Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hurricane Irma and the Dubious Climate Change Link

This weekend, Floridians will be bracing for another tropical impact just weeks after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas as a Category 4 storm. This week, Hurricane Irma solidified itself as the strongest hurricane to develop in the Atlantic (important note: this excludes the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean). At one point, the storm exhibited 185 m.p.h. sustained winds — easily Category 5 strength — and provided stunning satellite imagery of a structure more reminiscent of a Pacific super typhoon (ironically, the typically busy Pacific is currently without a single named storm). As of this writing, south Florida appears to be the virtually certain landfall destination, but several states over the South will feel its effects.

To be clear, this is a dangerous weather pattern right now, and it demands the appropriate media coverage and preparation. Which is to say: If you're in the path, leave. Sadly, though, this also means more climate hyperbole and sensationalism. Those under the impression that this late summer's hurricane frenzy is unimaginable should think again. One reason it may seem so is because the U.S. has become accustomed to a fairly remarkable lull in strong landfalling hurricanes. Moreover, it's September — the peak of the hurricane season. If strong hurricanes are going to develop in rapid succession, this is naturally when you would most expect to see them.

Let's juxtapose the current time period with the mid 1900s. Patriot Post contributor and meteorologist Joe Bastardi — who, by the way, worries that Irma hasn't yet achieved its maximum intensity — addressed the question in a May column, "Is This Really the Worst Time Ever?" In the 1930s, eight major hurricanes (major is defined as Category 3 or higher) hit the U.S. From the 1940s up until 1960, a whopping 19 additional major storms made landfall over the U.S. Tally it all up, and over the span of just 28 years, 27 major hurricanes struck the U.S. Some of those storms went on to make multiple landfalls as a major hurricane. For example, Donna, in 1960, hit the U.S. three times as a Category 3 or higher. Florida was the predominant target in the '40s. Consider how a repeat of the 1930s-1950s would be interpreted today.

We already have a clue: Irma — because of its strength — is being blamed on climate change. For example, Bloomberg, under the headline "Hurricane Irma Made Worse by Climate Change, Scientists Say," claims: "Climate change didn't cause Hurricane Irma, the most powerful storm to form in the open Atlantic Ocean, but did make it much stronger, scientists in Germany and the U.K. said." And climate blowhard Bill "The Science Lie" Nye added, "It's the strength that is almost certainly associated with global warming."

Perhaps then he'd like to explain why the U.S. went 12 years between major hurricane strikes? Was that also the result of climate change, or is it more accurately described as a cyclical outcome? As the Cato Institute's Ross McKitrick writes in the Washington Examiner, the climate-link rhetoric unscrupulously allows scientists to have their cake and eat it too. "The climate alarmists offer a vague prediction: Hurricanes may or may not happen in any particular year, but when they do, they will be more intense than they would have been if GHG [greenhouse gas] levels were lower," McKitrick notes. "This is a convenient prediction to make because we can never test it. It requires observing the behaviour of imaginary storms in an unobservable world. Good luck collecting the data."

Importantly, McKitrick adds, "Science needs to be concerned not only with conspicuous things that happened, but with things that conspicuously didn't happen. Like the famous dog in the Sherlock Holmes story, the bark that doesn't happen can be the most important of all." In the days ahead, there will be heart-wrenching stories as Irma traverses the lower East Coast. But keep in mind, "You're also talking about 2 of the most flood-prone cities in the U.S. — Miami & Charleston," observes meteorologist Eric Fisher. "Both flood during full moons let alone storms." Hurricanes, like any other weather event, require context.

Climate records show not just similarly major hurricanes but an onslaught of them. The world is also much different today: bigger buildings and populations, as well as better technology and communication. And for the most part that's a good thing. As Danish statistician and author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" Bjorn Lomborg writes, "Because we're much richer and better protected, death rates from hurricanes in the US have declined dramatically. Even the 1800+ terrible deaths from Katrina in 2005 constitute more of an average hurricane risk in the early part of last century."

Unfortunately, these tools also give climate extortionists the perfect storm to spread climate rhetoric that erroneously links man-made emissions to tropical systems. Even most scientific establishments that adhere to man-made global warmism are hesitant to make that leap. Keep this in mind as you pray for and aid our beleaguered fellow Americans over the coming days.


Nuclear Plants Power Texans During Deluge – Wind Turbines Automatically Shut Down During Hurricane Harvey

Texans have been in the news for all the wrong reasons, over the last week or so.

Hurricane Harvey belted the Texan coast with 130 mph (209 kph) winds and delivered a deluge of biblical proportions.

For some time now, Texas has been the pinup girl for American wind worshippers. With some 21,000 MW of nominal capacity spread over 40 projects, like everything in Texas, wind power is ‘big’.

Except, of course, when the weather turns nasty.

Modern industrial wind turbines do not operate when wind speeds hit around 25 m/s (90kph or 55mph) – Hurricane Harvey dished up a gale double that speed, and more.

In order to prevent their catastrophic disintegration, Texas’s turbines downed tools, en masse, (as they are deliberately designed to do) leaving the critical work of providing power to storm battered Texans to its fleet of nuclear power plants.


Ivory Coast cocoa output hits record 2 mln tonnes

Remember when global warming was going to wipe out the cocoa crop and cause a shortage of chocolate?

Ivory Coast has brought in a record cocoa crop of 2 million tonnes of beans with three weeks still left in the 2016/17 season, the top producer’s President Alassane Ouattara said on Wednesday.

The figure is higher than Reuters’ most recent exporter estimate, which placed this season’s port arrivals at 1,966,000 tonnes by Sept. 3, up nearly 35 percent compared to the same period of the previous crop.

“From 2012 to 2016 we have averaged economic growth of 9 percent thanks to our agricultural sector,” Ouattara said in a speech to an international agriculture conference in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

He also said production in neighbouring Ghana, the world’s number two grower, had reached 1 million tonnes this season, on par with its 2010/11 record crop.

World cocoa prices have plunged this year as bumper crops in most major producer countries created a supply glut. The International Cocoa Organization forecasts a global surplus of 371,000 tonnes this season.

Ivory Coast and Ghana have held joint meetings aimed at harmonising cocoa production and marketing in an attempt to boost their influence over the New York and London markets.


EPA Workforce Approaching Lowest Levels Since Reagan

The Environmental Protection Agency will soon employ the lowest number of workers since the Ronald Reagan administration.

Hundreds of employees have accepted buyouts and taken early retirement since President Donald Trump's inauguration, according to an EPA official.

Congress put a cap on the number of people the EPA can employ at 15,000 in the 2017 omnibus bill. By the end of September, the EPA will employ 14,459 people, with dozens still considering buyout offers.

Last month, 374 employees took buyouts. An additional 33 employees are retiring at the end of September, and 45 others are considering early retirement offers.

If half of those individuals also choose to leave the agency, EPA employment levels would fall below 14,440. The last time EPA was at an actual employment level of 14,440 was in 1988, when Ronald Reagan was president. The number of employees at EPA fell even lower in 1989, before peaking at 18,110 in 1999.

Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, said the agency is dedicated to shrinking the size of government. The Trump administration's goal is to cut the EPA workforce by 25 percent.

"We're giving long-serving, hard-working employees the opportunity to retire early," Pruitt said. "We're proud to report that we're reducing the size of government, protecting taxpayer dollars, and staying true to our core mission of protecting the environment and American jobs."

The agency could shrink even more, as 20.17 percent of the EPA's employees are eligible to retire right now, according to the EPA's Resources Management Office.

Another 25 percent can retire in the next five years with full benefits, according to the EPA official.

The EPA has two buyout programs, VSIP and VERA, which give employees cash payments to incentivize early retirement. Maximum payments are typically $25,000 for employees who are over 50 and have worked at the agency for at least 20 years. The average EPA employee makes $113,820.

Several employees who have claimed they are retiring in protest of the new Republican administration, have been eligible for early retirement.

In one case, Elizabeth Southerland, the former director of the Office of Science and Technology in EPA's Office of Water, said she was quitting on principle over President Trump's budget request to reduce the agency's spending to $5.7 billion.

Southerland, who earned a $250,000 salary with a $64,000 bonus, was eligible for early retirement, and made her protest two months after the budget was released.

The NTK Network obtained an email from Southerland where she said she was retiring because of family issues, not because of Trump, Pruitt, or the budget proposal.


Coal revival in Australia

Federal government frantic to keep its remaining coal generators going

Support is hardening in the federal Coalition for coal-fired power to have a medium-term role in Australia's electricity market, with some MPs suggesting a "base-load investment scheme" to upgrade and extend the life of coal plants and operate alongside a future Clean Energy Target.

But the Liddell power station at the centre of the political fight over energy is operating at below half its rated capacity, and would present "mammoth problems" for any company seeking to extend its life, according to a former senior Macquarie Generation engineer.

The retired senior engineer, who worked at the neighbouring coal-fired Bayswater plant and had frequent discussions with his counterparts at Liddell, said Liddell was known "to have massive problems".

"It's just never been a good plant," the man, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. "It's never been reliable."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is due to meet AGL chief executive Andy Vesey on Monday to discuss the company's plans to close its Liddell power plant in 2022. The Australian Market Energy Operator said earlier this week Victoria and South Australia could face electricity supply shortfalls as early as this summer, while NSW could endure a similar squeeze after Liddell shuts.

The federal government has not ruled out taking a partial stake in the Liddell plant as a last resort to maintain the plant, but believes it is likely a private sector buyer, such as Delta Electricity, will be found to keep it operating.

Fairfax Media spoke to six Coalition MPs who identify as conservatives or who are from The Nationals on Thursday, and all confirmed that a "grand bargain" was needed to ensure the medium-term future of coal plants for Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg to secure support for a Clean Energy Target.

"It's obvious what needs to happen. We need to find a solution. We all want a solution. We will likely do some clean energy but also upgrade base-load [coal] infrastructure," one said.

Mr Frydenberg may also face a push to water down the Clean Energy Target proposed by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel.

He would not comment on whether he had had discussions about a "base-load investment scheme" when contacted by Fairfax Media, but said the AEMO report "has reset the debate about energy policy".

The engineer familiar with Liddell said the plant routinely had at least one of its four units out of operation, and that half of the rated 2000-megawatt capacity was suddenly unavailable on February 10 – the first day of a record NSW heatwave – due to leaks in boiler tubes. That poor performance was despite its turbines being replaced about a decade ago.

On three occasions, the plant's equipment had oil supply failures that led to turbines grinding to a halt in about 10 minutes, compared with 40 minutes under normal conditions; "basically wrecking" the machinery.

Dylan McConnell, a researcher at Melbourne University's Climate & Energy College, said Liddell operated at just 39.6 per cent capacity in August.

That level was about half the capacity utilised of Victoria's aging Hazelwood power plant in the final year before its closure in March.




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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