Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Warming to produce FEWER extreme weather events

We focus on polar lows this week given an article that has appeared in Nature written by two scientists with Europe’s University of Reading and University of Hamburg. Zahn and von Storch begin their piece noting:

“Every winter, the high-latitude oceans are struck by severe storms that are considerably smaller than the weather-dominating synoptic depressions. Accompanied by strong winds and heavy precipitation, these often explosively developing mesoscale cyclones— termed polar lows—constitute a threat to offshore activities such as shipping or oil and gas exploitation. Yet owing to their small scale, polar lows are poorly represented in the observational and global reanalysis data often used for climatological investigations of atmospheric features and cannot be assessed in coarse-resolution global simulations of possible future climates”.

They fired up regional climate models and found they could reasonably accurately downscale the output and reproduce the basic climatology of the polar lows of the North Atlantic. Satisfied with those results, they then simulated what would happen to the polar lows under various future scenarios suggested by the IPCC. In their own words, they describe the results stating:

"In projections for the end of the twenty-first century, we found a significantly lower number of polar lows and a northward shift of their mean genesis region in response to elevated atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration. This change can be related to changes in the North Atlantic sea surface temperature and mid-troposphere temperature; the latter is found to rise faster than the former so that the resulting stability is increased, hindering the formation or intensification of polar lows. Our results provide a rare example of a climate change effect in which a type of extreme weather is likely to decrease, rather than increase."

We were caught a bit off guard by that final sentence in the abstract. While it is true that a decline in the number of polar lows is an example of a type of exteme event that is projected to decline under a warming climate, we were a bit suprised by Zahn and von Stroch’s assertion about how unusual it is to find any type of extreme weather phenomenon that is expected to decrease rather than increase. If you look through our back pages, you will find dozens of examples in which we show theoretical modeling studies and/or empirical studies predicting or showing no change or even a decline in everything from hurricanes to tornados to heavy rain events to blizzards. The most recent IPCC assessment states on page 308 “Observational evidence for changes in small-scale severe weather phenomena (such as tornadoes, hail and thunderstorms) is mostly local and too scattered to draw general conclusions”.

We conducted a web search on “Global Warming and Extreme Weather” and found over 600,000 sites almost universally insisting that global warming will increase extreme weather events all over the world. We would never deny that the scientific literature contains many articles that indeed support this assertion, and predicting an increase in extreme weather events is certain to attract a lot of media coverage. As we have shown repeatedly in our essay series, the literature is alive with articles predicting or showing no change in extreme weather events throughout the world. These articles are certainly more difficult to publish (predicting or showing no change is a tough sell to reviewers and/or editors), and they tend to receive no press coverage whatsoever. Like it or not, predicting no change in extreme weather is simply not going to sell newspapers anytime soon.


Five Reasons the Planet May Not Be Its Hottest Ever

Global warming is in full swing, say some of the world's climatologists. Or is it? On Thursday the U.N.'s weather agency announced that 2010 was a milestone, the warmest year on record, in a three-way tie with 2005 and 1998. "The 2010 data confirm the Earth's significant long-term warming trend," said Michel Jarraud, the World Meteorological Organization's top official. He added that the ten warmest years after records began in 1854 have all occurred since 1998.

But how reliable is the data? Here are five good reasons some scientists are skeptical of these claims.

1. Where does the data come from? Average temperatures globally last year were 0.95 degrees Fahrenheit (0.53 Celsius) higher than the 1961-90 mean that is used for comparison purposes, according to the WMO -- a statement based on three climate data sets from U.K. and U.S. weather agencies. They gather readings from land-based weather and climate stations, ships and buoys, and satellites -- and they've come under dramatic scrutiny in recent years.

The land data is being challenged extensively by Anthony Watt on his SurfaceStations.org website. Watts recently graded 61% of the stations used to measure temperature with a D -- for being located less than 10 meters from an artificial heating source. Many climate skeptics also take issue with NASA and NOAA, the U.S. agencies that gather U.S. climate data, but also manipulate and "normalize" it.

Satellite data is arguably the most accurate way to measure temperature. Roy Spencer, a climatologist and former NASA scientist, takes issue with the way that data is normalized and adjusted, instead presenting raw, unadjusted data on his website. The WMO does not use this data.

Watts pointed FoxNews.com to a new, peer-reviewed paper that looks at the reliability of the land-based sensor network, concluding that "it is presently impossible to quantify the warming trend in global climate."

2. There's less ice is in the oceans. Or more. Or something. The WMO report notes that Arctic sea-ice cover in December 2010 was the lowest on record, with an average monthly extent of 12 million square kilometers, 1.35 million square kilometers below the 1979-2000 average for December. The agency called it the third-lowest minimum ice extent recorded in September.

In fact, the overall sea-ice record shows virtually no change throughout the past 30 years, argued Lord Monckton, a British politician, journalist, and noted skeptic of global warming. He points out that "the quite rapid loss of Arctic sea ice since the satellites were watching has been matched by a near-equally rapid gain of Antarctic sea ice."

When the summer Arctic sea ice reached its lowest point in the 30-year record in mid-September 2007, just three weeks later the Antarctic sea extent reached a 30-year record high, Monckton said.

3. El Niño has been playing havoc with temperatures. Over the ten years from 2001 to 2010, global temperatures have averaged 0.46°C (0.83°F) above the 1961-1990 average, the report points out, calling these measurements "the highest ever recorded for a 10-year period since the beginning of instrumental climate records." The WMO notes that warming has been especially strong in Africa, parts of Asia, and parts of the Arctic.

Of course temperatures are up, said Joe Bastardi, a meteorologist with Accuweather: It's El Niño, stupid.

"El Niños cause spikes up. La Niñas drop it down," Bastardi told FoxNews.com. "Why have we gone up overall in the past 30 years? Because we've been in a warm cycle in the Pacific," he said. "But the tropical Pacific has cooled dramatically, and it's like turning down your thermostat -- it takes a while, but the house will cool."

Japan's Meteorological Agency agrees with Bastardi's conclusion, stating recently that "it can be presumed that the high temperatures in recent years have been influenced by natural climate fluctuations with the periods ranging from several years to several decades," as well as by greenhouse gases including CO2.
"This year’s warming can also be attributable to an El Niño event which lasted from summer 2009 to spring 2010," the agency said.

4. Besides, it's getting chilly. 2010 may have been a warm year, but 2011 has been off to a very cold start -- and may be among the coldest in decades.

"December 2010 was the second-coldest December in the entire history dating back to 1659," noted Steve McIntyre, a climate scientist and the editor of climate blog Climate Audit. He bases his claim on data from the longest continuous record in the world, kept by The Met Office, the U.K.'s official weather agency.

It's an odd fact, one Bastardi thinks is telling. He said that the transition from the El Niño warming period into the La Niña cooling period will herald a crash of global temperatures, normalizing world heat levels -- especially when analyzed via Spencer's satellite data charts.

"If we look at the last 30 years, then the coming 30 years will cool back to where we were in the late 70s," he said. "Look at it this way. Suppose you didn't have a scale until 3 weeks ago. Every day for the last 3 weeks you weigh yourself and you are 175 or so. One morning you are 175.1 How much weight have you gained?"
You're the heaviest you have ever been, right? "If you weren't weighing yourself before, or were using a different scale, can you really say this is the heaviest ever?" he asked.

5. Forecasts are often wrong. Predicting the weather -- especially a decade or more in advance -- is unbelievably challenging. In 2000, a scientist with the Met Office's Climatic Research Unit declared that within ten years, snowfall would be "a very rare and exciting event."

And in 1970 at the first Earth Day event, one researcher predicted that the planet would be 11 degrees colder by the year 2000.
FoxNews.com recently compiled eight of the most egregiously mistaken predictions, and asked the predictors to reflect on what really happened.


Warmists New Claim: Little Ice Age Caused By American Settlers

Can you imagine what it would be like if scientists were discussing the deaths of millions, not in terms of moral outrage, but rather the effect on reducing Co2 emissions?

If you follow the news on global warming, you’ll have noticed an increasing trend towards studies that try and show a link between historical events and climactic changes, inevitably blaming them (somehow) on mankind in general.

Yet another one of these studies has just been released from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Laussane of Switzerland, which suggests that the little ice age can be blamed on the early American settlers:
a significant decrease in emissions began in the 16th century – the one which would herald the minor ice age. Jed Kaplan has an audacious hypothesis to explain the dip in the data curve: “Thanks to the reports of the early explorers, we know that the forests were less abundant on the American continent. Then the settlers gradually eliminated the indigenous population.” Threatened with extinction, these populations effectively deserted the forested areas, which – by taking up the carbon in the atmosphere – in turn set off the legendary frosts of the 19th century. “Of course, it’s only a hypothesis”, he concludes, “but given the data we have gathered, it’s entirely plausible”.

So let me get this straight: Dr Jed Kaplan is arguing that the early American settlers turned up, started driving the natives off the land. Once the natives had been eliminated, the forests started to regrow, thus cooling the world and causing the Little Ice Age. Is that it?

This is not a new argument. As I’ve already pointed out on this website, the historian Edward Gibbon was making essentially the same argument hundreds of years ago.

What’s disturbing about this trend, though, is that it appears to be neo-Malthusianism by the back door. These studies are reported by the warmists in such a way that massive depopulation by death is a good thing, and civilization a bad thing, at least in terms of Co2 emissions:
The results of this research tell a very different story from that which has been circulating up until now. They show, for example, a first major boom in carbon emissions already 2000 years before our era, corresponding to the expansion of civilizations in China and around the Mediterranean.

Certain historical events, almost invisible in the preceding models, show up strongly in the data produced by the scientists. A good example is the re-growth of the forests as a consequence of the fall of the Roman Empire. The Black Death, a plague which resulted in the death of more than a third of the European population, also led to a fall in carbon emissions.

See what I mean? The birth of civilization around the Mediterranean and in China is seen as leading to a “major boom in carbon emissions” whereas the fall of the Roman Empire is seen as a “good example” of how forests lead to carbon uptake. The black death, which wiped out around a third of the population of Europe is seen as having “led to a fall in carbon emissions”.

I’m not trying to imply that Dr Kaplan wants a massive die-off of humans to help combat global warming, far from it. What I am bemoaning, though, is the way that the deaths of millions and millions of human beings are discussed coldly and clinically solely in terms of their effect on carbon emissions. There is no mention of plague, collapse or genocide being a ‘tragedy’ or an ‘outrage’.

Can you imagine if, instead of ancient or medieval history, these studies were discussing the Nazi genocide in terms of Co2 emissions? Would it be acceptable? Of course not. Because you can’t reduce people to carbon emissions and discuss, with clinical detachment, the death of millions as leading to “a fall in carbon emissions”. Can you?

Source (See the original for links)

Arctic cold forces school closings in upstate NY

Albany-to-New York City rail service is scheduled to return to normal Tuesday after being suspended because of the arctic cold.

Amtrak shut down its Empire Service between New York City and Albany as a precaution Monday because some signals and switches were frozen. The Ethan Allen Express to Rutland, Vt., was also canceled. Trains to Montreal, Chicago and Toronto operated normally.

The Ethan Allen will run between Albany and New York City Tuesday, with buses carrying passengers between Albany and Rutland. And passengers on the route from Niagara Falls to New York should check for a schedule change involving one train.

The National Weather Service said early morning low temperatures reached double digits below zero across much of upstate New York.


Obama’s Green Economy Bag Men: Chief of Staff Bill Daley and GE CEO Jeff Immelt

The recent White House personnel shifts signal the kickoff of President Obama’s 2012 re-election bid. Of the many changes, the selection of Bill Daley as White House chief of staff and General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt as the head of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness are the most important because they will play a key fundraising role in the upcoming presidential campaign.

Choosing Daley and Immelt are not signs of political moderation by President Obama, as some have suggested, but is the stone cold political realization that the president needs big-business cash to fuel his 2012 campaign.

It’s been reported that Obama’s 2012 re-election bid will shatter the record $750 million in contributions collected during the 2008 campaign by reaching the billion dollar mark.

To raise that staggering amount of cash, Obama is going to need substantial support from corporate deep pockets. Big-business donors, such as CEOs, hedge fund managers and law firm partners typically are not ideologues seeking to advance a political philosophy but are pragmatists wanting to know how Obama’s policies can increase their influence, business strategies and wealth.

Translating Obama’s policy into business returns and campaign dollars will be job one for Daley. As a political and Wall Street insider, Daley has the contacts to make the sale but Obama’s rhetoric and policies has not endeared the president to the animal instincts of many big-business leaders.

There is, however, one policy that can galvanize the president’s fundraising base: Obama’s war on fossil fuels and his unyielding promotion of renewable energy and a green economy.

Billions of dollars invested in renewable energy are now in jeopardy because Congress did not pass Obama’s cap-and-trade plan, which would make energy derived from the burning of fossil fuels more expensive – or, as the president said, “skyrocket.” Because renewable energy can’t compete with the price and reliability of fossil fuels, the financial viability of these investments is dependent on government action to raise the cost of carbon-based energy.

At a recent policy forum at the Brookings Institution, GE CEO Jeff Immelt emphasized the importance of a government policy that would raise energy prices to spur renewable energy. According to Reuters, “On energy, Immelt said a clear U.S. policy making fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gasses more expensive is needed ‘to move the needle’ on accelerating advanced technology investments. ‘There has to be a price on carbon,’ he said.”

Daley and Immelt are the perfect team to appeal to other corporations that gambled on climate change fears and merge these interests with progressive activists, and the social and media elites to unleash the political donating frenzy for Obama’s re-election.

Before joining team Obama, Daley was the head of JPMorgan Chase's corporate social responsibility department, which developed a climate change policy that is hostile to carbon-based energy - coal, oil and natural gas. JPMorgan’s policy is “to advocate that the US government adopt a market-based national policy on greenhouse gas emissions, which includes all sources of emissions and is fair. Options include either a cap-and-trade or tax policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest possible cost.”

JPMorgan, like many other financial institutions, is banking on making money by trading carbon credits and by investing in renewable energy projects. GE and JPMorgan are not the only companies that have a business interest in seeking higher energy prices. Exelon, the Chicago-based utility, has taken a lead role in attacking coal-based electricity generation.

Exelon is a member of the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a cap-and-trade lobbying organization, and the company was a recipient of a $200 million grant from Obama's economic stimulus plan.

Daley also has ties to Exelon – he advised the company on its failed effort to buy Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. in 2004.

The failure of California Proposition 23 last November shows the fundraising potential behind the war on fossil fuels. A collection of left-wing philanthropists, activist groups and business interests contributed over $30 million to defeat the measure, which would have delayed implementation of a state law mandating a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions until unemployment rates drop to a specific level.

Green technology venture capitalists John Doerr and Vinod Khosla gave $2,100,000 and $1,037,267, respectively, and PG&E, a California utility and USCAP member, kicked in another $500,000.

Doerr’s involvement deserves special attention. Along with Immelt, Doerr is a member of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. He also is Al Gore’s business partner.

The campaign to defeat Prop 23 reveals the money behind the war on fossil fuels. With billions of dollars invested in a green economy, we can expect huge sums of special interest money to back Obama.

As the 2012 presidential election draws closer, we can expect to see Daley and Immelt playing a major role in selling Obama’s green economy to those dependent on legislative fixes to their business plans.

Let’s hope the fossil fuel industry recognizes Obama’s new team is not going to be a moderating voice in the White House. Rather, Daley and Immelt will be green economy bag men collecting cash to put them out of business.



Three current articles below

Another huge "Green" hit on the pocket of the taxpayer

SHORTLY before Christmas, federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson announced seven proposals were being assessed for two spots in the first round of subsidies for large-scale solar power.

Though dwarfed by the waste demonstrated in the $42 billion Building the Education Revolution, the government's Solar Flagship program aims to provide $1.5bn to assist in the creation of intrinsically uneconomic large-scale solar electricity generation.

Infigen, created out of the carcass of Babcock & Brown, has received preliminary approval from the NSW government for a 100 megawatt capacity solar farm at Nyngan in the northwest of NSW, the cost of which is $300 million.

The simple arithmetic on the investment costs, assuming an 11 per cent return on capital, suggests the project would require its output to be sold at a price of more than $240 per megawatt hour if it were to be viable. But $240 per MWh is more than eightfold the average spot market price in the 2010-11 year to date. So how can the proposal be contemplated?

Well, first, it will receive a subsidy of about $80m from the financially beleaguered NSW government. In a triumph of hope over experience, the Keneally government hopes the project will "contribute to the development of the utility scale renewable energy industry in NSW". An ambitious Victorian solar scheme sponsored by the previous Labor government was to create a new industry and 10,000 jobs, but was mugged by reality and abandoned, with considerable loss to its commercial sponsor.

Second, the Nyngan proposal aims to get another $100m courtesy of the taxpayer from the commonwealth government. To earn an adequate return on the $120m of private capital invested would still require a wholesale market price for electricity of $100 per MWh, compared with the prevailing $30 to $40 price. To bridge the gap, there are further subsidies paid by the consumer as a result of government regulations.

The first of these is the renewable energy requirement, which compels energy retailers to incorporate a rising proportion of uneconomic renewable energy into our electricity supply. Under present legislation this proportion will be 20 per cent by 2020. To meet the commitment, the retailer has to buy Renewable Energy Certificates, which represent electricity supply that is not derived from any commercial supply source such as large-scale hydro. The REC price is presently low due to the overfulfilment of rooftop solar systems (another subsidised renewable scam), but if the REC price rises to $55 per MWh, large-scale solar power systems would start to look profitable if they could sell their electricity at $45 per MWh.

This is feasible since, as a result of the government-created risk of a carbon tax, there is precious little investment in new electricity generation from commercial sources. The upshot is that prices must inevitably rise for electricity as a whole. If they rise from the present (somewhat depressed) level of $30 per MWh to $60 per MWh, this would provide a cushion and allow a large-scale solar plant to turn a profit. Hence, to convert a $300m sow's ear that would produce electricity for a cost that is eightfold its value into a silk purse requires four waves of the governmental magic wand:

* A NSW government grant of $80m.

* A commonwealth Solar Flagship grant of $100m.

* The subsidy from the "20 per cent by 2020 renewable energy" requirement, which doubles the venture's returns.

* And, bringing home the proposal's bacon, the government-created risk of a carbon tax, which prevents new commercial supplies being built and is likely to increase the ex-generator national electricity price by about 50 per cent ($20 to $30 per MWh).

Government regulations and subsidies therefore leverage an investment with a market value of $30m to one that can be profitable at a cost of $300m. The Solar Flagships scheme may not be the most extravagant piece of government expenditure, but the "mere" $1.5bn it is budgeted to squander in taxpayer resources serves to illustrate just how inured we have all become to misused government spending. Moreover, combined with other government distortions of the marketplace, the Solar Flagships scheme is destabilising the commerciality of the electricity supply industry.

As such, it is undermining what was arguably the world's most efficient electricity supply industry, bringing adverse consequences directly to the consumer and to industry competitiveness.


An embarrassing $150 million "clean coal" flop

Two Bligh Government bureaucrats went on a $30,000 round-the-world trip to tell the world Queensland's $150 million clean coal dream was in tatters. In a final "sayonara" for the Japanese-backed ZeroGen project, Department of Economic Development associate director-general Dan Hunt and Queensland Treasury official Lloyd Taylor embarked on the 10-day business-class jaunt in late-October across Japan and the United States.

The move came only weeks before The Sunday Mail revealed in December the government would give ZeroGen to the coal industry and can its proposed $4.3 billion clean coal power plant in central Queensland after taxpayers pumped $150 million into the initiative.

However, there are conflicting claims for the purpose of the trip to Tokyo, New York and Washington DC. Mr Hunt yesterday said the $30,285 trip satisfied government guidelines and was designed to brief technology vendors, including representatives from ZeroGen backer Mitsubishi, personnel of other investors and government officials.

"(The briefings were about the) Government's future investment strategy in low-emission coal technologies and its implication for the ZeroGen and Wandoan Power projects," he said.

However, former premier Peter Beattie wrote in a newspaper column on October 23 the trip was held to try to sell ZeroGen. "The Queensland Government is now selling this project," Mr Beattie wrote. "Dan Hunt and a key Treasury officer have been dispatched this past week to Japan and US to begin negotiations for ZeroGen's sale."

However, this is contradicted by a departmental annual report released at the time which shows the government had already written off its portion of the $150 million investment as a loss.

ZeroGen sources have told The Sunday Mail the Tokyo leg of the trip was essentially to say sorry after it was thought damage had been done to the relationship with the state's key trading partner. "They went there to apologise to the Japanese," a source said. "The government was so rude to them by stuffing them around over the past year before finally abandoning the project."


Green scheme in the red

TAXPAYERS are spending millions of dollars to subsidise the electricity bills of Cate Blanchett's Sydney Theatre Company and replace in-room fridges with "green" Eskies on Heron Island.

Designed to demonstrate solar power and save water, the Gillard Government has spent $15 million on the Green Precinct program at just a dozen "high profile" demonstration projects.

They include a grant of $1.2 million towards the Sydney Theatre Company's Greening The Wharf project that will reduce energy costs by just $100,000 a year. The total program cost is $5 million.

The cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is sky high under the scheme compared to the Government's failed bid to introduce an emissions trading scheme with a carbon price of around $30 a tonne. Based on the projected savings under the scheme, the Opposition estimates the Green Precincts Fund comes with an estimated price tag of $2022 per tonne of carbon dioxide saved.

Coalition spokesman on Scrutiny of Government, Jamie Briggs said: "If there is a more expensive way of delivering a government program this Labor Government will find it." "While Australians are wrestling with increased power bills, Labor is finding new ways to burn money."

First announced in the 2008 Federal Budget, the projects are designed to save 142 megalitres of water and 9 million kilowatt hours of energy.

The scheme has proven a winner for lucky recipients including the Sydney Theatre Company, whose general manager Patrick McIntyre confirmed he hoped to slash the company's $140,000-a-year electricity bill by 70 per cent.

The Department of Sustainability disputed the Coalition's calculations on the cost of the scheme in terms of the cost of carbon abatement per tonne, but was unable to provide its own estimate. A spokeswoman said, for example, if the Sydney Theatre Company saved 555 tonnes per year over 20 years, the cost per tonne would be $108 per tonne, not $2162.


* Sydney Theatre Company: For solar power and rainwater harvesting: $1.2 million (Expected to save $98,000 a year on power bills during next decade . total investment of $5 million)

* Wide Bay Water Corporation of Heron Island: To generate solar power and 'replace in-room refrigeration with coolers' at the Heron Island resort: $1.29 million

* Blue Mountains Sustainable Precinct: For rainwater harvesting and rooftop rain gardens: $1.5 million

* Perth's Shire of Peppermint Grove's Library Project: Rainwater harvesting, climate-sensitive building design, including thermal maze and double glazing: $1.5 million

* Essendon Football Club: $1.5 million

* Australian National University: $1 million



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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