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Warmer and warmer

Filed under: — rasmus @ 13 September 2010

Are the heat waves really getting more extreme? This question popped up after the summer of 2003 in Europe, and yet again after this hot Russian summer. The European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), which normally doesn’t make much noise about climate issues, has since made a statement about July global mean temperature being record warm:

Consistent with widespread media reports of extreme heat and adverse impacts in various places, the latest results from ERA-Interim indicate that the average temperature over land areas of the extratropical northern hemisphere reached a new high in July 2010. May and June 2010 were also unusually warm.

Here, the ERA-Interim, also referred to as ‘ERAINT’, is the ECMWF’s state-of-the-art reanalysis. But the ERAINT describes the atmospheric state only since 1989, and in isolation, it is not the ideal data set for making inferences about long-term climate change because it doesn’t go all that far back in time. However, the statement also draws on the longer reanalysis known as the ERA40 re-analysis, spanning the time interval 1957-2002. Thus, taken into context of ERA40, the ECMWF has some legitimacy behind their statement.

The ERAINT reanalysis is a product of all suitable measurements fed into a model of the atmosphere, describing all the known relevant physical laws and processes. Basically, reanalyses represent the most complete and accurate picture that we can give for the day-to-day atmosphere, incorporating all useful information we have (satellites, ground observations, ships, buoys, aircrafts, radiosondes, rawinsondes). They can also be used to reconstruct things at finer spatial and temporal scales than is possible using met station data, based on physical rules provided by weather models.

The reanalyses are closely tied to the measurements at most locations where observations – such as 2-meter temperature, T(2m), or surface pressure – are provided and used in the data assimilation. Data assimilation is a way of making the model follow the observations as closely as possible at the locations where they are provided, hence constraining the atmospheric model. The constraining of the atmospheric model affect the predictions where there are no observations because most of the weather elements – except for precipitation – do not change abruptly over short distance (mathematically, we say that they are described by ‘spatially smooth and slowly changing functions’).

There are also locations – notably the in the Polar regions and over Africa – where ground-based measurements are sparse, and where much is left for the weather models to predict without observational constraints. In such regions, the description may be biased by model shortcomings, and different reanalysis may provide a different regional picture of the surface conditions. Surface variables such as T(2m) are strongly affected by their environment, which may be represented differently in different weather models (e.g. different spatial resolution implies different altitudes) and therefore is a reason for differences between reanalyses.

Furthermore, soil moisture may affect T(2m), linking temperature to precipitation. The energy flow (heat fluxes) between the ground/lakes/sea and the atmosphere may also affect surface temperatures. However, both precipitation and heat fluxes are computed by the reanalysis atmosphere model without direct constraints, and are therefore only loosely tied to the observations fed into the models. Furthermore, both heat fluxes and precipitation can vary substantially over short distances, and are often not smooth spatial functions.

While the evidence suggesting more extremely high temperatures are mounting over time, the number of resources offering data is also growing. Some of these involve satellite borne remote sensing instruments, but many data sets do not incorporate such data.

In the book “A Vast Machine“, Paul N. Edwards discusses various types of data and how all data involve some type of modelling, even barometers and thermometers. It also provides an account on the observational network, models, and the knowledge we have derived from these. Myles Allen has written a review of this book in Nature, and I have reviewed it for Physics World (subscription required for the latter).

All data need to be screened though a quality control, to eliminate misreadings, instrument failure, or other types of errors. A typical screening criterion is to check whether e.g. the temperature estimated by satellite remote sensing is unrealistically high, but sometimes such screening may also throw out valid data, such as was the case of the Antarctic ozone hole. Such post-processing is done differently in analyses, satellite measurements, and reanalyses.

The global mean temperature estimated from the ERAINT, however, is not very different from other analyses or reanalyses (see figure below) for the time they overlap. We also see a good agreement between the ERA40 reanalysis, the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis, and the traditional datasets – analyses – of gridded temperature (GISTEMP, HadCRUT3v, NCDC).

Do the ERAINT and ERA40 provide a sufficient basis for making meaningful
inferences about extreme temperatures and unprecedented heat waves? An important point with reanalyses, is that the model used doesn’t change over the time spanned by the analysis, but reanalyses are generally used with caution for climate change studies because the number and type of observations being fed into the computer model changes over time. Changes in the number of observations and instruments is also an issue affecting the more traditional analyses.

Since the ERAINT only goes as far back as 1989, it involves many modern satellite-borne remote sensing measurements, and it is believed that there are less problems with observational network discontinuity after this date than in the earlier days. It may be more problematic studying trends in the ERA40 data, due to huge improvements in the observational platforms between 1958 and now. Hence, it is important also to look at individual long-term series of high quality. These series have to be ‘homogeneous’, meaning that they need to reflect the local climate variable consistently through its span, not being affected by changes in the local environment, instrumentation, and measurement practices.

An analysis I published in 2004, looking at how often record-high monthly temperatures recur, indicated that record-breaking monthly mean temperature have been more frequent that they would have been if the climate were not getting hotter. This analysis supports the ECMWF statement, and was based on a few high-quality temperature series scattered across our planet, chosen to be sufficiently far from each other to minimize mutual dependencies that can bias the analysis.

The ECMWF provides data for some climate indices, such as the global mean temperature, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a web site for extreme temperatures and precipitation around the world with an interactive map, showing the warmest and coldest sites on the continents. Another useful tool is the KNMI ClimateExplorer, where people can both access data and carry out different analyses on line. It is also possible to get climate data on your iPhone/iPod Touch through Apps like Climate Mobile.

Update: I just learned that NOAA recently has launched a Climate Services Portal on

Update: is another site that provides station-based climate data. The site shows linear trends estimated for the last 50 years.

532 Responses to “Warmer and warmer”

  1. 401
    Jacob Mack says:

    Ric Merrit # 397 well said. These are enourmous issues not solved or near solving as of yet. At this rate then we will be seeing more than a doubling of C02.

  2. 402
    Jacob Mack says:

    SA 399 yes you are correct. I will probably slip now and then anyways and just state windmills.

  3. 403
    Jacob Mack says:

    SA 400: Interesting link:

    Problem is the 20% of energy needs met by renewables will most likely not be met by this year.

    Let’s do it by the numbers:

    First Quote from your link:
    The solar farms, which concentrate the sun’s power on mirrors to produce heat used to generate electricity, could eventually produce enough electricity to power 675,000 homes.”

    There are 39,961,664 people in the state of California. Now 20% of 39,961, 664 is: 7,992,332.8. by simple caluclation of 39,961,664 * 0.20. By that metric we are no where near 20% in 2010 and at this rate or even a significantly higher rate over the next few years either.

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    By Julie Schmit, USA TODAY
    California is on track to approve a wave of solar farms this year that will more than double the state’s ability to generate electricity from solar power.
    Since August, four major solar projects — including one on 7,000-plus acres billed as the world’s largest — have won state approval. The California Energy Commission is expected to OK two more this week. The solar farms, which concentrate the sun’s power on mirrors to produce heat used to generate electricity, could eventually produce enough electricity to power 675,000 homes.

    Next quote:

    “No other state is moving as aggressively as California to add solar. Its embrace of big-scale solar may inspire other states, boosters say. “These are the first projects of this size in the U.S.,” says Rhone Resch, CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “They’re a sign to the rest of the country that solar is here, not a technology of the future.”

    Okay the first sentence is correct but look at CA’s natural exposure to the sun and all of the empty land mass. I may have only been living here for 3 years at this point but I was born here and my dad lived here for a couple of decades. This type of discussion is not all that new, although the smog issue in LA was well reduced among other areas. The windmill and solar issue is quite another story. What sign is there? I am confused by this statement. CA is not even at 10% yet as one can see here:
    0.10 * 39,000,961,664 = 3,996,166.4. Basic elementary school math. This stuff is tested again on the GRE and the CBEST as well. Okay moving on to the next quote (and do not worry we will explore other metrics for that so called 20% and 33% discussed later on too, in terms of Kwh and what not).

    Next Quote:
    “California, the nation’s largest solar producer, has ample sunshine and big renewable-energy goals. Last week, state regulators passed rules requiring that one-third of electricity sold in California come from renewable sources by 2020.”

    CA is the nation’s largest solar producer and it does have ample sunshine so why is is taking so long to get to 30-50% of the electricity from clean renewable? Why has it not reached 20% now? The goal is not backed by solid data and real world current construction. There are a few “engineering” papers floating around stating “es we can!” These papers to date have more holes in them than swiss cheese.

    Next quote:

    “California’s push for solar is also being driven by a federal deadline for stimulus funds. Projects must be underway by Dec. 31 to get federal cash grants in lieu of tax credits equal to 30% of the projects’ costs.”

    Ah political $$$ funding. I like that CA is trying to get these projects off the ground but as we will later this article discusses poor siting and ovwersight of ‘ind turbines’placement.

    Next quote:
    Late last year, California and federal regulators agreed to expedite projects that were on track to meet the stimulus deadline. The federal Bureau of Land Management has fast-tracked the large California projects, four large solar projects in Nevada and one in Arizona.”

    Ditto on deadlines. What does “large” mean? In a research paper or design paper in engineering this is far too vague a terminology. Even for a news report, do we know anything specific about these land projects?

    Next quote:

    “We’ve made significant progress without cutting corners” on environmental protections, says Michael Picker, renewable-energy adviser to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

    Lies. Wind turbines kill a heck of a lot birds. A heack of a lot means: 15,000 (conservative end) to 40,000 a year (liberal end).

    Next quote:

    “By year’s end, California’s energy commission is expected to rule on nine solar farms that could produce 4,300 megawatts of power. One megawatt produces enough electricity for 225 California homes, the industry estimates. Some projects also need federal approval because they are on federal land.”

    If 1,000,000 watts =(1 MW) 1 home then 4300 million watts = 4300 homes.

    Next quote:

    “Along with the solar thermal farms, California has more than a dozen large solar photovoltaic and wind projects trying to meet the stimulus deadline”

    How large are these projects? How man MW of power? How man KWh can be provided?

    Next quote:

    “Environmentalists, who are largely supportive of solar, sought changes to some thermal farms to lessen damage to wildlife and plants.”

    Yes, as the materials needed to build solar panels and such are easier to come by than the materials used that are critical for wind turbines.

    Final quote:
    Future farms should be more carefully sited on already degraded land and less on desert wilderness, says Kimberley Delfino, a program director for Defenders of Wildlife.”

    Yes of course!

    Okay so let us look at this from other perspectives:

    Now I refer to Daniel Sadi Kirschen and Goran Strbac in: “Fundamentals of Power System Economics starting on page 49, available on Google Books.

    Electricity in general is a commodity and is therefore itself not only a source of money but also something that acts as form of currency or barter.

    The physical system, however, of electricity as the authors directly phrase it is one that operates at a much faster rate than any other market.Therefore in this physical power system the supply and demand = generation and load must be balanced second by second or else there is collapse. What fail safes are currently operating, how much of this smart grid is constructed how many high power lines are up and running, how much theory has translated into actual construction, and how much time has there been spent on quality testing of such infrastructure?

    This by no means should suggest we should close down shop or stop all of the current engineering and manufacture of such assets to the environment either. I never implied or stated we should so such a thing.

  4. 404
    Jacob Mack says:

    And finally for many hours now since I am posting a heck of a lot:

    “How many homes can one megawatt of wind energy supply?

    An average U.S. household uses about 10,655 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each year. One megawatt of wind energy can generate from 2.4 to more than 3 million kWh annually. Therefore, a megawatt of wind generates about as much electricity as 225 to 300 households use. It is important to note that since the wind does not blow all of the time, it cannot be the only power source for that many households without some form of storage system. The “number of homes served” is just a convenient way to translate a quantity of electricity into a familiar term that people can understand. (Typically, storage is not needed, because wind generators are only part of the power plants on a utility system, and other fuel sources are used when the wind is not blowing. According to the U.S. Department of Energy , “When wind is added to a utility system, no new backup is required to maintain system reliability.” Wind Energy Myths, Wind Powering America Fact Sheet Series, .)” many homes can one megawatt of wind energy supply

  5. 405
    Jacob Mack says:

    Self correction from this quote of mine:

    “Next quote:

    “By year’s end, California’s energy commission is expected to rule on nine solar farms that could produce 4,300 megawatts of power. One megawatt produces enough electricity for 225 California homes, the industry estimates. Some projects also need federal approval because they are on federal land.”

    If 1,000,000 watts =(1 MW) 1 home then 4300 million watts = 4300 homes.”

    Meant to say 225 * 4300 = 967,500. So 1MW = 225 homes. Not terrible but not 10%.

  6. 406
    David B. Benson says:

    Jacob Mack @404 — As long as we are treating this off-topic, here in the Pacfic Northwest (BPA’s 147+ utility districts only), BPA has made it abundantly clear that their hydro resources (almost all the hydro in the region), can only act as backup for wind power for wind up to 20% of total installed capacity, not more.

    The point is that substantial wind requires new backup, the amount being location dependent.

  7. 407
    Jacob Mack says:

    Lest anyone misunderstand:

    I meant
    39,961,664 not 39,000,961,664. That is million and not billion. Other than that and my usual typos (due to little time and PhD dissertation work and being “uppidy,” and sticking keys) I am correct.

    Also my apologies to RC for some excess. I will not answer Hank until tomorrow then.

  8. 408
    Jacob Mack says:

    David B. Benson, # 406 yes:

    Hydroelectric power supply = 24% of the world’s electricity supply and 12% of the United States’. Hydroelectric also relies upon large turbines. That 24% translates into a very impressive number: 675,000 MW or more than 2.3 trillion KWh per year globally which services more than 1 billion people or about. If one billion is 1/6 of the Earth’s population. 1/6 = 0.166666667 * 100 = 16.7% rounded up. Thus we need to add about 7.3% to that figure. Norway and the Democratic Republic of Congo get 99% of its electricity from hydroelectric, Brazil 92%. The US has over 2,000 hydropower plants which supplies a 96% share (in total) or about 50% from clean usage (or a tad higher) of the total US renewable energy sources making it the largest. Not all steam generation is done cleanly, though it can become cleaner.
    However only around 10% (or a tad higher by some estimates) of the total US electricity supply comes from hydroelectric plants.
    Washington received 80% in 2002 of its electricity from hydroelectric while Ohio received 87% from the burning of coal due its abundance there.
    In 2003: 3.1% from petroleum, 7.8% from hydroelectric, 11.7% from gas, 22.7% from nuclear, 55.4% from coal

  9. 409
    Septic Matthew says:

    Yesterday CAISO delivered 821,653 megawatt-hours of electricity in 24 hours, of which 50,088 was from renewables. Wind energy practically disappears by about 11am, whereas solar peaks in the daytime when it is most needed.

    SecularAnimist, what part of my progression (6%, 8% etc.) do you dispute? Daily peak CA demand in summer exceeds 40,000 megawatts. What looks like a large solar farm will supply less than 1% of demand. Solar supplied 3,316MWh yesterday; if that doubles in 2 years (as I anticipate) then it will supply perhaps 6,632MWh out of 821,653MWh. Five doublings gets to about 100,000 MWh, or about 1/8th of demand.

    Very little of the hardware is manufactured in CA, but that is a detail for another time. CA can not meet its renewable energy standard with present efforts.

  10. 410

    404 Jacob Mack,

    Bad physics, bad!

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy , “When wind is added to a utility system, no new backup is required to maintain system reliability.” Wind Energy Myths, Wind Powering America Fact Sheet Series,

    You can not really believe that.

    Of course no new backup is required if there is an abundant amount of peaking generators sitting by, or there is hydro that is not being fully tapped out, and the governing forces that be will allow it to be used as a peaking source. But that will work out only for a small amount of wind energy capacity being in the mix.

    I often point to the Ontario Power Schedule to show how things work out where a large system strongly promotes wind, though the problem there seems to be more that there is not much that should be expected from wind in general, even though the ‘nameplate’ capacity is significant.

  11. 411

    399 and 402

    Windmills versus wind turbines get you guys excited? But you care not a whit that CO2 is called carbon. I demonstrated this to be a chronic source of error somewhere on these pages, but the moderator stopped me from declaring victory.

    I guess I was too rough in sarcastically congratulating the perpetrator for having redeemed his credential in advanced chemistry, for having corrected his error himself.

    I even can show that the EPA gets tripped up on this; though they might escape if they are willing to admit that they are simply trying to be misleading with their analysis about the cost of CO2 capture.

    But I still like windmills as a name, partly because it suggests a degree of futility in the push for this often failed type of apparatus. I go back some: farmers in the midwest used windmills to pump water, not grind grain. And everyone called them windmills. There must have been one heck of a windmill promoter in 1930s, having managed to get a large percentage of farmers to put these up, and though I saw many, I don’t remember ever seeing one actually working.

  12. 412
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “An average U.S. household uses about 10,655 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each year.” – 404

    Meanwhile my home uses 1/5th of that amount of energy per year, and plans are in place that will reduce my consumption to 2/3’s of it’s current consumption.

    Why are Americans so wasteful?

    “Therefore, a megawatt of wind generates about as much electricity as 225 to 300 households use.” – 404

    Or 1125 to 1500 homes.

    So a city of 1 million homes requires a gigawatt of power.

    Other than wasteful consumption, and general stupidity, I fail to see a problem.

  13. 413
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “Organic panels only last a day or two.” – 352


  14. 414
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “Major crystalline module price declines took place, by 50–60 percent by some estimates, from highs of $3.50 per watt in 2008 to lows approaching $2 per watt.” – 368

    Ya, I figure that when I reach 4 KwH per day it will be time for me to swtich to off grid PV generation. The one time cost will be under $8,000 and save about 300 bucks a year.

    Without subsidies, PV prices are going to have to come down to half their current level if people are to retrofit.

  15. 415
    Hank Roberts says:

    Jacob, look again at the Scholar results page. Don’t take only take the first one off the stack; results vary from day to day. Point is, it’s not impossible, and people are working on what you say can’t be done. There’s a proverb about that.

  16. 416
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “But to expect everyone in the country to duplicate your efforts is whistling Dixie” – 310

    The primary impediment for radically improvements in U.S. patterns of consumption is the ignorance of the American public, and a ineptly designed infrastructure that makes it more difficult than necessary to change.

    Homes continue to be built that are inadequately designed to capture sunlight for heating, inadequately designed to provide shade for cooling, inadequately coated to provide summer reflectivity in order to reduce cooling requirements, inadequately wired to provide for flexible and efficient lighting, and support for alternate power systesms.

    Homes are located too far from the workplace. Automobiles are made to large and inefficient for the task of moving individuals to and from work.

    Work is inadequately constructed to take advantage of working at home which negates the need for commuting at all.

    Retail delivery systems are inadequate, forcing customers to purchase larger vehicles for transporting goods that are better delivered as a retail service.

    The list goes on and on and on.

    American society is a legacy of 18th century thinking and has only managed to survive to this century because of it’s massive compensating overconsumption and the result of the competitive economic advantage it gained by having geographic isolation from the destruction of the last two world wars.

    Even now when the writing is on the wall for the Climate system and the collapsing American State, the state is addressing none of it’s structural problems, and in fact is actively taking steps to delay their solution.

    The time to hit the American Reset Button is fast approaching.

  17. 417

    JM 404: Wind turbines kill a heck of a lot birds. A heack of a lot means: 15,000 (conservative end) to 40,000 a year (liberal end).

    BPL: Source? And compare that to the tens of millions which break their necks smacking into buildings every year. And wind energy means less environmental degradation and less habitat loss, the biggest killer of birds (and other life-forms).

  18. 418
    Hank Roberts says:

    > compare that … break their necks smacking into buildings

    Often it’s the lighting at night that’s the problem.

    This can be and sometimes is addressed by turning off lights otherwise left on all night.

    That’s synergistic.

  19. 419
    Jacob Mack says:

    # 410: Jim, Of course I do not believe that. They do need massive back up generation.Wind turbines are horribly inefficient. I was merely quoting the link.

    Part of your quote Jime:
    “404 Jacob Mack,

    Bad physics, bad!

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy , “When wind is added to a utility system, no new backup is required to maintain system reliability.” Wind Energy Myths, Wind Powering America Fact Sheet Series,

    You can not really believe that.”

    No I do not believe that. It is funny what many of my fellow posters do believe though and leave unchallenged.

    # 411 Jim: I guess I was too rough in sarcastically congratulating the perpetrator for having redeemed his credential in advanced chemistry, for having corrected his error himself. A pot shot at..?

    # 413: Vendicar, on organic panels just go to Stanford or UC Davis links to see how the newly developed organic solar panels must be replaced each day or so.

    # 415: Hank You should know better than that. I did look at all of the entries offered from your link and I am checking them daily as well. I just do not have time to comment on them all. It is not possible to provide energy to the entire world using clean renewables alone.

    # 417: BPL, It is very easy to find that reference on birds and windmills, turbines on Google. TO date you as of yet have not offered even one reference to support your claims regarding battery performance and the engineering you “know,” is true.

    # 418: Hank, two wrongs do not make a right. Your statement is the equivalent to saying that there are more murders in Iraq than in Brooklyn so it is all relative and fine. I thought we had die hard conservationsists here as well.

  20. 420
    Jacob Mack says:

    One more comment to Hank: the Stanford article was abysmal. Those engineers who wrote it should lose their license. Okay, well I am saddended to see that the weight of evidence was in my favor, but I did read all those references those who did provide them. I spoke with my green engineer friends, spoke with a few former professors, dug through my textbooks and so forth. It is with a heavy heart I admit I am correct in my assertions following the data, the current projects and future planned ones as well.

  21. 421
    Brian Dodge says:

    “Solve the problem with better stoves with better fuel economy and you reduce lung cancer, deforestation, particulates and black soot.”
    Burn, baby, burn: Student-engineered stoves put to the test by Tanzanian women
    “Grameen Shakti won a first prize Ashden Award in 2006 for providing photovoltaic (PV) solar-home-systems through affordable lo ans to 65,000 households in Bangladesh. Its work has expanded rapidly and diversified. With 2,000 staff now operating from 400 local offices, a total of 150,000 solar-home-systems have been installed. In the past two years Grameen Shakti has also sold 14,000 cheap, efficient cooking stoves and 3,000 biogas plants.”

    I just saw a pbs tv story about this. An enterprising Bangladeshi woman who raises chickens and produces eggs installed a biogas plant to handle the waste from her farming. She discovered that the addition of cow manure increased gas production so much that she could sell excess to several neighbors, including the local tea shop – 9AM to 10PM continuous stovetop brewing of tea – and paid off the lo an for the biogas plant in 9 months. Business is booming at the tea shop since it doesn’t smell like kerosene (former stove fuel) anymore.

  22. 422
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “Wind turbines kill a heck of a lot birds. A heack of a lot means: 15,000 (conservative end) to 40,000 a year (liberal end)” – 417

    Those are astonishing numbers.

    Not because of their magnitude, but because you can specify them without knowing anything about the bird population of the area the wind turbines are situated in, or the size and speed of the rotors.

    It’s almost as if you just pulled those numbers out of your backside.


  23. 423
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “Vendicar, on organic panels just go to Stanford or UC Davis links to see how the newly developed organic solar panels must be replaced each day or so.” – 419

    I see, so that means to you that because some experimental cells oxidize readily, that they all do so.

    How then do you explain the tens of millions of them that have lasted for years powering those cheap patio lights on people’s front lawns.


  24. 424

    JB 411: I still like windmills as a name, partly because it suggests a degree of futility in the push for this often failed type of apparatus.

    BPL: 20% of Denmark’s electricity comes from wind; they’re pushing for 50% by 2020. Portugal now gets 45% of its electricity from renewables–mostly wind. Indonesia gets 18% of its electricity from geothermal, for that matter.

  25. 425
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Bullis wrote: “I still like windmills as a name, partly because it suggests a degree of futility in the push for this often failed type of apparatus.”

    According to WorldWatch Institute, in 2009 “wind power additions reached a record high of 38 GW. China was the top market, with 13.8 GW added, representing more than one-third of the world market — up from just a 2 percent market share in 2004. The United States was second, with 10 GW added. The share of wind power generation in several countries reached record highs, including 6.5 percent in Germany and 14 percent in Spain … Wind power received more than 60 percent of utility-scale renewables investment in 2009 (excluding small projects), due mostly to rapid expansion in China.”

    WorldWatch also notes that “during the past five years from 2005 to 2009 … wind power capacity grew an average of 27 percent annually”.

    “Often failed type of apparatus”?

    What on earth are you talking about?

  26. 426

    This thread, 411 (Jim Bullis),

    Jim, on the term windmill versus wind turbine:

    But I still like windmills as a name, partly because it suggests a degree of futility in the push for this often failed type of apparatus.

    Other thread, 283, (Jim Bullis),

    Jim, on the description of CO2 as “poison” (which has never actually been done):

    As to my being angry — about terminology usage. Yes, mostly because it causes a lot of confusion where there is need for clear discussion.

  27. 427
    Brian Dodge says:

    “Lies. Wind turbines kill a heck of a lot birds. A heack of a lot means: 15,000 (conservative end) to 40,000 a year (liberal end).” Jacob Mack — 29 September 2010 @ 3:51 PM
    “Recent studies and interviews with experts indicate that the impacts of wind power facilities on birds and other wildlife vary by region and by species. Wildlife mortalities in two locations in particular have elicited concerns from scientists, regulators, and the public. Specifically, a recent study shows that over 1,000 raptors are killed by wind power facilities in northern California each year. Many experts attribute this large number of fatalities to unique aspects of wind power development in northern California, such as the unusually large number of turbines (over 5,000), the type of turbines in the region, and the presence of abundant raptor prey in the area. On the other side of the country, a recent study estimated that over 2,000 bats were killed during a 1-year period at a wind power facility in the mountains of eastern West Virginia. Studies from these two locations stand in contrast to studies from other wind power facilities. These studies show relatively lower bird and bat mortality.”

  28. 428
    Brian Dodge says:

    Re organic photocell lifetime and lawn lights –
    “Large solar panels were constructed from polymer solar cell modules prepared using full roll-to-roll (R2R) manufacture based on the previously published ProcessOne.”
    “Cells lacking a R2R barrier layer were found to degrade due to diffusion of oxygen after less than a month, while R2R encapsulated cells showed around 50% degradation after 6 months but suffered from poor performance due to de-lamination during panel production.[Problem!] A third generation of panels with various barrier layers was produced to optimize the choice of barrier foil and it was found that the inclusion of a thin protective foil between the cell and the barrier foil is critical.[Problem solved!]”

    However, the lawn lights don’t use organic solar cells, but other inexpensive technology. “Solar panel:Mono(multi)crystalline solar panel” aka polycrystalline silicon “24-Pack COPPER Bright-LED Hut Solar Lighting Products Features: – NEW Model! – AMORPHOUS solar panels charging unit in both sunny and cloudy condition”

  29. 429
    John E. Pearson says:

    Venidcar on 422 and bird mortaility:

    I believe there is a typo in the following excerpt. My guess is that the “97 to 976 million” should read “97 to 97.6” but otherwise, it is quite clear that windmills killing birds is a non-issue, at least at this time. I would argue that naively it will always be a nonissue. If we increased our wind capacity 100 fold over current assuming linear scaling windmill caused bird mortality would still be a drop in the bucket compared to other human causes.

    Collisions. Building window strikes may account for 97 to 976 million bird deaths each year. Communication towers conservatively kill 4 to 5 million birds annually (possibly closer to 40 to 50 million; a nationwide cumulative impacts study should help resolve this question). Strikes at high tension transmission and distribution power lines very conservatively kill tens of thousands of birds annually. Taking into account the millions of miles of bulk transmission and distribution lines in the U.S., and extrapolating from European studies, actual mortality could be as high as 174 milliondeathsannually. Electrocutions probably kill tens of thousands of birds but the problem is barely monitored. Cars may kill 60 million birds or more each year, private and commercial aircraft far fewer, while wind turbine rotors kill an estimated 33,000 birds annually.

  30. 430
    Didactylos says:

    “Wind turbines kill a heck of a lot birds.”

    Only if you have no clue what you are talking about, Jacob.

    “Building window strikes may account for 97 to 976 million bird deaths each year. Communication towers conservatively kill 4 to 5 million birds annually (possibly closer to 40 to 50 million […] Cars may kill 60 million birds or more each year, private and commercial aircraft far fewer, while wind turbine rotors kill an estimated 33,000 birds annually.”

    And that’s just in the US. So where did this scaremongering nonsense come from? Oh yes, the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Are they wrong? Doubtful. All the studies I have seen indicate that building strikes kill many orders of magnitude more birds than wind turbines.

    Should we be complacent about this? Of course not! Turbines should be (and are) designed with avoiding bird strikes as a high priority. The same should apply to buildings. Newer turbines have lower blade speeds, and are typically larger.

    Now, Jacob: are you going to continue to misuse the bird strike statistic? Looking at your subsequent posts, it seems you are sticking to your guns. Again. The world won’t end if you admit you are wrong, you know.

  31. 431
    Septic Matthew says:

    419, Jacob Mack: According to the U.S. Department of Energy , “When wind is added to a utility system, no new backup is required to maintain system reliability.”

    When wind is added to a utility system, the backup is already in place. The CAISO web site shows that CA wind-generated electricity is available mostly at night, which reduces the consumption of fossil fuels by the corresponding amount and prolongs the life of the fossil-fuel plants. The “backup” is already there.

  32. 432
    Didactylos says:

    Vendicar: obviously you are right that most organic solar cells last more than “a day or two”. However, I’m fairly certain that organic solar cells are very rare outside the lab – and it is low efficiency that is stopping them from taking over the world.

    I’m also fairly certain that solar cells on people’s front lawns are almost universally silicon. The first two products that I found were both crystalline, not thin-film.

  33. 433
    Didactylos says:

    John E. Pearson: I don’t think so. There is an order of magnitude uncertainty in the communication tower figure, too. I think it’s just really hard to model exact numbers, and out of 20 billion birds – well, a large proportion of them die every year, otherwise we would be up to our eyeballs in birds.

  34. 434
    Jacob Mack says:

    And yes I read the article that the nnumber of birds dying from wind turbines is insignificant at this point and time.

    Newsflash: there are far more buildings than buildings.

    Then there is this other issue:

    And yes I read that one too where there is still uncertainty and the scientists doing the research are still fairly small in number. It does raise some qiuestions though even as wind turbines become more silent.

  35. 435
    Jacob Mack says:

    430: We all make mistakes but what baffles me is how many errors my fellow posters have made without admission.

    431: yes it is. Therefore you prove my point. Fossil fuels are still used and are necessary.Clean renewables maybe world wide but they do not and cannot provide for all of the globe’s power.

    432: Thin film has many advantages over thick if not for the short lifetime. Silicon has many issues that organics solve if they can become viable. Okay so one admission of being wrong

    Wind turbine installations have shown to have many siting issues. There needs to be drastic imrpovment in this regard like when they are placed over NH4 producing bacteria in composts.

  36. 436
    Jacob Mack says:

    meant to say far more buildings than wind turbines:)My typos and loose thoughts are my errors…

  37. 437
    David B. Benson says:

    Jacob Mack @436 — Not to mention way off-topic…

  38. 438

    435 (Jacob Mack),

    Fossil fuels are still used and are necessary.Clean renewables maybe world wide but they do not and cannot provide for all of the globe’s power.

    Then human civilization is doomed to end within 100 years. Correct?

  39. 439
    John E. Pearson says:

    433 Didactylos said: “I don’t think so.”

    You’re probably right. Then the original text is an example of how not to write:
    “Building window strikes may account for 97 to 976 million bird deaths each year.”

    They should have said something like: “Building window strikes account for somewhere between 100 million and 1 billion bird deaths each year.” Using two and three significant figures in the mantissa when they’re not sure of the exponent is a little silly.

  40. 440
    Didactylos says:

    Jacob Mack: your approach is wrong. Instead of implying that wind turbines are bad, you should be looking for solutions. They aren’t far away.

    And if I may add to 431: again, your approach is wrong. Yes, currently we rely heavily on coal for baseload power, and gas for peak power. But nobody is proposing a grid that only relies on wind. There are many other forms of power: pumped storage turns wind and solar power into hydroelectric power, where it can be used later as baseload or as peak power. Nuclear is a plug and play replacement for coal baseload. Other forms of renewables are chosen as is suitable for the region and the local energy demands.

    All these problems you are finding: you are making them yourself. They are already solved. You are quite literally creating your own misery.

    Nobody says renewables are a panacea. But we do have pragmatic, workable solutions if we can only be bothered.

    Nobody says renewables have no cost. All energy comes at a price. Do you have any idea how many fish and birds are killed every year by oil production? Do you know what the environmental impact of hydroelectricity is? These are subjects that deserve thoughtful consideration, not casual dismissal.

  41. 441
    Jacob Mack says:

    437 (Bob (Sphaerica) No. Who says this is so? Certainly not the GCM’s, Spencer Weart, or Realclimate as a whole. I am not saying that either. Now, in 100 years if emissions are not curbed we may be heading into a hell of a lot of turbulence/rough ride. People should still be here unless GHG’s exacerbate say an asteroid crashing or a bunch of volcanoes tearing apart the San Andreas fault line or something. It will get warmer though I think and various animals will be extinct etc… I am an optimist for humanity actually and the planet but that does not mean we should be blind about our future. By all means use solar and wind as we can.

  42. 442

    325 Secular Animist

    Regarding windmills:

    “Often failed type of apparatus”?

    What on earth are you talking about?

    Historically, wind apparatus has disappointed massively. I think I mentioned before all the windmills sold across the Midwest and the rest of the country as well. Most ended their days sitting idle, most for a long time.

    The same is true of the windmills of the 1970s. Until a recent upsurge in attention many if not most were sitting idle. These enjoyed a huge subsidy, as seems to be necessary for the projects today. Name one deemed to be a good investment such that investors were induced without subsidies.

    I also call attention to the difference between capacity and production. Look at the Ontario Power schedule, day by day, to see that actual power produced is around 20% to 30% the ‘nameplate’ capacity. When advocates talk without distinguishing the difference, one should become suspicious of their motives or good sense.

  43. 443

    441 (Jacob Mac),

    My point was that if, as you say, “renewables … cannot provide for all of the globe’s power” and fossil fuels are necessarily finite (with 100 years supply being, quite probably, a huge overestimation), then the world will soon (in the timescale of civilizations) be left without all of its power needs, and so civilization must necessarily collapse.

    The only solution to this is a world where renewables can, in fact, supply all of the world’s power needs. But if that can be done after fossil fuels run out, why not before? Why not relatively soon (i.e. 20-50 year time frame)?

  44. 444
    Jacob Mack says:

    # 440 I am not opposed to well sited wind turbines, well designed solar panels that require less maintenance, tidal wave energy, and biofuels. I want to see the price on solar panels come way down with lower cost maintenance. Even if the price is cheap per KWh the start up costs are very high as are maintenance. Organic solar panels are the wave of the future since they are biodegradable and thin panels will be able to absorb more energy and be more viable for mass productiin than silicon based thick panels:

    People have been putting in efforts to improve a different source of energy by harnessing the sun’s potential, all while continuing the fight against the bad effects of global warming. To be able to produce electricity for their homes and offices, people are using a particular type of solar panel called crystallin silicon. It is very unlikely for crystalline silicon to go into massive production due to the high cost of having this type of solar panel installed. Hence, people living in remote areas will not be able to benefit from this source of renewable energy. But worry not, for various technological advancements have geared towards developing a cheaper line of solar panels.

    “Thin solar panel film is the new trend in the solar power industry today. This new type is believed to be the gateway for a more competitive solar panel industry, especially in the domestic range. Thin solar panel film consists of one micron thick of light-absorbing layers, as compared to silicon-wafer cells. Compared to other solar panel types, this type is lightweight, easy to use, and very durable.”

    “Today, thin solar panel film consists of three basic sub-types. The types include amorphous silicon thin-film, cadmium telluride thin-film and copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) thin-film. Obviously, the subtypes of thin-film solar cells depend on the semiconductor used to create the solar cell. The amorphous silicon type makes use of the same science as the traditional solar cells. Their only difference is that the silicon used to create solar panels is deposited onto flexible plastic or metals. This subtype of thin-film is known to be less efficient despite being more cost-effective.

    The second type of thin-film cells is known as the cadmium telluride thin-film cells. Compared to the other subtypes, those type is less known. Although it is the most affordable among the three subtypes, it is the least efficient. Another reason why it is not popular is that the substance used to create this solar cell is toxic. More researches are being undertaken to study the effects of this material when used for a long period of time. The efficiency of this type of thin-film cells only hits 15%.

    Copper indium gallium diselenide is the third type of thin-film cells. In terms of cost-effectiveness and energy efficiency, this subtype is known to be the most promising. It stably converts electricity even for a long period of use and it absorbs 99% of sunlight shone on it.”

    Obviously silcion will still play a role in both thick and thin solar panel production too, but the future requires bigger risks in terms of technology and $$$ investment which is fine. Just know that these great developments will probably not make it to stop a 2 times C02 increase.

    “Optically thin AlGaAs/GaAs/AlGaAs double heterostructures, (5000 Å), are floated off their substrates by the epitaxial liftoff technique and mounted on various high reflectivity surfaces. From the absolute photoluminescence intensity, we measure internal and external quantum efficiencies of 99.7% and 72%, respectively. High spontaneous emission quantum efficiency, is important for photon number squeezed light, diode lasers, single‐mode light‐emitting‐diodes, optical interconnects, and solar cells.”
    The power conversion efficiency of most thin film solar cells is compromised by competing optical and electronic constraints, wherein a cell must be thick enough to collect light yet thin enough to efficiently extract current. Here, we introduce a nanoscale solar architecture inspired by a well-known radio technology concept, the coaxial cable, that naturally resolves this “thick–thin” conundrum. Optically thick and elec- tronically thin amorphous silicon “nanocoax” cells are in the range of 8% efficiency, higher than any nanostructured thin film solar cell to date. Moreover, the thin nature of the cells reduces the Staebler–Wronski light-induced degradation effect, a major problem with conventional solar cells of this type. This nanocoax represents a new platform for low cost, high efficiency solar power.” (© 2010 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

    Thus: there are newer technologies based largely on past findings making thin solar panels more viable. This does not mean there is no future in thick panels but mass production for both are still major issues.

    I do know we have amazing tech out there.

  45. 445
    Jacob Mack says:

    440 I just wanted to ask too: what problems have been solved and by who? Do you have specific references to projects completed that are working now that solve ALL of these problems?

  46. 446
    Jacob Mack says:

    David B Benson no not off topic. Having far more buidlings with many so large there will a priori be statistical clustering of birds hitting them over time.

  47. 447
    Jacob Mack says:

    443: (Bob) I take your point with serious consideration but the claim about 100 years is not true of natural gas and peak oil is not for at least another 50-60 years as discussed in last month’s SA. Even if by then peak is met that does not mean we will not have enough oil. Thus, if we supplement considerably with solar, wind, water/tidal, some biofuels, etc… we will significantly improve the longevity of fossil fuels we need while reducing their combustion by an amazing percentage of total energy source use. We will not, however, eliminate their use or get to near zero C02 emissions in the next 100 years. The good thing is we do not need to.

    We do need fossil fuels to make: plastics for example though chemists are getting better at developing alternative starting materials we are not there yet in practical applications from the lab. I think we will supplement some of that production though from what I see in the lab.
    Organic chemists can certainly do a lot as can the phsyical chemists who work on many projects with them in teams.

    I do need more time to get into the chemistry of materials which is one of my areas of expertise but that takes some time to get into. For that to be done properly I will need a break from my PhD dissertation and hectic schedule. I do not want to make even the slightest nuanced error when I discuss that subject since I take pride in it but that will most likely be in a future thread when that is relevant despite what happened to this thread. I believe Eric form RC is a chemist.

    Most claims about peak oil over the past 150 years were proven wrong despite the fact oil supply is finite.Despite some of Hubert’s correct claims his assessment that 2000 would bring the peak was shown to be wrong.

    Yet a recent study published in the UK predicts a peak of oil prior to 2039 and perhaps even 2020 but their methods are somewhat questionable, though not 100% impossible either.

    I think if we use more clean remewables and another rise in fossil fuel prices which it looks like we will according to most economists, then we will hold off such peaks for a awhile longer.

    Norway is in a good position as are other smaller Scandinavian countries to not have to worry about such issues with so many rewable sources but their economy may falter due to a drop in oil exports.

    This article is of interest:Global energy crunch: How different parts of the world would react to a peak oil scenario

    References and further reading may be available for this article. To view references and further reading you must purchase this article.

    Jörg Friedrichsa, b, ,

    a University of Oxford, Department of International Development, Queen Elizabeth House, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3TB, United Kingdom

    b St Cross College, 61 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3LZ, United Kingdom

    Received 15 February 2010; accepted 7 April 2010. Available online 24 April 2010.

    \Peak oil theory predicts that oil production will soon start a terminal decline. Most authors imply that no adequate alternate resource and technology will be available to replace oil as the backbone resource of industrial society. This article uses historical cases from countries that have gone through a similar experience as the best available analytical strategy to understand what will happen if the predictions of peak oil theorists are right. The author is not committed to a particular version of peak oil theory, but deems the issue important enough to explore how various parts of the world should be expected to react. From the historical record he is able to identify predatory militarism, totalitarian retrenchment, and socioeconomic adaptation as three possible trajectories.

    I am hopeful for the future. My point is I personally know a lot of engineers here in CA, a few in NY and I speak to others online and they have grave concerns about such widespread renewable energy being tenable.

    My physics and math background is quite good too, as it needed to be to complete my coursework. I think we will make it but not with 95-100% powering from clean renewables.

    I do know that many of my fellow posters also have considerable backgrounds but I do notice those I respect the most who have done some engineering work other continents have yet to enter this conversation. I would be interested in what they have to say as well.

  48. 448
    Jacob Mack says:

    I think, Bob synthetic chemicals based somewhat on the structure of fossil fuels will hit the scene over the next 10 years and that is all I can say about that info. I also think that fossil fuels can be preserved by using these renewables too. I wanted to add this to be clear.

  49. 449
  50. 450
    Mike Flynn says:

    I need some assistance — education if you will.

    I see that the “greenhouse effect” assumes that incoming solar radiation heats the atmosphere and the surface.

    Looking at the surface, the surface heats, and then radiates LR heat radiation. A percentage of this escapes to space, and a percentage is absorbed by the “greenhouse gas.”

    When the greenhouse gas reradiates this LR radiation, some radiates back towards the surface which then heats up – to a higher temperature than caused by the initial insolation, and an increase in the thermal energy within the surface.

    My problem is this – it seems that the OLR from the surface could only come from the lowering of the surface temperature, otherwise the laws of thermodynamics (as I understand them) would be broken. If the surface temperature did not fall, the surface would have lost no thermal energy, and the radiated OLR would be “created”.

    So, the “back radiation” from the greenhouse gas can only heat the surface (at best) to less than the surface radiating temperature which “warmed” the greenhouse gas.

    In fact, the greenhouse gas lost some of the energy received from the surface to outer space – so the net thermal energy of the surface has decreased. The temperature drops.

    I’m sure that some of the physicists here can calculate the surface temperature of the Earth assuming no atmosphere, and solar insolation. If I am correct, it should be a lot higher that what is actually observed. So, the atmosphere acts to cool the surface by absorbing and reradiating energy from the Sun, with the attendant losses, as energy is converted from one form to another, and some escapes as waste to outer space.

    So I am rather forced to the conclusion that the Earth (as a whole) has been cooling for some billions of years.

    Given the somewhat erratic more or less elliptical orbit of the Earth around the Sun, the non spherical shape, the precession of the axis, the bulging of the atmosphere at the Equator and a raft of other oddities, it is not surprising that the weather, and hence the climate exhibits variability.

    So, just to ask again, when the surface radiates OLR, does its temperature drop, or not?