Thursday, October 01, 2020

Two of Antarctica’s most important glaciers which together cover area the size of Norway are crumbling faster than ever, satellite images reveal

Boring! Melting from the West Antarctic rim again. There is known vulcanism there. You too would melt if you had a volcano under you. Nothing to do with global warming

Two key glaciers in Antarctica — which together cover an area the size of Norway — are fracturing faster than ever before, an analysis of satellite images has revealed.

An international team of experts warned that the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers — on the Amundsen Sea Embayment — are on the path to disintegrating.

Pine Island and Thwaites are among the continent’s most dynamic glaciers — and their melting is responsible for some 5 per cent of global sea level rise to date.

Their complete loss, however — driven by the warming of the surrounding waters —would raise global sea levels by a whopping 3.3 feet.

Predicting the evolution of the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers is therefore vital to understanding the future of our warming planet’s seas.

‘To reveal what’s really going on at Pine Island and Thwaites, we dug into imaging data from a number of different satellites,’ said paper author and geoscientist Stef Lhermitte of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

‘We found structural damage at the “shear margins” of the glaciers’ ice shelves, where the ice transitions from fast- to slow-moving — large crevasses, rifts and open fractures that indicate that the ice shelves are slowly tearing apart.’

‘Currently, the ice shelves are a little like a slow car in traffic — they force anything behind them to slow down. Once they’re removed, ice sitting further inland will be able to speed up, which in turn will cause sea levels to rise even faster.’

Crevasses were not seen in images of the ice taken back in 1997 — and the damage appeared far less widespread even in observations from just 2016 — suggesting that the deterioration has been accelerating over the last two decades.

Satellite data was collected by various missions — including the European Space Agency’s CryoSat and Copernicus Sentinel-1, as well as the NASA/USGS Landsat program and the Japanese ASTER instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite.

The team tracked the spreading fractures, determined how the topography of the ice shelf and glacier had changed and assessed the speed at which the ice had been moving — from which they could model the impact of the damaged margins.

‘This fracturing appears to kick off a feedback process — it preconditions the ice shelves to disintegrate,’ said paper author Thomas Nagler of Environmental Earth Observation Information Technology (ENVEO) in Innsbruck, Austria.

‘As the glaciers fracture at their weak points this damage speeds up, spreads, and weakens more of the ice shelves, causing further deterioration — and making it more likely that the shelves will start crumbling apart even faster.’

‘The results from this study highlight a pressing need to include such feedback processes in model projections of ice shelf retreat, ice sheet mass loss and sea level change,’ said European Space Agency CryoSat Mission Scientist, Mark Drinkwater.

‘We know that a significant amount of glacial ice in West Antarctica is currently being affected by climate change — in fact, a recent study found 24 per cent of this ice to be rapidly thinning and unstable.’

‘These new results underline just how quickly this damage is occurring, and reveal that Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers are more vulnerable than ever before.’

The full findings of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.


California’s energy scorecard fails on the world stage

California, with 0.5 percent of the world’s population (40 million vs 8 billion) professes to be the leader of everything and through its dysfunctional energy policies imports more electricity than any other state – currently at 32 percent from the Northwest and Southwest – and has forced California to be the only state in contiguous America that imports most of its crude oil energy demands from foreign country suppliers to meet the energy demands of the state.

State energy policies have made California electricity and fuel prices among the highest in the nation which have been contributory to the rapid growth of “energy poverty” for the 18 million (45 percent of the 40 million Californians) that represent the Hispanic and African American populations of the state.

Access to electricity is now an afterthought in most parts of the world, so it may come as a surprise to learn that 16 percent of the world’s population — an estimated 1.2 billion people — are still living without this basic necessity. Lack of access to electricity, or “energy poverty”, is the ultimate economic hindrance as it prevents people from participating in the modern economy.

Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. At least 80 percent of humanity, or almost 6 billion, lives on less than $10 a day. Other nations and continents living in abject poverty without electricity realize California, and large parts of the U.S. buying into green new deals, renewable futures, and zero-carbon societies are left with the dystopic reality of mass homelessness, filth and rampant inequality that increasingly characterize the GND core values.

Today, the current world population of 7.8 billion is projected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100.

Over the last 100 years, climate-related deaths in developed countries have decreased by 95 percent, mostly attributable to the use of fossil fuels and the products made from petroleum derivatives, that have lifted more than a billion people out of poverty in just the past twenty-five years. We can thank fossil fuels and capitalism for that and more.

Currently, underdeveloped countries, mostly from energy starved countries, are experiencing about 11,000,000 child deaths every year of which more than 70 per cent are attributable to six causes: diarrhea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth. About 29,000 children under the age of five – 21 each minute – die every day, mainly from preventable causes.

When you include fatalities of “other than children” the world numbers get even worse…

More than 8,000,000 world cancer deaths per year.

5,000,000 tobacco related deaths per year, and current trends show that tobacco use will cause more than 8,000,000 deaths annually by 2030.

3,800,000 deaths every year as a result of household exposure to smoke from dirty cook stoves and fuels.

2,300,000 women and men around the world succumb to work-related accidents or diseases every year per.

1,230,000 world traffic deaths per year.

270,000 pedestrians killed on roads each year.

585,900 premature deaths caused by drugs per year.

After that slice of morbidity I’d like to present a tad of relatively good news as to why the world is looking at the safety of nuclear power reactors. The worldwide total of nuclear deaths – not annually, but from inception of nuclear – including Three Mile Island (March 1979), Chernobyl (April 1986) and Fukushima (March 2011) are LESS than 200.

As a result of safety and ability to provide continuous uninterruptable zero emission electricity, today there are about 440 nuclear reactors operating in 30 countries around the world with 50 more under construction. Significant further capacity is being created by plant upgrading of existing reactors. Additionally, there are 140 nuclear powered ships that have accumulated 12,000 reactor years of “safe” marine operation.

Even China, with thousands of coal-fired power plants, already has 46 nuclear reactors in operation and 11 more under construction to provide continuous uninterruptible zero-emission electricity.

California’s goal is ZERO nuclear power plants to generate zero emission electricity.

In 2016, natural gas-fired generators accounted for 42% of the operating electricity generating capacity in the United States with 200 more set to open.

California’s goal is ZERO natural gas power plants to generate continuous uninterruptable electricity.

California’s green goals are to only rely on intermittent electricity from wind and solar and hope that the Northwestern and Southwestern states can generate enough extra power to meet the electricity demands of the 5th largest economy in the world.

With countries around the world and other American states focused on providing continuous uninterruptable electricity, and the more than 6,000 products made from petroleum derivatives for use in the daily lives of their residents, we must give California a FAILING GRADE on the world stage for its energy policies.

If we continue to deny the growing poor populations the benefits of electricity, medicines, heating and countless other developments made possible by deep earth minerals and fuels, to ever achieve the lifestyle benefits afforded the climate activists, then we need to justify our reasoning for allowing those millions of preventable deaths from occurring every year in third world countries.


‘No more wind.’ WA state utility questions efficacy of wind farms for power generation

A road trip through the amazing landscapes of Eastern Washington is like being in a classroom with wheels and a windshield. Even if you never venture off the interstate, you’ll learn a lot just through observation about geography, geology, modern agriculture — and energy policy.

A recent — recent, as in the last two decades — addition to those landscapes is the wind farm, each with dozens of three-bladed turbines distributed across ridge tops and slowly churning away as they generate electricity.

Those turbines aren’t just the recent past of the Northwest’s electricity generating future, they’re supposed to be a big part of its future. Renewables, a category that also can include solar and more exotic forms like geothermal or tidal, will, so the theory goes, help “de-carbonize” the region’s generating portfolio of coal and natural gas, leading eventually to an “all-green” electric grid.

Achieving that goal will require a whole lot more solar and a whole lot more wind, which makes it all the more interesting that one utility is breaking with energy orthodoxy by saying, “No more wind.”

Benton Public Utility District, based in Kennewick, has about 55,000 residential, commercial and industrial connections. Most of its electricity supply comes from the Bonneville Power Administration, the federal marketing agency for dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers and for one nuclear plant. Eighty percent of Benton PUD’s total supply comes from hydro; about 5 percent is generated by wind, through power purchase contracts with the operators of two wind projects in the state.

The future and composition of the Northwest energy portfolio are in flux with such factors as demand growth, retirements of coal-fired plants and mandates for utilities to go green. Benton PUD says it’s aware of “a resurgence in proposed wind power development activity in the Pacific Northwest, including projects proposed for eastern Washington and Benton County specifically.”

But in a recently released report, “Wind Power and Clean Energy Policy Perspectives,” the utility’s commissioners say they “do not support further wind power development in the Northwest.”

More large-scale wind farms they say, will “contribute very little to keeping the regional power grid reliable and will not help Benton PUD solve our seasonal energy deficit problems” (when it needs to purchase additional power for winter and summer peaks), will drive up customer rates, won’t make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, will hurt revenues that utilities like Benton receive from the sale of surplus hydropower and will needlessly clutter up the “scenic hillsides, canyons and desert vistas in our region for little if any net environmental benefit.”

“We are continuing to sound the alarm regarding the unacceptably high risk of power grid blackouts in the Pacific Northwest being precipitated by overly aggressive clean energy policies and deepening dependence on wind power to replace retiring coal plants,” the commissioners say in a news release. “Benton PUD is calling on Governor Inslee and our state legislators to learn from California’s experience and to believe what utilities in Washington State are telling them. Rolling blackouts jeopardize the health, safety and well-being of all citizens and cannot be accepted in a region that, thanks to hydropower, is the envy of the nation when it comes to clean and low-cost electricity …

“While development of wind farms may be politically fashionable and appeal to many in the general public as a harmonization of nature with electricity production, the science and economics indicate powering modern civilization with intermittent generation resources like wind and solar power comes at a high financial and environmental cost.”

Nothing like some blunt and bracing talk to get a fight started.

Actually, a lot of fights, and these are fights that, like a wildfire, have been smoldering here but have burst into full-fledged conflagration elsewhere, like California.

Now it will be interesting to see if other utilities around the state join in and push back at mandates to sign up for expensive generating resources that those utilities don’t need, or at least don’t need or want in that form.

For the record, Tacoma Power gets 89 percent of its electricity from hydro, half of that from its own generating facilities, the balance from BPA purchases. It gets a small amount of wind energy, also from BPA. The utility’s current integrated resource plan says that it’s not currently in the interest of Tacoma Power to invest directly in solar or wind projects.

What Benton PUD is advocating for is using natural gas as a bridge fuel to accommodate growth and “firm up” the regional grid, while transitioning to the technology of small modular nuclear reactors.

It’s a technology that several companies in the Pacific Northwest are working to refine and one backers say answers many of the questions and risks of older design, mammoth nuclear plants, such as safety and waste disposal. The Benton PUD position paper says more investment in wind energy will hinder the development of next-generation nuclear.

Old-style nuclear has a tainted financial legacy in the Northwest — there are still some people around here who remember the WPPSS debacle — and new-style nuclear is still unproven at commercial scale and application.

Renewables are still going to get a look and attract some investment dollars as utilities figure out the best mix of resources to keep the lights on and rates reasonable.

But as the Benton PUD report illustrates, just because those wind-turbine farms are self-proclaimed “green” resources doesn’t mean they are exempt from pointed questioning as to just how much the regional grid, consumers and businesses that are being asked to rely on wind really ought to.


Australia: A controversial gas project in northern NSW has been given the green light to go ahead

A controversial gas project in northern NSW has been given the green light by the state’s independent planning authority.

The NSW Independent Planning Commission has given “phased approval” for Santos’ $3.6 billion Narrabri gas project in the north east of the state.

The decision allowing the coal seam gas project comes more than six months after the state’s planning minister referred it to the regulatory body.

Phased approval has been granted for the project with 134 attached conditions.

Santos has said the project will create up to 1300 construction and 200 operational jobs.

“Following its detailed deliberations, the commission concludes the project is in the public interest and that any negative impacts can be effectively mitigated with strict conditions,” the commission’s statement said.

“The commission has granted a phased approval that is subject to stringent conditions, which means that the applicant must meet specific requirements before the project can progress to the next phase of development.”

During the hearing process communities and scientists raised concerns the project would put the area’s water resources at risk.

In its consultation phase, the project attracted approximately 23,000 submission, with opposing views that it would hinder the quality of the groundwater and concerns surrounding greenhouse gas emissions.

Australian Workers’ Union national secretary Daniel Walton said the Narrabri project would ensure NSW was provided with lower gas prices, which would mean cheaper electricity for households.

“Our union has never accepted the false choice between gas and renewables – you need the reliability of the former to allow the latter to flourish,” he said.

“New South Wales should be a thriving global heavy manufacturing hub, and that’s exactly what we can become if we better harness our gas wealth. This approval is an excellent step.”




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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