Friday, February 14, 2020

Giant iceberg three times the size of PARIS calves off one of Antarctica's fastest-shrinking glaciers

Nothing to see here.  West Antarctica is well-known for subsurface vulcanism.  Volcanoes put out a LOT of heat

A shocking video reveals how a huge chunk of ice more than three times the size of Paris has broken off one of Earth's most critical ice shelves, Pine Island Glacier (PIG).

This enormous frozen river, along with its famed neighbour Thwaites, connects the ocean to mainland Antarctica and is rapidly retreating.

Warmer temperatures are taking their toll on the vulnerable glacier which, if it was to collapse, would trigger a global sea level rise of around four feet.

The huge chunk of calved ice swiftly broke up into smaller icebergs, dubbed 'piglets'.

Scientists at Copernicus have, in partnership with ESA, been monitoring the remote glacier for several years via satellites

A total of 57 independent images taken over 12 months were blended into a short video by ESA.

It reveals how a 120square mile (312 sq km) chunk of ice broke off from the glacier's main body.

This is approximately the size of the island Malta, and three times the size of France's capital city, Paris.

A series of rifts have been monitored since early 2019 and as the satellites passed over the region it caught the moment they finally fell away.

This large piece of ice them fractured into several smaller ones, with one large one iceberg being labelled as B-49.

Mark Drinkwater, senior scientist and cryosphere specialist at ESA said: 'The Copernicus twin Sentinel-1 all-weather satellites have established a porthole through which the public can watch events like this unfold in remote regions around the world.

'What is unsettling is that the daily data stream reveals the dramatic pace at which climate is redefining the face of Antarctica.'

Pine Island is Antarctica's most vulnerable glacier and is the single largest contributor to sea level rise of any ice stream in the world.

Since 2012, the glacier has been shedding 58 billion tons of ice a year.

Pine Island has been tracked for around 30 years and over this time it has seen its shape and position dramatically alter.

Calving events such as this one have been seen in 1992, 1995, 2001, 2007, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, and now 2020.

With each passing calving, the buttressing force of the glacier weakens and threatens to break, increasing the flow of ice from the land to the ocean.


The rush to electric vehicles: A disaster for consumers?

According to a recent report in Forbes, Tesla’s stock market value is already bigger than Ford and General Motors combined, and Elon Musk, whose company as of 2015 had already received nearly $5 billion in federal subsidies, now has a net worth of about $31 billion. Whoever said government cannot make anyone rich?

But hold on. An ascendant Bernie Sanders, who claims to be no friend of billionaires,* has called for a massive expansion of government-run electricity production. [*Sanders is, after all, running against a multiple billionaires, including 23 contributors to Mayor Pete’s campaign.]

Sanders and many other politicos have championed a multi-state effort to end the sale of vehicles with internal combustion (IC) engines, as have many European nations. Other related goals are phasing out the use of coal, oil, and natural gas for both heating and electric power generation.

As Politico reports, a major part of Sanders’ $16 trillion Greener New Deal allocates massive new funding for the four existing “power marketing administrations” that are overseen by the Department of Energy, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and a new federal agency. The money would go to vastly expand their solar, wind, and even geothermal power production.

Matt Palumbo, writing in the Bongino Report, says the Sanders plan will need $2 trillion for infrastructure, dwarfing the cost of the interstate highway system, to add 800 gigawatts of wind and solar energy. While Sanders asserts today he is not “nationalizing” energy production but providing wholesale energy to public and private local suppliers, these subsidized government-run facilities will surely control the energy market. Private companies that now rely on coal or natural gas will be further squeezed by mandated deep cuts in carbon emissions. Meanwhile, energy demand for a mandated growing fleet of electric vehicles will soar.

Americans in a recent American Energy Alliance poll expressed great displeasure over subsidizing EVs for the wealthy. Only one in five voters would trust the federal government to make decisions about what kinds of cars should be subsidized – or mandated. Many do not even like, or cannot afford, the innovations already introduced, as evidenced by data showing the average age of the U.S. vehicle fleet has increased in recent years.

Despite public qualms, most automakers have joined the EV movement. Like gossip in a small town, proposals and promises to ban or end production of IC engines have spread like wildfire. The Chinese-owned Swedish automaker Volvo announced in 2017 it would stop designing new IC engines. German giant Daimler (Mercedes Benz) followed suit last year. And in the United States, General Motors in 2018 announced plans to offer only battery-powered or hydrogen-powered vehicles in the near future.

These automakers are perhaps just responding to the political climate in Europe. The United Kingdom just moved up its cutoff date for banning sales of new IC vehicles (including hybrids) to 2035. France and others are holding to a 2040 date for mandating all-electric fleets, while Norway has set a goal (not a mandate) to eliminate most IC engines (but not hybrids) by 2025. But in California, lawmakers killed a 2018 effort to ban IC engines as of 2040.

Meanwhile, European automakers have moved to profit from EV charging stations. IONITY, created in 2017 as a joint venture between the BMW Group, Mercedes-Benz AG, the Ford Motor Company, and the Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porcshe, has already built over 200 facilities with over 860 charging points, with plans to expand to 400 stations in 24 countries by yearend 2020. And IONITY is not alone. [Europe today still has over 100,000 petrol and diesel fueling stations, certain to shrink as IC engines are now pariahs.]

Until February, IONITY was charging a flat, fixed rate of eight Euros (about $8.87) for a fast charging session — under 15 cents/kWh for a 60-kW charge that might be good for 210 miles. With EU gasoline prices ranging from 1.77 euros/liter ($7.35 per gallon) in the Netherlands to to $4.41/gallon in Romania, drivers would need about $31 in Romania or $51 in the Netherlands to drive the same distance (assuming 30 mpg).

But as of February 1, IONITY switched to unit pricing at a rate of 0.79 euro/kWh (88 cents/kWh), or about $52.80 for a 60-kW charge – a 500 percent increase that makes an EV charge more expensive than a fillup. But IONITY is offering discounts that customers can purchase from IONITY partner companies. At home chargers in the EU, where residential rates average 30 cents/kWh, cost about $18 per 60-kW charge – plus about $1,000 for installation.

But here’s the rub. If Sanders gets his way, the federal government will control the price and availability of electricity in the U.S. California, which wants to mandate EVs only, has already faced multi-day electricity blackouts due to fire concerns, and if there is no power there is no charging. Many other countries also lack reliable electric power – and scarcity (almost certain in a fossil fuel free environment) drives up prices even in a government-controlled marketplace.

After the 1970s oil embargo, the United States opted for a broad-based energy sector so that shortages in one fuel would not cripple the national economy. But today, many cities have already moved to ban natural gas, nuclear is still taboo, and wind and solar are intermittent. The push toward an all-electric society plus the heavy burden on the power grid from charging an all-electric vehicle fleet – seems to be a recipe for disaster, at least for the average consumer.

The well connected always do well enough in a controlled economy – that is, until (as happened recently in Iran) the government price for energy angers the peasants. But what can a broken public do but submit to the will of the all-powerful state? Hmmm……


Americans reluctant to join the EV train

We’re constantly being bombarded with the EV movement, but Americans must have a multitude of subconscious reasons for not buying into one of the major movements to save the world from itself as they are showing their lack of enthusiasm by avoiding the dealerships.

In a recent Los Angeles Times article, citing Edmunds data, the number of battery-electric models available more than doubled from 2018 to 2019, but EV sales budged in the wrong direction. In response to the major efforts by manufacturers, the horrific EV sales data shows that only 325,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles were sold in the U.S. in 2019, down from 349,000 in 2018.

Those dismal numbers represent an embarrassing dismal 2% of the 17 million vehicles of all types sold in the United States in 2019. Are EV carmakers driving off a cliff?”

California remains the primary buyer of EV’s while the rest of America has shown little interest in the incentives and the increasing choices of models.

Let’s look at several of the factors that may be contributing to this lack of enthusiasm, that may be in the subconscious of the prospective EV buyers:

Agreed, there would be no fuel costs and no gas taxes to be paid with an EV owner, BUT, and that’s a big BUT. Beware of the “free” gift! Once fossil fuel cars are off the road, the only ones on the roads will be EV’s. You can easily surmise that it’s going to be the EV owners picking up the costs to maintain the highway infrastructures, probably through some form of vehicle mileage tax (VMT), to let the “users” pay for the roads.

EV’s are hyped as being pollution free. Well, not necessarily so. Its true EV’s have no tailpipes, but the tailpipes are located at the power plants generating the electricity to charge the cars batteries, and at the refineries that provide all the derivatives from petroleum that make all the parts of the EV’s.

Range and charging anxieties remain a constant sub thought for that next trip. To fully charge an EV, even at fast-charging stations, it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours depending on how much of a charge (empty to full or topping off) your vehicle needs.

Hybrid and electric car owners are a scholarly bunch; over 70 percent of respondents have a four-year college or post-graduate degree, which may explain that the average household income of electric vehicle (EV) purchasers is upwards of $200,000. If you’re not in that higher educated echelon and the high-income range of society, there may not be an appetite for an EV.

The lack of mining standards and environmental regulations to extract the exotic metals used in EV batteries exposes local ecosystems to destruction when the wastewater and other unusable ores are let loose onto the environments. The workers have no choice but to live in horrific conditions because their wages are so infinitesimally small, it causes me the take a step back and examine my moral obligations to humanity. Green technology cannot thrive off human rights abuses.

There are numerous documentaries about the atrocities the workers are put through in the cobalt mines, i.e. actually digging the mines by hand along with the horrendous living conditions. Amnesty International has documented children and adults mining cobalt in narrow man-made tunnels along with the exposure to the dangerous gases emitted during the procurement of these rare minerals.

Governments and manufacturers are “blowing off” the transparency of the child labor atrocities and mining irregularities of where and how those exotic metals are being mined in Africa, China, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile to support the EV battery supply chain. The first transparency law was in California, the largest buyer of EV’s in the country, starting with The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act SB657 and followed by the U.S. with H.R.4842 – Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2014.

The richest most powerful companies in the world, and now the Governor of California are still making excuses for not investigating the supply chains and continue to power manufactured EV’s with “dirty batteries”. Can this be a blatant example of hypocrisy?

With Tesla batteries weighing about 1,000 pounds, slightly more than the C-batteries in your flashlights, proper disposal of the EV batteries will be needed to be addressed in infinite detail by somebody. Another area of concern that keeps coming up in consumer surveys regards an electric car’s battery life. To be sure, replacing an electric vehicle’s battery will be an expensive proposition along with the environmental challenges to dispose of them safely.

Despite the fears, concerns, and environmental questions being evaluated by the public and the potential EV buyers, governments are wishing to counteract the slower than expected transition to EV’s. Governments are starting to make giant steps to accelerate the move away from petroleum vehicles.

Britain announced that they will ban new petrol and hybrid cars from 2035. France is preparing to ban the sale of fossil fuel-powered cars by 2040. The mayors of Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have said they plan to ban diesel vehicles from city centers by 2025. The ban on fossil fueled vehicles is gaining momentum internationally!

Government involvement in our daily lives recalls the most terrifying nine words in the English language:” I’M FROM THE GOVERNMENT AND I’M HERE TO HELP.”


Are Ocean Currents Speeding Up…Or Down? Nobody Knows

“Global warming is speeding up Earth’s massive ocean currents,” said one headline.

“Global ocean circulation is accelerating from the surface to the abyss,” said another.”

But this is another of those climate stories in which the top line is not backed up by the qualifications raised by oceanic researchers when looking at the results of this fascinating paper.

Published in Science Advances, it suggests that for almost 25 years, ocean currents have been rapidly speeding up, partly due to global warming, according to a new study.

It contradicts previous studies that suggested that global warming will weaken ocean circulation, especially in tropical waters. This new study suggests the acceleration in ocean currents will be especially strong in tropical waters!

A key point is that there is no sustained direct measurement of the ocean’s currents, so it has to be inferred using other means.

When this is done the numerous gaps in the data are filled in with results from computer models and anyone can see the caution this method should raise.

Based on observations and models, study authors claim that from 1990 to 2013, the energy of the world’s currents increased by some 15% per decade.

The researchers put this down to strengthening winds driving ocean currents. Ocean winds have increased over the past 30 years. The increase is about 2% per decade and is itself part of a longer-term trend.

The main evidence for this change comes from six years of Argo data whose floating and diving buoys have been operating since 2005 and have produced the most coherent database on ocean parameters we have.

They do not directly measure ocean currents, but a good inference can be obtained from their movements and indications where winds are piling up regions of the ocean.

Hu Shijian of the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Oceanography is the lead author of the study. He points out that that this new paper is different from previous studies that looked for an ocean circulation increase.

Indeed, given varying regional responses to global warming, it has not been possible to deduce how and whether global ocean circulation has been altered.

“So far observations haven’t shown a trend,” Shijian said. So, he set about the reanalysis route to see if he could find one.

A review article in Science noted that as yet natural fluctuations cannot be ruled out and that it will take another decade at least to see if the trend is real and possibly associated with global warming.

Quoted in Science, Susan Wijffels, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution said, “It’s going to stimulate a lot of other work.”


Australia: Blind spot in BoM’s seasonal forecast

They couldn't get the weather right a few months in advance but they still claim that they can predict how hot it will be in 80 years time

When the start of potentially drought-breaking rains finally came this month they were not predicted by the experts — but they should not have been a total ­surprise.

The bushfires that blazed across the landscape from November last year may well come to be seen in retrospect as the final act in a set of weather conditions that parched the continent and scorched the earth.

After years of below-average rainfall, the end of last year saw two systems wring the last gasp from a bone-dry land.

To the west, the Indian Ocean Dipole was in extreme territory. The IOD is the difference in ocean temperatures between the west and east tropical Indian Ocean. In a positive phase the IOD can shift moisture towards or away from Australia towards Africa. A positive IOD in 1982 coupled with an El Nino weather system in the ­Pacific produced southeast Australia’s driest year on record.

Alongside the extreme IOD system were record warm temperatures above Antarctica.

Apart from warming the ­Antarctic region, the higher temperatures shifted the Southern Ocean westerly winds towards the equator.

For subtropical Australia, which largely sits north of the main belt of westerlies, the shift results in reduced rainfall, clearer skies and warmer temperatures.

The strongest effects were felt in NSW and southern Queensland, where springtime temperatures increased, rainfall decreased, and heatwaves and fire risk rose.

When the two weather systems finally broke down at the end of last year they were replaced by a new set of conditions that, though shorter lived, have swamped the east coast of the nation.

Monsoon rains finally moved south and a low-pressure system along the east coast brought rough seas and heavy falls.

The breakdown of the IOD and Antarctic systems was noted by the Bureau of Meteorology in its forecasts for the first quarter of the new year.

However, the BoM did not foresee in its seasonal forecasts the extent of what was to follow.

Soaking rains have drenched the east of the continent from Queensland to south of Sydney with downpours of hundreds of millimetres recorded, mainly along the coastline.

Big waves have again played havoc with beachfront areas.

And for the first time in years, farmers have had something to celebrate. Several major rivers feeding the Murray-Darling Basin have started to flow, including the Condamine and Balonne in Queensland and the Namoi and Barwon in NSW.

Much of that water ultimately enters the Darling, which has not flowed solidly for years.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority says, among other revivals, the Moonie River in Queensland is flowing for the first time since April 2018. Parts of the Weir, Macintyre and Dumaresq rivers of the Queensland-NSW Border Rivers region also are flowing, while in NSW water is passing through large sections of the Gwydir, Castlereagh and Macquarie catchments.

Already there is controversy, with conservation groups outraged at the NSW government’s decision to allow big irrigators to take millions of litres of flood water from the Barwon-Darling river system.

The heaviest falls have been on the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range and will flow into the Pacific rather than inland.

And with a cyclone still brewing off the coast of Queensland the dramatic weather conditions are far from over.

Whether the drought has broken is an open question. Much will depend on follow-up rains.

In a letter to Simon Birmingham, the minister responsible for the BoM at the time, scientist Jennifer Marohasy said: “This, of course, provides an enormous range of actual outcomes where any given forecast can be regarded as ‘correct’ or successful from the perspective of the bureau.”

On the BoM’s more recent performance, Marohasy says it “could not bring itself to apologise for the wrong and totally misleading recent forecast” and this is “a reflection of the very sad state of affairs”.

“There needs to be some accountability. Australians deserve to know if the bureau has any capacity to provide skilful season rainfall forecasts or not,” she says.



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