ultraviolet wavelength, forms a visible split in the sun's atmosphere, where plasma races away in waves in opposite directions. The divide stretches the length of the original filament location, almost 248,500 miles (400,000 km).

Solar filaments are darker, cooler solar material floating above the sun's surface, suspended by magnetic forces. When they appear over the solar limb they are called prominences.

Credit: NASA SDO

La Niña drawing to a close


Image: Computer model forecasts of El Niño/La Niña made in mid-February 2012. The forecasts that go above the red line at +0.5°C denote El Niño conditions; -0.5°C to +0.5°C denote neutral conditions, and below -0.5°C denote La Niña conditions. Most of the computer models are predicting neutral or El Niño conditions during the fall peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. Image credit: Columbia University's IRI.

La Niña, the cooling of the equatorial Pacific waters off the coast of South America that has dramatically affected our weather for most of the past two years, is almost done. Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) over the tropical Eastern Pacific in the area 5°N - 5°S, 120°W - 170°W, also called the "Niña 3.4 region", have warmed rapidly over the past two weeks, and were 0.4°C below average on February 27. This is slightly warmer than the -0.5°C threshold to be considered La Niña conditions, and is the first time since early August that La Niña conditions have not been present. It is likely that SSTs will continue to warm during March and April, and NOAA's Climate Prediction Center is predicting that they will declare an official end to La Niña sometime between March and April. A moderate to strong La Niña began in the summer of 2010, weakened briefly during May - July 2011 to neutral status, then re-intensified to a borderline weak/moderate La Niña from August 2011 - January 2012.

The period March - May is the typical time of year that El Niño or La Niña events end, and it is common for the opposite phenomena to take hold by fall. Since 1950, there have been twelve La Niña events that ended during the first half of the year; during six of those years (50%), an El Niño event formed in time for the August - September - October peak of hurricane season. The official forecast from Columbia University's IRI and NOAA's Climate Prediction Center calls for a 31% chance of an El Niño event, 16% chance of a La Niña event, and 53% chance of neutral conditions during the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. El Niño conditions tend to suppress Atlantic hurricane activity by creating high levels of wind shear that tends to tear hurricanes apart. Given the relatively high chance of an El Niño event this fall, plus ocean temperatures over the tropical Atlantic that are cooler than we saw in 2011 and 2010, I doubt we'll see an Atlantic hurricane season as active as the ones in 2010 and 2011. The demise of La Niña also means that global temperatures should begin to approach record warm levels by the end of the year. The cool waters of a La Niña event keep global temperatures cooler than average.

- Dr Jeff Masters
Weather Underground

Cruise ship Costa Allegra adrift off Seychelles

An Italian cruise ship with more than 1,000 people on board is without power in the Indian Ocean following a fire.

The Costa Allegra is adrift in the dark more than 200 miles southwest of the Seychelles, near Alphonse Island.

The ship is from the same fleet as the Costa Concordia, which capsized off the Italian coast in January, killing 32.

Costa Cruises said in a statement that the fire broke out in the electric generators' room. It did not spread and there were no injuries or casualties.

Inspections of the state of the engine room are on-going, the company says.

Ship immobilised
Tugs and "other naval and aerial units" will reach the ship, which has sent out a distress signal, Costa Cruises says.

Commander Cosimo Nicastro of the Italian coast guard told the BBC that it took the crew a few hours to extinguish the fire.

Although the ship is in the middle of the Indian Ocean, there are "no problems for the passengers".

However the ship probably needs to be towed to a Seychelles port, he said.

There are no electric lights on board the ship as the batteries are being used to keep essential machinery going.

The Italian authorities have directed three merchant ships and two fishing vessels towards the stricken liner.

The authorities in the Seychelles say they have sent two tug boats, a coastguard ship and an aircraft to the scene.

The closest vessel to the ship is likely to reach the Allegra at around 2300 GMT, according to Agence France-Presse.

The first tug boat will not reach the location until 1500 GMT on Tuesday, the agency reports.


There are 636 passengers and 413 crew on board the Costa Allegra, which left Madagascar on Saturday.

It was due to arrive in the Seychelles on Tuesday.

Further destinations on its itinerary include Alexandria and Naples in the Mediterranean.

Somali pirates are known to operate in the rough area where the ship is adrift, though they have never seized a cruise liner.

A facility on Costa Cruises' website allowing people to track the Allegra's position says that "data transmission is temporarily suspended".

The Costa Concordia ran aground off the Italian island of Giglio on 13 January.

The Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino, has been accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship before all those aboard were evacuated. He denies any wrongdoing.

- BBC

Video: Thunderstorm Germiston (25 February 2012)


Storm lasted quite a long while, but I am only posting the first part (about 8 minutes) coz my cellphone cam was in the wrong place and only caught about three lightning bolts... - Obs. Raine Carosin

Real Time Weather Observation: Germiston (26 February 2012 18h00)




Images: Raine Carosin (Click on images for larger view.)

Dust over the Arabian Sea


(Click on image for larger view.)

Dust plumes stretched southward over the Arabian Sea in late February 2012. The thickest plume arises just west of the Iran-Pakistan border, though thinner plumes blow southward along the entire coast of Pakistan.

Sandy deserts cover much of southern Pakistan and Iran, and the sand seas of the region often give rise to dust storms. Sandy deserts also cover large parts of Oman, although little of the dust in this image arises from that country.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this natural-color image on February 22, 2012.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Michon Scott.

Instrument:
Aqua - MODIS - NASA

Dust Storm in Utah


(Click on image for larger view.)

Dust and clouds mingled over Utah in late February 2012. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image on February 23.

The dust arises from the Great Salt Lake Desert, which has sediments that can provide ample material for dust storms. Cloud banks surround the dust, especially in the south and east. The clouds might result from the same weather pattern that brought the dust-stirring high winds.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Michon Scott.

Instrument:
Terra - MODIS - NASA

Activity at Shiveluch Volcano


(Click on image for larger view.)

Dark volcanic debris mars the otherwise pristine lower flanks of Shiveluch Volcano in this false-color satellite image. The debris traveled about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Shiveluch’s growing lava dome. Rock falls and pyroclastic flows (avalanches of hot volcanic material) are common at Shiveluch, due to the steep sides and unstable rock of the growing dome. A similar flow occurred on January 25, 2011.

This image was collected by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on the Terra satellite on February 19, 2012. Forests are a dull red, and fresh debris is dark brown. The stark white southern face of Shiveluch is the snow-covered remains of an enormous avalanche. On November 12, 1964, much of the southern flank of the volcano collapsed, causing an eruption like the 1980 explosion of Mount St. Helens. The debris from the 1964 eruption remains largely free of vegetation, likely due to frequent scouring by fresh pyroclastic flows.

References:
Belousov, A.B. (1994, July 7). The Shiveluch volcanic eruption of 12 November 1964—explosive eruption provoked by failure of the edifice. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. 66 (1995), 357–365.
USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory (2009, June 25). Lava Domes, Volcanic Domes, Composite Domes. Accessed February 24, 2012.
NASA image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, with data from the NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. Caption by Robert Simmon.

Instrument:
Terra - ASTER - NASA

Monday, 27 February 2012

Officials battle Western Cape fires

Officials from the Working on Fire organisation are hard at work trying to extinguish four separate fires across the Western Cape.

Two fires have been burning near Bredasdorp and George over the past few days.

Teams have also responded to a blaze near Ocean View.

The group's Leanne McKrill said firefighters were also deployed to the scene of a large fire in Citrusdal.

“We have a number of aerial resources on that fire, including three bombers and one fire helicopter. We have a team there which is assisting the local conservation authority as well as the fire department.”

- EWN

Update: Possible Cyclone Formation Alert: Madagascar

Image: NOAA19 13h15 SAST  (Nic Cronje, Nelspruit) Click on image for larger view.

Image: NOAA15 16H28 SAST (Ben Engelbrecht, Dundee) Click on image for larger view.

WTXS21 PGTW 270130
MSGID/GENADMIN/NAVMARFCSTCEN PEARL HARBOR HI/JTWC//
SUBJ/TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION ALERT//
REF/A/JOINT TYPHOON WRNCEN PEARL HARBOR HI/260121Z FEB 12//
AMPN/REF IS TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION ALERT (WTXS21 PGTW 260130)//
RMKS/
1. FORMATION OF A SIGNIFICANT TROPICAL CYCLONE IS POSSIBLE WITHIN 180 NM EITHER SIDE OF A LINE FROM 13.3S 49.4E TO 15.0S 43.0E WITHIN THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS. AVAILABLE DATA DOES NOT JUSTIFY ISSUANCE OF NUMBERED TROPICAL CYCLONE WARNINGS AT THIS TIME. WINDS IN THE AREA ARE ESTIMATED TO BE 27 TO 32 KNOTS. METSAT IMAGERY AT 270100Z INDICATES THAT A CIRCULATION CENTER IS LOCATED NEAR 13.5S 48.5E. THE SYSTEM IS MOVING WESTWARD AT 09 KNOTS. 2. REMARKS: THE AREA OF CONVECTION PREVIOUSLY LOCATED NEAR 13.0S 49.8E, IS NOW LOCATED NEAR 13.5S 48.5E, APPROXIMATELY 345 NM NORTH-NORTHEAST OF ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR. ANIMATED INFRARED SATELLITE IMAGERY INDICATES THAT THE SYSTEM HAS WEAKENED DUE TO LAND INTERACTION AND PERSISTENT EASTERLY VERTICAL WIND SHEAR (VWS); HOWEVER, THE LOW-LEVEL CIRCULATION CENTER (LLCC) IS NOW RE-EMERGING OVER WATER AND IS EXPECTED TO RAPIDLY RE-DEVELOP OVER THE NEXT 24 HOURS. A 262245Z AMSU IMAGE SHOWS THAT DEEP CONVECTIVE BANDING HAS BECOME FRAGMENTED WHILE LOW-LEVEL BANDING REMAINS TIGHTLY WRAPPED. RECENT SURFACE OBSERVATIONS AT FMNN, LOCATED APPROXIMATELY 20 NM NNW OF THE CENTER, SHOW SLP VALUES NEAR 998 MB. UPPER-LEVEL ANALYSIS INDICATES A FAVORABLE ENVIRONMENT WITH DIFFLUENT EASTERLY FLOW AND GOOD POLEWARD AND EQUATORWARD OUTFLOW. MAXIMUM SUSTAINED SURFACE WINDS ARE ESTIMATED AT 27 TO 32 KNOTS. MINIMUM SEA LEVEL PRESSURE IS ESTIMATED TO BE NEAR 998 MB. THE POTENTIAL FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF A SIGNIFICANT TROPICAL CYCLONE WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS REMAINS HIGH.

- JTWC

SA National Severe Weather Warning: 27 February 2012 16h00 SAST


Current warning: Eastern Cape
Updated: 27/02/2012 15:54:30
Warning: Take action
Subject: High Discomfort and Heavy swell
Detail: Valid 28-02-2012: 1. Extremely uncomfortable humid conditions will be experienced central and southeastern parts. ADVISORIES: 1. Heavy longperiod swell with wave heights greater than 4m are expected Wednesday afternoon between Lamberts Bay and Cape Agulhas spreading overnight to Alexander Bay on the west coast and Port Edward on the east coast.

Current warning: Kwazulu Natal
Updated: 27/02/2012 15:54:30
Warning: Take action
Subject: High Discomfort
Detail: Valid 28-02-2010: Extremely uncomfortable humid conditions will be experienced over the eastern part.

Current warning: Northern Cape
Updated: 27/02/2012 15:52:54
Advisory: Be aware
Subject: Heavy swell
Detail: Valid 28-02-2010: Heavy longperiod swell with wave heights greater than 4m are expected Wednesday afternoon between Lamberts Bay and Cape Agulhas spreading overnight to Alexander Bay on the west coast and Port Edward on the east coast.

Current warning: Western Cape
Updated: 27/02/2012 15:52:54
Advisory: Be aware
Subject: Heavy swell
Detail: Valid 28-02-2010: Heavy longperiod swell with wave heights greater than 4m are expected Wednesday afternoon between Lamberts Bay and Cape Agulhas spreading overnight to Alexander Bay on the west coast and Port Edward on the east coast.

Current warning: All other remaining Provinces
Updated: 27/02/2012 05:36:54
No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No Alerts
Detail: No Alerts.

- SAWS

SA Weather Satellite Image: 27 February 2012 16h00 SAST


Image: Eumetsat (Click on image for larger view.)

Kayaker overcome by strong rip current – rescued by lifeguards at Silwerstroomstrand Beach

On Sunday, 26 February 2012 at 12:05 an adult male found himself in distress at the Silwerstroomstrand Beach.

The kayaker that was paddling along the coastline when he was overcome by a strong rip current.

Lifeguards on duty reacted and rescued the victim from the water; and brought him to shore.

The victim was treated on the scene by lifeguards, law enforcement officers and paramedics’ whereafter he was transported to the Westfleur Hospital.

The adult male has been admitted to the hospital overnight for further medical treatment and observation – he is in a stable condition and will be discharged today.

The adult male is known as Shaun Facolyn, aged 44, that is from Mamre.

All beach-goers are urged to be cautious when swimming as rough seas and strong currents making conditions dangerous for swimmers.

Interesting facts regarding Silwerstroomstrand:

· Silwerstroomstrand is a coastal resort mainly by residents of nearby Atlantis and Mamre.

· The resort lies at the southern edge of an immense bay bordered by Bokpunt in the north, and Springfontein se Punt in the south.

· Within this bay, a smaller rocky point called Wintersteen provides added protection from the swell for safe swimming in the sea, and there is also a tidal pool for those wanting a warmer dip without the waves.

· There are picnic sites and braai areas for day visitors, while holiday makers can stay at the bungalows or caravan park.

· A slipway is available for boat-launching, and the shore angling is good too, particularly for hottentot during January and February.

· Silwerstroomstrand is ideal for long walks on the beach, which extends as an unbroken stretch of sand for some 3 km.

· The northern half of the beach is backed by a vast dunefield, oriented diagonally to the shore as it reflects the direction of sand blown off the beach by the prevailing southerly winds.

· Part of the dunefield is a bare sheet of migrating sand, while the rest is covered with strandveld vegetation.

· Due to its conservation worthiness, this is the southern limit of a potential core area identified for the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve.

· The habitat supports a rich diversity of birds, so it is a popular stop on the West Coast birding route.

· To the south, a short walk over the rocky point of Wintersteen leads to the shell-strewn cove of Wintersteen and Skulpbaai, while the much larger Matroosbaai lies beyond Springfontein se Punt.

Source:

Wilfred Schrevian Evan Solomons-Johannes
Head: Systems Integration & Special Projects
Acting Head: Disaster Operations Centre
Disaster Risk Management Centre
Cape Town

Bad fire season anticipated


Firefighters in KwaZulu-Natal expect a severe fire season this year.

The Fire Protection Association's Simon Thomas says there are already early warning signs that suggest the likelihood of more veld fires across the province.

He says grass in some game reserves in northern KZN has already cured beyond 60 percent. This increases its ability to fuel fire.

Thomas says an earlier than usual onset of cold conditions this season - with late rains - could cause a delay in burning firebreaks.

He says it's important that farm and land owners start taking other precautions.

"They should be looking at possibly other means of controlling and making their property fire safe, and at the moment definitely be making sure that their fire fighters are trained and that their equipment is serviced and serviceable and should especially now be preparing their tracer belts for the burning of fire breaks later on in the year," he said.

Working on Fire officials say they responded to 154 fires last year in KZN.

- East Coast Radio