Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Arctic Sea Ice Area Highest Since 2004

August 16 Arctic sea ice area is the highest in a decade, up 54% from two years ago, and within one standard deviation of the 1979-2014 mean.

Green shows ice gain since August 16, 2012. Red shows loss.


Uh oh: California solar plant fries thousands of birds in mid-flight

Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant’s concentrated sun rays — “streamers,” for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair.

Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one “streamer” every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator’s application to build a still-bigger version.

The investigators want the halt until the full extent of the deaths can be assessed. Estimates per year now range from a low of about a thousand by BrightSource to 28,000 by an expert for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group.

Jon Gabriel on the history of this plant with environmentalists and regulators:

"The facility has concerned environmentalists in the past, as its construction bladed over 3,500 acres of virgin desert. Being California, the state government required BrightSource to relocate a bunch of desert gopher tortoises to the tune of $22 million. The installation also endangers pilots flying the busy Los Angeles–Las Vegas corridor; they can be dazzled by the intense light.

It remains to be seen if regulators will stop the plant’s operation, but at least the world’s largest bug zapper should educate environmentalists and green energy boosters.

For too long, the public has been told that energy production is less a matter of physics than one of morality. Renewable energy like solar and wind are sold as “good” while reliable energy sources like oil and coal are “evil.” Methods like hydroelectric, nuclear and natural gas all were initially sold as clean and green, but became demonized the instant they turned a profit or revealed unintended consequences."

Between this and slaying bald eagles with impunity, green energy is literally killin’ it lately.


Is the SUN driving climate change? Solar activity - 'and not just humans' - could be increasing global warming, study claims

It's not just humans that are to blame for global warming - natural activity from the sun also has an impact on climate change.

This is according to a Swedish research team that has reconstructed the sun's activity at the end of the last ice age, around 20,000 to 10,000 years ago.

The study shows that the sun's variation influences the climate regardless of whether the climate is extreme, as it was during the Ice Age, or moderate, as it is today.

However the researchers do not say solar activity is the sole cause of the current warming of our planet, which most scientists agree is being accelerated by human activities.

The researchers from Lund University in Sweden came to their conclusion by analysing trace elements in ice cores in Greenland and cave formations from China.

Their research shows that the regional climate is influenced by the sun and offers opportunities to better predict future climate conditions in certain regions.

Dr Raimund Muscheler, lecturer in Quaternary Geology at Lund University and co-author of the study, told MailOnline that solar activity in the modern day was causing about 0.1 degrees of warming in the 11-year solar cycle.

'Bit it's quite debated how much it really contributed in the last 100 years, since solar activity increased a bit,' Dr Muscheler says.  'The long trend is debated, but most people don't think it's much more than 0.1 degrees.'

However, he warned that the sun was not the only factor in causing climate change.

'Climate skeptics like to say sun is causing more global warming than we think but I don’t think so.

'What our paper shows is we need to include all processes - greenhouses, the sun and so on, especially for local climates which is important of course.

During the last glacial maximum, Sweden was covered in a thick ice sheet that stretched all the way down to northern Germany and sea levels were more than 330ft (100m) lower than they are today, because the water was frozen in the extensive ice caps.

'The study shows an unexpected link between solar activity and climate change,' Dr Muscheler said in a press release.

'It shows both that changes in solar activity are nothing new and that solar activity influences the climate, especially on a regional level.

'Understanding these processes helps us to better forecast the climate in certain regions.'

Dr Joanna Haigh, Professor of Atmospheric Physics at Imperial College London, tells MailOnline that the research is interesting but people should not jump to any conclusions.

'This is a very nice careful piece of work which provides evidence from Greenland, over a period 10,000-25,000 years ago, consistent with a picture that has emerged from other studies looking at changes over more recent times,' she says.

'This shows that when the sun is less active winters are likely to be warmer in Greenland and colder in Northwest Europe.

'It is not easy to draw any conclusions from this work with regard to the sun’s role in global warming or the recent slowdown in warming of global air temperature.'

The sun’s impact on the climate is a matter of current debate.

There is still a lot of uncertainty as to how the sun affects the climate, but the study suggests that direct solar energy is not the most important factor, but rather it indirectly affects atmospheric circulation.

'Reduced solar activity could lead to colder winters in Northern Europe,' said Dr Muscheler.  'This is because the sun’s UV radiation affects the atmospheric circulation.

'Interestingly, the same processes lead to warmer winters in Greenland, with greater snowfall and more storms.

'The study also shows that the various solar processes need to be included in climate models in order to better predict future global and regional climate change.'


Is the post-EPA regs power grid ready for a truly hard winter?

During the dog days of summer (which haven’t been all that doggy in the Northeast this year) it’s not very popular to sit and speculate about the winter months ahead, but the people responsible for keeping the lights – and the heat – turned on have to do it. One of these folks is Joe Bastardi of WeatherBELL Analytics, and he’s looking ahead with some trepidation. Joe is reading the meteorological tea leaves and sees the potential for another round of heavy snowfall and crippling cold temperatures coming our way. And he also notes that our net energy production, in the wake of new EPA carbon regulations, is actually declining from the previous curve at a time when bad weather puts full load demand on the system. During an interview with Wall Street Journal Live, he voices some of these concerns.

Joe Bastardi: … It’s flowing along right now into the type of El Nino situation that is notorious for giving the United States cold, snowy winters, especially in the eastern part of the United States, relative to the averages. That would be significant because we were within one power plant last year of having the grid overload …

Question: This is sounding horrific. I know that in the first quarter, the weather was said to be to blame for the slow economic growth. Are we going to stop working, basically is what you’re saying?

Joe Bastardi: This year, if you get the kind of winter that we had in 2009-2010 or 2002-2003 with the nation’s grid on the ropes the way it is and some of these regulations that I hear about coming down that are supposed to close plants on January 1st – and what I know, because we’re involved in getting people ready to fight snow in cities around the country – this could be a very, very big economic impact on the winter. And we’re very concerned about that.
Do you recall those “polar vortex” weeks which were all the rage back in January and February? They may be coming back, and last time it happened the strain hit one of the nation’s major power distribution networks to the point where it almost gave up the ghost.

Last winter, bitterly cold weather placed massive stress on the US electrical system ― and the system almost broke. On January 7 in the midst of the polar vortex, PJM Interconnection, the Regional Transmission Organization serving the heart of America from New Jersey to Illinois, experienced a new all-time peak winter load of almost 142,000 megawatts.

Eight of the top ten of PJM’s all-time winter peaks occurred in January 2014. Heroic efforts by grid operators saved large parts of the nation’s heartland from blackouts during record-cold temperature days. Nicholas Akins, CEO of American Electric Power, stated in Congressional testimony, “This country did not just dodge a bullet ― we dodged a cannon ball.”

In order to comply with the new Obama era EPA regs, American Electric Power, which supplies a major portion of the electricity used on the east coast, will be closing almost one quarter of their coal fired plants between now and next June. This is because they were economically unable to come into compliance with the new regulations in the impossibly short window of opportunity offered by the EPA. This is going to reduce the total surge capacity available for some of our most densely populated areas just when we may get hit with weather related demand spikes beyond anyone’s control.

Having the power go out in the summer when you’re trying to run the air conditioning is bad enough. Losing heating when the temperatures head below zero for weeks on end is a recipe for disaster.


We can terraform Mars for the same cost as mitigating climate change. Which would you rather?

One frequently quoted study of the global costs of mitigating climate change put them at around $3 trillion by 2100, with the main benefits being felt between 2100 and 2200. Here is alternative way to spend around the same amount of money with around the same timescale of payback: terraforming Mars.

A standard estimate is that, for about $2-$3 trillion, in between 100 and 200 years we would be able to get Mars from its current "red planet" (dead planet) status to " blue planet" (i.e. a dense enough atmosphere and high enough temperature for Martian water in the poles and soil to melt, creating seas) – achievable in about 100 years – and from there to microbes and algae getting us to "green planet" status within 200 to 600 years.

There are two standard objections to such terraforming. First, it is said to be too expensive, altogether, to be plausible. Second, it is said to require too long a timescale to be plausible.  Both of these objections appear decisively answered by climate change policies and indeed energy policies in general. Between now and the 2035 alone, global investment in energy and energy efficiency (in many cases with a many-decades payback period) is estimated at about $40 trillion, of which $6 trillion is in renewables and $1 trillion in low-carbon nuclear. We are willing to spend many trillions on projects that could take over a century to come to fruition.

But in a century that red dot in the night sky could be transformed into a blue dot, and a couple of centuries later into a green dot. We know how. We just need to decide to do it.  If we decided to go for it, some of you reading this article could be alive to see that blue dot.

What an adventure that would be!  In the ancient world, humanity had poor knowledge of almost anywhere. The conquests of Alexander the Great are sometimes seen through the lens of his desire to stand on the shores of a legendary great ocean he had heard of, where the lands ended.  By the Mediaeval period we had the journey of Marco Polo and expeditions of Zheng He. Then the Portuguese got in with their effort to sail around Africa to India. Columbus sailed West and Magellan circumnavigated the Earth. In the 19th century Livingstone and Stanley explored Africa and as the 20th century began Amundsen discovered the North West Passage and went first to the South Pole and probably also the North. In the Fifties Hillary and Tenzing conquered Everest and in 1960 the Trieste reached the bottom of the Marianas Trench. Immediately humanity had conquered these last earthly adventures, we had the race to the Moon, reaching it in 1969.

And then… well, essentially we stopped.  Like late Roman Imperialists hedged in after the Teutoburg Forest, Western culture has decayed into decadent pleasures. Absent new discoveries or voyages to make, humanity's adventures are sex or thrill-seeking or drugs or, as the character Cuckoo puts in in the eponymous BBC3 series: "Would you like to know the longest journey I've ever taken? The journey into my mind….."

There are perhaps other great adventures humanity could pursue besides the terraforming of Mars. But that is a big and obvious one and one we believe we could indeed do – at a cost that is comparable to other policies we do in fact enact and over a timescale that we do currently consider relevant for other policies.

Furthermore, it is of a unifying nature. Frankly, if you had to choose between spending $2-$3 trillion on preventing the earth heating up more than 2-3 degrees over the next 150 years and spending it on making Mars into a blue planet where algae and bacteria and plants could grow, who is seriously going to choose the former?


Trampling on Coal Country Families


Between 1989 and 2010, Congress rejected nearly 700 cap-tax-and-trade and similar bills that their proponents claimed would control Earth's perpetually fickle climate and weather. So even as real world crises erupt, President Obama is using executive fiats and regulations to impose his anti-hydrocarbon agenda, slash America's fossil fuel use, bankrupt coal and utility companies, make electricity prices skyrocket, and "fundamentally transform" our economic, social, legal and constitutional system.

Citing climate concerns, he has refused to permit construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and blocked or delayed Alaskan, western state and offshore oil and gas leasing and drilling. He's proud that US oil production has climbed 58% and natural gas output has risen 21% since 2008. But he doesn't mention that this is due to hydraulic fracturing on state and private lands; production has actually fallen in areas controlled by the federal government, and radical environmentalists oppose fracking all over the USA.

Above all, the President's war on hydrocarbons is a war on Coal Country families. For 21 states that still rely on coal to produce 40-96% of their electricity, it is a war on people's livelihoods and living standards - on the very survival of small businesses and entire communities. The price of electricity has already risen 1-2 cents per kilowatt-hour in those states, from as little as 5.6 cents/kWh in 2009. If it soars to the 14.6 to 15.7 cents/kWh paid in "job-mecca states" like California and New York - which rely on coal for less than 3% of their electricity - the impacts will churn through coal-dependant states like a tsunami.

Yet that is where rates are headed, as the Obama EPA's carbon dioxide and other restrictions kick in. Hundreds of baseload coal-fired power plants (some 180 gigawatts of electric generation capacity) will be forced into premature retirement between 2010 and 2020. That's more than 15% of the United States' total installed capacity - enough electricity to power nearly 90 million average homes or small businesses. EPA assumes it can be replaced by expensive, unreliable, habitat-gobbling wind and solar power. It can't.

EPA rules mean the price of everything people do will skyrocket: heating and air conditioning, lights and refrigeration, televisions, computers, medical equipment, machinery and every other gizmo that runs on electricity. Poor, minority and blue-collar families will have to find hundreds of dollars a year somewhere in their already stretched budgets. Shops and other small businesses will have to discover thousands of dollars, by delaying other purchases or laying people off. Factories, malls, school districts, hospitals and cities will have to send out search parties to locate millions a year at the end of rainbows.

Millions will get laid off - in coal mines, power plants, factories, shops and other businesses. Entire families and communities will be pounded and impoverished. Real people's hopes, dreams, pride and work ethic will be replaced by despair and dependency. Bread winners will be forced to work multiple jobs, commute longer distances, and suffer severe sleep deprivation, if they can find work.

Families will have to cope with more stress, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, spousal and child abuse. Nutrition and medical care will suffer. More people will turn to crime. More will have strokes and heart attacks. More will die prematurely or commit suicide. For no measurable benefits.

EPA cites mercury, soot, asthma, climate change, hurricanes, seas rising seven inches a century, and even ocean acidification to justify the draconian rules. But the scientific basis is bogus.

The agency cherry-picks data and studies that support its agenda, ignores libraries of contradictory research, rejects experts whose analyses question EPA conclusions, pays advisors and activists millions of dollars annually to rubberstamp and promote its regulations, and hides its work from those it decrees "are not qualified to analyze it." The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change operates in much the same fashion.

Moreover, unhealthy US emissions plunged nearly 90% since 1970, even as coal use for electricity generation increased 170% - and the newest coal-fired power plants reduce pollution by almost this amount, using "supercritical" technologies, while also reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20% or more, according the EPA and US Energy Information Administration reports.

Meanwhile, China, India, Germany, Poland and other countries are building some 1,200 new coal-fired power plants, and numerous gas plants, to spur economic growth, preserve jobs and lift people out of poverty. So the sacrifices Mr. Obama is imposing will do nothing to reduce global CO2 levels, which the evidence increasingly shows plays only a minor to trivial role in climate and weather fluctuations.

It's true that Detroit temperatures didn't dip below freezing in January and February in'79 - followed by a frost in June. But that was 1879! When he was a boy, "snows were frequent and deep in every winter," Thomas Jefferson recalled in December 1809. "The Greenland seas, hitherto covered [in ice], have in the last two years entirely disappeared," Britain's Royal Society reported ... in 1817. "We were astonished by the total absence of ice in Barrow Strait. [Six years ago the area was] still frozen up, and doubts were entertained as to the possibility of escape," Captain Francis McClintock wrote in his ship's log - in 1860.

And don't forget the Medieval Warm Period, Little Ice Age, and the five frigid epochs that buried North America, Europe and Asia under glaciers a mile thick. Or the 4,000-year-old trees that recently emerged as modern glaciers melted back - proving that a forest grew in the now icy Alps just four millennia ago.

On and on it has gone, throughout Earth and human history: wild weather and climate swings on a recurring basis. But now, climate chaos cultists want us to believe such events began only recently, and we could stop today's climate and weather aberrations - if we would just eliminate fossil fuels, destroy our economies, and condemn Third World families to permanent poverty and disease.

The truth is, only once in all of human history was a government able to control Earth's climate, to make it "perfect all year," and it is highly unlikely that we will ever return to those wondrous days.

So how do the EPA, IPCC, Michael Mann, Al Gore and other Climate Armageddonites deal with all these inconvenient truths, questions and skeptical researchers?

They hide their data and computer codes. Complain that they are being picked on. Refuse to debate "dangerous manmade global warming" skeptics. Harass and vilify contrarian experts, and boot them off university committees. Refuse to attend conferences where they might have to defend their manipulated data, junk science and absurd assertions. Al Gore won't even take questions that he has not preapproved.

They have no cojones. They hide behind their sinecures the way Hamas terrorists hide behind children.

EPA won't even hold hearings in Coal Country or states that will be hardest hit by soaring electricity costs. It hosts dog-and-pony shows and "listening sessions" in big cities like Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, DC and Pittsburgh - where it knows passionate lefty students and eco-activists will dominate. People who will be grievously impacted by the draconian job-killing regulations must travel long distances and pay for expensive hotels and meals ... or remain silent and ignored.

That stacks the deck - the same way the "public comment" process is tilted in favor of ultra-rich Big Green agitators who have the funding and organization to generate thousands or millions of comments.

We taxpayers pay for these studies, payoffs and propaganda. And we will get stuck with the regulations, soaring prices and lost jobs that result. We have a right to review and analyze the data and claims. We have a right to be heard, in a fair and honest process that truly takes our concerns into account.

The House of Representatives should hold hearings, forcing callous bureaucrats, slick scientists and computer modeling charlatans to present their data, codes and findings under oath. States should sue EPA for violating the Information Quality Act.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  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 or here


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