Best of our wild blogs: 26 Dec 16

Chek Jawa outing with the Naked Hermit Crabs
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Orange Striped Hermit Crab (Clibanarius infraspinatus) @ Changi Creek
Monday Morgue

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Typhoon Nock-ten lashes central Philippines, cuts power

Enrico Dela Cruz Reuters 25 Dec 16;

A typhoon slammed into central Philippines late on Sunday, bringing strong winds and heavy rains and cutting off power, but there were no immediate reports of casualties, weather officials and radio reports said.

Typhoon Nock-ten was packing maximum sustained winds of 185 kph (115 mph) with gusts up to 255 kph when it made landfall over Catanduanes province, which was under the highest storm alert, on the Bicol peninsula on Sunday evening.

The typhoon made a second landfall over Camarines Sur province, then weakened slightly with winds of 175 kph but gusts at 290 kph, the weather bureau said.

"We continue to pray, stay positive and stay alert. Brownout in a lot of areas already," Camarines Sur Governor Miguel Luis Villafuerte said in a post on his Instagram account.

Communication lines have been cut in some areas, radio reports said.

Around 218,000 people fled to evacuation centres after authorities warned of storm surges and flooding in coastal villages and low-lying areas.

Nock-ten could make another landfall early on Monday while moving west faster at 20 kph, from 15 kph previously, and crossing the provinces of Camarines Norte, Southern Quezon, Laguna, Batangas, and Cavite, weather forecasters said.

The typhoon's eye will be near Metro Manila on Monday afternoon, they said.

Land, sea and air travel has been suspended in some areas, leaving stranded thousands of people heading home for Christmas in the mostly Christian country.

In 2013, more than 6,000 people were killed and 200,000 homes destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest-ever storm to make landfall in the Philippines, hit the central islands of Leyte and Samar.

About 20 major typhoons pass through the Philippines each year. Since 1948, at least seven have hit during the Christmas period.

(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

Typhoon weakens but Philippines braces for floods, mudslides
Channel NewsAsia 26 Dec 16;

MANILA: A typhoon weakened as it cut across the Philippines on Monday with strong wind felling trees and power lines, and authorities warned of flash floods and mudslides but there were no official reports of casualties.

Typhoon Nock-ten, locally known as Nina, weakened to 150 kph (93 mph) as it headed west towards provinces south of the capital Manila, picking up speed to 20 kph.

A storm alert was in place and land, sea and air transport were all suspended as authorities told the public to take precautions and prepare for strong wind and heavy rain.

The Philippines is one of the world's worst-affected countries when it comes to typhoons, with an average of 20 a year passing or hitting the archipelago of more than 7,000 islands.

Tens of thousands of people in the predominantly Christian country spent Christmas in shelters after authorities moved them to safety on higher ground.

Emergency workers were mobilised to clear roads of debris, like fallen trees and power lines in the coconut-growing region, with some central areas plunged into darkness.

The typhoon was due to make a fifth landfall in Batangas on Monday then move towards Manila after its arrival in the country at Catanduanes province on Sunday evening.

Ricardo Jalad, head of the national disaster risk reduction management council, said there were no reports of deaths or missing people but communications were disrupted.

"We expect to get reports from the field as soon as power and telephone services are restored," Jalad said.

Radio DZBB reported a boy was killed in Quezon province when he was pinned down by a coconut tree and another girl injured in Camarines Sur when a house collapsed. The reports could not be immediately verified.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel)

- Reuters

Christmas typhoon leaves four dead in Philippines
AFP Yahoo News 27 Dec 16;

LIGAO (Philippines) (AFP) - A powerful typhoon left at least four people dead and eight missing as it crossed the Philippine archipelago on Monday, spoiling the Christmas holidays with strong winds, heavy rains and destructive flooding.

Nock-Ten made landfall on the eastern island province of Catanduanes with gusts of 235 kilometres (146 miles) an hour on Christmas Day, ravaging the Bicol region and surrounding areas before moving west across the country.

A couple perished in a flood while an elderly man was crushed to death by a falling wall, the governor of Albay province, Al Bichara, told local media.

Another person was killed and two more were injured when the storm toppled a power line in Quezon province, electrocuting them, a police report said.

An anchored ferry went down off the coastal province of Batangas on Monday with eight crewmen still missing, said coastguard officer Joy Villegas.

Two people also died after suffering heart attacks during the storm but it was unclear if those deaths were directly related to the typhoon, local government reports said.

More than 383,000 people were forced to flee their homes while over 80 domestic and international flights were cancelled due to the storm, the civil defence office said.

The coastguard on Sunday ordered beaches south of Manila to be cleared of holidaymakers by Monday.

The unusually late storm cut off electricity to millions and forced government agencies to order evacuations of whole communities in Bicol, marring the traditional Christmas celebrations in this largely Christian nation.

- Wet Christmas -

In the Bicol town of Ligao, many streets and surrounding farms were covered by ankle-deep water while some homes remained caked in mud left by flooding.

Masseuse Erna Angela Pintor, 20, said she and her family spent a sleepless Christmas in fear as the strong winds ripped off part of their roof.

Neighbours living near a river sought refuge in their home as the waters rose to their chests, she said, though her own family was luckier.

"The floods (last night) only reached to our knees. Thank goodness the current wasn't that strong," she told AFP.

"This was supposed to be a celebration but we cannot celebrate. This is a sad Christmas for us. No one (in the family) died but a lot of our neighbours' homes were washed away."

The disaster monitoring council said more than 12,000 people spent Christmas stuck at ports after authorities barred ferries from sailing due to the storm.

The council's spokeswoman Mina Marasigan also said hundreds of people in Bicol celebrated Christmas in evacuation centres where many had to make do with emergency food packs.

Some local officials had offered roast pigs -- the traditional Filipino holiday fare -- to entice people to go to the shelters, Marasigan said.

- Manila spared -

By late Monday afternoon the typhoon had weakened, with wind gusts of 180 kilometres per hour, and was in the South China Sea heading west away from the country, government weather forecaster Gener Quitlong said.

Nock-Ten had been expected to bring heavy rains and winds to Manila, but the city of 13 million residents was spared after the typhoon lost force as it crossed the eastern islands.

"It was like a blessing in disguise. Every time it hit land, its diameter lessened. It also lost moisture so it became weaker," Quitlong told AFP.

Some 20 typhoons and storms strike the Philippines each year, routinely killing hundreds of people.

Huge tsunami-like waves devastated the city of Tacloban and nearby areas when super typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines in November 2013, leaving 7,350 people dead or missing.

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Philippines: 2 dead, dozens hospitalized due to red tide poisoning in Region 8

GMA News 25 Dec 16;

Two people have been reported killed while 38 others were hospitalized in separate red tide poisoning incidents in Eastern Visayas, a report said Sunday.

Citing information from Department of Health-Region 8, GMA News reported that one of the fatalities was an 81-year-old man who ate the shellfish he bought from Carigara, Leyte last Thursday. The other was a nine-year-old girl from Barangay Tucdao in Kawayan town, who was declared dead upon arrival at the Biliran Provincial Hospital.

Four other people from Kawayan town had been taken to the hospital due to red tide poisoning.

On December 22, shellfish tainted with red tide toxin downed six people from Barangay Balaguid in Cabucgayan town. One of the victims is still recuperating in a hospital.

On December 23, 30 people in the town of Maripipi, also in Biliran, fell victim to red tide poisoning, the report said.

Two of the victims are still under observation at the rural health unit in Maripipi, one was taken to the Biliran Provincial Hospital, and another one was sent to the Tacloban Hospital. The remaining 26 have been discharged.

Boyd Cerro, chief of the DOH regional epidemiology unit in Eastern Visayas, told GMA News that most of the victims had gotten ill after eating shellfish they found floating in the bay.

Cerro said the DOH will continue its monitoring for victims of red tide poisoning, which has no cure.

Also, he advised the public to immediately bring victims of red tide poisoning to the nearest hospital to get additional IV fluids, IV Cannula, and Macrosets.

The DOH reminds the public to refrain from eating shellfish in the areas declared red tide infested.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has a standing red tide warning in the Biliran Bay, Maqueda Bay in Catbalogan, Samar and Carigara Bay in Leyte. —Joseph Tristan Roxas/LBG, GMA News

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Arctic heatwave could break records

Victoria Gill BBC News 24 Dec 16;

Temperatures at the North Pole could be up to 20 degrees higher than average this Christmas Eve, in what scientists say is a record-breaking heatwave.

Climate scientists say these unseasonably warm weather patterns in the Arctic region are directly linked to man-made climate change.

Temperatures throughout November and December were 5C higher than average.

It follows a summer during which Arctic sea ice reached the second-lowest extent ever recorded by satellites.

Dr Friederike Otto, a senior researcher at Oxford's Environmental Change Institute told BBC News that in pre-industrial times "a heatwave like this would have been extremely rare - we would expect it to occur about every 1,000 years".

Dr Otto added that scientists are "very confident" that the weather patterns were linked to anthropogenic climate change.

"We have used several different climate modelling approaches and observations," she told BBC News.

"And in all our methods, we find the same thing; we cannot model a heatwave like this without the anthropogenic signal."

Temperatures are forecast to peak on Christmas Eve around the North Pole - at near-freezing.

The warm air from the North Atlantic is forecast to flow all the way to the North Pole via Spitsbergen, giving rise to clouds that prevent heat from escaping.

And, as Dr Otto explained to BBC News, the reduction in sea ice is contributing to this "feedback loop".

"If the globe is warming, then the sea ice and ice on land [shrinks] then the darker water and land is exposed," she said.

"Then the sunlight is absorbed rather than reflected as it would be by the ice."

Forecasting models show that there is about a 2% chance of a heatwave event occurring every year.

"But if temperatures continue to increase further as they are now," said Dr Otto, "we would expect a heatwave like this to occur every other year and that will be a huge stress on the ecosystem."

Dr Thorsten Markus, chief of NASA's Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, said the heatwave was "very, very unusual".

"The eerie thing is that we saw something quite similar (temperatures at the North Pole of about 0C in December) almost exactly a year ago," he told BBC News.

The freeze and thaw conditions are already making it difficult for reindeer to find food - as the moss they feed on is covered by hard ice, rather than soft, penetrable snow.

Asked if the conditions on Christmas Eve were likely to affect Santa's all-important journey, Dr Markus said he was confident that his sled would cope with the conditions.

He added: "Santa is most likely overdressed though. Maybe in the future we'll see him in a light jacket or plastic mac."

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