Fukushima; Everyone's Problem

Typhoon May-yi passed through Fukushima without incident. Tepco though dumped 1,130 tons of rainwater from behind concrete barriers situated in front of seven storage areas into the sea. Tepco said the water had a safe reading below 30 becquerels/ltr; (readings as high as 170,000 have been taken nearby as recently as Sep 14th). None of which helps the blue fin tuna which are currently glowing off the Californian coast. You don’t even want to know what radioactive cesium does to the human body. It may take a huge contamination scare somewhere or god forbid a spate of birth defects but ultimately, the international community will wade into Japan and take over the problem.

For contaminants to be flowing into the ocean every day this long after the event is just unacceptable and goodness knows what will eventually emerge from the dark depths.... don’t these people watch movies?

If that weren't bad enough the scarier extreme of the loony fringe is putting forward the theory that the three molten cores, which each weigh 120-130 tons, have melted their way through 6 inches of steel and are currently sitting on concrete floors in the cracked buildings, or they are melting their way into the earth in what the nuclear geeks apparently call “A melt through to the China syndrome.” Actually, even the silliest Hollywood script writers couldn't make this nonsense up.... that’s why it’s so worrying.

Fukushima About To Get Smacked Again

Typhoon Man-yi has been battering Japan overnight with winds of over 100mph, flooding and evacuations in some areas, (260,000 in Kyoto, more in Shiga & Fukui).

As if things couldn’t get any worse at Fukushima this could be catastrophic with early reports suggesting that a dam of a tank has already overflowed due to high rainfall.  Right or wrong, the plant remains highly vulnerable and its clear to anyone who has been following events there since the 2011 earthquake that Tepco are utterly incompetent and the fuel rods continue to present a real threat not just to the rest of Japan but to neighbouring countries and beyond.

None of which is factored into markets at any level. For the sake of those living in Japan I hope the typhoon passes without incident but the margins of safety remain extremely precarious.

Unfortunately, absolutely nothing we have seen at any level in that country in respect of facing up to the disaster so far should give us any confidence. Oh and by the way, they can forget about the 2020 Olympics, that simply won't be happening anywhere close to Japan.


Heavy rain and strong winds from Typhoon Man-yi have caused the Katsura river to burst its banks and caused damage to buildings across western Japan as the storm made landfall on Monday. The Katsura river in Kyoto prefecture swelled up and flooded surrounding residential communities. Residents were being evacuated from the area.

Big Moon; Big Bang?


Regular readers will be aware that we take a passing interest in matters seismic at Crumble Towers. Twenty years with Mrs Flashbang would make even the most disinterested observer an authoritative expert in volcanoes and earthquakes. Without detracting from the vast human tragedy that has hit Japan this last week there are some who believe the on-going chain of events is unfinished.

Step forward one Jim Berkland, a seismologist who on the video clip below comes across as the sort of bloke who would be just as happy in his work if it were bee keeping or butterfly collecting. He's not though, he's a "shakes and bangs man," and has some previous form.

The basis of his argument, that the "Big One," may be imminent, is based on continued activity on the Ring of Fire running clockwise from Chile last year, through to NZ this year and now Japan. Guess where's next?

He discusses in the clip a "seismic window," starting tomorrow with a full moon creating a gravitational pull, (hang on to your crockery), higher than normal tides and unusual "happenings," like the dead fish at Redondo, (I was joking), and some whales of the coast of California with wonky GPS's who might be affected by changes in the earth's magnetic fields.

Obviously, if he's right he'll be feted as a guru and if he's wrong his predictions will just be forgotton. Personally, I wouldn't be minded to take the risk. Californians of course are notoriously sanguine about these matters, they live with natural hazards all the time and of course they have state of the art warning systems. Darrel boy; get down to the beach, your time has come son!



New Portable Earthquake Detection System

Meanwhile, unemployed barman, failed college student and notorious beach bum Darrel Hughes of Venice Beach, in earthquake prone California, has developed a New Portable Earthquake Detection System, (PEDS). The device is cheap, widely available and comes in many different sizes. Mr Hughes's efforts to patent his earthquake warning system, and the moving parts, on a global basis have so far failed but he remains adamant that he will continue to devote his future to testing PEDS on the beach while waiting for, "The Big One." According to patrons of "Hals Bar & Grill," on Venice Beach, Mr Hughes is currently, "zoned out and sleeping it off out there somewhere."

Bad Moon Arising!

Oh Bugger!

There is a theory, and it's been knocking around the interweb for a few weeks now, that after the full moon on the 19th of March, given it will be closer to the earth than it has been for 18 years, then a series of bad things happening is inevitable. Whilst not wanting to rain on the Looney Tunes contingent conspiracies, (and I know it's a tough call to go against the never-let-the-truth-get-in-the-way-of-a-good-story experts at the Sun on this one), I should point out that when the tsunami happened on Friday the moon was in fact 40,000km further away than the closest it will get on March 19th. 

Moving on, one of the disconcerting things, when trying to find ones way around Japanese cities, is the house numbering system. The oldest house in a street will be number 1, the second oldest, (which may be quarter of a mile away would be number 2 and so on. After the events of this week, they're going to have to rethink the whole thing because as we've watched on television, the house that used to be at No 3 has now moved to No 76 and in extreme cases has a new post code somewhere south of the Aleutian Islands. 

No 3 on it's way to No 76

Usually, and somewhat lightheartadly, I employ the phrase, "Seismic Storm," to describe the latest eruption to hit Haslemere from Mrs Flashbang. This time, as they say, it's different.

Apparently, there is a 70% probability of a 7.0 + magnitude recurring in Japan the next couple of days. Indeed, many of the 200 + aftershocks have registered over 6.0. Some experts suggest that it would be fair to expect a quake one magnitude lower than the original; that would be an 8.0 then. 

Of course, the Japanese have a reputation for collective enduring discipline. They're going to need it, especially if another quake shakes rattles and rolls them. Their heightened preparedness and awareness from a very early age dampens the human urge to flap and regular drills, education and training reduces casualties. Knowledge, as was the motto at the old Parachute School, dispels fear.

Given there has been no general panic despite earthquakes, a tsunami, a volcanic eruption and the threat of nuclear meltdown, (I think Blue fin Tuna are off the menu for a while), impending food, fuel and medical shortages and we can only respect their fortitude. These events will have a transformational impact on their society for a multiplicity of reasons and may have implications for the rest of us. For now though, given their generosity to other countries hit by disaster over the years, we can do a little to help them out.

Should you care to, you can donate via the Red Cross here.


Japanese Earthquake.

Tsunami Travel Times

Ten years ago I was staying in the Palace Hotel in Tokyo. Just after I climbed into bed one night the bloody thing began to shake........... in fact the building began to shake. Not one to hang around when faced with becoming a statistic I grabbed a dressing gown and sprinted down the fire exit for five floors. Feeling pleased, if breathless, I burst onto the street to find....... I was the only evacuee. It was a mild tremor, the sort of thing the Japanese experience every day. This morning, they got the real thing, all 8.9 of it.

Equities are continuing their slide from yesterday, the move gaining momentum in the aftermath of the powerful 8.9 magnitude earthquake which struck 130 kilometres east of the coast of northeastern Japan at approximately 2:46pm Tokyo Time today. Here are a few thoughts from the trading room.

Tsunami waves, up to four metres high, swept across farm lands and buildings along Japan’s northeastern coast. Tokyo train systems and bullet train Shinkansen services were immediately suspended, while parts of the highway leading up to Sendai, the city closest to the epicentre, suffered damage, as reported. Two nuclear power plants on the coast in Fukushima Prefecture were shut down as protective sequencings kicked in. 4 million households in Tokyo are without power as of late Friday. Cosmo Oil's Chiba refinery reported major fire outbreak. Fires were reported at 48 locations in Northeastern Japan. 

Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Cabinet ministers gathered for emergency meeting at the Prime Minister's Office, setting up a situation room to gather information on damage and prepare for potential further tsunami. A disaster control team was set up by the Bank of Japan, headed by Governor Shirakawa, and pledging to supply the market with ample liquidity and ensure financial market stability. 

The JPY initially weakened on the break of the news, reaching as high as 83.30 from 82.80, but later retraced the entire knee-jerk sell off as investors increasingly believe the serious damage to infrastructures will require repatriation of the Yen for massive rebuilding efforts, driving USD/JPY lower. (This happened after the Kobe earthquake in 1995).

Reflecting on the recent New Zealand earthquake that caused severe casualties in Christchurch, the total loss to lives and updates on actual damage to Japan's major infrastructures are key news to watch out for over the weekend. 

The earthquake is of a similar magnitude to the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, which killed between 100,000 and 142,000. 

At this point, enquiring minds will be musing over the following,

* How robust is the integrity of the two nuclear power stations that have had some cooling issues this morning although the systems are reportedly back on line.

* Is it possible that this is a pre shock to a bigger event?

* How much damage will the Tsunami cause as it heads across the Pacific.

* How will investment asset classes be impacted if the Japanese liquidate to repatriate assets.

* Just how bad is the impact on Japan itself; the news channels are not yet reflecting the full tragedy because they simply don't yet know.

* One day, it will be California's turn and then equities really will get malleted.

Were the sardines telling us something....?


The Angry Planet

I'm not a man to indulge in any fantasy nonsense about Nostradamus or suggestions of the end of the world as promulgated by a bunch of Mexican tribesmen a few thousand years ago. There are though, some distinctly unsettling things going on. Almost all have a scientific explanation; it's the confluence of events which is unsettling.

Back at the beginning of November, I mentioned the Browning Newsletter, a private US weather service written by Evelyn Browning Gariss, which had warned of severe weather to come in the US as a result of El Nina.  Her latest update suggests that the unsettled conditions could persist for another 3 months. Much has been made of the El Nina phenomenon and it is undoubtedly the cause of the shock floods in Queensland. Unfortunately however, there's a bit more to the end result.

Obviously the global warming lobby in Australia has taken an early ride on the bandwagon marked, "it's all because of global warming, we told you so." That's interesting because we learn from EUReferendum that another of their number, one Tim Flannery, a professor of earth and life sciences at Macquarie University, chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council, and the 2007 Australian of the Year was a leading voice in convincing the state government that the predicable cycle of droughts and floods will no longer happen, and that the state, instead of beefing up defences from the last major event 30 years ago in 1974, should prepare for long-term water shortages.

EUReferendum goes on to say, ""Growing evidence," declared Flannery, "suggests that hotter soils, caused directly by global warming, have increased evaporation and transpiration and that the change is permanent. I believe the first thing Australians need to do is to stop worrying about 'the drought' - which is transient - and start talking about the new climate". It was input such as this that had the state government spending $1.2 billion on desalination plant, instead of flood defences, a plant now mothballed, as the flood waters mount."

In fact, the Australians have spent $13.2 bn on desalination plants. One wonders what the total cost is of letting the global warming industry, (for that is what it is). Worse, what will the future cost be?

Mount Anak Krakatau, previous eruption

Meanwhile, over in the Philipines the good residents of South Lampung have more pressing matters at hand. They're being evacuated as Mount Anak Krakatau has started throwing out ash. Not to be outdone, and flying the flag for Europe, Etna's getting in on showtime and is showing signs of animation.

As usual though, America has to be bigger and better than everyone else. The mysterious deaths of thousands of birds and fish have left many people perplexed and puzzled. That unexpected many earthquakes have occurred has simply added to the conundrum. We learn from Lew Rockwell though that one theory might have some pretty scary consequences if proved correct.

The theory is that the New Madrid fault zone is coming to life. The New Madrid fault zone is six times bigger than the San Andreas fault zone in California and it covers portions of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. The biggest earthquakes in the history of the United States were apparently caused by the New Madrid fault. 

Rockwell goes on to say that of late, 

  • According to the U.S. Geological Survey,  more than 500 measurable earthquakes have been recorded in central Arkansas just since September.
  • A magnitude-3.8 earthquake that shook north-central Indiana on December 30th is being called "unprecedented" It was strong enough to actually cause cracks along the ground and it was felt in portions of Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kentucky.
  • More than 3,000 red-wing blackbirds fell out of the sky dead in the Arkansas town of Beebe on New Year's Eve.
  • Large numbers of dead birds were also found in Kentucky around Christmas.
  • Approximately 500 dead  blackbirds and starlings were also recently discovered in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana.
  • Approximately 100,000 fish washed up on the shores of the Arkansas River just last week.

The implications of a bad thing happening on the scale of the New Madrid fault doesn't bear thinking about. Previous quakes in 1811 and 1812 were so big they remain seared in the collective folk memory. Follow the link to Rockwell to learn more. Some people attribute the BP Gulf oil spill to the drill uncorking an "oil volcano." The enthusiastic onlooker can keep up to date with the USGS site here.

The outright geeky who seek a more on the gound information source may like to check this site out. I'm not sure if it's one of those whacko "End of the World," nut job sites or not but this letter caught my attention, (bear in mind, it's not new and has pinged it's way around the web so I'm a bit suspicious),

Hello Raye;

I live on the New Madrid fault. And I can tell you this. The surface rupture of the roads and highways is out of control. Also, everyday of the week, the structure of my moms home is "cracking" and shifting. You can hear the walls and the surface crack.

Nearby is a dollar general store. In that parking lot there are 3 flagpoles that "vibrate" violently. (not shaking from wind) Each and everyday, the roads "blow" up potholes. U.S. 41 is ruptured severely.

Interstate 65 is also badly damaged. They keep trying to repave them but it doesn't work. The Cline Ave bridge at points is closing. This bridge and off ramps leads right into Inland steel and LTV steel and BP Amoco. So far, I believe 5-7 bridges have been shut down or are scheduled for closing because they are unsafe.

I monitor the earthquakes daily. And as you know there are far too many happening too quickly.

I believe the general public has been misled. In my opinion, the 2012 shift is happening now, but everyone has been conditioned to believe
that they still have time to prepare for the main event. Thats b.s. It doesn't happen all at once.

In Momence Illinois, some of the buildings are beginning to "sink". In Cedar Lake Indiana, the same is happening.

The bottom line is this; Buildings are cracking, parking lots can't be fixed, roads and bridges are closing every week, sidewalks are sinking and sinkholes are opening everywhere. At time day or night, you can literally feel the earth "vibrate" below your feet.

I'm in Northwest Indiana, and I believe we are about to get hit with a earthquake of biblical proportions. We are surrounded by propane, natural gas and BP Amoco refineries.

And, I'm more than concerned what will happen when the new madrid erupts.

best regards

Best of British then Bob; I might just watch the movie 2012 again.

We have our own seismic and volcanic events in Haslemere of course, which remain a wonder and much talked about phenonomen in the geographic community. Fortunately however. Mrs Flashbang has been in a mostly good mood of late so the emergency services and scientific boffins can stand down.