From Volume 38, Issue 14 of EIR Online, Published Apr. 8, 2011
Asia News Digest

India To Study Solar Maxima: Needed for Quake/Volcano Warning

March 29 (EIRNS)—Speaking to the media, Siraj Hasan, director of the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) said Indian scientists are moving closer to launching three projects that are proposed to be part of a global effort to study the impact of an overheating sun. "The Sun is entering a phase known as solar maxima, a period of intense heating that sees an increase in the number of solar flares and in the formation of sun spots. The phase lasts five to six years and follows a period called solar minima, a phase of low activity. The entire cycle lasts about 11 years," Hasan said.

During solar maxima, charged particles such as protons and electrons emitted by the Sun's fiery storms or flares, get trapped in Earth's magnetic field, producing currents. These currents, when strong, are capable of producing electrical disturbances that can affect the Earth, Hasan explained. Countries in high latitudes, such as Alaska, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia, are particularly affected by the occurrence, he said.

The three projects—launching of the special telescope on a satellite named Aditya in 2013 under the supervision of the Indian Space Research organization (ISRO); the NLST (National Large Solar Telescope); and the multiple-application solar telescope, or MAST, which is being installed in Udaipur in collaboration with Ahmedabad's Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) to study the magnetic activity on the Sun's surface—will study the effects of solar maxima in space and on the Earth, to help estimate how much thermal insulation would be required in spacecraft carrying astronauts. India's first manned space mission is scheduled for 2015. "All the three projects will give a comprehensive picture of activities happening from the Sun's surface to atmosphere in small and large scale," Hasan said.

These studies are expected to help scientists predict eruptions of solar flares and take precautionary measures, said Arnab Rai Choudhuri, an astrophysicist at the Indian Institute of Science. "It takes two days for the flares to reach the Earth's atmosphere, and we can take precautions such as shutting down electronic equipment on satellites to avoid damage, or declare non-flight zones, particularly in polar regions," he said.

Chinese Province Puts Citizens on Alert for Unusual Animal Behavior

March 30 (EIRNS)—The government of Jiangsu Province in China is encouraging residents to report abnormal natural phenomena, or abnormal animal behavior, as possible indications of coming earthquakes. The rule posted for discussion proposes that earthquake departments follow up such warnings from the public within five working days. The rule also mandates that kindergartens, schools, hospitals, and other buildings that often contain many people be built to a higher standard to withstand quakes. It also presents a list of public-works projects that must be tested for their ability to hold up during earthquakes.

In 2008, after an 8.0-magnitude earthquake in southwestern Sichuan province killed nearly 70,000 people, many Chinese citizens went to Internet blogs and bulletin boards to report that an abnormal migration of tens of thousands of toads had occurred shortly before the disaster in the vicinity of the epicenter of the earthquake. The behavior was seen as an omen, but is now seen as based on science, not superstition.

Plenty of Sparks on the Pacific Rim of Fire

March 30 (EIRNS)—According to officials of the Japan Meteorological Agency, there was an increase in earthquakes in the vicinity of the 13 active Japanese volcanoes after the quake, including Mt. Fuji. The surge in seismic activity has been observed in active volcanoes ranging from the Kanto region to Kyushu.

Myanmar: A 6.8 magnitude quake was registered in Shan state of northeast Myanmar on March 24. Severe localized damaged resulted, with a death toll that may be as high as 200. The faults in Myanmar are not technically on the Rim of Fire.

Thailand: The Thai Seismic Bureau determined that three smaller quakes (4.0, 3.0, 3.4) experienced after the Myanmar quake, were not aftershocks, but were three unrelated quakes centered on fault lines in Thailand. The Thai government then called a meeting for April 7, of key agencies involved in meteorological and other scientific affairs, along with agencies having civil-defense duties and responsibility for safety and rescue operations, to work out and review long-standing emergency measures.

Indonesia: The island chain is the single country most at risk from increased seismic activity. Indonesia has about 500 volcanoes, nearly 130 of them active and 68 classified as dangerous. The two largest volcanic explosions in historic memory (in the 19th Century) were in Indonesia, and the 2004 earthquake and tsunami off Ache, Sumatra Indonesia, killed more than 250,000 people around the Indian Ocean.

* Both Mount Karangetang, on Siau Island, northern Indonesia, and Mount Bromo in Probolinggo, East Java, are in eruption. Karangetang has forced 1,200 to evacuate, while Bromo has seen a rise in volcanic activity in the past few days as consecutive eruptions spew thick grey plumes into the air

* An earthquake measuring 5.1 struck off North Sulawesi in eastern parts of Indonesia, March 28.

* On the same day, Germany transferred the ownership of the German-Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System to Indonesia. The system consists of seismometers, sea-level sensors, and GPS land stations.

Russia: Important seismic events are reported in Far Eastern Russia near the city of Ust-Kamczatsk on the Kamchatka peninsula to the North of Japan.

* Almost simultaneously with the Japanese quake, two Russian Kamchatka volcanoes erupted. The Kizimen and Sheveluch eruptions were accompanied by earthquakes. Ash plume rose 4.5 miles above the crater. According to Russian media reports, the first cloud of dust covered the city of Ust-Kamczatsk. Over five thousand people are forced to stay at home.

* On Feb. 21, two strong quakes were registered in the region, a 6.6 and a 6.5.

Philippines Senator Blast Government for Quake Unpreparedness

March 30 (EIRNS)—Sen. Edgardo J. Angara, Chair of the Philippines Congressional Commission on Science Technology and Engineering (COMSTE), has been taking the Philippine government to task for the Philippines' unpreparedness for a natural disaster such as major earthquake or tsunami. A study prepared in 2004 by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology concluded that the Philippines is almost completely unprepared. Angara said that the study's recommendations have been essentially ignored.

The study warns that, should a relatively modest, 7.2-magnitude earthquake shake the West Valley Fault, which runs through eastern Metro Manila, 170,000 homes would collapse, 340,000 more would suffer damage, 34,000 people would die, and 114,000 would fall to injury. It could also cause widespread fires that would claim the lives of an additional 18,000 people.

All rights reserved © 2011 EIRNS