Friday, October 26, 2012

Mega pesky!  New study finds growth of Antarctic sea ice accelerated 53% since 2006

Evidence that there is nothing GLOBAL about the ice changes.  One might give it a pass if the changes at the two poles were at slightly different rates but large-scale OPPOSITE changes are a different matter. And the cooling is definitely NOT what the Warmists  predicted.  They predicted drastic warming in the Antarctic.  Another failed prophecy.  There is NO evidence that the Arctic changes are part of something global and every indication that they are purely local in origin

The steady and dramatic decline in the sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean over the last three decades has become a focus of media and public attention. At the opposite end of Earth, however, something more complex is happening.

A new NASA study shows that from 1978 to 2010 the total extent of sea ice surrounding Antarctica in the Southern Ocean grew by roughly 6,600 square miles every year, an area larger than the state of Connecticut. And previous research by the same authors indicates that this rate of increase has recently accelerated, up from an average rate of almost 4,300 square miles per year from 1978 to 2006. [an increase of 53%/year between 1978-2010 vs. 1978-2006 rate]

"There's been an overall increase in the sea ice cover in the Antarctic, which is the opposite of what is happening in the Arctic," said lead author Claire Parkinson, a climate scientist with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "However, this growth rate is not nearly as large as the decrease in the Arctic."

Earth's poles have very different geographies. The Arctic Ocean is surrounded by North America, Greenland and Eurasia. These large landmasses trap most of the sea ice, which builds up and retreats with each yearly freeze-and-melt cycle. But a large fraction of the older, thicker Arctic sea ice has disappeared over the last three decades. The shrinking summer ice cover has exposed dark ocean water that absorbs sunlight and warms up, leading to more ice loss.

On the opposite side of the planet, Antarctica is a continent circled by open waters that let sea ice expand during the winter but also offer less shelter during the melt season. Most of the Southern Ocean's frozen cover grows and retreats every year, leading to little perennial sea ice in Antarctica.

Using passive-microwave data from NASA's Nimbus 7 satellite and several Department of Defense meteorological satellites, Parkinson and colleague Don Cavalieri showed that sea ice changes were not uniform around Antarctica. Most of the growth from 1978 to 2010 occurred in the Ross Sea, which gained a little under 5,300 square miles of sea ice per year, with more modest increases in the Weddell Sea and Indian Ocean. At the same time, the region of the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas lost an average of about 3,200 square miles of ice every year.

Parkinson and Cavalieri said that the mixed pattern of ice growth and ice loss around the Southern Ocean could be due to changes in atmospheric circulation. Recent research points at the depleted ozone layer over Antarctica as a possible culprit. Ozone absorbs solar energy, so a lower concentration of this molecule can lead to a cooling of the stratosphere (the layer between six and 30 miles above Earth's surface) over Antarctica. At the same time, the temperate latitudes have been warming, and the differential in temperatures has strengthened the circumpolar winds flowing over the Ross Ice Shelf.

"Winds off the Ross Ice Shelf are getting stronger and stronger, and that causes the sea ice to be pushed off the coast, which generates areas of open water, polynyas," said Josefino Comiso, a senior scientist at NASA Goddard. "The larger the coastal polynya, the more ice it produces, because in polynyas the water is in direct contact with the very cold winter atmosphere and rapidly freezes." As the wind keeps blowing, the ice expands further to the north.

This year's winter Antarctic sea ice maximum extent, reached two weeks after the Arctic Ocean's ice cap experienced an all-time summertime low, was a record high for the satellite era of 7.49 million square miles, about 193,000 square miles more than its average maximum extent for the last three decades.

The Antarctic minimum extents, which are reached in the midst of the Antarctic summer, in February, have also slightly increased to 1.33 million square miles in 2012, or around 251,000 square miles more than the average minimum extent since 1979.

The numbers for the southernmost ocean, however, pale in comparison with the rates at which the Arctic has been losing sea ice -- the extent of the ice cover of the Arctic Ocean in September 2012 was 1.32 million square miles below the average September extent from 1979 to 2000. The lost ice area is euivalent to roughly two Alaskas.

Parkinson said that the fact that some areas of the Southern Ocean are cooling and producing more sea ice does not disprove a warming climate.

"Climate does not change uniformly: The Earth is very large and the expectation definitely would be that there would be different changes in different regions of the world," Parkinson said. "That's true even if overall the system is warming." Another recent NASA study showed that Antarctic sea ice slightly thinned from 2003 to 2008, but increases in the extent of the ice balanced the loss in thickness and led to an overall volume gain.
The new research, which used laser altimetry data from the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), was the first to estimate sea ice thickness for the entire Southern Ocean from space.

Records of Antarctic sea ice thickness are much patchier than those of the Arctic, due to the logistical challenges of taking regular measurements in the fierce and frigid waters around Antarctica. The field data collection is mostly limited to research icebreakers that generally only travel there during spring and summer -- so the sole means to get large-scale thickness measurements is from space.

"We have a good handle of the extent of the Antarctic sea ice, but the thickness has been the missing piece to monitor the sea ice mass balance," said Thorsten Markus, one of the authors of the study and Project Scientist for ICESat-2, a satellite mission designed to replace the now defunct ICESat. ICESat-2 is scheduled to launch in 2016. "The extent can be greater, but if the sea ice gets thinner, the volume could stay the same."


Lies, Damn Lies And Green Statistics

Almost all predictions about the expansion and cost of German wind turbines and solar panels have turned out to be wrong – at least by a factor of two, sometimes by a factor of five

When Germany’s power grid operator announced the exact amount of next year’s green energy levy on Monday, it came as a shock to the country. The cost burden for consumers and industry have reached a “barely tolerable level that threatens the de-industrialization of Germany”, outraged business organisations said.

Since then politicians, business representatives and green energy supporters have been arguing about who is to blame for the “electricity price hammer”. After all, did not Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) promise that green energy subsidies would not be more than 3.6 cents per kilowatt hour?  How could Merkel be so wrong?

Now, however, the cost burden is rising by 50 percent – to 5.3 cents per kilowatt hour. German citizens have to support renewable energy by more than EUR 20 billion – instead of 14 billion Euros. How could Merkel be so wrong?

Finding an answer to this question is crucial for the progress and success of the green energy transition. Only then the Federal Government would ever get a grip on its most important mega-project.

A review of the green energy transition’s planning data is revealing. It turns out that almost all predictions about the expected additional expansion of wind turbines and solar panels were dramatically wrong, at least by a factor of two, sometimes by a factor of five.

However, if there was one thing which was even less accurate than the prediction of the tempo of expansion it was the estimates of the associated costs of this expansion.

Renewable energy has been completely miscalculated

Already three years ago, the Renewable Energy Agency examined more than 50 studies on the development of renewable energy sources to see if their predictions had come true. The results were devastating: All of Germany’s top research institutes, from the Prognos Institute, the Fraunhofer Institute and the Institute for Aerospace (DLR) to the Wuppertal Institute, had completely underestimated the expected contribution of renewable energy.

A Prognos study in 1998, for example, estimated that solar panels would provide 0.44 TWh electricity in 2020. In reality, photovoltaic supplied ten times as much in 2008.

In 2005, in a study for the Federal Economics Ministry, Prognos Institute forecasted the level of green energy generation for the year 2030. In reality, the level was reached in 2007, just two years after the publication of the study.

“Renewable energy must not be systematically miscalculated,” the former head of the Agency for Renewable Energies, Jörg Mayer, commented the findings of the report: “Major energy policy decisions depend on predictions.”

Green electricity levy was promised to cost just one Euro

The leader of the Green Party, Jürgen Trittin, proclaimed in 2004 that Germany’s green electricity law (EEG) would cost each household “only about one Euro per month – as much as a scoop of ice cream.” As Federal Minister of the Environment, Trittin then pursued the expansion of the most expensive green energy technologies such as solar photovoltaic and offshore wind power without any hesitation.

Given the poor quality of forecasting delivered by Germany’s research institutions, it was an almost forgivable mistake. In reality, the monthly EEG costs per household have increased almost twenty-fold compared to the amount proclaimed by Trittin.

Trittin’s successor, Sigmar Gabriel (Social Democrats, SPD), should have become suspicious, however. His ministry always relied on so-called reference scenarios produced by the German Institute for Aerospace (DLR) and an engineering firm: year after year they predicted a decrease in the number of the expensive solar panels in Germany – and were thus far removed from reality.

Sending out the wrong message

For 2007, the “reference scenario” expected an additional construction of 600 MW of solar panels in Germany. In reality, it was 1,270 MW – twice as much. And in 2010 7,400 MW of solar panels were installed; six times as much as estimated in the reference scenario used by the environment minister.

The message that politicians of all parties got from the studies by the ministry of the environment was as clear as it was wrong: the cost of solar subsidies are negligible, photovoltaics would remain a niche technology. Today, however, the hangover is hurting: Already, the subsidies for solar power alone add up to 110 billion Euros. They will have to be paid by consumers in the next 20 years.

In 2009, the Association of Renewable Energy (BEE) published a reassuring prognosis: “The delivery volume of electricity generated by renewable energy will decrease after 2013.” The statement was accompanied by statistics that suggested subsidies of 5.6 billion Euros in 2013. Another great error: In fact, with 20.36 billion Euros the figure was almost four times higher in 2012.

The environment minister’s secret

When it comes to the green energy costs per household, the stakeholders of the eco-industry also promised the consumers the earth: households would only be charged 1.4 cents per kilowatt hour in 2013 – a figure, which would decrease steadily thereafter and would amount to 6 cents in 2020. The reality shows a different picture: in 2013, consumers will be charged four times of what they had been promised by the green lobby.

After the most recent EEG price shock, Federal Environment Minister Peter Altmaier (Christian Democrat, CDU) announced a reform of the green electricity levy. The fixed feed-in tariffs may be abolished, the minister said in a ten-point paper: in return, the green electricity target for 2020 may be raised from 35 percent to 40 percent.

Given that all green energy forecasts have been off the mark by hundreds of percentage points after just three years it is unclear where the minister gets his confidence to believe that he will succeed.


Energy sources abundant

We've been told the world is running out of sources of energy, and we've been preached to about renewables and made to spend vast sums on them.

The oil, we are told, is running out, and they talk of 'peak oil.'  There are vast reserves of coal, but it pollutes more than we want, so the talk turns to renewables.  Biofuel from food grains lacks all sense or reason.  The farmers loved it, of course, and so probably did the politicians who collected their votes.  Poorer people who had to compete with Chelsea tractors for cheap food were less pleased.

Wind farms have blighted our areas of natural beauty, are very expensive, and may not even contribute to environmental quality when their whole life pollution, including construction, is factored in.  Moreover there has to be back-up power for when winds prove unreliable.

Renewables are jacking up the fuel bills that customers complain of, despite their tiny contribution to total energy supply.  The big change to the equation has been the natural gas revolution, with hydraulic fracturing technology giving us access to reserves we knew about but could not previously tap.  We now have many decades, maybe hundreds of years, of reserve supplies.  And those reserves are not in politically sensitive or unstable areas.

Gas does emit carbon, but half that of the coal-fired power stations it can replace.  It is what will fuel our power stations.  It can even substitute for oil in transport if we move to electric vehicles using gas-generated electricity.  It is a fossil fuel, of course, but not in short supply.

Coming close on its heels is photo-voltaic power, with the price of the cells subject to a kind of Moore's Law that sees the prices tumbling steadily over the years.  Technology has thus already shown us the solution to the energy shortage.  Environmentalists oppose this solution, of course, because it does not necessitate the behavioural changes that they seek.

Note that a US coal-fired plant converts only about 33% of the potential energy to power.  An incandescent light-bulb is only about 3% efficient.  This makes coal to incandescent light only 1% efficient.  By contrast an LED powered by gas-generated electricity is 20% efficient – twenty times as much.  Technology like this is solving the problem.


Some food realities

We are told there won't be enough food for our increasing numbers, and that millions in poorer countries will starve.  In fact this will almost certainly not happen, and the world's future food supply is a source of optimism.

It was Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) who popularized this view in "An Essay on the Principle of Population." He stated that agricultural output increases in a linear (arithmetic) way, but that population does so in an exponential (geometric) way.  This means that large numbers must starve.

The Malthus view has not been borne out by events.  Our ability to use technology to increase food production has enabled food output to keep pace with population, even with the explosive growth of the 20th Century.  The use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides has boosted production per acre in ways he could not imagine.

The Green Revolution between the late 1940s and the 1970s, led by Norman Borlaug, saw the development of high-yield crop varieties, plus changes in agricultural infrastructure, and is reckoned to have saved more than a billion people from starvation.

A second Green Revolution is coming about based on genetic modification.  Desirable traits can be crossed between species, enabling plants to be bred that can overcome many of the limits of traditional agriculture.  Plants have already been developed to resist herbicides so that weeds can be killed without affecting food crops.  Even more exciting is the research under way to develop crop strains that will resist pests themselves without needing chemical assistance.

Researchers are developing crops that will thrive on marginal land, that can resist drought and temperature extremes, and that are saline tolerant.  This will open up to agriculture huge areas of land not presently suitable for crops.  Varieties are being produced that can fix atmospheric nitrogen and fertilize themselves in the way that legumes do.  Others are under way that incorporate vitamins to supplement unbalanced diets and reduce the health risks caused.

Yet more research is being done to create varieties that yield more food and less waste, enabling greater output per acre.  We will not need to cut down rainforests.  Our future food production should easily outpace the population increase, overturning the Malthusian pessimism.

Environmentalists whose agenda is behaviour change have raised scare campaigns over GM foods, yet GM crops have been in widespread use now for many years without adverse effects.  Far from posing a hazard to our future well-being, they stand to make a huge and positive contribution to it.


Shale phobia looking costly for Europe

Cheaper natural gas prices in the U.S. could spell trouble for European chemical companies, as their rivals across the Atlantic benefit from lower costs.

The U.S. shale-gas revolution has made natural gas roughly three times cheaper there than in Europe, and the U.S. chemical industry is reaping the benefits through cheaper energy and feedstock, leaving the European sector under the threat of increased competition.

"Production costs with shale gas are lower than anything we can achieve in the short term in Europe," said Harald Schwager, a member of the board of executive directors at German chemical giant BASF SE BAS.XE +0.83% . The rise in U.S. competition will first be palpable on highly energy-intensive products, but in the long term there is a risk that the whole supply chain will be hit, Mr. Schwager added.

The challenge comes as Europe is making key, strategic choices about its energy future, and dependence on natural gas, which is mainly imported, is likely to increase. Some countries—including Germany, its largest economy—have decided to phase out nuclear power and governments are being pressed to cut back in public funds for renewables to shore up budget deficits.

But Europe is divided on the development of its own shale gas potential: the likes of France and Bulgaria are opposed to it while Poland and others are keen to exploit it, mainly to reduce their dependence on Russian natural-gas imports.

Chemical plants have traditionally been built close to the markets for their products, as feedstock could be fetched from different parts of the world and investment in the region was considered safer than in other countries. But the energy price differential could alter that dynamic, especially as it hits an industry that is already facing sluggish demand in Europe due to the economic crisis.

"The threat is that the [U.S.] chemical industry attracts more investment and that goes to the expense of the EU industry," said Wim Hoste, an analyst specializing in chemical companies at KBC Securities in Brussels.

Companies are unlikely to decommission plants in Europe just to move them elsewhere given the high cost involved. But as production sites grow older and new demand emerges elsewhere, companies could consider producing in the U.S. and exporting to Europe.


British energy policy in a muddle

Next month, the coalition government in Britain intends to publish its new energy bill. The coalition partners, however, are increasingly at odds over the direction of the United Kingdom's energy policy. In view of growing antagonism, it remains unclear whether the bill can be salvaged or whether the increasing friction will lead to its delay.

Last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron bewildered MPs when he announced that energy suppliers would be forced by law to put customers on their cheapest energy tariffs. Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, contradicted the PM declaring that the government's new energy legislation would actually introduce something quite different to bring down energy costs - increased market competition. No wonder that the government's approach to energy legislation appears increasingly confused and frenzied.

Energy policy is one of the main economic battle grounds between the government's coalition partners. On energy policy, the Treasury has been increasingly at odds with the Department of Energy and Climate Change. This conflict has been growing between the Treasury and DECC ever since Chancellor George Osborne promised an end to Britain's unilateral decarbonisation targets.

The Chancellor has sent a clear signal that the government's ambition to restore the UK economy to health is overriding its desire to be the greenest government. He is adamant that the UK should no longer place too much emphasis on renewable energy and should adopt a new dash for gas. Cameron's recent reshuffle has certainly helped to pave the way for a new gas policy while Owen Paterson, the new Environment Secretary, has been widely reported to favour the rapid exploitation of shale gas. Yet, Davey is trying hard to safeguard the future of renewable energy subsidies.

In July, Osborne wrote to Ed Davey warning him that renewable energy was too expensive and that Britain should advance gas-fired electricity generation instead. Osborne stressed that the government "need to set out an approach which puts costs to consumers at the heart - we should be limiting support for low-carbon generation to a level the country can afford".

The DECC, on the other hand, has based the case for expanding green – and more expensive – energy in large part on their assumption that gas prices will inescapably rise in the future. This argument is no longer credible in the light of the growing international abundance of shale gas, not to mention the likely shale gas potential in Britain itself.

It will be interesting to see whether the coalition government will be able to overcome these conflicting and contradictory policy approaches in coming weeks. Davey claims the ultimate intention of the energy bill, expected to be published in November, was to "move from price setting by ministers to price discover by market". However, the draft energy bill - released earlier this year - was just as confused and inconsistent as Cameron's latest intervention. Unless these incongruities are disentangled and resolved, the energy bill will not provide investors with the certainty they require to make substantial investments.

This lack of clarity would inevitably lead to constant government amendments and continual intervention, further bewildering the energy sector. It is doubtful that an energy bill fudge would actually be workable, let alone economically viable. There is a growing risk that it will prove to be highly unpopular as the costs of these measures are likely to further inflate energy bills artificially. In this case, the crisis of energy policy making could quickly turn into a veritable government fiasco.




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here and here


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