Monday, August 23, 2021

Antarctica's 'Doomsday Glacier' is being melted by Earth's internal heat as well as climate change, study finds

Wow! This is progress. I have been rattling on for years about the role of subsurface volcanic heat in Antarctic melting but this is the first time I have seen it in the Greenie literature. The claim that global warming is "also" involved is mere assertion without proof

Antarctica's 'Doomsday Glacier' is not only losing ice rapidly from climate change, but it's getting a double whammy from the heat of the Earth itself, a new study suggests.

The Thwaites Glacier — which has been called the 'Doomsday Glacier' due to its impact on sea level rise — is being hit with heat from the Earth's crust, as it is only 10 to 15 miles deep below West Antarctica, compared to around 25 miles in East Antarctica.

This results in an a 'geothermal heat flow of up to 150 milliwatts per square meter,' the study's lead author, Dr Ricarda Dziadek, said in a statement.

According to the BBC, the Thwaites glacier contributes roughly four percent to annual sea-level rise and is now believed to be losing 80 billion tons of ice per year.

Since 1980, it has lost at least 600 billion tons of ice, according to a 2017 analysis done by the New York Times, using data from NASA JPL.

Some of the accelerated sea ice loss can be attributed to hidden rivers under the glacier, according to Live Science, but most of it is related to climate change and rising temperatures.

The researchers looked at geomagnetic field datasets of West Antarctica to create new geothermal heat flow maps.

These showcase how important the second, but just as important, factor is on the glacier and its subsequent ice loss, even if the exact impact is presently unclear.

'The temperature on the underside of the glacier is dependent on a number of factors – for example whether the ground consists of compact, solid rock, or of meters of water-saturated sediment,' explained co-author and AWI geophysicist Dr Karsten Gohl.

'Water conducts the rising heat very efficiently. But it can also transport heat energy away before it can reach the bottom of the glacier.'

In 2020, researchers obtained the first-ever footage of the underside of the glacier, showing turbulent warm waters under the ice sheet that are causing an 'unstoppable retreat.'

The temperature of Earth's crust can vary depending upon location, but it can range between 200C (392F) to 400C (752F) near the Moho, according to National Geographic.

The team found that the heat flow from the Earth's crust is imperative to look at when thinking about its future.

'Large amounts of geothermal heat can, for example, lead to the bottom of the glacier bed no longer freezing completely or to a constant film of water forming on its surface,' Gohl added.

'Both of which would result in the ice masses sliding more easily over the ground. If, in addition, the braking effect of the ice shelf is lost, as can currently be observed in West Antarctica, the glaciers' flow could accelerate considerably due to the increased geothermal heat.'

The enormous basin contains more than six feet of additional potential sea level rise and a significant melting could result in the Thwaites Glacier living up to its 'doomsday' name.

The research was published Thursday in the journal Communications Earth & Environment.


Solar panels are NOT environmentally friendly

Huge resources are used to produce and install them

Let us explore this claim that solar is clean and will save the earth, starting with … well … the framing. The bauxite ore to make aluminum or the manufactured aluminum itself, if comes from, say, China, has to get here vis cargo ships that can consume as much as 63,000 gallons of marine diesel fuel per day to get here at 20-25 miles per hour. Do the math. LNG powered ships, of course, can reduce the impact, but…

And, who produces this aluminum?

First on this list of aluminum-producing countries is China. The world’s leading producer was once again responsible for more than half of global aluminum output in 2020. It put out 37 million MT, and also consumed a considerable amount of the metal.

It’s not just the shipping that creates the impacts, either, or the fact that our enemies tend to be our solar aluminum suppliers. Chemicals, electricity, oil and gas, as well as coal, are all used in the production of aluminum, as this story indicates:

The other major ingredient used in the smelting operation is carbon. Carbon electrodes transmit the electric current through the electrolyte. During the smelting operation, some of the carbon is consumed as it combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide. In fact, about half a pound (0.2 kg) of carbon is used for every pound (2.2 kg) of aluminum produced. Some of the carbon used in aluminum smelting is a byproduct of oil refining; additional carbon is obtained from coal.

Because aluminum smelting involves passing an electric current through a molten electrolyte, it requires large amounts of electrical energy. On average, production of 2 lb (1 kg) of aluminum requires 15 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy. The cost of electricity represents about one-third of the cost of smelting aluminum.

Summation: Green energy companies are misleading us when they say going solar will save the planet. They could not produce solar without coal, oil, or other fossil fuels used in the production of the materials used in framing those ugly land destroying solar energy facilities.


It’s the end of the world as we know it – again


The end of the world, it seems, is here to stay. No doubt, today’s climate scientists, armed with computer models that spit out mountains of projections, are a far cry from the doomsaying prophets of old.

But it is not hard to discern a continuity between the heat, fires and cyclones the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced earlier this week and the flames, floods and famines that have framed one of mankind’s most ancient fantasies.

Long before the many accounts of the last days of humanity were committed to writing, tribal lays had recorded disasters that would presage the demise of life on earth. The Indian version, which figures in the Mahabharata and the Puranas, expected the “Fire of the Cosmic Conflagration” to bring on the universe’s dissolution. And similar to it were the Ragnarok myth of the Scandinavians and the German Gotterdammerung – that fearful time, foretold in the Voluspa, in which mankind would be overrun by “Malice and foulness, Ere the World ends, Ere the Doom fall”.

The Greeks refined those prefigurations into the myth of the eternal return, with its perpetual cycle of destruction and renewal. But it was undoubtedly the Christian vision of the end of days that left the most enduring imprint on the Western mind.

Best captured in the notion of the adventus – that which comes towards us – the end time, in that vision, already exists and its realisation, when it transforms itself into the present, would be merely the ultimate moment of revelation. Always already given and known by God, the apocalypse – or “lifting of the veil” – was viewed as a fate humanity might fear or desire but that was not of its doing.

Deeply marking Europe’s collective imaginary for century after century, that conception of the end time underwent dramatic change in the period that stretched from the Enlightenment through to the late 19th century. As living standards began to rise, expectations of progress and of personal and social improvement, which until then had stayed stubbornly beyond reach, acquired unprecedented immediacy. At the same time, however, new horrors emerged out of the chaos of the Napoleonic wars and from the “dark satanic mills” that drove a huddling underclass into urban infernos.

It was therefore no coincidence that just as the Enlightenment’s central, formative doctrine – that the constant augmentation of knowledge would serve as an inextinguishable engine of progress – gained ground, a radically new version of the apocalypse appeared, with Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainville’s Last Days of Humanity heralding its arrival.

A defrocked priest so despairing of the future that he drowned himself in the Somme canal at Amiens on February 1, 1805, Cousin de Grainville shocked his readers by asserting that the world would end in accordance with the laws of nature, not by a word from God. The end would, in other words, come naturally and without any help from divine intervention or human ingenuity – but no less painfully for that.

Absorbed into the maelstrom of romanticism, by the 1830s Cousin de Grainville’s vision of nature turning upon man had spawned a dystopian “counterdream” to the Enlightenment’s dream of perpetual improvement.

Suddenly, Europe’s leading painters, anticipating Bertolt Brecht’s prediction that someday nothing would remain of the world’s great cities except the wind that blows through them, began depicting London, Paris and Berlin as colossal, burnt-out ruins, hulking in an uninhabitable landscape of charred stumps and blackened carcasses.

Yet that secularised version of the apocalypse, in which the end days, rather than revealing the divine will, revealed the innermost secrets of nature’s laws, itself proved transient. As scientific advance accelerated, and the late 19th-century arms race with it, the newly developed genre of science fiction portrayed in spine-chilling terms Europe’s terrible readiness for mutual destruction and its thirst for what Yeats was to call the “blood-dimmed tide”.

Fascinated by the prospect of a final, purging, fire that would consume self-destructive mankind, those premonitory fantasies culminated in HG Wells’s The World Set Free, written in 1913, which grimly foresaw “the unquestionable crimson conflagrations of the atomic bombs”.

With even Wells’s terrifying images understating the dissolution of civilised norms and human hopes that was to come, the 20th century both renewed and redefined the end time. There had been, in the romantic vision of the apocalypse, an element of nature taking its revenge on reckless humanity; now, in the final step of secularising what remained a quintessentially theological concept, responsibility for the life-ending cataclysm was laid squarely at man’s door.

Clad in the trappings of science, these versions of the end time cast it as a catastrophe under human control. If mankind averted the disaster, humanity would be saved; if not, it would trigger an apocalypse that, in marked contrast to earlier conceptions, no longer foreshadowed a new beginning. Shorn of the Christian promise of redemption, humanity, should it fail to act decisive­ly, would, this time, have neither new life nor any second chances.

Hence the dramatic urgency that permeated the mass campaigns for the renunciation of war in the 1920s, for unilateral nuclear disarmament in the ’60s and for drastic environmental action in the decades after that.

And hence too each of those movements’ obsession with inexorable “tipping points” that, although invariably pushed back as previously announced deadlines arrived, were always portrayed as fast approaching.

Poised on the eve of its own extinction, humanity seemed, in these fully secularised visions of mankind’s demise, even more forlorn than it was when the end days reflected the wrath of primeval gods.

It may be that the apocalypse’s persistence over the millennia reflects an evolutionary function: perhaps natural selection, harnessing the individual fear of death to the goal of humanity’s survival, has endowed us with a collective hypochondria that keeps societies on their toes. And it may also be that our visions of the end have become more grounded in reality and better constrained by analytical disciplines than were their predecessors.

But if history has a lesson, it is that the apocalyptic mindset has repeatedly unleashed forces every bit as dangerous as the fates it foretold. Impatient for action, disdainful of debate, extreme fears, like extreme hopes, have always been the implacable enemies of reasoned judgment and of democratic deliberation. Releasing ancient instincts, those fears can readily fuel fanaticism, intolerance and distrust; and they are made all the more dangerous by their interaction with the myriad other factors tearing the social fabric. As the pandemic and climate change once again set those instincts aflame, it would be ironic if our fear of an ending finally proved to be the end of us.


The Big Battery Myth: Why Battery Storage Can’t Save Intermittent Wind & Solar

You have probably heard about “big batteries” that are expected to keep the lights on as we negotiate the green energy transition from conventional power to renewable energy. For example a 600MW battery has been suggested to partially replace the Liddell coal-fired power station when it is phased out in 2023.

As the green energy transition proceeds the intermittent input from wind and solar will have to be “firmed” (backed up) by “dispatchable” power – that is power that is available on demand – from some combination of gas turbines, battery storage and pumped hydro reservoirs.

Batteries are prominent in planning at present and this calls for close attention to the feasibility and the cost of battery storage. A previous note estimated the cost of battery storage for a single wind farm.

The critical issue is the capacity of batteries. As explained in the note, the capacity of batteries is so small compared with the demand of the grid that it is not helpful to think of “big” batteries as grid-scale storage to provide dispatchable power.

The Hornsdale battery holds 194MWh, that is one fifth of a GigawattHour (GWh). Compare with the amount of power that flows through the NEM in the course of the day. The “depth” of the stream of power varies from 18GW (18,000MW) to 37GW (37,000MW) at the peak of demand during summer heatwaves. The figure below shows how the demand rises from the low point in the small hours of the morning to meet the demand at breakfast time, then settles during the day to rise again to the daily peak at dinnertime. The peak of demand lately did not exceed 30GW and so the calculations underestimate the amount required at the peak of demand near 37GW. It is not necessary to be more precise to make the point about the relative amount of power in “big” batteries compared with the grid.

Allowing an average flow of 25000MW for the 24 hour day, the total amount of power required is 600,000MWh, that is 3000 Hornsdale units.

The Capacity of Big Batteries

We are informed by AEMO that the energy transition is inevitable. “This system is now experiencing the biggest and fastest transformational change in the world.”

At least 15GW of coal power is expected to close by 2040, to be replaced by some 36GW of wind and solar power.

The intermittent input from wind and solar will have to be “firmed” (backed up) by “dispatchable” power from some combination of gas generation, storage in batteries and storage in pumped hydro reservoirs.

A Wood Mackenzie survey found that Australian companies have plans to build 9.2GWh (gigawatt-hours) of battery storage but only 4% of these projects have started construction. In other words hardly any battery storage is operating or under construction at present.

One of the planned functions of big batteries is to provide almost instantaneous inputs to counter sudden falls in the supply of wind or solar power that were signalled in this note on fluctuations in the wind supply.

The other function that is (hopefully) planned is to provide substantial amounts of power to cover periods of high demand (dinnertime) and periods when there is little or no wind and solar power (windless nights.) This proposal is not realistic due to the limited capacity of “big batteries’ compared with the amount of power required in the grid.

Consider the amount of power stored in the Hornsdale Power Reserve, the official name of the Elon Musk Big Battery installed at the Hornsdale wind farm in 2017. It was billed as the biggest battery storage unit in the world at the time and it occupied a hectare with a cost of $90 million for 129 MWh of power. In 2020 the second phase added 65MWh at a cost of $71 million. That is $1.1 million per MWh compared with $700,000 per MWh for the first phase. This is surprising, assuming that most of the infrastructure supporting the battery (land, cabling etc) that was purchased and constructed during Phase 1 is common to Phase 2. That should reduce the cost especially as we are assured that the price of storage is “plummeting.”

Big battery capacities are often reported in MW and not MWh. The difference is critical because the MW figure indicates the depth of the flow or the size of the pipe if you want to think about it like that and the figure for MWh indicates the quantity or the amount of power that flows through the “pipe.”

There are reports of two-hour, four-hour and even eight-hour batteries and we need to know the depth of flow in MW in addition to the period of the flow in hours to know precisely how much storage capacity can be delivered.

To be clear about the limited capacity of big batteries, compare the 194MWh of power stored in the Hornsdale Power Reserve with the amount of power consumed in the state of South Australia. The depth of the stream of power in the grid varies over the range of 1000MW to 2,500MW depending on the time of day and the season. Allowing 1,500MW for the purpose of estimation, that translates into a daily flow of 36,000MWh. That is equivalent to the capacity of 185 Hornsdale batteries.

With the cost in the vicinity of $200 million per unit, that amount of battery storage is clearly out of the question even when the number of units is reduced to take account of solar power during the day. Many more would be required to allow for wind droughts that exceed 24 hours, as occurred in June 2020.




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