Earthquakes May Endanger New York More Than Thought, Says StudyA study by a group of prominent seismologists suggests that a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed. Among other things, they say that the controversial Indian Point nuclear power plants, 24 miles north of the city, sit astride the previously unidentified intersection of two active seismic zones. The paper appears in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.Many faults and a few mostly modest quakes have long been known around New York City, but the research casts them in a new light. The scientists say the insight comes from sophisticated analysis of past quakes, plus 34 years of new data on tremors, most of them perceptible only by modern seismic instruments. The evidence charts unseen but potentially powerful structures whose layout and dynamics are only now coming clearer, say the scientists. All are based at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which runs the network of seismometers that monitors most of the northeastern United States.Lead author Lynn R. Sykes said the data show that large quakes are infrequent around New York compared to more active areas like California and Japan, but that the risk is high, because of the overwhelming concentration of people and infrastructure. “The research raises the perception both of how common these events are, and, specifically, where they may occur,” he said. “It’s an extremely populated area with very large assets.” Sykes, who has studied the region for four decades, is known for his early role in establishing the global theory of plate tectonics.The authors compiled a catalog of all 383 known earthquakes from 1677 to 2007 in a 15,000-square-mile area around New York City. Coauthor John Armbruster estimated sizes and locations of dozens of events before 1930 by combing newspaper accounts and other records. The researchers say magnitude 5 quakes—strong enough to cause damage–occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884. There was little settlement around to be hurt by the first two quakes, whose locations are vague due to a lack of good accounts; but the last, thought to be centered under the seabed somewhere between Brooklyn and Sandy Hook, toppled chimneys across the city and New Jersey, and panicked bathers at Coney Island. Based on this, the researchers say such quakes should be routinely expected, on average, about every 100 years. “Today, with so many more buildings and people, a magnitude 5 centered below the city would be extremely attention-getting,” said Armbruster. “We’d see billions in damage, with some brick buildings falling. People would probably be killed.”Starting in the early 1970s Lamont began collecting data on quakes from dozens of newly deployed seismometers; these have revealed further potential, including distinct zones where earthquakes concentrate, and where larger ones could come. The Lamont network, now led by coauthor Won-Young Kim, has located hundreds of small events, including a magnitude 3 every few years, which can be felt by people at the surface, but is unlikely to cause damage. These small quakes tend to cluster along a series of small, old faults in harder rocks across the region. Many of the faults were discovered decades ago when subways, water tunnels and other excavations intersected them, but conventional wisdom said they were inactive remnants of continental collisions and rifting hundreds of millions of years ago. The results clearly show that they are active, and quite capable of generating damaging quakes, said Sykes.One major previously known feature, the Ramapo Seismic Zone, runs from eastern Pennsylvania to the mid-Hudson Valley, passing within a mile or two northwest of Indian Point. The researchers found that this system is not so much a single fracture as a braid of smaller ones, where quakes emanate from a set of still ill-defined faults. East and south of the Ramapo zone—and possibly more significant in terms of hazard–is a set of nearly parallel northwest-southeast faults. These include Manhattan’s 125th Street fault, which seems to have generated two small 1981 quakes, and could have been the source of the big 1737 quake; the Dyckman Street fault, which carried a magnitude 2 in 1989; the Mosholu Parkway fault; and the Dobbs Ferry fault in suburban Westchester, which generated the largest recent shock, a surprising magnitude 4.1, in 1985. Fortunately, it did no damage. Given the pattern, Sykes says the big 1884 quake may have hit on a yet-undetected member of this parallel family further south.The researchers say that frequent small quakes occur in predictable ratios to larger ones, and so can be used to project a rough time scale for damaging events. Based on the lengths of the faults, the detected tremors, and calculations of how stresses build in the crust, the researchers say that magnitude 6 quakes, or even 7—respectively 10 and 100 times bigger than magnitude 5–are quite possible on the active faults they describe. They calculate that magnitude 6 quakes take place in the area about every 670 years, and sevens, every 3,400 years. The corresponding probabilities of occurrence in any 50-year period would be 7% and 1.5%. After less specific hints of these possibilities appeared in previous research, a 2003 analysis by The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation put the cost of quakes this size in the metro New York area at $39 billion to $197 billion. A separate 2001 analysis for northern New Jersey’s Bergen County estimates that a magnitude 7 would destroy 14,000 buildings and damage 180,000 in that area alone. The researchers point out that no one knows when the last such events occurred, and say no one can predict when they next might come.“We need to step backward from the simple old model, where you worry about one large, obvious fault, like they do in California,” said coauthor Leonardo Seeber. “The problem here comes from many subtle faults. We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought. We need to take a very close look.” Seeber says that because the faults are mostly invisible at the surface and move infrequently, a big quake could easily hit one not yet identified. “The probability is not zero, and the damage could be great,” he said. “It could be like something out of a Greek myth.”The researchers found concrete evidence for one significant previously unknown structure: an active seismic zone running at least 25 miles from Stamford, Conn., to the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, N.Y., where it passes less than a mile north of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The Stamford-Peekskill line stands out sharply on the researchers’ earthquake map, with small events clustered along its length, and to its immediate southwest. Just to the north, there are no quakes, indicating that it represents some kind of underground boundary. It is parallel to the other faults beginning at 125th Street, so the researchers believe it is a fault in the same family. Like the others, they say it is probably capable of producing at least a magnitude 6 quake. Furthermore, a mile or so on, it intersects the Ramapo seismic zone.Sykes said the existence of the Stamford-Peekskill line had been suggested before, because the Hudson takes a sudden unexplained bend just ot the north of Indian Point, and definite traces of an old fault can be along the north side of the bend. The seismic evidence confirms it, he said. “Indian Point is situated at the intersection of the two most striking linear features marking the seismicity and also in the midst of a large population that is at risk in case of an accident,” says the paper. “This is clearly one of the least favorable sites in our study area from an earthquake hazard and risk perspective.”The findings comes at a time when Entergy, the owner of Indian Point, is trying to relicense the two operating plants for an additional 20 years—a move being fought by surrounding communities and the New York State Attorney General. Last fall the attorney general, alerted to the then-unpublished Lamont data, told a Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel in a filing: “New data developed in the last 20 years disclose a substantially higher likelihood of significant earthquake activity in the vicinity of [Indian Point] that could exceed the earthquake design for the facility.” The state alleges that Entergy has not presented new data on earthquakes past 1979. However, in a little-noticed decision this July 31, the panel rejected the argument on procedural grounds. A source at the attorney general’s office said the state is considering its options.The characteristics of New York’s geology and human footprint may increase the problem. Unlike in California, many New York quakes occur near the surface—in the upper mile or so—and they occur not in the broken-up, more malleable formations common where quakes are frequent, but rather in the extremely hard, rigid rocks underlying Manhattan and much of the lower Hudson Valley. Such rocks can build large stresses, then suddenly and efficiently transmit energy over long distances. “It’s like putting a hard rock in a vise,” said Seeber. “Nothing happens for a while. Then it goes with a bang.” Earthquake-resistant building codes were not introduced to New York City until 1995, and are not in effect at all in many other communities. Sinuous skyscrapers and bridges might get by with minimal damage, said Sykes, but many older, unreinforced three- to six-story brick buildings could crumble.Art Lerner-Lam, associate director of Lamont for seismology, geology and tectonophysics, pointed out that the region’s major highways including the New York State Thruway, commuter and long-distance rail lines, and the main gas, oil and power transmission lines all cross the parallel active faults, making them particularly vulnerable to being cut. Lerner-Lam, who was not involved in the research, said that the identification of the seismic line near Indian Point “is a major substantiation of a feature that bears on the long-term earthquake risk of the northeastern United States.” He called for policymakers to develop more information on the region’s vulnerability, to take a closer look at land use and development, and to make investments to strengthen critical infrastructure.“This is a landmark study in many ways,” said Lerner-Lam. “It gives us the best possible evidence that we have an earthquake hazard here that should be a factor in any planning decision. It crystallizes the argument that this hazard is not random. There is a structure to the location and timing of the earthquakes. This enables us to contemplate risk in an entirely different way. And since we are able to do that, we should be required to do that.”New York Earthquake Briefs and Quotes:Existing U.S. Geological Survey seismic hazard maps show New York City as facing more hazard than many other eastern U.S. areas. Three areas are somewhat more active—northernmost New York State, New Hampshire and South Carolina—but they have much lower populations and fewer structures. The wider forces at work include pressure exerted from continuing expansion of the mid-Atlantic Ridge thousands of miles to the east; slow westward migration of the North American continent; and the area’s intricate labyrinth of old faults, sutures and zones of weakness caused by past collisions and rifting.Due to New York’s past history, population density and fragile, interdependent infrastructure, a 2001 analysis by the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranks it the 11th most at-risk U.S. city for earthquake damage. Among those ahead: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. Behind: Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Anchorage.New York’s first seismic station was set up at Fordham University in the 1920s. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in Palisades, N.Y., has operated stations since 1949, and now coordinates a network of about 40.Dozens of small quakes have been felt in the New York area. A Jan. 17, 2001 magnitude 2.4, centered in the Upper East Side—the first ever detected in Manhattan itself–may have originated on the 125th Street fault. Some people thought it was an explosion, but no one was harmed.The most recent felt quake, a magnitude 2.1 on July 28, 2008, was centered near Milford, N.J. Houses shook and a woman at St. Edward’s Church said she felt the building rise up under her feet—but no damage was done.Questions about the seismic safety of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which lies amid a metropolitan area of more than 20 million people, were raised in previous scientific papers in 1978 and 1985.Because the hard rocks under much of New York can build up a lot strain before breaking, researchers believe that modest faults as short as 1 to 10 kilometers can cause magnitude 5 or 6 quakes.In general, magnitude 3 quakes occur about 10 times more often than magnitude fours; 100 times more than magnitude fives; and so on. This principle is called the Gutenberg-Richter relationship.
John DotsonOctober 30, 2020 02:49 PM
Image: PRC representative Geng Shuang speaking at the 75th session of the U.N. General Assembly on October 12. In his speech, Geng vowed that the PRC would “never” take part in trilateral nuclear arms control talks with the United States and Russia. (Image source: CGTN, October 13)
Recent years have been contentious in terms of nuclear arms control negotiations between the United States and the Russian Federation. The United States withdrew from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in February 2019, citing Russian violations of the agreement. In April 2019, U.S. representatives initiated efforts to seek a new arms control agreement with the Russian Federation, reportedly with interest in bringing the PRC into the negotiations for a potential tripartite agreement (China Brief, July 16, 2019). On May 22 of this year, the U.S. Government announced intention to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies (effective November 22) on grounds of alleged Russian violations of that same treaty, the INF treaty, and other commitments (U.S. State Department, July 6).
U.S.-Russia talks have continued throughout 2020, conducted primarily under the framework of the “New START” talks (evoking Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, agreements signed between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia in the early 1990s, and the New START treaty that entered into force in 2011) (Eurasia Daily Monitor, March 4; Eurasia Daily Monitor, September 24).  In mid-October, negotiations hit a snag after a Russian proposal to extend New START for a year was rejected by the U.S. side, unless the extension were also to be accompanied by a freeze on the number of nuclear warheads maintained by each country (WSJ, October 16; TASS, October 16).
These controversies have brought renewed attention to U.S.-Russia arms control talks, as well as to the contentious issues between the two countries relating to the future of their nuclear arsenals. They have also brought attention to the fact that the People’s Republic of China (PRC), assessed to be the world’s third-largest nuclear weapons power (Arms Control Association, August 2020), has remained carefully aloof from nuclear arms control regimes of the sort negotiated between the United States and Russia. Throughout the summer and autumn of this year, Chinese officials and state media have categorically rejected the prospect of PRC participation in any theoretical trilateral U.S.-Russia-China arms control talks. In their messaging, these sources have asserted both the small and self-defensive nature of the PRC’s nuclear arsenal, and that U.S. calls for Chinese participation represent “blackmail” intended to maintain American strategic hegemony (see discussion below).
U.S. Assessments Regarding Chinese Nuclear Developments, and Calls for China to Engage in Arms Control Negotiations
This year, U.S. Government representatives and official publications have issued statements of concern about China’s expanding and advancing nuclear forces. The 2020 edition of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China noted in particular the expansion of the PRC’s inventory of DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), capable of both conventional and nuclear strikes against ground and naval targets. It noted as well the development of new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) possessing multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) capabilities, and assessed that “the number of warheads on the PRC’s land-based ICBMs capable of threatening the United States is expected to grow to roughly 200 in the next five years.” 
Images: Still images from video of a reported DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile test launch conducted at an unidentified location in “northwest China’s desert region” in early 2019. (Image source: CGTN, January 30, 2019)
In mid-October, Marshall Billingslea, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control and a leading figure in the U.S.-Russia New START negotiations, offered both critical comments about Chinese nuclear developments and renewed calls for the PRC to enter into trilateral arms control negotiations. Ambassador Billingslea commented on the PRC’s ongoing nuclear weapons testing at the Lop Nur facility in Xinjiang, and its ambitious program of ballistic missile test launches in 2019-2020. He asserted that China’s absence from arms control frameworks had left it “totally unconstrained for the past three decades,” allowing the construction of between 1000 to 2000 medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles of 13 different types.
Ambassador Billingslea further stated that “China is repeatedly and aggressively expanding the size and scope of [its] nuclear arsenal”—and that, as a result, “binary Cold War era arms control approaches no longer apply… any treaty or agreement that does not account for this is by definition incomplete [and] ineffective.” He also asserted that the PRC, as a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (“Non-Proliferation Treaty,” or NPT), was obligated under Article 6 of the treaty to negotiate in good faith for arms limitations to prevent a nuclear arms race—and that China is “perilously close to violating its NPT obligations in this respect” (Heritage, October 13).
The PRC Propaganda Campaign to Support U.S.-Russia Bilateral Arms Control Talks—and to Oppose Any Trilateral Talks Involving China
In the face of U.S. calls for trilateral negotiations, in recent weeks PRC officials and state media have undertaken a concerted effort to head off diplomatic pressure for the PRC to participate in any nuclear arms control talks. Speaking in July, Fu Cong (傅聪), Director-General of the Department of Arms Control at the PRC Foreign Ministry, held a press conference in which he stressed the large gap between U.S. and Chinese nuclear capabilities. Fu rejected the idea of any potential trilateral talks, and asserted that “Hyping up the China factor is nothing but a ploy to divert world attention, and to create a pretext under which the United States could walk away from [New START]… We urge the United States to respond positively to Russia’s call to extend the New START, and on that basis, to further reduce its huge nuclear arsenal” (Xinhua, July 8; PRC Foreign Ministry, July 8).
Image: Fu Cong, Director-General of the PRC Foreign Ministry’s Department of Arms Control, speaking at a press conference on July 8. (Image source: Haokan Shipin, July 9)
Speaking to the Aspen Security Forum in early August, PRC Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai (崔天凯) stated that it was “not yet the right time” for China to take part in any such talks. Cui opined that “China has a very small amount of nuclear weapons [that is] far behind the U.S. and Russia… the United States and Russia have the largest nuclear arsenal[s]… so they should take the lead in international nuclear disarmament” (Xinhua, August 11). In statements made to the United Nations General Assembly on October 12, Geng Shuang (耿爽), the Deputy Permanent Representative of the PRC to the United Nations, reiterated traditional PRC talking points: that China’s nuclear forces were maintained at a minimal level for self-defense, and that China would never engage in a nuclear arms race with any other country. Going further, Geng asserted that:
Given the huge gap between the nuclear arsenals of China and those of the U.S. and the Russian Federation, it is unfair, unreasonable and infeasible to expect China to join in any trilateral arms control negotiation… This is just a trick to shift the focus of the international community. The U.S. intention is to find an excuse to shirk its own special and primary responsibility for nuclear disarmament, and seek a pretext to free its hands and gain absolute military supremacy…China will never participate in such a negotiation and will never accept any coercion or blackmail. (Xinhua, October 13)
The controversy surrounding the PRC’s participation (or lack thereof) in nuclear arms control negotiations is another example of the tensions inherent between Beijing’s legacy messaging—which always emphasizes the limited and self-defensive nature of its strategic nuclear capabilities—and its rapidly growing capabilities, and attendant assertiveness, as a rising military power. As noted by analysts Toshi Yoshihara and Jack Bianchi in 2019, “even as Beijing rhetorically adheres to longstanding principles of restraint, it has in recent years steadily modernized its nuclear arsenal [and] increased the size of the force…Chinese leaders may… adopt changes in nuclear strategy in order to shape the external environment in ways that better reflect Beijing’s perceived newfound status and that accommodate China’s growing power and ambitions” (China Brief, June 26, 2019; China Brief, July 16, 2019).
The PRC will likely continue to resist any calls for nuclear weapons limitations until its strategic forces have achieved parity, or near-parity, with those of the United States and Russia. It is also likely to continue to reject any potential restrictions on its intermediate-range ballistic missile forces, which have dramatically expanded the PLA’s ability to conduct conventional power projection operations in the Indo-Pacific region. In doing so, Beijing’s spokespersons will likely refrain from any criticisms of the PRC’s semi-ally Russia, while characterizing any public calls for trilateral negotiations as a manifestation of U.S. geopolitical hegemony. The size and sophistication of the PRC’s missile arsenal, both conventional and nuclear, will likely continue to advance unimpeded by any international arms control regime.
John Dotson is the editor of China Brief. For any comments, queries, or submissions, feel free to reach out to him at: email@example.com.
Would Moscow really go nuclear if a U.S.-Russia or NATO-Russia war ever broke out?
Russian military doctrine allows the use of tactical nuclear weapons in battlefield engagements with American and allied armed forces. A Congressional Research Service report from January estimated that Russia has 1,830 tactical nuclear weapons in its arsenal.
“The Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and/or its allies, as well as in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy,” Vladimir Putin wrote in his June executive order on Russian nuclear doctrine.
This has U.S. officials worried that Russia would use such nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict to compensate for the inferiority of its conventional forces to their U.S. and NATO counterparts.
Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev committed to the elimination of tactical nuclear weapons before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Nevertheless, Russia under Putin has balked at the idea of following through with their elimination and has been unwilling to include tactical nuclear weapons in the next START treaty.
Reducing the threat from Russian tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons to U.S. troops in the event of a war with Russia stands among the top of President Donald Trump’s priorities in the event he wins a second term. The president’s team unsuccessfully pressed hard against Russian negotiators to include tactical nuclear weapons in the next iteration of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
However, former Vice President Joe Biden has not endorsed including tactical nuclear weapons in the next iteration of the START treaty. Biden has indicated a willingness to extend the current START Treaty; however, he has not indicated any preconditions such as the inclusion of Russian tactical nuclear weapons or roping China into a tripartite agreement.
The current START treaty that Biden helped draft in 2010 expires in February. Putin isn’t Gorbachev. He’s a tough operator who only understands reciprocal pressure and force. He will pocket whatever concessions he is given.
Russia has modernized its tactical nuclear program, which is not covered under the START treaty, and the U.S. must modernize its land-based deterrent to increase pressure on the Russians to settle.
Russia deployed “short- and close-range ballistic missiles, ground-launched cruise missiles, including the 9M729 missile, which the U.S. Government determined violates the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces or INF Treaty, as well as anti-ship and anti-submarine missiles, torpedoes, and depth charges,” Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said during remarks at the Hudson Institute in Washington in May 2020.
In contrast, the United States only has a single non-strategic nuclear weapon: the B-61 gravity bomb.
The president’s opponents have cast him as a Russian tool, but the demand that Russia cast aside the use of battlefield nuclear weapons is an example of where he is tougher on Russia than the Obama-Biden administration was.
Should President Trump prevail in the election, his administration should press ahead with the modernization of U.S. nuclear weapons and with the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program to build the next generation of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM), which will replace the 50-year-old Minuteman III ICBMs. The administration’s budgetary request, as well as the current drafts of the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, all are agreed to give $1.524 billion to the program for the 2021 fiscal year. The U.S. Air Force expects the GBSD to cost $21.96 billion over the life of the program and is not expected to begin deployment until 2029.
Part of nuclear negotiating is keeping the Russians guessing where the threat is and where it’s coming from. The nation’s seaborne deterrent provides that because where its Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) are is a closely guarded state secret. America’s land-based nuclear arsenal should provide similar uncertainty for the Russians.
Russia knows that in case of war it can pinpoint land-based missile silos via its spy satellites and then strike them. During the 1980s, the Reagan administration proposed using mobile railcars and mobile launchers to keep the Soviets guessing. However, the Cold War ended and President George Bush canceled the program in 1991 before the program’s slated 1993 rollout date.
President Reagan ramped up America’s land-based nuclear posture with the MX “Peacekeeper” missile program, the Pershing 2 and the Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) system. The MX program created a “shell game” that kept the Russians guessing where the missiles were. The U.S. Air Force randomly moved the missiles between shelters in the deserts of Nevada and Utah to make it difficult to know where the actual missiles were and which one were dummies. Reagan viewed the MX as a key negotiation chip.
President Trump, or Joe Biden if he is elected, should revisit the Reagan administration’s proposal and make part of America’s land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) and short-range nuclear deterrent mobile.
It announced last year plans to revive the Reagan-era GLCM program, which was scrapped under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), that would do just that. The Trump administration withdrew in August 2019 in the wake of Russian treaty violations.
Some of the missiles could be redeployed in Alaska to increase the pressure on the Russians due to the state’s proximity to the Russian Far East. They also can be deployed in the Baltics and Poland to counter the 9K720 Iskander short-range ballistic missiles based in Russia’s Kaliningrad region along the Baltic Sea.
Reagan showed at Reykjavik in 1986 that holding out combined with ratcheting up the pressure on an adversary can help produce a better deal. Sticking to his guns with Mikhail Gorbachev led to the signing of the INF in 1987 and paved the way to the original START Treaty in 1991.
Modernizing America’s land-based nuclear deterrent offers a substantial chip of deterrence to play to get the Russians to decommission their tactical nuclear arsenal. The next administration must compel Russia to forswear the use of tactical nuclear weapons in a conventional future conflict.
John Rossomando is a senior analyst for Defense Policy and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award in 2008 for his reporting.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
At a Glance
A tropical depression is moving westward through the Caribbean.
It will arrive with strong winds and heavy rain near Central America by Tuesday.
Several significant hurricanes have formed in the first 10 days of November.
As a reminder that there is one month left in this hurricane season, we’re watching yet another tropical depression in the Caribbean, headed for Central America. It could bring significant heavy rainfall and gusty winds to Central America at the beginning of November.
This depression should be watching in the week ahead as it has the opportunity to move closer to home.
Twenty-Nine should gain the name “Eta” in the days ahead, which would be the first time that name has been used. A named tropical storm would also tie the historic 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season for most named tropical or subtropical storms in a season.
What We Know Right Now
The newly-formed depression is bringing showers and thunderstorms to Hispaniola and to northern Colombia.
This system will move generally westward through at least Tuesday with a gradually decreasing forward speed as it reaches the western Caribbean.
(The red-shaded area denotes the potential path of the center of the tropical cyclone. It’s important to note that impacts (particularly heavy rain, high surf, coastal flooding, winds) with any tropical cyclone usually spread beyond its forecast path.)
This depression is moving into the warmest water temperatures in the Atlantic Basin, surpassing 85 degrees at times in the expected path of this system. This is still very supportive of tropical development and intensification.
Wind shear – the change in wind direction and wind speed, which typically keeps a lid on tropical storm and hurricane intensity – is expected to remain low.
These two favorable ingredients for development should allow this system to become a tropical storm by Sunday. It is expected to become a hurricane next week. When this system becomes a tropical storm, it will be named “Eta,” the first unused greek letter in the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season.
Regardless of development, this system will produce heavy rain and possible flooding in Central America, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands through next Friday.
More than a foot of rainfall is possible in parts of Central America, but this forecast will be refined over the weekend.
Gusty winds are also likely if this system nears Honduras or Nicaragua, but these details will need to be adjusted in the days to come.
What We’re Figuring Out
After Tuesday, the track forecast is much more uncertain.
Many computer models show whatever this system becomes meandering near Nicaragua and Honduras during the middle to end of the upcoming week.
At that time, the system will interact with a high-pressure system, or a ridge or dome of higher pressure, which should be located over Mexico, the eastern Pacific and/or the Gulf of Mexico.
That ridge should guide the tropical system, but both the location of this ridge and its strength are uncertain.
There are at least two possible scenarios that could unfold toward the end of next week:
If the ridge is farther north or weaker, the system could cross Central America and escape into the eastern Pacific Ocean.
If the ridge is farther south or stronger, it could get stuck near Central America or recurved north or northeastward.
Neither solution is slightly more likely than the other at this time.
The Hurricane Hunters may fly out to this system on Sunday afternoon to help this forecast improve.
November in the Tropics
Tropical development isn’t all that unusual in the western Caribbean in early November.
In fact, several storms have formed in this area over the last 70 years.
Notably, hurricanes Paloma (2008) and Michelle (2001) have formed near Central America and then moved northeastward toward Cuba. Paloma intensified to a Category 4 near Cuba before weakening to a Category 2 at landfall in the country, causing heavy damage in both Cuba and the Cayman Islands. Michelle was one of the most significant hurricanes in Cuban history at the time, causing billions in damage as a Category 4 hurricane.
(Tropical depressions have formed here since 1950)
We should expect one named storm every other November, and one November hurricane roughly every three years. Of course, some years are more active than this while others are quieter.
Historically, most systems that form in the western Caribbean are scooped up by the dipping jet stream over the United States and pushed northeastward over Cuba and the Bahamas and out to sea.
Other tropical systems form in the open Atlantic and around Bermuda or the western Atlantic. These systems are typically spawned by drooping cold fronts in that region or other orphaned low-pressure systems that break off from the jet stream.
By the end of the month, this jet stream makes it increasingly inhospitable for tropical systems to form in the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic. Water temperatures increasingly get too cold for tropical development elsewhere in the basin, leading to less frequent systems.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.
BAGHDAD –Iraqi powerful Shia cleric and leader of the Sadrist movement Muqtada al-Sadr joined this week the ranks of Islamist politicians who have been using the campaign of support for Islam’s Prophet Mohammed to score political gains and win new supporters.
Sadr on Thursday called on Muslims around the world to travel to Saudi Arabia, at a time when the MENA region is facing a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic which is proving more dangerous than the first one, with countries announcing closures to contain a much-feared health disaster.
Sadr’s supporters launched the hashtag #Invitation_to_Saudi Arabia, based on a statement published by the Shia cleric on his Twitter account, in which he said, “From the standpoint of unity and strength, I call for the support of the Messenger of humanity through several actions. First and foremost, I call on Saudi Arabia to allow visitors from all over the world to flock to the shrine of the Prophet in Medina.”
In the statement published on Thursday, Sadr also called on Muslims to visit the grave of the Prophet during the week of birth (Mawlid) from 12 to 17 Rabi` al-Awwal of this year and every year.
Many Iraqis responded to Sadr’s statement with sarcasm and mockery, considering that the Shia cleric’s call showed he was clueless and out of his mind.
They considered that Sadr, like other Islamist politicians, was trying to take advantage of the latest controversy to promote his image and win new supporters, even if that meant causing new chaos and trouble for the country.
“He calls for peace but he has an armed militia,” a Twitter user reacted sarcastically to Sadr’s statements.
Another user tweeted, “Saudi Arabia and its people should ignore these statements because, my dears, this is nonsense and foolery.”
Many other activists on social media said that Sadr’s so-called appeal for love and humanity was but a new incitement against Saudi Arabia that prevented the entry of foreign pilgrims to perform hajj and Umrah in an attempt to contain the pandemic.
On the other hand, many Shia clerics, the activists added, had rallied supporters to visit shrines, unconcerned with the health repercussions of massive gatherings. This, according to the activists, has caused the coronavirus pandemic to spread and threaten many lives in Iraq and elsewhere.
Other Iraqis on social media warned that whoever caused the killing of demonstrators and young activists in Iraq, cannot be trusted.
“To our people in # Saudi Arabia, this call was raised by the supporters of the Sadrist movement who killed protesters in the October Revolution. You and the whole world were witness to that… You are the decision-makers. Do not give them a way to communicate with you… These are the leaders of the terrorist Khamenei militia,” an Iraqi Twitter user warned.
The Sadrists’ hashtag was not without misinformation, rumours and fake news, as some of supporters of the Shia movement claimed that Saudi Arabia had agreed to Sadr’s call to allow the visit of foreign pilgrims.
The claim was of course groundless because the Saudi authorities had already announced on Thursday a new plan to receive visiting pilgrims, taking into account social distancing and required measures to contain the virus.
Saudi media had earlier reported that the kingdom will open the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca for Muslims from other countries from November 1 as part of the third phase of gradually allowing the pilgrimage amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Kingdom reopened the Holy sites on October 4, first for Saudi citizens and expatriates living inside the country with a 30 percent capacity. It then expanded the capacity to 75 percent on October 18.
“The Umrah pilgrimage is allowed for Muslims from across the world,” Saudi state TV said, citing a statement from the Ministry of Pilgrimage.
In the third phase, Umrah pilgrimage will be allowed with 100 percent capacity limit that ensures adherence to coronavirus precautionary measures, which translates to 20,000 Umrah pilgrims per day and 60,000 worshippers per day, the ministry said.
The same capacity limit will be enforced in the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.
“The arrival of pilgrims and visitors from outside the Kingdom will be gradual, and from countries that the Ministry of Health determines as posing no health risk with regards to the coronavirus,” the statement of the ministry added.
Worshipers perform the prayers with full commitment to preventive measures, and the paths designated for worshipers to enter the Grand Mosque have been facilitated by the authorities who have specified areas for performing prayers.
In the fourth phase, the kingdom will allow citizens and nationals inside and outside the Kingdom to perform Umrah pilgrimage, visit the Rawdah in the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, and pray in Two Holy Mosques, with 100 percent of the natural capacity of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque.
The fourth phase, however, will only begin once the Saudi authorities decide that the pandemic’s risks are neutralised.
In media statements, Amr Al-Maddah, chief planning and strategy officer at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, said that the mechanism for organising Umrah of foreign pilgrims requires specific procedures, including submitting a request to perform Umrah with all personal and health data, with a maximum of 50 people per group from the permitted countries, and the need for a foreign Umrah agent.
Under the mechanism, there is a need for high-quality integrated Umrah packages and flight reservations will be based on supply and demand from each country, in addition to strengthening the marketing platforms for the purchase of services.
The countries, which are sending pilgrims, will be classified on the basis of periodic review of the latest developments with regard to the coronavirus situation in those countries.
Maddah stated that the protocols issued by the ministry for the foreign pilgrims include that their age shall be between 18 and 50 years and that they must remain three days in quarantine upon their arrival in the Kingdom.
According to the regulations, pilgrims must have a PCR medical test certificate showing that they are free from coronavirus, issued by a reliable laboratory in their country, not more than 72 hours from the time of taking a sample until the time of departure to the kingdom.
On Thursday, Israel’s military completed a massive military exercise known as Lethal Arrow. The drill began on Sunday and simulated war on multiple fronts, in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, and countries far from Israel’s borders.
An IDF spokesperson said the drill simulated a war against Hezbollah in Lebanon to the north and battle with other groups in Syria, Gaza, and “in countries that don’t border” Israel. The drill involved ground forces, fighter jets, and Israel’s Navy.
“We are preparing for a significant attack from the north and at the same time we can’t be surprised by attacks from the east from various ranges,” a senior IDF official said. “We are at war with an enemy with an arsenal of thousands of rockets and we are taking into account that there would be attacks from the east as well.”
Tensions have been high between Israel and Hezbollah since an Israeli airstrike in Syria killed a member of the Shia group. Israel regularly bombs Syria, although they rarely admit it. Israeli officials usually make vague statements about the strikes, and Israeli media paint whatever targets get hit as “Iranian.”
In August, Israel carried out airstrikes on Hezbollah observation posts inside Lebanon near the border after reports of shots being fired towards Israeli troops. Israel also frequently bombs Gaza in response to rocket fire or incendiary kites being sent from the besieged enclave.