TIME Papua New Guinea

Tsunami Warning Issued for Parts of Pacific After Earthquake

Officials issued a tsunami warning for areas of the Pacific as far north as Russia

(SYDNEY) — A powerful earthquake rattled the South Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea on Monday, prompting officials to issue a tsunami warning for vast swathes of the Pacific and as far north as Russia.

The magnitude-7.7 earthquake struck at a depth of 65 kilometers (40 miles), about 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of the town of Kokopo in northeastern Papua New Guinea, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said hazardous tsunami waves could hit coasts located within 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of Kokopo, with waves between 1 to 3 meters (3 to 10 feet) possible for Papua New Guinea.

Farther afield, tsunami waves of less than 0.3 meters (1 foot) could hit other Pacific island nations, Russia, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Hawaii, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Antarctica later Monday, the tsunami warning center said. The Japan Meteorological Agency, however, said there was no tsunami risk to Japan from the quake.

Officials in the capital, Port Moresby, were working to contact their counterparts in the outer provinces, but there had been no reports of damage or injuries within an hour of the quake striking, said Martin Mose, acting director for Papua New Guinea’s National Disaster Center. No one had reported seeing any tsunami waves, he added.

“The situation seems to be under control at this stage,” he said.

The quake caused strong shaking and knocked items off shelves in Kokopo, but had not prompted any immediate reports of damage, said Chris McKee, assistant director of the Geophysical Observatory in Port Moresby. A few people in the capital reported feeling the quake as well, he said.

By early afternoon, there were still no sightings of unusual wave activity and officials weren’t sure if a tsunami had been generated, McKee said.

“If there was a tsunami generated, it would have already impacted nearby coastlines,” he said.

Earthquakes are common in Papua New Guinea. The country lies on the “Ring of Fire” — an arc of earthquake and volcanic activity that stretches around the Pacific Rim.

TIME climate change

2014 Was the Hottest Year on Record

'Climate change is perhaps the major challenge of our generation'

2014 was the hottest year since temperature record keeping began in 1880, scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced on Friday. The average global surface temperature hit 58.24 F (14.58 C), easily surpassing the previous record, set in 2005 and 2010, by 0.07 degrees.

“Climate change is perhaps the major challenge of our generation,” NASA scientist Michael Freilich warned in on a conference call. “Our changing climate presents us with vast opportunities as well as the potential for profound societal impacts.”

Every continent experienced record high temperatures in some area. Alaska, the west coast of the United States, Europe, Australia and Siberia were among the areas that saw particularly intense temperature rises. Other regions, like the U.S. Northeast, saw relatively low temperatures. Overall, the average global land temperature was nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher in 2014 than the average temperature in the 20th century.

Though a temperature rise of a few degrees may seem insignificant, University of Georgia meteorologist Marshall Shepherd likens the disparity to “the difference between a low-grade fever and one just a few degrees higher that can have an impact on the body.”

“If you are younger than 29-years old, you haven’t lived in a month that was cooler than the 20th century average,” he said in a statement. February 1985 was the last time where average global temperatures for the month were colder than they were for the 20th century on average.

Environmental activists and scientists used the announcement as an opportunity to counter claims that climate change has slowed or stopped in recent years. These claims cite data showing that temperatures have risen at a slower rate since the turn of the century than in past decades.

“Why do we keep getting so many record-warm years?” NASA scientist Dr. Gavin Schmidt asked in an interview with the New York Times. “It’s because the planet is warming. The basic issue is the long-term trend, and it is not going away.”

“Today’s news is a clear and undeniable warning for all of us—nations, businesses, cities, and individuals—that we need to cut climate pollution and prepare for what’s coming,” said Lou Leonard, vice president for climate change at the World Wildlife Fund, in a statement.

Gavin Schmidt described determining the cause of any temperature rise as a “complicated finger printing,” but said that it’s clear that greenhouse gases added to the climate by humans are a major contributor to the warming.

While last year’s record may be alarming in itself, scientists pointed out that long-term trends are equally alarming. Nine out of the ten warmest years on record occurred in the 21st century. “The key thing we’re talking about here is not just 2014, but the long-term trends,” said Schmidt on a conference call. “We may anticipate further record highs into the years to come.”

TIME weather

This Is What Hurricane Gonzalo Looks Like From Space

Tropical Weather
Alexander Gerst—ESA/NASA/AP Hurricane Gonzalo seen from the International Space Station as it moves toward Bermuda on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014.

The Category 2 storm is headed north this weekend

Hurricane Gonzalo smashed into Bermuda Friday, with winds reaching 110mph and waves approaching heights of 40 feet as the Category 2 storm swept northward, according to USA Today. Approximately 30,600 customers of Bermuda’s power company were without power as of late Friday night, while the National Hurricane Center warned of “a life-threatening storm surge.”

The storm is headed for the North Atlantic this weekend.

From space, Gonzalo is a massive, white vortex—but despite its size, it really looks quite serene. This photo comes care of Alexander Gerst, a European astronaut currently aboard the International Space Station.

 

 

TIME Natural Disasters

20 Million Set to Take Part in ‘Great ShakeOut’ Earthquake Drill

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate speaks during an event on earthquake preparedness Oct. 14, 2014 at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong—Getty Images Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate speaks during an event on earthquake preparedness Oct. 14, 2014 at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.

At 10:16 a.m on Thursday, millions of people around the world will practice the "drop, cover and hold on" moves

More than 20 million people around the world on Thursday are expected to take part in the Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills, an annual event that promotes earthquake readiness.

At 10:16 a.m. on Oct. 16, participants will practice the government-recommended “drop, cover and hold on” protocol, which involves getting on the ground, taking cover under a table or desk and holding on until the earthquake is over.

With 10.32 million people registered, California has the highest participation of any U.S. state or nation taking part. ShakeOut events are also happening inNew Zealand, Japan, Southern Italy and parts of Canada as well. More than 25 million people in total are participating in a ShakeOut event of some kind during 2014, according to the Great ShakeOut organization.

ShakeOuts started in California, where earthquakes are common, but soon spread to other states, and the drills are usually coordinated with local emergency services.

TIME Natural Disasters

The Most Beautiful Wildfire Photos You’ll Ever See

The fire near Yosemite National Park's most popular and iconic features is still only 10% contained

At first, you don’t see the fire and smoke raging near the most beautiful section of America’s most beautiful national park. Instead, the blaze that’s burned through 4,500 acres of Yosemite blends almost seamlessly into its natural features: the fire looking an extension of the sunset; the smoke appearing nothing more than a layer of fog above the valley floor.

Photographer Stuart Palley captured the wildfire when it first began spreading early this week. He says he always thought if there was a forest fire near Half Dome, the gray granite formation that’s one of Yosemite’s most popular and iconic features, it would make for a stunning photograph. So when he heard over the weekend about the growing fire, he drove seven hours to Yosemite from Los Angeles to shoot it overnight from the vantage of nearby Glacier Point.

While much of the west and southwest are experiencing some level of drought, roughly 80% of California is suffering from “extreme drought” conditions, and about 60% of the state is experiencing “exceptional” drought as little rainfall over the last two years have brought reservoir levels to 60% of their historical average.

According to reports, the fire appears to have recently slowed. Eight helicopters and roughly 400 firefighters have been deployed to fight the wildfire, which forced the evacuation of dozens of hikers in the area surrounding Yosemite Valley. But at last estimate, the fire was only 10% contained.

TIME Natural Disasters

Yellowstone ‘Super Eruption’ Could Blanket U.S. in Ash, Study Finds

USA, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1976). Region of geysers, Castle Geyser
C.DANI and I.JESKE—De Agostini/Getty Images Yellowstone National Park (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1976). Region of geysers, Castle Geyser

An eruption could blanket the east coast in a few millimeters and bury the Rocky mountains in several meters of ash

If Yellowstone erupted into a massive, ash-spewing volcano, how far might the plume travel across the continental United States? From coast to coast, blanketing every city in ash, according to an unsettling new study.

Geophysicists developed a computer model of a Yellowstone “super eruption” that would spew 330 cubic kilometers of volcanic ash into the sky. The resulting ash cloud, depending on wind conditions, would blanket the continental United States in ash deposits of varying thickness, according to the study, published late August in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems.

New York and Washington D.C., would get a light dusting of ash measuring roughly one-tenth of an inch, while San Francisco and Seattle would get a heaping 2 inches. Billings, Montana, meanwhile, would have to dig out from a 70-inch pile up.

If the findings sound far-flung, so to speak, researchers point out that Yellowstone’s last massive eruption spewed ash over tens of thousands of square kilometers. Deposits from that eruption have been traced as far afield as Canada and the Gulf of Mexico. Fortunately, the last time Yellowstone erupted on that scale was some 2 million years ago and counting.

TIME Food & Drink

The California Quake May Cost Wine Country Billions

On the other hand, it could have been much worse

Financial damage from the earthquake that rattled California’s Napa Valley on Sunday may barrel from hundreds of millions of dollars of immediate property damage to billions in total economic losses, Reuters reports.

On top of more than 200 people injured, around 50 buildings in the city of Napa — the famed wine region’s economic hub — were deemed unsafe to enter following the 6.0-magnitude quake. The temblor was the fiercest to hit the state’s Bay Area in 25 years, Reuters says.

Disaster-modeling firm CoreLogic estimated that the total insured economic losses to the region could range from $500 million to $1 billion; but as only 6% of local homes are estimated to have earthquake coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute in New York City, the total bill is likely to be much higher.

While Napa’s 2014 vintage is still slated for great things, a large amount of stock was destroyed by the quake. “It’s a big mess right now,” Rick Ruiz, operations director for the wine retailer TwentyFour Wines, told Reuters. “It’s a logistical nightmare.”

However, wine buffs need not totally despair, as the timing of the quake was in fact somewhat fortuitous — coming after the 2013 vintage had been dispatched for delivery but before most of the current year’s grape harvest was picked.

[Reuters]

TIME natural disaster

Northern California’s Napa Valley Rocked By Strongest Earthquake in 25 Years

A 6.0 magnitude caused power outages and structural damage north of the Bay Area

Updated at 1:20 p.m.

At least 87 people were injured early Sunday morning after the largest earthquake to hit California’s Napa Valley in 25 years struck near the Bay Area.

The 6.0-magnitude quake struck at 3:20 a.m. local time near American Canyon, about 6 miles southwest of Napa, at a depth of 6.7 miles. The earthquake is the largest to strike the Napa Valley area since the Loma Prieta earthquake almost 25 years ago, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a tweet:

A Northern California hospital treated more than 87 patients in the wake of the earthquake, the Associated Press reports. Three people were critically injured.

Widespread power outages in Napa and Sonoma were recorded and historic buildings in downtown Napa were damaged, CBS Local San Francisco reports. The town’s library and the historic Chinese laundry building were badly damaged, water mains had burst, and at least two homes were lit ablaze.

The foundation under Highway 37 was damaged between Interstate 80 and downtown Vallejo, and the road was shut down at Sonoma Boulevard to inspect for structural damage. A separate bridge entering American Canyon was damaged and will be closed.

Several injuries have been reported due to broken glass.

Governor Jerry Brown said Sunday morning that California had mobilized multiple resources to respond to the quake. Brown later declared a state of emergency following the quake.

“My Office of Emergency Services has been on full activation since early this morning and is working closely with state and local emergency managers, first responders and transportation officials to respond to impacts to residents and critical infrastructure,” Brown said. “These public safety officials are doing all they can to help residents and those living in affected areas should follow their guidance and instruction.”

Some California residents, meanwhile, made the best of the situation:

The USGS said that there is a 54% chance of a strong and possibly damaging aftershock in the next seven days, and a 5 to 10% chance that an earthquake of equal or even larger magnitude will strike in the next week. Weak aftershocks are likely in the coming days.

The causative fault of the earthquake is unknown, but the USGS said it suspected the Browns Valley section of the West Napa fault.

TIME space

See What the Raging Pacific Northwest Fires Look Like From Space

NASA

In a photo taken from the International Space Station, smoke blankets a large swath of the western United States

Wildfires across the Pacific Northwest have been blazing since Monday and have scorched large areas of forest as a result of hot, dry weather in Oregon and Washington. A total of 25 large, uncontained wildfires have burned hundreds of thousands of acres, with the single largest affected region in eastern Oregon’s Malheur County where about 369,000 acres of land has been burned. Incredibly, you can see smoke rising above the region from outer space. Reid Wiseman, an astronaut on the International Space Station, posted this photo on his Twitter feed.

TIME Natural Disasters

The Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964: Rare Photos From an Epic Disaster

On the 50th anniversary of the largest quake in North American history, LIFE.com presents photos -- many of them never published in LIFE magazine -- from the disaster's aftermath.

When the Great Alaska Earthquake convulsed the south-central region of that vast state on March 27, 1964, the energy released by the upheaval — the largest quake in recorded North American history — was, LIFE magazine reported, “400 times the total [energy] of all nuclear bombs ever exploded” until that time. The megathrust event unleashed a colossal 200,000 megatons of energy, destroying buildings and infrastructure in Anchorage and far beyond; raising the land as much as 30 feet in some places; and sparking a major underwater landslide in Prince William Sound, which killed scores of people when the resulting waves slammed into Port Valdez.

When all was said and done, the 9.2-magnitude quake — which struck around 5:30 in the evening on Good Friday — and its many powerful aftershocks caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage; killed more than 130 people (including more than a dozen tsunami-related deaths in Oregon and California) and; in ways literal and figurative, forever altered the Alaskan landscape in places like Anchorage, Seward and Valdez.

Here, on the 50th anniversary of the epic natural disaster, LIFE.com presents photos — many of them never published in LIFE — from the cataclysm’s aftermath.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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