Sunday, November 01, 2020

Perspective on a Doozy of a Hurricane Season

An unusually active tropical season doesn't invariably portend climate doomsday.

The Atlantic Basin hurricane season doesn’t wrap up until November 30, which leaves plenty of time for another storm or two. (That appears likely, by the way, so be forewarned). We are, however, close enough to the end of the season that we can begin to judge the results. Without question, we can say 2020 has been a doozy of a hurricane season, which got busy early and shows signs of ending late.

According to meteorologist and hurricane expert Philip Klotzbach, a record 11 named storms have made landfall on the continental U.S. this hurricane season. The previous record of nine landfalling storms occurred more than a century ago in 1916. So far, 27 named storms have formed in the Atlantic Basin during the 2020 season. Because the World Meteorological Organization’s predetermined list consists of just 21 names, that means we’ve had plenty enough activity to necessitate the implementation of the Greek alphabet, which serves as a “backup” list for rare seasons such as this.

So, yes, you’d be correct to assume that using the Greek alphabet for hurricanes is unusual. In fact, 2005 featured the only other hurricane season in which the Greek alphabet was used.

Most will recall that 2005 was likewise a doozy of a hurricane season. A record 28 storms formed in the Atlantic Basin that year, though 2020 seems destined to either tie or supersede that record. From this standpoint alone, the 2020 season should be considered exceptional.

However, a few additional aspects must be taken into account, particularly since some alarmists are invariably blaming the severity of the season on anthropogenic global warming.

Seasonal influence. Even before the hurricane season began, meteorological enterprises in both the private and public sectors were virtually unanimous in forecasting a busy season. Their agreement was at least partially rooted in pattern recognition. A La Niña event — wherein cool water around the equatorial Pacific Ocean affects weather patterns — developed earlier this year, and history shows us these events typically foreshadow a busy hurricane season.

This warning sign was buoyed by computer guidance projecting other atmospheric elements conjoining to provide an extremely conducive environment for hurricane development. Warm water in itself isn’t enough to produce an unusually high number of hurricanes. Atmospheric “triggers,” such as sinking air over the Atlantic that suppresses wind (which in turn mitigates wind shear) and a favorable Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), are also required. On rare occasions, all of the ingredients align in almost perfect fashion. And, à la 2005, that’s exactly what happened in 2020.

Of course, the number of storms alone has many climate doomsayers heading for the fainting couch. But meteorologist Joe Bastardi thinks not only that global warming is natural but that it results in a lowering of barometric pressure at higher latitudes. This in turn distorts the surface pattern elsewhere and changes the global wind oscillation, both of which may be affecting the intensity of long-tracked storms, meaning they actually aren’t as strong overall as they are near the coast. (More on storm intensity below.) Conversely, he does also note that, given the right conditions, hurricanes that form close to land may indeed feed off the warmer ocean waters, which is why his company, WeatherBELL Analytics, was bullish on a high-impact year.

We’d also be remiss not to mention the astounding hurricane lull we experienced after the 2005 hurricane onslaught.

Technology. When all is said and done, 2005 and 2020 will hold the first- and second-place records (the order is still to be determined) for named storms. However, note that both of these years also fall in the satellite era (1965 and after). Pre-satellite-era hurricane archives aren’t necessarily inaccurate, but neither are they necessarily complete. To pretend as if we know exactly what all transpired during the hurricane season of, say, 1885 is like arguing that Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in for the 2016 election. You might think you know, but you never actually know. There are variables that we sometimes cannot see.

Overly ambitious on naming storms. This hurricane season, in addition to past years, featured a few named storms that had meteorologists scratching their heads. This was due to the fact that these “fish” storms, as they’re known, were named based on satellite presentation. The biggest problem with this method is that it risks the likelihood of unnecessarily inflating the number of storms in any given season. Because they often lack airplane reconnaissance, there’s a strong possibility that some of these oftentimes pathetic- and ragged-looking storms out in the middle of the ocean may fall under the actual tropical-naming threshold. This becomes even more of an issue in seasons like this when records and messaging are on the line.

Energy index isn’t all that impressive. Meteorologists use what’s called Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) to estimate the severity of a hurricane season in its totality. In an average year, storms generate an ACE index of roughly 95. To date, we’re in the neighborhood of 140. That’s a very big number, but it’s far below the 1933 record of approximately 259. Even the 2005 ACE index of 250 is considerably more than what we have so far in 2020. Furthermore, according to Bastardi, this season’s tropical systems are generating an average ACE index of just under 6. In the 1950s, the average was over 10 per storm. Amazingly, hurricanes during the 1926 season averaged an ACE of over 20. There were fewer storms during these timeframes, but they were also more intense. Keep in mind too that while we’re experiencing more storms in the 21st century, many of them are developing in the middle of the ocean, posing little or no threat to land.

Current major hurricane landfalls are historically infrequent. A major hurricane is defined as Category 3 or higher. Believe it or not, we’ve witnessed just four major hurricane hits this decade, which is tied for the lowest number in the last 100 years.

The bottom line is that we would all be wise to treat this season as nothing more than what it is: unusually active, but not an omen.

Update: This article originally stated that Florida was Ground Zero in 2005, but that’s not an accurate claim. Hurricane Katrina, while causing extensive damage in Florida first, went on to obliterate New Orleans and adjacent areas, ultimately producing a mind-boggling $125 billion in damage and nearly 2,000 deaths. Hurricane Wilma substantially affected Florida in 2005 as well, but 2004 is the more memorable season for residents of that state, who had to suffer through four major hurricane landfalls. The original statement has been stricken for clarity.

Biden's National Clean Electricity Standard is a Disaster for *Renewable* Energy

If you happen to peruse Joe Biden’s campaign website, you will find a laundry list of “Biden Plans” for everything from ending racism to reintroducing the failed Cash for Clunkers program for electric vehicles. Among these patently ridiculous proposals sits a seemingly innocuous promise to “establish a technology-neutral Energy Efficiency and Clean Electricity Standard (EECES) for utilities and grid operators.” But behind its sweet sounding title, creating a national EECES could prove to be a disaster for the energy sector.

In short, Biden’s plan entails transitioning the entire US energy grid to green production sources. To do so, Biden has already promised to spend $2 trillion in “accelerated investment” during his first term, not even half of the $4.5 trillion WoodMac estimates a total decarbonization of our grid would cost. Of course, this money has some heavy strings attached.

In order to force a so-called “clean energy revolution in America,” Biden would create a new federal EECES, presumably based on one of the 29 state level EECES currently in existence. These standards require that some portion of utility sales come from either low-carbon sources, like natural gas plants using carbon capture, or zero-carbon production, like wind or solar. While these state-level standards have been one driver of growth in renewable energy production, they have come at an incredibly high cost for consumers and have failed to achieve their goal of significantly reducing carbon emissions.

A study out of the University of Chicago in 2019 confirmed this. Analyzing data from all 29 states and the District of Columbia, this study found that Renewable Portfolio Standards (another name for EECES) have indeed “increase[d] renewable generation,” but have also resulted in “significantly increased retail electricity prices.”

Perhaps more importantly for environmentalists, the authors further found that the “cost of abating carbon emissions through an RPS policy is...several times higher than conventional estimates of the benefits of reducing a metric ton of CO2 emissions, a measure known as the social cost of carbon (SCC).” As the study notes, “the cost of abating carbon emissions through an RPS policy much as $460 per metric ton.” By contrast, the Obama administration pegged the SCC at around $50 per metric ton. In other words, the cost of abating carbon emissions through EECES is significantly higher than through other market-based means.

To make matters worse, EECES are constantly in flux, swept along in the political battle over the environment. Because of consumer demand, several states actually exceeded their standards before the statutory deadline. Instead of congratulating the industry, instead states “have responded by setting increasingly aggressive requirements.” Environmentalist progressives ensure that this cycle never ends, creating a perpetual barrier for an industry that is already transitioning towards renewable energy.

Unfortunately, a whopping 64 percent of the electricity sold in the United States is already under some form of state EECES. But now Joe Biden wants to take the worst of the worst of environmental policy and make it a national standard.

Anytime the federal government decides to swoop in and fix what they perceive as the world’s problems they inevitably end up picking winners and losers. This remains true of EECES. Mandating top-down standards to reduce carbon emissions is not just a burden on the energy sector, but also inefficient at achieving their purpose. This is just another example of Democrats attempting to solve a problem that the markets are already addressing.

Consumer demand and innovation are already driving our transition to renewable energy more than federal mandates can. In the past decade, wind production has more than tripled, and total renewables production has more than doubled. Although some of this growth can be attributed to tax breaks and government mandates, the vast majority of growth has come from the market. According to Deloitte, the renewable energy industry began 2020 with “a new phase of growth driven largely by increasing customer demand, cost competitiveness, innovation, and collaboration.”

Biden's ridiculous proposition that a new national EECES would simultaneously ”cut electricity bills and cut electricity pollution,” is blatantly ignorant. The Biden campaign ignores the fact that the costs of similar top-down mandates on energy producers and other industries have traditionally been passed directly on to the consumer. They further ignore that EECES have been one of the least cost-efficient ways to reduce carbon emissions. There are much better things that we could spend $2 trillion in taxpayers’ money on than subsidizing a transition of our energy grid that is already underway.

Why the next truck you see may be a quiet, zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell rig

Hydrogen is normally obtained from natural gas -- a "fossil" fuel -- so Greenies may be yet again be dissatisfied with this. There is no such thing as a happy Greenie. Dissatisfaction is their claim on relevance

The 3.7 million heavy-duty trucks that ship goods to consumers, haul raw materials across the country and transport components for manufacturers have long been powered by diesel engines that emit pollution and create significant road noise.

But an ambitious startup and several established automakers are promising to deliver hydrogen-powered semitrucks that would create zero harmful pollutants, emitting only water vapor, and no engine noise but for the whirl of an electric motor.

The bottom line? Living next to a highway with trucks could eventually become a much more pleasant experience – but only if the promise of hydrogen fuel cells finally pays off after decades of development.

“They’re quiet. The emissions, the environmental impact, the noise – these are really great benefits for just the person that sees it on the road day to day,” said Yuval Steiman, director of corporate planning for Hyundai, which recently projected there will be 12,000 hydrogen trucks on the road in the U.S. by 2030. That would represent less than 1% of heavy-duty trucks on the road.

How a typical hydrogen vehicle works

Hydrogen vehicles run on electricity created through an on-board fuel cell that generates zero emissions.

For years, the technology made theoretical sense, yet a lack of hydrogen fuel pumps largely limited its reach. But advancements in hydrogen technology and an emphasis on beginning the technological rollout with heavy-duty trucks instead of cars is beginning to make fuel cell vehicles a reality.

“Hydrogen, which never made sense to me as a consumer powertrain, makes complete sense as a heavy-duty commercial powertrain,” said Karl Brauer, an automotive analyst at vehicle-research site, referring to a vehicle's engine and other parts that propel it.

The stakes for the truck manufacturing industry are significant: The sector is projected to have $27.5 billion in 2020 revenue, employ more than 25,000 workers and pay $1.7 billion in wages, according to research firm IBISWorld. A shift in powertrains could require the industry to overhaul how it sources components, hires workers and meets regulatory standards.

Several companies are driving the trend, including Toyota

The Japanese company is the leading seller of hydrogen cars in the U.S., with the Toyota Mirai midsize sedan starting at around $59,000. It sold more than 1,500 units of the vehicle in 2019, mostly to customers in California who live close enough to hydrogen fueling stations to make it feasible. The 1,500 units sold represent a fraction of a percent of the total vehicles sold in the U.S.

Now, the company is moving into semitrucks. Earlier this month, Toyota announced a deal with truck maker Hino to jointly develop hydrogen fuel cell trucks for the North American market. The trucks will get the Toyota Mirai’s hydrogen fuel cell technology and Hino’s vehicle body, with plans to deliver a “demonstration vehicle” in the first half of 2021. That deal comes after Toyota in 2019 announced a separate collaboration with Kenworth Truck to develop heavy-duty hydrogen trucks for North America.

“We’re at that tipping point,” said Andrew Lund, chief engineer of heavy-duty trucks for Toyota. “The technology has proven to be available.”

Like Toyota and Honda, Hyundai has been working on hydrogen fuel cells for years, including recently selling the technology as the Nexo SUV, which starts at about $59,000 and gets 350 miles on a tank of hydrogen.

Earlier this month, the Korean automaker announced it had delivered the first units of its new hydrogen-powered heavy-duty truck, the Xcient, to customers in Switzerland. The company expects to ramp up production capacity of 2,000 units per year by 2021 with plans to bring hydrogen trucks to the U.S. through a $1.3 billion investment in hydrogen infrastructure here.

Hyundai expects to become “the world’s first company to mass produce heavy-duty fuel cell trucks,” Steiman said. “We have the vision of this hydrogen society and we think this is bigger than cars, this is bigger than trucks. This is really a power source that can have a lot of implications for the future.”

Australia’s gas plan will push the Reef to extinction

A brainless Greenpeace emission below. Give them their assumptions and they would be right. But all their assumptions are at best dubious.

For instance, bleaching is mostly caused by sea-level fluctuations: Low level episodes in particular. They make no effort to look at that, They just regurgitate conventional assumptions

And coral is very good at regrowing so bleaching from whatever cause is never permanent. Even Warmist Ove Hoegh Guldberg noted that rapid regrowth

After three mass bleaching events in the last five years, the Great Barrier Reef is not as great as it once was. Now, as Australia attempts to rebuild from the economic fallout of COVID-19, a new threat has emerged which could threaten the world’s largest living organism even further.

Scientists have made it clear that the blame for warmer and more acidic oceans lies on coal, the number one driver of climate change. But now that the Australian Federal government is pushing for a so-called “gas-led recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of gas in the Reef’s demise can no longer go unscrutinised.

Rather than heeding the best advice of scientists and switching Australia from polluting coal and gas to clean energy sources like wind and solar, the Australian Federal Government is instead laying the groundwork to replace one destructive fossil fuel with another. If the government’s gas dreams become reality, the implications for the Reef could be cataclysmic.

In its 2019 Production Gap Report, the UN warned that in order to keep global heating at 1.5 degrees, gas production must decline by 20 percent by 2030.

“The continued rapid expansion of gas supplies and systems risks locking in a much higher gas trajectory than is consistent with a 1.5 degree Celsius or 2 degree Celsius future,” the report reads.

“These declines mean that most of the world’s proven fossil-fuel reserves must be left unburned.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the impact of 1.5C of global warming found that coral reefs would likely decline between 70% and 90% if the temperature increased to that level. If global warming reaches 2C, more than 99% of coral reefs could be wiped out.

Climate change expert and researcher at the Australian National University, Professor Will Steffen, was unequivocal that gas has already damaged the Reef and expanding the industry would only make that damage worse.

“There is no doubt that climate change is the primary driver of the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef,” Professor Steffen said.

“Climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels like gas, so there is a direct link between the greenhouse gas emissions from Australia’s gas industry, whether the gas is burned in Australia or elsewhere in the world, and the degradation and destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.”




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