Unforced Variations: June 2013

June’s open thread…

389 comments on this post.
  1. Jerry Toman:

    @294 SecularAnimist

    “So for air conditioning specifically, solar power is the ideal energy source, generating peak power exactly when (and in the case of distributed solar, where) it is most needed.”

    I guess it depends on what one’s understanding of the word *exactly* is.

    My understanding is that solar energy peaks at noon, whereas the maximum urban heat load occurs between 5 and 7 pm, depending on humidity and latitude.

    Fact is that we need to develop more efficient systems for energy storage. One way might be to slightly increase condenser temperature/pressure at power plants during the morning hours and divert some of the steam through a storage medium at say, 90 C, and then recover this heat 8-12 hours later. The condensate would, of course, have to be recovered during charging to maintain the correct inventory of boiler feedwater. Recovered heat could be used to run an ORC or a vortex engine (AVE) to supply the extra power needed at the peak.

  2. Hank Roberts:


  3. David B. Benson:

    I quote the header of this thread:
    Unforced Variations: June 2013
    Filed under: Climate Science Open thread

    It does not state Climate Science and Energy and Population.
    I go elsewhere for informed commentary on energy.

  4. prokaryotes:

    The Alarming Science Behind Climate Change’s Increasingly Wild Weather: Ostro And Francis On Video

    More insights from Jennifer Francis on arctic amplification and the former climate skeptic Stu Ostro elaborates on atmospheric thickness increase, followed by an interesting Q/A


  5. Patrick 027:

    9 hours divided into 5 separate time segments, over ~ 4 years – Think I might be mixed up – was the 9 hours in one year? That’s much closer to the 0.1 % figure.

  6. Hank Roberts:

    Why confusing voters works — because when people get confused, can’t trust sources to be working really hard to get the information right, can’t tell who’s telling the truth and has the facts right, voter turnout goes down.

    stated clearly by a GOP strategist:

    “PAUL WEYRICH: They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. […] As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

  7. wili:

    Thanks for your on-topic post, sidd.

    In the same vein, has anyone else notice the large number of extreme weather event going on very recently?

    Massive fires in Indonesia cause dangerous smog in Singapore

    Deadly flooding in France follows the deadly flooding in Germany

    And don’t forget that thousands are still stranded by the deadly flooding in India

    Calgary is under water

    Deepening drought, fires, and threat of fire in the US West…

    Worst ever power outages and general mayhem from super-storm in Minnesota

    That “worst ever” phrase keeps popping up in these stories.

    Perhaps something has fundamentally shifted in the global climactic system?

  8. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    I go elsewhere for informed commentary on energy.

    I openly acknowledge that climate, energy, population and even weather, agriculture, land use and financial insecurity are all interconnected, and cannot be separated into their components if any progress is to be made.

    I also acknowledge the futility of having critical discussions on topics of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the natural sciences, space sciences, earth sciences and life sciences, with even educated people, who demonstrably lack the open mind necessary for substantive, demonstrable progress in seemingly intractable global problems. Credibility over credentials, that’s my creed, David.

  9. Hank Roberts:


  10. prokaryotes:

    Arctic Amplification(Extreme Weather): Jennifer Francis June 6, 2013 http://climatestate.com/2013/06/23/arctic-amplification-jennifer-francis-june-6-2013/

  11. Kevin McKinney:

    #299–“Re 282 Edward Greisch – maybe that’s were most of the wind power would be in their scenario? (I think that was Kevin McKinney’s point although I only glanced at one of those maps.)”

    Yes, that was exactly my point–their asterisks coincide pretty well with the best wind resources. It’s almost as if Budischak et al knew something about the topic, isn’t it? ;-)

  12. Hank Roberts:


  13. Hank Roberts:

    and from that search:
    JGR: Atmospheres
    Drivers of projected change in arctic moist static energy transport
    Natasa Skific, Jennifer A. Francis*
    Article first published online: 4 APR 2013
    DOI: 10.1002/jgrd.50292

    “The combined changes result in a total annual decrease in tropospheric MSE of about 3% by the late 21st century. The difference, while statistically not significant, represents a weak negative feedback on Arctic amplification.”

  14. prokaryotes:

    Re #313

    On Earth, the polar vortices are located in the middle and upper troposphere and the stratosphere. […] Dr Jennifer Francis, professor of Atmospheric Science at Rutgers University, explained earlier this year how the loss of summer Arctic sea ice has led to the weakening of the polar vortex leading to more extreme weather. […]

    Spatial changes in the stratospheric aerosol associated with the north polar vortex
    In late January and early February 1983, observations made by the Stratospheric Aerosol Measurement (SAM II) satellite system showed that aerosol extinction profiles measured within the northern polar vortex differed significantly above 18 km from those measured outside the vortex. Values of the calculated optical depths above 18 km for February 1, 1983, are lower by approximately one order of magnitude within the polar vortex than those outside. Similar differences were found in the aerosol backscattering profiles obtained using an airborne lidar system when crossing the polar vortex. Since potential vorticity at a constant altitude is not conserved across the polar vortex, horizontal adiabatic transport does not occur. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/GL010i010p00941/abstract

    How are aerosols affected by arctic amplification? What would be required to keep and or restore the sea ice?http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/GL010i010p00941/abstract

  15. Hank Roberts:

    That 1983 paper has been cited by:

    and is probably interesting to the geoengineering folks; I recall some suggestion somewhere that just increasing sulfate over the Arctic might reduce warming there — but does a layer of sulfate also decrease cooling at night?

    We know chemicals also are ‘amplified’ at the poles — that’s where much of the mercury and persistent organic chemicals like PCBs ends up.

    It would certainly be a shame if dumping sulfates into the polar atmosphere were to affect the polar seas’ plankton where half our oxygen gets made, eh?

    That would be a rather typical human “leverage point” result — grabbing the lever and pushing it the wrong way — that systems theory warns about.

  16. Patrick 027:

    re my last comment (299)- I wrote something ( but if we just assume an across-the-board scale up, we get an increase of ~ 7.5 %, give or take (100/93 – 1, http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=105&t=3 ). )assuming PJM T&D losses ~= national, which isn’t necessarily true.

    re 301 Jerry Toman – my understanding was qualitatively similar – ie some time shift, in hours, between solar resource and AC demand. However there should tend to be some nonzero correlation. (not specific to AC, but see Table 6 @ http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378775312014759 )

    PS Given the significant daily cycle in electric power consumption, one could maintain approx. the same power variation capability in W while inserting a solar source that varies ~twice as much (then the other sources would peak at night/evening/morning); both the diurnal cycle in energy demand and solar resource (outside of high latitudes) should tend to peak in ‘summer‘ (oops, another time shift is possible here, but I’m being rather approximate).

    Back to your point: Some HVAC systems can store heat (or lack-thereof) – this is being done now http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=6910#tabs_ElecStorage-2 , though at a different time of day – for a shift to solar power, one would generally store up cold in the morning rather than during the night. (Sense only some HVAC uses could do this practically, they might use a larger time shift ??). Although, perhaps, smaller buildings might simply set the thermostat lower in the mid-morning (within tolerable limits of medications, etc) to build up cold. More easily done with higher thermal masses (see passive solar design)… I’m not sure how well this would work.

    This takes away from the local generation and weather-AC demand correlation advantage, but using solar power from the west would also aid in the time shift. Hydroelectric resources may be useful, too.

    A study which looked at at least some of the things that Budischak et al did not is here
    http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/re_futures/ (PDFs at bottom, visuals to the right) (I know I pointed this out before).

    Solar monthly resource maps http://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html Solar variability: http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/new_data/variability/Documentation/ASES_47760_final.pdf
    – maps and explanations both! But it would have been nice if they had analyzed a combined spatial-temporal variability – ie take 3×3 and 5×5, 10×10 etc. grid cell averages and find temporal COV values.

    Wind seasonality can be found here http://rredc.nrel.gov/wind/pubs/atlas/ (ch 2, then click on map links), although the maps aren’t in as much detail as more recent ones linked by others above or at http://www.nrel.gov/gis/wind.html , and perhaps are outdated?

    Okay, really done now.

  17. AIC:

    President Obama is scheduled to speak Tuesday about global warming issues. Hopefully he will have something worthwhile to say.

    There are already news articles about this topic. Those who feel so inclined might want to join in on the online Comments sections for such news. You would be an unusual, welcomed breath of fresh air and reason.

  18. Walter Pearce:

    Re: 308 and “elsewhere for informed commentary…”

    Indeed, and note that one of his recommended places for “informed” nuke commentary is “bravenewclimate.com.” How do they get away with discussing energy issues on a site named thusly?

    Awesome deployment of irony. Well done sir!

  19. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    one of his recommended places for “informed” nuke commentary is “bravenewclimate.com.”

    Commentary on nukes is neither informed nor brave. I’ll say one thing, though, the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons we already have are going to come in nice and handy for last minute asteroid deflection, and for the creation of deep space heat sources for electronics.

    Other than that I have no time for so called informed commentary on nukes, certainly not as an energy paradigm for a planet with seven billion apes.

    Make of that what you will.

  20. Hank Roberts:


  21. MartinJB:

    Hi David,

    I checked out BNC’s energy board. If that’s the best discussion of a low-carbon energy future we have, then we are truly screwed. You appear to be one of the only people (in a pretty sparse field, at that) that takes any kind of balanced view. Between referring to renewables as “unreliables”, going on about the “solar scam” and commentators being rated as “hot neutrons” etc., it mostly comes across as a nuclear lovefest (and I’m not anti-nuclear, more nuclear-skeptical) with numerous posters hell-bent on trashing the competition.

    In all seriousness, do you have any better places to have a discussion of low-carbon energy?

  22. patrick:

    @304 Great stuff. Too bad the graphics aren’t coming across. For Stu Ostro’s slides, this pdf has most of the same ones, and it’s perfectly clear:


    The title of this document is: “Global Warming, Extreme Weather and My Journey.”

    The last slide says something Ostro does not say directly in the video:

    “I am confident enough overall in what I’m seeing to go out on the limbs that I have gone out on.

    “As a forecaster, I have an obligation to call ’em as I see ’em, and the same goes with what I’m observing in the changes in the weather. On my last day on this planet, I need to not look back and think that I didn’t do so.

    “I certainly don’t have all the answers, and the climate-weather system is so complex that they will be difficult find, but I hope to at least find some of them.”

  23. Hank Roberts:

    > BNC … lovefest
    BNC is trying to talk sense to the fission fans about climate, as its FAQ says.
    The commenting got moved off to a separate page and isn’t getting much moderation, sad to say. It’s easy to drive people off of any possible agreement by pushing them into polarized discussion.

    Northcote Parkinson said that delay is the deadliest form of denial.
    Seems like polarization is the deadliest tactic used for delay.

    It’s hard to avoid, at best.

  24. Hank Roberts:



    Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe is an evangelical Christian and makes no secret of that. In this interview, she describes how both her scientific expertise and her faith inform her efforts to explain climate change to the general public and especially to climate skeptics. She emphasizes the importance of responding to common questions and explicitly addressing misconceptions, and of starting climate conversations with a discussion of shared values—which, for Christians, means talking about the commandment to love one’s neighbors. Hayhoe talks about what it’s like to be a climate scientist whose work is under attack, and how her negative experiences with Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich are symptomatic of a culture in which opinions and gut feelings often take precedence over facts.”

  25. Hank Roberts:

    doi: 10.1177/0096340213485947
    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May/June 2013 vol. 69 no. 3 1-9
    Abstract Free (quoted above); full text is paywalled

  26. Walter Pearce:

    RE: #323 “trying to talk sense to the fission fans about climate…”

    If that were ever true, it’s not today, as of the time of this comment. Looking at page one of the home page, which reflects the editorial decision making, one finds 7 articles, two of which, “Advanced fission and Fusion technologies for sustainable nuclear energy” and “Green Junk – In praise of waste” cover the ostensible topic at hand.

    The remaining five, beginning with “Log, slash, truck and burn – welcome to renewable electricity nirvana” and ending with “81,000 truckers for solar!” are devoted to trashing renewables with varying degrees of vehemence.

    In a sense, then, I agree they stay on topic — just not the topic implied by the name and FAQ.

    In comparison, RC stays much more on point. And on that note…

  27. David B. Benson:

    Walter Pearce @318 — BNC Discussion Forum has moderately frequent comments by employed and retired power engineers, one of whom really understands nuclear power plants. One has to hang around to find out who the sensible posters are and who is just emoting. I do hope you will read Log, slash and burn and also 81,000 truckers for solar. Both make rather serious points albeit in a rather hard-hitting Aussie-argument style.

    Barry Brook is a professor in a field closely associated with climatology. His view of electrical generation is akin to mine; any combination of low-carbon generators which provides reliable, on demand electricity just just fine provided we can afford it.

    And there is a separate section for discussion of Climate Change, where Barry Brook first started.

    Hank Roberts @323 — Mrs. Moderator stops by once a day to clean up, post post moderation. I find she does quite well in the difficult role of not being an overly heavy handed moderator.

    Both and others — I lived and worked in Sydney for 6 months last century. I like many aspects of the Aussie style and feel I understand it well enough. Eastern Australia (South Australia up to Queensland) has a very serious electrical generation decisions to make fairly soon as the old coal burners are not going to last that much longer. The grid in Eastern Australia is almost, but not quite, 3 separate ones. Any low carbon generation solution meets some difficult technical challenges there; it is a good test bed for ideas.

    But suit yourself. You can find plenty of sites about electrical generation concepts run by people who have no conception of what it requires to have a reliable grid. Barry Brook and the power engineers do. I’ll admit the view is quite conservative. That’s the engineers for you; they know that whatever is designed and added to the grid has too work. That certainly tends to promote continuation of what has been shown to work. I appreciate that reminder.

    [The reCAPTCHA oracle entones DIAGNOSIS umanyha so I must have it all about right.]

  28. Hank Roberts:

    … “ the upcoming satellite gap…. is a complex story, with some private sector firms doing their best to kill the project. And yes, some ideological elements are at play here. But poor NOAA management is the key element.
    A little review ….

  29. Hank Roberts:

    From the above: “… Ah, now it is time for the villains of this story. Two private sector firms (PlanetIQ and GeoOptics) want to get into the GPS satellite business, which is fine. But neither has successfully launched such a satellite and neither has a working prototype, from what I can tell. But they (and particularly the PlanetIQ crowd) are actively working against COSMIC, providing all kinds of misinformation and unfounded criticisms….”

  30. Dave123:

    This is question for the satellite and modeling communities both. I understand that we can’t get a energy balance from satellite data alone. But I also understand we do get crude estimates. But for a moment let’s pretend that we don’t have the deep sea data and we’re seeing the relatively flat surface temperature and 0-700 meter ocean temperature as claimed. Are the satellite data good enough to say “wait, you’ve got to be missing something…. the outgoing radiation is too little to account for a gap that big” or is it ” the level of error in the satellite data is big enough that we could have that much more outgoing long wave to account for the temperature trends and not see it”? any takers? Citations to primary literature appreciated.

  31. Martin Vermeer:

    MartinJB, Walter Pearce,

    you could look at RIB joint. Run by a retired nuclear physicist who I have sometimes characterised as an ‘equal-opportunity debunker’. It’s not much about energy, but about nuclear, radiation, climate and (esp. medical) denialism.

    I’m afraid you’ll have to follow a number of sources for the full picture. There’s Jerome à Paris for wind, the Energiewende blog, and the already mentioned Cleantechnica, who are all unabashed about their object of love. You have to put the pieces together.

  32. Walter Pearce:

    Thanks David B. and Martin Vermeer.

  33. SecularAnimist:

    David B. Benson wrote: “… people who have no conception of what it requires to have a reliable grid”

    It’s important to keep in mind that there are financial interests that are heavily vested in maintaining a grid that reliably — and profitably — distributes electricity from large-scale baseload power generators to end users, and is NOT designed to integrate highly distributed, sometimes variable, large and small scale energy generators.

    Some of these interests view distributed energy generation and storage, and the new, smart-grid and micro-grid technologies that enable them, as a threat to their established, and profitable, business model — and are, in various places, lobbying to maintain barriers, or impose new barriers, against the rapid market penetration of distributed renewable energy sources.

    Likewise, there are some “conservative” power engineers who are heavily vested in technologies that “worked” for the highly centralized power grids of the 20th century, who will confidently talk all day long about how large amounts of distributed, variable renewable energy sources “won’t work” with a reliable grid — even as they are being proved wrong by the deployment of both renewable energy and advanced smart-grid technologies all over the world.

  34. Hank Roberts:

    NH-SH differential warming and TCR June 14, 2013 by Isaac Held

    “… The idea here …. is to use what we are relatively sure about — the time history and the radiative forcing from the WMGG’s — to constrain TCR…. while assuming as little as possible about aerosol forcing and natural multi-decadal variability….
    “… I am thinking of this as being more exploratory than quantitative, nudging readers of this blog to think beyond the global mean time series.”

  35. Martin Vermeer:

    SecularAnimist #333, I read here in a 2009 article that

    A decade ago, concern was expressed that the variability and uncertainty of wind would seriously impair the reliability and stability of the electric power system. Today, after considerable practical experience with wind power, power system engineers acknowledge that — even with substantial wind energy contributions — the lights will stay on.

    “A decade ago” would be around 2000. This agrees with my own recollection… but I don’t find references for it. Can you help?

  36. Edward Greisch:

    327 David B. Benson is correct. The electric utility industry would have used wind and solar from the beginning and would have bought up all of the wind and sunshine rights ages ago if wind and solar were profitable. As it is, the electric utility industry will only buy renewables if forced to do so by law.

    SO QUIT TALKING AND GO DO IT! Don’t have the money? Not surprised.

    The moderator should shut down the non-climate threads.

  37. Hank Roberts:

    “The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity by the highly regarded scientists, Erwin and Valentine. ….
    … discusses real controversies and real science. For example, there was a world-wide shift in ocean and atmospheric chemistry during this period: was it primarily an abiotic process, or did the expansion of bacterial forms and the emergence of multicellular life contribute significantly?”


    Sounds like this may be relevant to the changes we’re now provoking, much faster, in ocean microbiology.

  38. Pete Dunkelberg:

    By the way, the President gave a speech. Sundry links & details here:



  39. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Grids getting smarter, or people just noticing what the grid can already handle?

  40. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Here’s the transcript

    and here is a big problem

  41. Jerry Toman:


    Thanks for the interesting and useful links.

    Generally speaking, my thinking is that it would be better to have electricity reliably generated from renewable sources over as small a *grid-size* as possible. Thermal storage would be useful to achieve this–up to a point.

    More broadly, I view wind and solar PV (or CSP) as somewhat of a *two-legged stool* supporting reliable operation of a grid, inasmuch as some regions lack wind, while others lack solar, especially during winter months and some lack BOTH. To some extent, these technologies compliment one another, while often they overlap, or leave a substantial gap in generation potential.

    My main purpose in participating in this thread is to suggest that there is great potential of *upward convection* to add a *third leg* to this stool, providing much greater 24/7 as well as seasonal (with thermal storage) capacity. This would, IMO, reduce the degree to which we need to build overcapacity of generation to ensure reliability, as well as to reduce the need for long-distance transmission of power and to reduce net unit costs for electricity.

    If one is also concerned about the visual impact of extensive deployment of conventional *wind farms*, it could well be that facilities for the harvesting of *vertical winds* would be much less intrusive from a visual sense. After all, it was the proliferation of those *Giants* over the plains of La Mancha, which so irked Don Quixote that he felt compelled to engage them in battle.

    Just sayin’

  42. Walter Pearce:

    #336 — If you want to shut it down, start with yourself. If you have no answer for why renewable deployment is far outstripping that of certain alternatives, then stop trolling the issue.

  43. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Re Hank @336
    _The Cambrian Explosion_ lives up to its billing, and is best bought directly from the publisher:


    Climate students and even raypierre might take note of this on p 37:

    The Snowball Earth hypothesis envisions an Earth very different from the experience of geologists and, not surprisingly, has proven to be highly controversial within the geological community. (The press, forever in search of the spectacular, seems to think it is great.)

    If you followed Hank’s pz link you probably think pz’s sarcastic treatment of Meyer has to be uncalled for. How could anyone who has written several sciencey books possibly deserve that? Here’s a hint.

    Recaptcha says ynsult first

  44. flxible:

    EG says: “The electric utility industry would have used wind and solar from the beginning and would have bought up all of the wind and sunshine rights ages ago if wind and solar were profitable.”

    Unfortunately, that industry bet on the wrong horse back when sunshine wasn’t as profitable as cheap coal, and as the link Pete D points to shows, they appear to be realizing they lost the bet.

  45. MartinJB:

    Wow Ed (25 Jun 2013 @ 3:06 PM), snark much? So, have you built a nuclear power plant? What, don’t have the money?

    News for ya’… plenty of people (and I dare say including some in this discussion) HAVE done solar and even wind. Sure, you probably meant utility scale, but that’s just ridiculous. Individuals don’t do utility scale power generation. And hard-headed business men are doing utility-scale renewables.

    Obviously, we can’t roll back time, but it would be interesting to see what our generation mix would look like if the development of renewables hadn’t been deliberately retarded and nuclear and fossil fuels hadn’t received epic amounts of subsidies (including significant technology transfer from military applications for the former and being comped the price for carbon for the latter, in addition to the more conventional subsidies they both receive).

  46. prokaryotes:

    The Climate Show 34: Four Hiroshima bombs a second

  47. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    The electric utility industry would have used wind and solar from the beginning and would have bought up all of the wind and sunshine rights ages ago if wind and solar were profitable. As it is, the electric utility industry will only buy renewables if forced to do so by law.

    I hate to say this but you are a FREAKING *****. The solar industry didn’t come into being until the satellite era and took decades to mature, and wind started in the plains in the 30s with DC brush type generators for water pumping and lights for cows on farms, and didn’t get serious until it involved little 1 meter turbines on sailboats. There weren’t even decent electronic inverters back then because high power MOSFETs didn’t exist yet. Get an education dude. These are rapidly maturing industries that only in the last decade or so scaled into industrial capabilities. The ‘grid’ and its turbines came into being the last century in Niargra Falls. Give it a rest, your ignorance and agenda is showing.

  48. Doug Bostrom:

    Unfortunately, based on comments in various places many people apparently think they will be able to tap, swipe and whine their way through the climate crisis, leaving as an unsolved problem the matter of usefully visible political energy and clout behind the few politicians willing to raise their heads.

    Bitching on climate blogs isn’t going to stop our crashing the planet. Perhaps the greatest friend of impending disaster is useless catharsis.

  49. Hank Roberts:

    > bought up all of the wind and sunshine rights
    Sez who? Where would you buy them, and how, compared to subsidized fossil fuel prices?

    > GO DO IT! Don’t have the money?

    Pfui. $25 is all you need to start:


    (I’ve got somewhat more than that in so far myself, and after some overdue divestment from retirement mutual funds, will have rather a lot more. Hoping for more similar programs, I know of at least a couple others similar so far.

    Invest as though you’re in the early years of a better world. If you build up your own neighborhood, part of your return is having that neighborhood.

    And wind and sunshine rights? Work on getting the topsoil back on some piece of waste land, they’re cheap and it’s worth doing. Need guidance? This helps: http://www.amazon.com/The-Earth-Manual-Without-Taming/dp/0930588185

  50. PatrickF:

    Hate to always bring up questions about doom-and-gloom articles, but any I’ll ask:

    Here’s an article by a High-school teacher, who claims the united states could be uninhabitable by 2050 due to increasing drought-stress, I wonder how firm his arguments are?


    I am sorry if I divert from the discussion here, but seems to be kinda heavy stuff (just ignore the nuclear-waste doom & gloom stuff).