Sunday, January 03, 2010

Silly little Sharon Begley doesn't even know the difference between a lake and a reservoir

And she finds rainfall shocking! Typical that she writes for NEWSWEAK. Her article below is about dam reservoirs but she heads it as "The Lake Effect" -- and implies that it tells us something about global warming! Even the fact that dams have discharge pipes to control their water level seems unknown to her. Dams are actively managed. It's only a weir where water runs over the top in an uncontrolled way. And there are some very old weirs that are still working fine too

Unfortunately for the denialists, examples of how human activities can alter climate keep accumulating. The latest has nothing to do with the greenhouse effect but underlines the fact that ordinary activities can have unexpected meteorological consequences. To wit: large dams seem to be altering rainfall patterns.

Geophysicists have suspected as much for years, notes a team of scientists in a paper in the Dec. 1 issue of Eos, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. But it is becoming clearer that in addition to providing lots of water to evaporate and then return to the ground as rainfall, as scientists at MIT described in a 1996 study, dams also make local meteorological conditions more conducive to precipitation.

In particular, explain Faisal Hossain and Indumathi Jeyachandran of Tennessee Technological University and Roger Pielke Sr. of the University of Colorado, Boulder, dams increase atmospheric instabilities in the vertical profile of temperature and humidity. Those instabilities arise because the presence of a dam—specifically, the reservoir it creates—increases evaporation and therefore atmospheric moisture. That enhances the amount of convective energy in the air above the reservoir. The end result: more precipitation.

Weather records support this theoretical reasoning. For one thing, there are more thunderstorms in the vicinity of a large dam compared with before the dam was built. For another, large dams are contributing to the "when it rains, it pours" phenomenon: longer periods without precipitation punctuated by drenching, flood-inducing downpours. Extreme precipitation events (rainfall that's greater than 99 percent of historic rainfalls) around large dams have increased significantly, as Hossain describes in an upcoming paper: 99th-percentile downpours in the region of a large dam have increased 4 percent per year after a large dam was built, especially in southern Africa, India, the western United States, and Central Asia. Other studies have shown how changes in land cover as seemingly innocuous as irrigating fields and draining swamps can alter local precipitation patterns, as this paper as well as this one have described.

The significance of dams altering local weather is not merely another example of the power of human activities to change the climate. There is also a more practical issue. When dams are constructed, engineers make assumptions about how frequently large floods will occur, and they build the dam to withstand them. But if the proverbial 100-year flood occurs more frequently because of the very presence of a dam, that calculation is wrong, and the dam may be subjected to more frequent and more extreme flood-inducing downpours. A "flood-safe" dam may not be.

As the Eos authors warn, "it is therefore possible that a large dam may be found years later to actually have been designed for a flood with a much lower recurrence interval (or higher frequency) than originally expected because the frequency of extreme precipitation events has increased due to the reservoir's presence. Such a possibility raises concerns about dam safety…[That risk is] compounded by the fact that conventional dam and reservoir design over the past century has been 'one- way,' with no acknowledgment of the possible feedback mechanisms" between the presence of a dam and rainfall. "Indeed, dam design protocol in civil engineering continues to assume unchanging [patterns of] extreme precipitation events." The risk is also compounded by the age of dams: some 85 percent of large dams in the United States will be more than 50 years old by 2020.


Pesky Swiss glaciers

They are actually melting more slowly now than in the 1940s. And the melting correlates with measures of radiation from the sun! But the Greenie authors are not admitting anything. It's possible to dream up an ad hoc (unpredicted) explanation for anything and the Greenies are good at that. They need to be

The most recent studies by researchers at ETH Zurich show that in the 1940s Swiss glaciers were melting at an even-faster pace than at present. This is despite the fact that the temperatures in the 20th century were lower than in this century. Researchers see the main reason for this as the lower level of aerosol pollution in the atmosphere.

In Switzerland, the increase in snow in wintertime and the glacier melt in summertime have been measured at measurement points at around 3,000 metres above sea level -- on the Clariden Firn, the Great Aletsch glacier and the Silvretta glacier -- without interruption for almost 100 years. As part of his doctoral work, Matthias Huss used this unique range of measurements to examine how climate change in the last century affected the glaciers. The work was carried out under the supervision of Martin Funk, professor and head of the Department for Glaciology at the Laboratory for Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology ('VAW') at ETH Zurich, who is also co-author of the study.

Solar radiation as the decisive factor

In its work, the research team took into account the solar radiation measured on the Earth's surface in Davos since 1934. Studies over the past two decades have shown that solar radiation varies substantially due to aerosols and clouds, and this is assumed to influence climate fluctuations. Recent years have seen the emergence of the terms 'global dimming' and 'global brightening' to describe these phenomena of reduced and increased solar radiation respectively. These two effects are currently the subject of more and more scientific research, in particular by ETH Zurich, as experts feel that they should be taken into account in the climate models.

The new study, published in the journal 'Geophysical Research Letters', confirms this requirement. This is because, taking into account the data recorded for the level of solar radiation, the scientists made a surprising discovery: in the 1940s and in the summer of 1947 especially, the glaciers lost the most ice since measurements commenced in 1914. This is in spite of the fact that temperatures were lower than in the past two decades. "The surprising thing is that this paradox can be explained relatively easily with radiation," says Huss, who was recently appointed to the post of senior lecturer at the Department of Geosciences at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.

On the basis of their calculations, the researchers have concluded that the high level of short-wave radiation in the summer months is responsible for the fast pace of glacier melt. In the 1940s, the level was 8% higher than the long-term average and 18 Watts per square metres above the levels of the past ten years. Calculated over the entire decade of the 1940s, this resulted in 4% more snow and ice melt compared with the past ten years.

Furthermore, the below-average melt rates at the measurement points during periods in which the glacier snouts were even advancing correlate with a phase of global dimming, between the 1950s and the 1980s.

Less snow fall and longer melt periods

The researchers arrived at their findings by calculating the daily melt rates with the aid of climate data and a temperature index model, based on the half-yearly measurements on the glaciers since 1914. These results were then compared with the long-term measurements of solar radiation in Davos.

Huss points out that the strong glacier melt in the 1940s puts into question the assumption that the rate of glacier decline in recent years "has never been seen before." "Nevertheless," says the glaciologist, "this should not lead people to conclude that the current period of global warming is not really as big of a problem for the glaciers as previously assumed." This is because it is not only the pace at which the Alpine glaciers are currently melting that is unusual, but the fact that this sharp decline has been unabated for 25 years now.

Another aspect to consider -- and this is evidenced by the researchers' findings -- is that temperature-based opposing mechanisms came into play around 30 years ago. These have led to a 12% decrease in the amount of precipitation that falls as snow as a percentage of total precipitation, accompanied by an increase of around one month in the length of the melt period ever since this time. Scientists warn that these effects could soon be matched by the lower level of solar radiation we have today compared with the 1940s.


CRU’s forecast: UK winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”

Richard North from the EU Referendum writes of a curious juxtaposition of forecasts, then and now. I thought it worth sharing here since it highlights the chutzpah with which CRU botched their forecast in March of 2000. At least they didn’t claim that UK snowfall was in a “death spiral”.

From The Independent on 20 March 2000 we got the headline: “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past”. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.

Then, from the Telegraph online today we get: “Snow and ice to hit Britain at New Year.” The mercury is set to drop to 28°F (-3°C) in most of England and Wales on Thursday night, New Year’s Eve, and 17°F (-8°C) in Scotland, with widespread snow showers also predicted. New Year’s Day will also be chilly, with the northern half of Britain’s struggling to get above freezing during the day, while London will do well to reach 39°F (4°C). The forecast follows a spell of snow, sleet and ice which has gripped Britain for more than a week but relented in most parts over recent days.

It is so good to see in The Independent that the CRU is living up to its justly acquired reputation for accuracy. I’ll also point out that this “very rare and exciting event” happened in London last year also. "Snow blankets London for Global Warming debate – first October Snow in over 70 years"

SOURCE (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

Greenie panic as an excuse for extreme socialism again

Review below from a Leftist site of "Time’s Up", by Keith Farnish

Environmentalists are often accused of wanting to send us back to the dark ages, but in three years of researching and writing about green issues, I’ve only come across a handful of people who actually advocate a complete undoing of industrial society (I’m not one of them, by the way). To that small collection I can now add Keith Farnish and his book on human overreaching, Time’s Up: An uncivilized solution to a global crisis.

It’s an unusual book. It begins with a series of chapters that zoom out from the microscopic to whole ecosystems – an elaborate way of showing the sheer scope of our meddling in the earth’s systems, from viruses to forests, and the extent to which we have left ourselves vulnerable. It could be the little things that get us, the changing disease patterns that climate change and industrial farming are creating, or it could be the big things, like deforestation. Either way, “nothing is so dependent on other forms of life as humans, the ultimate consumers.”

So who are we to have put ourselves outside the rest of creation in this way? And does it matter? Having set out the parameters of the problem, Farnish spends the next section of the book examining humanity and our place in the world. Eventually he narrows our dillemma down to cultural factors: “much of humanity has become a commercial entity” he concludes, a culture that puts economic gain above all else, regardless of the consequences. Here he hits on what I’d describe as a spiritual insight, although Farnish wouldn’t use that term himself – “sustainability is not just about the use of natural resources; it is about the use of our lives.”

In order to bring our lives back into balance, we need to establish a connection with the natural world, a connection that has “ebbed away from the majority of humans”. Fatally so, as far as the author is concerned. “Failure to connect is the reason humanity is pulling the plug on its life support machine.” Unfortunately, the whole of our culture is engineered to prevent us connecting, and to keep us in the man-made bubble of consumerism. Farnish’s outines ten strategies, and these are very useful, describing how our culture gives us selected freedoms, uses our fear against us, idolises choice and exploits our trust. Unfortunately, we’re all implicated. We rail against the system, but we are the system.

For Farnish then, there’s only one possible solution. Industrial civilization is “fatally flawed and needs to be removed from the face of the earth, before the inevitable ecological collapse brings it down in far more horrible circumstances.” The best thing to do then it to pull out, to unplug from it and go it alone, and this is where I part company with Farnish. The closing chapters of Time’s Up describe a world with “no cities, no paved roads, no pylons, no offices or factories”, but there were cities and paved roads long before industrialization. Among the skills that Farnish recommends we learn are ’shelter building’, but are all our houses going to collapse along with the stock markets?

I agree that industrial civilization is unsustainable and inhuman and has to go, but I believe in transitioning out of it. I believe we can adapt, commit to an ‘energy descent’ path, downsize. We have to live with less, not with nothing. We need appropriate technology, not no technology, and we need to be able to offer people a compelling view of the future. People would rather continue in denial than vote for wilderness.

Time’s Up ends up rather patchy, full of good ideas but ultimately not very useful. On one page, the author observes that “true selfishness happens when the veneer between survival and excess is breached.” That’s a rather neat idea, but then just two paragraphs later he says “selfishness is not some innate, unlearned behaviour: it is something almost totally alien to pre-industrial society.” The constant warfare of history begs to differ, and Jarred Diamond and others have shown that plenty of pre-industrial societies lived beyond their means, as far back as the Neanderthals driving buffalo herds over cliffs because it was easier than hunting. I also disagree with Farnish’s assertion that hope is fundamentally disempowering, as we lose the will to act. I’d argue that hope is active, not passive, and is the most empowering thing in the world. Passive hope is not hope at all, but wishful thinking.

In short, Time’s Up remains a worthwhile read, but it falls short on the practicalities. Farnish almost admits as much, and hosts the ongoing discussions on his blogs, the unsuitablog and the earth blog.


Wasteful "energy-saving" nonsense in Britain

Telling power companies to go around insulating houses is something that only "off the planet" socialists would have thought of. So no wonder that the power companies look for loopholes

Twelve million low-energy light bulbs were posted to households over Christmas by an energy company as part of its legal obligation to cut carbon emissions, despite government advice that many would never be used. Npower sent out the packages last month to escape a ban on issuing unsolicited bulbs, which came into force yesterday. The German-owned company saved millions of pounds by giving away the bulbs. Alternative ways of meeting its obligation, such as insulating homes, are much more effective but up to seven times more expensive. It faced a fine of more than £40 million, or 10 per cent of its turnover, if it failed to meet its target for improving efficiency in homes under the carbon emissions reduction target scheme.

Households have received more than 180 million free or subsidised low-energy bulbs in the past 18 months. A survey in July by the Energy Saving Trust found that the average home had six unused ones lying in drawers and cupboards.

In 2008 the Government ordered the big energy companies to invest in measures for improving energy efficiency and cutting fuel poverty. Companies can choose how to meet their obligations. Each measure they fund is given a score for the lifetime carbon savings that it achieves.

The scheme made assumptions about the usage of light bulbs that turned out to be wildly optimistic. Companies were allowed to register immediate carbon savings from every bulb issued on the assumption that all recipients instantly installed them in some of their most intensively used light sockets. In reality, many people either stored the bulbs or threw them away, often because they were the wrong fitting or wattage.

The companies can also meet their obligations by paying for homes to be insulated. This guarantees energy savings but is much more expensive.

According to the latest government estimates, each low-energy bulb costs an energy company £2.97 and saves 0.04 tonnes of carbon over its lifetime. Insulating the external solid walls of a three-bedroom semi-detached house costs £8,760 and saves 18.08 tonnes. A company can achieve the same score of 18.08 tonnes by posting 452 bulbs, costing only £1,342.

In the first 18 months of the scheme, companies issued 182 million bulbs but insulated only 17,000 solid-wall homes. Britain has 6.6 million solid-wall homes requiring insulation. Companies can pass on all the costs of the scheme to their customers. Over three years it is expected to add more than £100 to the average household’s energy bills.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change quietly admitted in June that the scheme was flawed and resulting in significant wastage. In a paragraph buried in a 30-page “impact assessment”, the department said: “Government is increasingly concerned that the number of lamps already distributed has been so high that it may work out at more than the average number of highest-use light fittings in a house. “As such, there is an increasing risk to carbon savings under the scheme where lamps are not used, are installed on low-use light fittings, or replace existing [low-energy bulbs].”

It said that direct mailouts of bulbs would be banned from January 1, 2010, allowing six months for companies to wind down their schemes.

Npower, which had a turnover of £427 million in 2008, initially focused on home insulation but was named a few months ago as the energy supplier that was farthest from achieving its green energy target. Companies that fail to meet their obligations by 2011 will be fined up to 10 per cent of their turnover. It began posting 12 million bulbs on November 27, five months after the ban had been announced and just as the postal system was struggling to cope with the volume of Christmas mail.

A spokeswoman for the energy company said that the scheme was designed to be completed on New Year’s Eve, hours before the ban came into force at midnight. She admitted that Npower did not know how many of the bulbs would be used. “There is nothing under [the carbon emissions reduction target scheme] that means we have to get evidence that bulbs are being used. It’s up to the customer,” she said.


Australian electricity prices set to double under Warmist laws

THE wholesale price of electricity will more than double within two years and triple in the next two decades under the Rudd Government's plans to tackle climate change. New modelling by the Government's energy market operator reveals the wholesale price of electricity will rise from $30 per megawatt hour in 2010 to about $100 by 2024. In a national transmission report released before Christmas, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) predicts the price will double to $60 per megawatt hour by 2012. The wholesale price makes up less than half of the final bill that reaches each customer, who also pays distribution costs.

The AEMO modelling is based on Treasury's carbon price estimates under the proposed emissions trading scheme, which from next year will force big polluters to pay for their emissions.

Opposition energy spokesman Nick Minchin yesterday accused the Rudd Government of trying to hide the real costs of tackling climate change. "I think Australians will be stunned to learn that their power bills could more than triple as a result of Mr Rudd's climate change policies," Senator Minchin said.

Earlier this week, the Rudd Government released its own Treasury modelling, which it said revealed low-income households would be $190-a-year better off under its proposed scheme. The Government said its measures to cut carbon emissions would cost low-income households $420 a year, but they would receive $610 in assistance from the Government to offset the higher prices.

The price shock comes as Queenslanders prepare for surging power bills next year with the latest draft proposal by the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) estimated to add $250 to the average household bill. Households also face the prospect of paying more for their electricity during peak times, with State Cabinet due to consider a suite of proposed new tariffs as part of a QCA review early this year. Peak pricing measures are aimed at reducing power use at times during the day when electricity is more expensive to supply.

The Federal Government was also warned in October about the likely impact of its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme on energy costs in a report prepared by the Australian Energy Market Commission, an advisory body to energy ministers. "The underlying costs of supply might also become more volatile. This will translate to customers being exposed to higher prices, and potentially more frequent price changes," it said.



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Syl said...

re the Swiss glaciers melting more then than now, did it ever occur to anyone that it may indeed have been warmer or at least as warm then? One of the emails from climategate shows a discussion indicating they can get away with a 0.15C reduction in SST's back then to smooth out that heat bump during that period.

What else did they do to the temp data?

Whether the temp record is incorrect a lot, a little, or none at all at least after climategate papers not strictly on message can be more freely published.

It's all good.

Keith Farnish said...

Re, review of my book - have you read it? I don't remember any Socialists suggesting bringing down the industrial economy - most of them love the industrial working system so much they encourage as many people as possible to be part of it.

Me, on the other hand :-D

Thanks for the publicity.