Saturday, November 30, 2019

eXXpedition to end ocean plastic pollution

Created by Copernicus Service and Mercator Ocean for eXXpedition's North Pacific 2018 voyages 

From Mapbox by Marena Brinkhust

On Mapbox’s Community Team, I help organizations use location tools to approach environmental challenges in a lot of different ways — but I’ve never done anything like this:
This week, I’m traveling to Antigua where on Friday I’ll set sail for a week on Leg 4 of eXXpedition, a round-the-world sailing voyage to study and spur action on ocean plastic pollution.
Over two years, 300 women from around the world will sail sections of this journey, collectively circling the globe, gathering scientific data, and connecting with communities to turn the tide on plastic waste.

The world’s oceans hold an estimated 5,250 billion pieces of plastic with a combined weight of 268,940 tons.
While the problem isn’t visible to us every day, it affects all of us.
Pieces of plastics, and toxins like pesticides that attach to them, are ingested by marine organisms and travel up the food chain until they eventually end up inside our bodies.
This is especially concerning for women because of how chemicals like bisphenol-A (the backbone of many plastics) harm our reproductive systems.

By bringing together hundreds of women across disciplines — scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs, artists, and activists — eXXpedition aims to draw attention to the local and global implications of the problem of plastic pollution, encouraging both individual choices and improved waste management practices that will benefit everyone.

“Through the Gyre.”
eXXpedition tracking map shows ship location, route, and modeled concentration of ocean plastic. 

Creating the eXXpedition map

Over the last few months, I’ve been working with the eXXpedition team, developers Anthony Goddard and Ryan Nevius at ZeroSixZero, and other volunteers at Mapbox to create the tracking map for eXXpedition.
We designed the map to connect eXXpedition with everyone watching from shore, and to help people explore the deeper stories and science behind the ocean circulation and plastic pollution.

 Top: Bathymetry (data: Natural Earth) and wind layers.
Bottom, ocean currents (data: CMEMS) visualized across zoom levels.

Ship location coordinates are sent by the on-board YB Tracker every six hours via a satellite connection.
The route was plotted on the custom map style, which switches into a satellite base map view at high zoom levels for planned dry land stops.

To add context to the ocean voyage, the map also includes data layers for bathymetry (ocean depth), currents, wind, and models of ocean plastic gyres (vast areas where swirls of currents concentrate a massive volume of floating debris.)

Ocean plastics pollution visualized by Dumpark

We drew styling inspiration from striking data visualizations made by Dumpark and National Geographic and the tracking map that Mapbox built with the Rebelle Rally.

Ocean plastics pollution visualized by National Geographic

On top of these data layers, each crew will be adding points to share updates and photos so people can engage further with the science and stories of eXXpedition.
We will continue to add to and refine the map as it grows over the two years of the voyage.

The most interesting part for me so far has been connecting with researchers who are modeling marine plastic accumulation including Laurent Lebreton (whose data we use in the tracking map), Marcus Eriksen, and Nikolai Maximenko.
These models use data from samples collected by past ocean expeditions.

eXXpedition will advance this research by collecting further samples of microplastics, polymer concentrations in the water and coastal sediments, and the distribution of plastics by depth.
To do this, the ship must navigate to and through gyres — and coastal waters alike to examine ocean plastic pollution from source to sea.
Marine navigation is one aspect of the voyage that I am most excited to learn about, so stay tuned for my report back on how we navigate from Antigua to Bonaire and Aruba.

Ocean plastic concentration on the part of the route I’ll be sailing.

Setting sail

Ocean plastic pollution is a daunting problem, and for years I’ve felt like there’s nothing that an individual can do to change it.
I’m excited to join eXXpedition and connect with the community of changemakers charting a course of action.
Join me and Mapbox in supporting the mission of eXXpedition:
Follow @eXXpedition on social media — and share your #eXXpedition support! (Twitter Instagram Facebook)
Donate to support eXXpedition.
Support ocean conservation organizations and local anti-plastic campaigns.
Use the SHiFT Toolkit to reduce your use of disposable plastics.

Friday, November 29, 2019

The first narco submarine ever seized off a European coast is a monster

The discovery of a submarine carrying 3,000 kg (3.3 tons) of cocaine off the coast of Spain marks a "historic" turning point in the battle against drug trafficking, Spanish authorities said on Wednesday.
Police described it as the first "narcosubmarine" to be intercepted in Europe, adding in a statement that it had been found in waters off the northwestern region of Galicia on Saturday, stuffed with 152 neatly-wrapped bales of cocaine.

From Drive by Joseph Trevithick 

This is the first time authorities in Europe have intercepted one of these vessels, which have been a staple in Latin American drug smuggling.

Spanish authorities have successfully recovered a so-called narco submarine that they seized in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the country's Galacia region this past weekend.
This is the first time any country in Europe has seized one of these smuggling vessels and it's not entirely clear how it made the thousands-of-miles-long journey from Latin America.

Spain's Guardia Civil, National Police, and Customs Service captured the craftoff Galacia on Nov.
24, 2019.
The crew had attempted to scuttle it after failing to transfer the approximately three tons of cocaine onboard to another vessel due to poor weather.
Those same conditions prevented Spanish security forces from refloating the drug sub until late the next day.
They then towed it to port and it has now been pulled out of the water for further inspection.

The Spanish authorities lifted a submarine carrying 3,500kg (7,720lb) of cocaine onto the Cangas docks on Tuesday night.
The vessel was intercepted on Monday off the coast of Aldan in Galicia.
During the operation two crew members of Ecuadorian nationality were arrested, while a third one managed to escape.
According to local sources close to the investigation, the so-called 'narcosubmarine' belongs to a powerful criminal organisation, given the high cost of the vessel, and departed from Colombia.
This is the first transoceanic submarine used for drug trafficking ever intercepted in Europe.

"Conditions at sea meant that the semi-submersible wasn’t able to deliver the drugs to a second vessel," Spanish officials said in a statement.
"Its crew members then headed towards the coast, where they scuttled and abandoned the vessel.
The maneuver was detected by a Guardia Civil patrol using night-vision goggles, who then noted the boat’s arrival point and the subsequent fleeing of its crew."

The two arrested individuals are Ecuadorian nationals.
A third member of the crew was still at large as of Nov. 27.

Though commonly referred to as narco submarines, the vast majority of these vessels, which have been steadily improving in size and capability since the 1990s, are not fully submersible.
Vessels like the one Spanish authorities captured are more appropriately described as self-propelled semi-submersibles (SPSS) or low-profile vessels (LPV).

They are mostly associated with smuggling in the Eastern Pacific, as well as, to a lesser extent, the Caribbean.
In July 2019, the U.S. Coast Guard's seizure of one of these vessels in the Eastern Pacific made national headlines after that service released a dramatic video showing a member of its boarding team leaping onto the craft and pounding on the hatch.

The narco submarine Spanish authorities seized off Galacia after they refloated it and bought it back to port

The vessel that arrived off Galacia is very large compared to most known SPSS.
Rough estimates suggest it is more than 68 feet long and nearly seven and a half feet wide in the middle.
H.I. Sutton, an author and an expert on underwater and semi-submersible craft who has extensively researched narco subs over the years, says that the design is about twice as big as a common narco sub.

The example seized off Spain still has a number of typical features, including an overall hullform that sits extremely low in the water.
The crew could see out of small, fully-enclosed cockpit toward the rear.

The narco sub also has downward curved air intakes and an exhaust with a u-shaped bend in it, which helps prevent water from getting into the engine and elsewhere inside.
These are also common features in SPSS design.

Sutton also pointed out that the overall hullform and single-engine configuration, as well as other more specific features and its overall size, were very reminiscent of another SPSS that Colombia authorities seized earlier this year in the Eastern Pacific.
That craft was just over 65 and a half feet long and around six and a half feet wide.
Nearly 1.7 tons of cocaine was found on board that vessel.
In addition, Sutton noted that specific SPSS designers and builders have specific signature styles and it is possible that these two narco subs were directly related.

In an intense chase, the US Coast Guard intercepted f4 months ago a submarine smuggling 17,000 pounds of cocaine worth about $232 million in the Pacific Ocean.

Whatever its exact origins, this new SPSS, and the cocaine it was carrying, almost certainly originated somewhere in Latin America.
How it made its way to the coast of Spain is unclear.
Spanish authorities were reportedly working together with their counterparts in Brazil, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States on the operation that led to the seizure.
A tip from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was reportedly critical to the success of the sting.
A substantial amount of the cocaine may have been bound for the United Kingdom, as well, according to authorities in that country, indicating that they had information about possible buyers for the shipment.

The involvement of Brazil could point to that country as a launch point for the narco submarine.
However, at its absolute shortest, the distance between the Brazilian and Galacian coasts is more than 3,600 miles.
There have been reports of low-profile narco sub designs derived from high-performance speed boats do have extended range capabilities, but nothing close to this.

'Narcosubmarine' a first for Europe, say Spanish officials

It is possible that a ship left Brazil, or another country in Latin America, with the drug sub onboard or in tow and then launched it when they got closer to Spain.
It may have even made a stop somewhere in West Africa, or islands in the Atlantic, such as Cape Verde or the Canaries.
Such an intermediate location might have also offered a place to finish assembly of the SPSS or otherwise make final preparations before heading north.

An unnamed source told Spain's El Pais newspaper that the narco sub's crew had been at sea for 20 days, but did not say where or when their voyage had begun or if they had been riding in the SPSS the entire time.

Regardless, the appearance of an SPSS from Latin America off the coast of Spain is an extremely important development.
In 2011, Spain convicted six individuals in relation to an attempt to build a narco submarine in the country that started five years earlier, with financial support from drug cartels in Colombia, with the hope that it could be used to help smuggle goods within Europe.
The vessel did make it into the water, but performed extremely poorly.
This new attempt to use the narco submarine to bring drugs into Europe in the first place is a much more ambitious undertaking and appears to have largely succeeded on a general technical level.
Had authorities not had what appears to be extensive intelligence about the smuggling effort before the SPSS' arrival off Galacia, the crew may well have scuttled it successfully and escaped unnoticed.

As the multi-national investigation into the incident continues, we will hopefully get more details about the SPSS design and how it made its way across the Atlantic.
It also remains to be seen whether or not this is the beginning of a trend in drug smuggling operations from Latin America to Europe, but it is a clear indication that the use of narco subs in those activities may be an increasingly viable tactic.

Links :

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Ghost ships, crop circles, and soft gold: A GPS mystery in Shanghai

 A worrying new GPS Spoofing method has been detected being used in Shanghai, China and it has everyone worried.
Nobody knows who is behind the attacks but the suspicion is the technology is so sophisticated that it must be state sponsored.
The first signs of an issue began when ship crews, manoeuvring their vessels in the congested waterways of Shanghai port observed other ship traffic, supposedly ahead of them in the shipping lane, disappearing from their navigation displays only to reappear a minute or so later apparently tied up at the dockside.
Now new research has revealed that thousands of vessels have been victim of this new type of spoofing and the most worrying aspect is experts have no idea how it is being done.

It's one thing to jam a GPS signal, but spoofing a signal in this way is much more difficult.
image : A "crop circle" of spoofed GPS locations in Shanghai that C4ADS discovered when it plotted the compromised AIS data.
source : C4ADS

From MIT TechnologyReview by Mark Harris

A sophisticated new electronic warfare system is being used at the world’s busiest port.
But is it sand thieves or the Chinese state behind it?

On a sultry summer night in July 2019, the MV Manukai was arriving at the port of Shanghai, near the mouth of the Huangpu River.
This busy tributary of the Yangtze winds through the city and includes the Bund, a historic waterfront area and tourist hot spot.
Shanghai would be the American container ship’s last stop in China before making its long homeward journey to Long Beach, California.

As the crew carefully maneuvered the 700-foot ship through the world’s busiest port, its captain watched his navigation screens closely.
By international law, all but the smallest commercial ships have to install automatic identification system (AIS) transponders.
Every few seconds, these devices broadcast their identity, position, course, and speed and display AIS data from other ships in the area, helping to keep crowded waterways safe.
The position data for those transponders comes from GPS satellites.

source :

According to the Manukai’s screens, another ship was steaming up the same channel at about seven knots (eight miles per hour).
Suddenly, the other ship disappeared from the AIS display.
A few minutes later, the screen showed the other ship back at the dock.
Then it was in the channel and moving again, then back at the dock, then gone once more.

Eventually, mystified, the captain picked up his binoculars and scanned the dockside.
The other ship had been stationary at the dock the entire time.

When it came time for the Manukai to head for its own berth, the bridge began echoing to multiple alarms.
Both of the ship’s GPS units—it carried two for redundancy—had lost their signals, and its AIS transponder had failed.
Even a last-ditch emergency distress system that also relied on GPS could not get a fix.

Now, new research and previously unseen data show that the Manukai, and thousands of other vessels in Shanghai over the last year, are falling victim to a mysterious new weapon that is able to spoof GPS systems in a way never seen before.

Nobody knows who is behind this spoofing, or what its ultimate purpose might be.
These ships could be unwilling test subjects for a sophisticated electronic warfare system, or collateral damage in a conflict between environmental criminals and the Chinese state that has already claimed dozens of ships and lives.
But one thing is for certain: there is an invisible electronic war over the future of navigation in Shanghai, and GPS is losing.

The mystery deepens

Although the Manukai eventually docked safely, its captain was concerned enough to file a report later that day with the US Coast Guard’s Navigation Center, which collects reports of GPS outages worldwide.

“All [antenna] connections are secured and dry,” he wrote.
“There have been no other issues with these units. [I] suspect GPS signal jamming is occurring at this berth.”

In fact, something far more dangerous was happening, and the Manukai’s captain was unaware of it.
Although the American ship’s GPS signals initially seemed to have just been jammed, both it and its neighbor had also been spoofed—their true position and speed replaced by false coordinates broadcast from the ground.
This is serious, as 50% of all casualties at sea are linked to navigational mistakes that cause collisions or groundings.

When mariners simply lose a GPS signal, they can fall back on paper charts, radar, and visual navigation.
But if a ship’s GPS signal is spoofed, its captain—and any nearby vessels tracking it via AIS— will be told that the ship is somewhere else entirely.
Nor did the attacks stop once the Manukai was safely at its dock.
Several times that day, its AIS system reported that it was over three miles distant.

Half a world away from Shanghai, a tip landed on the Washington, DC, desk of a researcher at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), a nonprofit that analyzes global conflict and security issues.
The new tip, from a shipping industry source, suggested that somebody was spoofing GPS signals in Shanghai.

This was the first time that C4ADS had heard of widespread maritime spoofing not obviously linked to the Russians.
A few months earlier, the organization had published a report that detailed how Russia used GPS jamming in the Crimea, the Black Sea, Syria, Norway, and Finland.
It also contained evidence that a Russian mobile electronic warfare team had been disrupting GPS signals during President Putin’s public appearances.

After receiving the tip, C4ADS looked at the AIS data, which it purchased from a startup that records AIS broadcasts around the world.
Analysts noticed that the attacks had actually started the previous summer, increasing as the months rolled on.
The most intense interference was recorded on the very day in July that the Manukai’s captain reported difficulties, when a total of nearly 300 vessels had their locations spoofed.
While the disruption was affecting ships right across Shanghai, most of those spoofed were vessels navigating the Huangpu River.

source : Wikimedias commons

And this was very different from the hacking seen in Russian waters, where vessels were all spoofed to a single point.
The Shanghai data showed ships jumping every few minutes to different locations on rings on the eastern bank of the Huangpu.
On a visualization of the data spanning days and weeks, the ships appeared to congregate in large circles.

The C4ADS researchers had never seen circular patterns like this before.
Perhaps bugs or malware in the ships’ AIS or GPS systems were causing the effect?
To rule that out, they sought data from another form of transportation completely: cycling.

China has about as many bicycles as the rest of the world combined, with nearly 10 million in Shanghai alone.
Some of the city’s cyclists use smartphone fitness apps to track their rides.
One in particular, Strava, shares a global heat map of anonymized activities from the previous two years.
Zooming in to Shanghai, C4ADS analysts could see the same mysterious riverside circles glowing on Strava’s heat map.
The spoofing attacks were affecting all GPS devices, not just those on ships.

It was time to seek some outside help.
C4ADS shared its findings with Todd Humphreys, director of the Radionavigation Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin and a leading authority on GPS hacking.
Humphreys examined the data, but the closer he looked, the more confused he became.
“To be able to spoof multiple ships simultaneously into a circle is extraordinary technology.
It looks like magic,” he said.

In September, Humphreys showed a visualization of the data at the world’s largest conference of satellite navigation technology, ION GNSS+ in Florida.
“People were slack-jawed when I showed them this pattern of spoofing,” he said.
“They started to call it crop circles.”

A dangerous escalation?

To understand why the experts are baffled, consider how GPS works.
The US Air Force maintains a constellation of at least 24 Global Positioning System satellites orbiting the Earth; there are currently 31.
Each satellite broadcasts several complicated codes generated from its position and the current time, as measured by a super-accurate atomic clock on board.
Each clock is precisely synchronized with those on the other 30 satellites.

A GPS receiver detecting signals from one satellite can only calculate roughly how far it is from that satellite.
Add signals from a second satellite and it can narrow down its location considerably.
A third satellite allows it to locate itself at a given latitude and longitude, and a fourth establishes its elevation and the precise time.
Signals from more satellites increase the accuracy.

While GPS satellites broadcast several different signals intended for both military and civilian use, AIS relies on just one of them.
These signals are rather weak and can easily be drowned out—jammed—by even a modest transmitter at ground level.
They can also be spoofed by signals that mimic real GPS satellites but encode false time and position data.

In spoofing, every receiver within range usually receives the same fake signals, and thus believes itself to be in the same location.
While this is more serious than simply jamming the GPS signals, an alert captain would certainly notice if all the ships on the navigation screen suddenly jumped to the same place at the same time.

The Shanghai “crop circles,” which somehow spoof each vessel to a different false location, are something new.
“I’m still puzzled by this,” says Humphreys.
“I can’t get it to work out in the math.
It’s an interesting mystery.” It’s also a mystery that raises the possibility of potentially deadly accidents.

“Captains and pilots have become very dependent on GPS, because it has been historically very reliable,” says Humphreys.
“If it claims to be working, they rely on it and don’t double-check it all that much.”

On June 5 this year, the Run 5678, a river cargo ship, tried to overtake a smaller craft on the Huangpu, about five miles south of the Bund.
The Runavoided the small ship but plowed right into the New Glory (Chinese name: Tong Yang Jingrui), a freighter heading north.

The New Glory then lost control and veered into the riverbank, scattering pedestrians out for an evening stroll.
A small stretch of the bank collapsed, but luckily, no one was hurt.

While it’s not certain if it happened on this particular occasion, AIS data indicate that the New Glory was spoofed in Shanghai at least five times in the six months leading up to the collision, including less than two weeks before.
The data also show half a dozen attacks on other vessels in the city that same day.

Even Shanghai’s river police, the Huangpu Maritime Safety Administration (MSA), has been subjected to spoofing attacks on an almost daily basis.
The data show that one of its patrol boats was spoofed at least 394 times in nine months.

Soft gold

One possibility is that the crop circles are an escalation in a simmering electronic war in Shanghai that has put thousands of sailors, passengers, and even the river itself at risk.
For years, the MSA has been tracking and seizing ships that, while not jamming or spoofing GPS signals, have been hacking the AIS transponders that help keep Shanghai’s rivers and ports safe.
These ships have been cloning the AIS identities of other ships in order to slip in and out of the harbor unmolested by authorities.

The reason they’re doing this has to do with the cargo the New Glory was carrying when it ran aground: plain, everyday sand.

Chinese builders call it “soft gold.” Sand dredged from Yangtze River, which has the ideal consistency and composition for cement, helped fuel Shanghai’s construction boom in the 1980s and 1990s.
By the turn of the millennium, reckless sand extraction had undermined bridges, trashed ecosystems, and caused long stretches of the riverbank to collapse.
In 2000, Chinese authorities banned sand mining on the Yangtze completely.

The trade continued illicitly, however, expanding to include the illegal dredging of sand and gravel from the Yangtze estuary and the open seas near Shanghai.
By day, such ships look innocuous.
By night, they lower pipes to the riverbed to suck up thousands of tons of sand in a single session.
A full hold can be worth over $85,000.
So far in 2019, police along the Yangtze River have seized 305 sand-mining vessels and over 100 million cubic feet of sand—enough to fill over a thousand Olympic swimming pools.

The Shanghai MSA says illegal sand and gravel ships caused 23 wrecks along the Yangtze river in 2018, accounting for over half of all major accidents and killing 53 people.

 Another "crop circle" that appears on Strava's Global Heat Map.
source : strava

Under the cover of darkness, AIS can be a useful tool for a sand thief.
Ships that are not equipped or licensed for sea travel, for example, have been known to clone the AIS systems of seafaring boats to avoid detection.

Nor are sand thieves the only users of hacked AIS technology.
In June this year, an oil tanker with a cloned AIS system rammed an MSA patrol boat in Shanghai while trying to evade capture.
Police believe that it had been smuggling oil.
“Ships like this type are usually driven by illegal interests,” said an MSA official.
“Once discovered, they will fight against law enforcement and attempt to escape, posing a great threat to the water navigation environment.
We will not tolerate such ghost ships.”

The question now is, are these previous AIS hacks connected to Shanghai’s new GPS circles in some way? An effective spoofing system could be worth millions to sand thieves.
By spoofing their own ships, they could glide invisibly into port.
Or by spoofing others and creating chaos, smugglers would give themselves a better chance of slipping through unnoticed.
It could be that the ability to generate spoofed circles is an escalation in technological know-how by the sand thieves.

Of course, it could be just a coincidence that the spoofed circles are occurring at a hot spot for AIS cloning.
Another possibility is that the Chinese state itself is testing out a new electronic weapon, perhaps for eventual use in disputed regions of the South China Sea.

While the data do not identify the culprits, they do contain some clues.
The center of the spoofing circles on the Huangpu is a factory owned by Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical Company, a large chemical manufacturer.
But it is not clear whether the activity is associated with the facility or it’s just the location where the ships are being spoofed to.

“I don’t think it’s some rogue actor,” says Humphreys.
“It may be connected with some experimental capability that [the Chinese authorities] are trying to test.
But I’m genuinely puzzled how this is being done.”

This volcano destroyed an island, then created a new one

The loss of the tiny island of Lateiki in the archipelagic Kingdom of Tonga in October was short-lived.
It was reborn as a new island roughly 400 feet to the west.
Credit : Copernicus Sentinel data/Annamaria Luongo/SpaceTec Partners
see video

From NYTimes by Robin George Andrews

After the October blast at Lateiki in the Kingdom of Tonga, a larger island formed over a connected vent in the ocean.

Lateiki was a tiny island in the archipelagic Kingdom of Tonga, formed in 1995 by an ebullient submarine volcano.
Last month, that underwater firestarter decided it was time for some explosive redecorating.

An eruption in the southwest Pacific Ocean was first reported on Oct. 14 by a Tongan ship.
The Tonga Geological Service then scanned through satellite imagery and noticed the paroxysm, at Lateiki, began a day earlier.
Over the next week or so, various vessels, flights and satellites intermittently saw an ashy plume rising from the island.

 Eruptions at Lateiki Island (Metis Shoal) in Tonga
submerged an island and then recreated it (larger than before)

By Nov. 1, it was all over; Lateiki was gone, its remnants swallowed by the volcano’s erupting maw.
But this loss of Tongan territory was short-lived.
As quickly as Lateiki self-destructed, it was reborn as a new island roughly 400 feet to the west.
The new Lateiki, 1,310 feet long and 330 feet wide, is nearly four times the size of the old one.

Lateiki is highly practiced in the art of volcanic makeovers.
Several of its eruptions reportedly built ephemeral shoal islands in the 18th and 19th centuries, and more definitively in 1967 and 1979.
Until 1995, these islands lasted a few months before being chewed up by the waves.

Submarine volcanism can be difficult to study and observe.
But Lateiki’s cycles of death and rebirth give scientists clues to the nature of the magmatic machinations below.
And with improving satellite technology, they can be documented better than ever before.

“To see this process happening in our lifetime is pretty spectacular,” said Janine Krippner of the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program.

The island, seen by satellite on Oct. 10, before the eruption.
The small island of Lateiki, Tonga disappeared after the Metis Shoal volcano erupted in October.
The eruption created a new island to the west of where the island was previously.
 Credit : Copernicus Sentinel data/Annamaria Luongo/SpaceTec Partners

Sitting midway between the islands of Kao and Late, Lateiki — formerly known as Metis Shoal — is just one member of an extended family of volcanoes.
It sits on the Tonga-Kermadec volcanic arc, a 1,740-mile-long trench that delineates where the Pacific plate dives beneath the Australian plate.
This titanic tectonic battle fuels many volcanoes in the southeast Pacific, from New Zealand’s North Island to the northern tip of the Tongan archipelago.

In August, an unnamed volcano along that spine erupted, producing a San Francisco-sized raft of pumice.
Lateiki is just the latest fiery fountain on the arc to put on a show.

In the right most image the 1st and last images are combined
showing the 1995 dome appears to have gone.

The ability of Lateiki to migrate may seem strange.
But new vents can pop up anywhere along the volcano’s 3-mile long, flat-topped surface, creating islands in different locations.

“I was a little surprised that the old island completely disappeared,” said Ed Venzke, who oversees the database of volcanoes at the Global Volcanism Program.

 Metis Shoal (also known as Lateiki island), located between the islands of Kao and Late
view with the GeoGarage platform (Linz nautical raster chart)

The 1995 island had been partly eroded by waves over the past quarter-century, but nevertheless resisted complete annihilation because it was made of solid clumps of sticky, solidified lava.
But the violence of October’s eruption finally seemed to cause it to collapse.

It is too early to forecast how long the new Lateiki will persist, said Brad Scott, a volcanologist at GNS Science in New Zealand.
Until someone takes a closer look, it is impossible to say how easy it may be for the ocean, or another volcanic explosion, to take it out.

Lateiki Island, Tonga, oil on canvas, 
 Peter Anderson, 2004

Its construction materials matter.
Havre, another submarine volcano on that arc, erupted in 2012, producing a pumice raft 155 square miles across.
But no island was created, because pumice, formed when lava quickly quenches in seawater and traps gas, is buoyant, not adhesive, and easily drifts away.
Gloopy, degassed lava flows erupting at shallow depths are far better at building islands.

If the new Lateiki does stick around, it may end up like Japan’s Nishinoshima or Iceland’s Surtsey: other pop-up volcanic islands that, after the embers had cooled, became citadels of marine, microbial and avian life.

Links :

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

La Belle des Oceans, a French cruise ship hits uncharted rocks, breached, taking on water, Andaman sea Thailand

Localization with the GeoGarage platform (NGA nautical raster chart)

Cruise ship LA BELLE DES OCEANS ran onto rocks south of famous Phi-Phi islands, Thailand, Andaman sea, sometime between 0200 and 0300 Bangkok time (UTC +7) Nov 25, with 90 passengers and 60 crew on board.

A fisherman who was first to arrive at the stricken vessel said that none of the passengers were injured.
He said: "I had just left the shore when I saw the cruise ship stuck on rocks, it was in the route to my area of fishing.
"I asked to help them but they told me that they had already contacted the navy so I checked with them that all the passengers were fine. Then I left because there was nothing more I could do."
The navy ship arrived and dragged the cruise ship off the rocks and escorted the vessel to the nearest pier.
Officers said that there was damage to the ship's body which the captain will be asked to explain.

Underwater hull in bow section was breached, with ensuing water ingress.
The ship understood to manage to refloat by own means, and reached Phuket island under own power, closely monitored by Thai Navy.

Thai navy ship HTMS Sriracha sailed out to the cruise ship which was stuck on rocks near the Koh Phi Phi island with a damaged hull and taking onboard water.

She was berthed at 1030 Bangkok time Nov 25, all on board safe.
Vice Admiral Choenghai Choengchompat said: "The passengers are all safe and we will question the cruise ship captain about the crash again later." 

 Vessel tracking with Fleetmon
The ship had left Singapore last month, visiting Malaysia and Thailand and was due to sail to to India and Greece by March. 

No ENC official detailed chart in the region 
No detailed paper map from Thai Navy

 source: Southeast Asia Pilot
LA BELLE DES OCEANS was en route from Penang island, Malaysia, to Phang Nga Bay near Phuket, Krabi Province, Thailand, famous tourists attraction and destination.

Cruise ship LA BELLE DES OCEANS, IMO 8800195, GT 5218, built 1989, flag Belgium, operator CroisiEurope.
The 1989-built vessel is the former Clipper Odyssey, Oceanic Odyssey and Oceanic Grace. 

Links :

Monday, November 25, 2019

Better weather forecasts coming to the developing world

Making a better world by providing accurate, higher resolution forecasts.
Technology company IBM said on Thursday it will launch a new weather forecasting system which will be able to predict conditions up to 12 hours in advance and cover parts of the world which have not had access to such detailed data.
Demand for very precise and quicker weather forecasts has grown as more extreme conditions increase due to climate change and as more variable renewable energy goes to the grid.
The system, known as IBM GRAF - the Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System - will run on a supercomputer and provide more detailed and higher quality forecasts.
Previously, this kind of precise forecasting has been available in the United states, Japan and some west European countries.
IBM’s new day-ahead forecasting system will provide data to cover the world, including Asia, Africa and South America, some of the regions most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, the company said.
Current global weather models cover 10-15 kilometers squared and are updated every six to 12 hours. IBM’s system will forecast down to 3 km sq and update hourly.

From VOAnews

As more extreme weather takes its toll around the world, computer giant IBM says it is making a breakthrough in precision weather forecasting available to everyone.

The company said the new high-resolution forecasts bring a level of precision previously available only in major industrialized countries.

It is expected to help emergency managers better predict where severe storms will strike, as well as aid airlines planning flight paths and farmers tending crops.
Not to mention commuters deciding whether to carry an umbrella.

The new system generates forecasts more frequently and with finer details than what’s available outside the United States, Europe and Japan.

An August 2018 monsoon forecast in India,
according to the current model, left, and the new, higher-resolution model, right.
“The enhanced forecasts could be revolutionary for some areas of the world, such as for a rural farmer in India or Kenya,” said Cameron Clayton, head of The Weather Company, a subsidiary of IBM.
“If you’ve never before had access to high-resolution weather data but could now anticipate thunderstorms before they approach your fields, you can better plan for planting or harvesting,” he added.

Most forecasts have a resolution of 10 to 15 square kilometers and update every six to 12 hours.
IBM’s Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF) goes down to 3 square kilometers and updates every hour.
“That’s providing a level of detail that we’ve not been able to see in parts of the world such as Southeast Asia, Africa as well as South America,” said Kevin Petty, director of science and forecasting at IBM-owned The Weather Company.

That precision can reveal details of where and when extremely heavy rain will fall.
That could be useful in emergency situations, as well as more mundane events.
It could help farmers decide when to plant, harvest and fertilize, for example.

As we address climate change and intensifying severe weather, it's more critical now than ever to have access to timely, reliable forecasting services around the world.
Unfortunately, not all forecasts are created equal.
To help address this issue, IBM's The Weather Company has launched a powerful new forecasting tool called IBM GRAF.
The hourly-updating Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (IBM GRAF) improves global model resolution by 3x, helping to bring the rest of the world's forecasts up to the standard once limited to a small number of countries.
Created in collaboration with NCAR and running on a GPU-accelerated IBM supercomputer, IBM GRAF is the world's first operational high-resolution, hourly-updating model that covers the entire globe.
It helps democratize weather forecasts so people, businesses and governments -- anywhere -- can make better weather-related decisions.

Better forecasts around globe

“I think it’s a pretty large achievement,” said University of Oklahoma emeritus meteorology professor Fred Carr, who was not involved with the project.

The United States has a similar high-resolution system, “but it’s just for the U.S.
because it takes so much computer time,” Carr said.
“To do it for the whole globe is a pretty significant achievement.”

The Weather Company’s Petty said, “We are just now getting to the point of having the level of computational power to do this.”

GRAF runs the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s state-of-the-art open-source weather model on high performance supercomputers.

Forecasts are only as good as the observations that go into them, Carr said.

This video is a demo of the new 3km IBM GRAF model, which is based on the MPAS Model.
The valid time of this run is for last night's storm that passed the northeast, resulting in numerous power outages across the Northeast due to strong winds.

Finding, filling the gaps

It’s possible to quickly collect observations from radar, airplanes and surface measurements in the United States, he added, but it’s not apparent how IBM gets data from the other 98% of the globe, especially in areas that currently don’t have extensive weather systems.

Carr said he suspects “there’s gonna be gaps, or failures, or problems sometimes in getting those data in. So, sometimes those forecasts aren’t going to be very accurate.”

Users will be able to decide for themselves.
The system now runs on and The Weather Channel smartphone app.

In the future, IBM hopes to improve its forecasts by collecting data from atmospheric pressure sensors that are now standard equipment in smartphones.

These sensors improve the accuracy of GPS.
They can help fitness trackers calculate how many flights of stairs the user has climbed, for example.

IBM said it is not currently using this data but plans to offer users the opportunity to opt in.

This kind of data collection from tech companies has drawn scrutiny from privacy advocates.
The city of Los Angeles is currently suing IBM for improperly using location information from Weather Channel app users.

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