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Unforced Variations: June 2013

Filed under: — group @ 1 June 2013

June’s open thread…

389 Responses to “Unforced Variations: June 2013”

  1. 351

    #340–Personally, I think the speech was a fabulous manifesto–much better than I hoped.

    *That’s* what the “bully pulpit” should look and sound like.

    As to the fracking issue, you’re never going to get compromise-free politics. The US emissions trajectory of the last couple of years suggests that natgas may indeed be workable as a ‘bridge fuel.’ But it also seems clear that true best practices for methane control need to be implemented and that impacts need to be robustly quantified.

  2. 352
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “the electric utility industry will only buy renewables if forced to do so by law.”

    With all due respect, that’s a ridiculous falsehood.

    In 2012, wind energy was the number one source of new electricity generating capacity installed in the USA, accounting for 42 percent of all new capacity installed — more than 13 GW, comprising at least 190 projects in 32 states, brought online by more than 105 owners, of which 90 percent are independent power producers. (And altogether, renewable energy accounted for the majority, 55 percent, of all new US generating capacity installed in 2012.)

    And in the first quarter of 2013, solar energy accounted for over 48 percent of all new US generating capacity, with 723 MW installed, a 33 percent increase over the first quarter of 2012 (utility installations more than doubled). More than 4 GW of new photovoltaic capacity, and 938 MW of concentrating solar thermal power, are expected to come online this year.

    None of which was “forced” on anyone “by law”.

    Not that legally requiring the electric utility industry to move to zero-emission sources of energy would be a bad thing.

  3. 353
    Hank Roberts says:


    Species: Coccolithophores, Emiliania huxleyi
    Genome size: ~ 141.1 million base pairs

    E. huxleyi is a free-floating photosynthetic plankton with a global distribution ranging from the equator to the subarctic. This marine phytoplankton underpins most marine food webs and has played a major role in global climate for more than 200 million years. This organism fixes up to 20 percent of the carbon within its various habitats, creating ocean blooms that spread over hundreds of thousands of square kilometers. They also release CO2, adding to the complexity of their influence on the global carbon cycle.

    The contribution E. huxleyi makes to Earth’s climate is likely due to its capacity to thrive in a wide variety of habitats and produce blooms in many environmental conditions. Researchers looked for the genomic basis of this species’ remarkable flexibility by comparing the reference genome sequence from one strain of E. huxleyi to 13 other strains. Across the different strains they found genomes composed of a core set of genes and many unique genes that may account for the species’ extensive metabolic repertoire. Though all of the strains tested ostensibly come from a single species, their high genetic variability suggests that a single strain is not likely to be representative of all strains, making this phytoplankton a good model for the study of speciation as well as adaptability to climate change.

    B.A. Read et al., “Pan genome of the phytoplankton Emiliania underpins its global distribution,” Nature, doi: 10.1038/nature12221, 2013.

  4. 354
    MartinJB says:

    Actually, SA (26 Jun 2013 @ 10:12 AM), this comment, “None of which was “forced” on anyone “by law”” isn’t strictly true. Owing to renewable portfolio standards regs in many areas, utilities ARE required by law to buy renewable energy.

  5. 355
    Walter Pearce says:

    Re #349: Mosaic looks very interesting but, sadly, there are currently no investable projects currently available. Would love to know of any others you’ve experience with.

  6. 356
    Hank Roberts says:

    for Walter:
    I recall other similar operations were mentioned in this:

    Crowdfunding Clean Energy – Opinionator – The New York Times

    Found that using this search, which may find more that could interest you:

  7. 357
    David B. Benson says:

    PatrickF @359 — First of all, Robert Alvarez is completely ignorable. However, the drought is a stable prediction of climate models. If correct, only New England and the Pacific Northwest remain tolerable in the lower 48 region of the USA.

    Try the search box at the top of the page for relevant threads here on Real Climate.]

  8. 358
    PatrickF says:

    Hmm, did the “search” stuff already, could not find something that is related to drought projections in the future, maybe I entered the wrong words.

    So the US could really become uninhabitable within a few decades?

  9. 359
    Walter Pearce says:

    Hank — thanks.

  10. 360
  11. 361
  12. 362

    Someone has pasted the full text of my article (the peer-reviewed one) on the internet. You can click on it from the bibliography on my web page:


  13. 363
  14. 364
    Patrick 027 says:

    re my 316: of course one could start putting PV on westward-facing roof slopes, etc. Not generally the best place to get the most time-averaged power (unless other sides are shaded by trees, etc.) but if the cost keeps dropping … (see fig 2.6 – installed cost)
    (related: , (haven’t read the link from that last one))

    … it might make (more) sense.

    (from p.2 of (last update 2003): “Some fixed PV systems are installed 10o to 20o west of south to increase energy production during the late afternoon – exactly when the electric utility’s summer demand for electricity is typically greatest. Meanwhile a SHW may be oriented 10o to 20o east of south to maximize morning solar heating, after the cooling of the night.“)

    An issue that I think (?) may arise from this is larger relative ramp rates in the evening approaching sunset, particularly if the module area is oversized relative to the inverter, etc. On the other hand, west-facing panels would have a later ‘effective sunset’ than panels facing due south with non-zero tilt (throughout spring and summer, a panel tilted at latitude experiences an effective sunrise and sunset at 6:00 AM and PM, give or take for location within time zone and the Analemma – although it will have a prolonged and I imagine potentially rather bright ‘dawn’ and ‘dusk’) – which would have the opposite effect on relative ramp rate, I think. (Daily tracking would definitely increase ramp rates, with steadier output over the daytime, at least for clear sky.)

    Different houses/buildings/etc. with different landscaping and roof designs, etc., may be contributing differing levels of PV generation to the local grid (and displacing differing amounts of natural gas or electricity with solar water/space (pre-)heating) for different parts of the day.

    re 341 Jerry Toman –

    I’m not sure quite what you mean about using the vertical motion. I remember seeing a presentation about wind power where it was stated that wind turbines and/or traditional wind mills are/were/should be tilted upward at some angle because the wind blows somewhat downward – which always puzzled me (the soil can only hold so much air!) until I learned about how eddies are dealt with mathematically (for example, – hey, look, I turned an energy supply discussion into an atmospheric science discussion! We’re back on topic!).

    Because of friction with the surface, momentum fluxes must be downward. Except very close to the surface (where molecular viscosity is more important, relatively), this is accomplished by eddies (which may be whipped up Kelvin-Helmholtz style – sufficient vertical shear relative to stable stratification will lead to instability – small perturbations can grow (initially exponentially) – analogous to unstable growth of barotropic Rossby waves (but that is quasi-horizontal) – in either case, energy in the mean flow is transferred to the energy of the eddies/waves (and to lifting up of more dense fluid and pushing down of less dense fluid in the vertical shear case).

    What this requires of the circulation structures is that eddies must be (counterintuitively, until you think about it) tilted up-shear – that is, they can be depicted as ellipses that tilt into the wind with height (the mean wind would tend to untilt the eddies and retilt them with the mean shear, but then the eddies would transport momentum up-gradient (‘negative eddy viscosity’) – I think this may happen in some contexts (barotropic Rossby waves could decay, losing energy to the mean flow), but on the small scale, it is my understanding (?) that the bigger eddies more effectively lose energy to the smaller eddies, … “and so on to viscosity – so that the eddies lose energy before their tilts would be reversed.(?)

    So the strongest winds (gusts) would have a downward component because they occur on that side of the eddy.

    Aside from that and any other such turbulence (like CAT),…

    The large scale steady winds are not associated with much vertical motion as far as speed is concerned. I think a significant chunk of horizontal motion is around and around (can be maintained as such in near geostrophic balance); it is the divergence of the horizontal motion that is balanced by convergence of vertical motion. The circulation structures may be over 1000 km wide but only ~ 10 km deep; vertical motion is slow and spread out over a large area. Actually, the synoptic-scale average may actually be the result of a more concentrated regions of vertical motion (fronts), but … I’ll have to get back to you with the numbers, but what I was going to say is that to get sizable wind speeds in the vertical, so far as I know, you have to be in or around thunderstorms, or at least cumulus clouds, or maybe be in a downslope wind storm (a gravity-wave related phenomenon, analogous to a hydraulic jump but different because the atmosphere is continuously stratified (from memory)) or …

    Otherwise, you can create your own updraft or downdraft with a solar tower (create a source of hot air, force it to rise through a structure; it’s buoyancy provides a force that drives ascent, power = force*speed (and you don’t have to obey the Betz limit here because it’s contained, although there is still a limit because the speed of the outflow still can’t be zero… etc.)). Or alternatively, spray (sea)water over the top of a big tall tower and let evaporative cooling produce a negatively buoyant column of air, etc. (and harvest the salt and fresh water). Tower height is important here because the pressure difference between the inside and outside of the tower is proportional to the product of the difference in density and the height over which the difference occurs; there may also be thermodynamic considerations (rising air cools adiabatically, to get the most out of your heat engine you want Tc to be small… this may be redundant though – if you’re given the environmental lapse rate and you know the temperature and humidity of your heated air, you can predict ‘CAPE’ and figure energy per unit air as a function of how high it rises (without entrainment/mixing) – there will be some limit beyond which any additional CAPE is negative (as in overshooting tops).

    In a third version I heard of from a commenter at a blog – maybe this one, not sure – you could have a solar tower without much of the tower, but with the advantages of a tall tower, provided the outflow is in the form of a vortex (although you lose some energy with the rotation of the vortex). This is based on conservation of angular momentum – if the upper warm column tries to break off of the lower warm column (so that it no longer provides an ‘upward pull’ on the lower air), the vortex is necessarily stretched, squeezed horizontally and thus must spin faster, and the centrifugal force associated with that produces low pressure that pulls up from below (smaller vortices are closer to cyclostrophic balance (pressure gradient force balances centrifugal force) than geostrophic balance). Hence, the buoyancy of rotating air, like a mesocyclone, can suck air up from below (providing energy to stretch an underlying vortex, such as in the spin-up of a tornado) –

    – but I think a supercell mesocyclone may have other things going for it – the rotation in that case comes from the amb-ient wind shear, so the helicity might not just be on the inside of the mesocyclone(?? – it might envelope the mesocyclone, at least in the lower part where the environmental helicity is ideally present for supercell formation – although I’m not sure about that). Helicity in this cases comes from turning of wind with height. Mathematically it is the component of vorticity that is aligned with the (relative) flow (Bluestein, Synoptic-Dynamic Meteorology in Midlatitudes, Volume II, p. 473.). Bluestein, p. 476: “in purely helical flow advection is balanced by stetching and tilting. Thus, if there is large streamwise vorticity or helicity, it is possible that the effects of (nonlinear) advection are to a great degree cancelled, and hence the cascade of turbulence down to smaller scales, which is caused by nonlinear advection, is suppressed. Hence the dissipative effects of mixing are mitigated.” (PS I haven’t gone through the math of that and don’t really understand how this works.)

    When you send a vortex out into the world away from the conditions that formed it, I suspect you would lose the benefits of helicity at the vortex’s edges, where it must rub against the amb-ient air. Then again, the shear vorticity at the edges is opposed to the vorticity within the vortex, and relative to the motion at the vortex center the along-vortex axis flow would be in the opposite direction, so the helicity would actually be of the same sign, if I’m doing this right, assuming curvature vorticity is not as large as shear vorticity at the vortex edge. But viscosity would tend to spread the rotation out and that favors no reversal of total vorticity. If this vortex is much narrower than a mesocyclone than … So… Okay, I did see – about a week and a half ago, an isolated somewhat tube-shaped cloud in the sky that was rotating (a bit more distinctly than typical turbulent eddies) and kept doing so quite oddly as it passed by, as if a cold funnel cloud that formed independently of any cumulus convection – then again, maybe a rogue Kelvin-Helmholtz instability-generated vortex that some poor cloud fragment just happened to get mixed up with… not sure…

    PS There is, or was, at least one solar tower (hot air chimney, not talking about CSP) of the hot kind (I don’t think there was any mention of an exhaust vortex). The others are still only on drawing boards, so far as I know.


    PS Secular Animist – question – SEIA – are their quarters ‘common sense’ calendar quarters (Q1 = JFM, Q2 = AMJ, etc.) or are they business quarters or some other thing?

  15. 365
    Patrick 027 says:

    Just to be clear, none of the solar tower ideas are my own – you can probably find (at least 2 of) them out there (google).

  16. 366
    Jerry Toman says:

    @364 Patrick

    Sorry to not have been more specific in my last comment. Also see #56.

    The *vertical winds* I was referring to are those due to buoyancy effects in the atmosphere which create up and down movement. This movement can become more intense as the convective energy content (CAPE) of the atmosphere increases:

    CAPE can occur naturally (from winds over warm water, wetlands or even forests) and/or be extracted from a warm source–what I call a *hot spot* at the surface.

    In the videos given below, the vortices pick up *enthalpy* at the ground or water surface. When the vortex travels over cooler surfaces, it tends to weaken.

    Waterspouts can occur when the water temperature exceeds 27 C. They can be quite strong…imagine how strong they could be if artificially fed a continuous stream of water at 40 C!

    The Atmospheric Vortex Engine, the development of which I endorse, as do others with more distinguished backgrounds, such as Profs. Kerry Emanuel (MIT), and Nilton Renno (UMich) is a conceptually simple facility on the surface designed to produce both the vorticity and energy (low-grade heat and/or moisture) needed for it to function.

  17. 367
    Hank Roberts says:

    Has Dr. Emanuel ever said anything beyond the one sentence that keeps being quoted, where he said years ago that the “vortex engine” notion needs a proof of concept?

    That’s true of so many ideas.

    There’s money to build that, apparently, per the site:
    Link to Breakout Labs Announcement – San Francisco, Dec 13, 2013
    “… we are building a prototype in partnership with Lambton College”

    (that’s a typo at, the announcement was Dec. 2012 not 2013)

    News on that should appear at the college’s website, eventually“vortex+engine”

  18. 368
  19. 369
    SteveLL says:

    > More insights from Jennifer Francis on arctic amplification …

    At 58:20, Chris Mooney asked “Are people being convinced by your interpretion of what’s happening?” Dr. Francis responded “… most people are. There are a few hardcore atmospheric dynamicists out there who are not on board totally.”

    Today PBS and other media covering the current western USA heat wave are saying: “Scientists disagree on whether global warming is the cause of the jet stream’s behavior.”

    How many scientists (proportionally) need to disagree for this to be a valid and not a misleading statement?

  20. 370
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 366 Jerry Toman “In the videos given below, the vortices pick up *enthalpy* at the ground or water surface. When the vortex travels over cooler surfaces, it tends to weaken.” – sounds right for dust devils. (Martian dust devils also gain energy from solar heating of their own dusty air columns (according to a TV show – not sure which one – it made sense). Could work for dust devils on Earth too, I’d think, though I haven’t heard this pointed out. For water, that would be steam devils. I saw a multi-vortex dust devil once. A few years ago I actually saw one or two gigantic hay (or some large grass-like plant debris) devils – bits of hay(?) flying around – seemed like a significant fraction of a mile in diameter – well, maybe that was just how far the hay was being flung (? wish I had video to analyze; I didn’t take notes). There’s also snow devils, fire devils…

    Water spouts and tornados are generally different – they themselves are not the source of buoyant energy (I don’t think water spouts have to form over warm water) (or at least they don’t need to have CAPE, whether they do or not, so far as I know) – the driver is the overlying updraft that is actually not part of the same circulatory structure (a tornado isn’t simply a downward extension of a mesocyclone. A tornado can rotate in the opposite direction of the mesocyclone (mesocyclones themselves could rotate in either direction – given no directional shear (only speed variation), an updraft will cause rotation in opposite directions on either side and can split into two mesocylones (a right-mover and a left-mover, but my understanding is that thunderstorm activity is favored by warm advection in the lower atmosphere (although there can be elevated storms), and that tends to mean helicity, in the sense that favors the right-mover in the Northern hemisphere). Updrafts that have little or no rotation themselves can power up gustnados, cold-funnel clouds, etc.). I could imagine that maybe some devils are similar but smaller – vorticity that happens to get caught under a thermal and gets stretched out and spins up, as opposed to being the thermals themselves.

    Is there a required diameter for the vortex engine to achieve a particular height?

    re Secular Animist again – I can get monthly solar and wind net generation here for each state, but it doesn’t give monthly capacity. Quarterly capacity would at least be better than annual capacity. Use of year-end capacity (I’m not sure if that’s what EIA uses – they list net summer capacity but is that evaluated based on the capacity that was there in July?) would suggest poorer performance than the reality. Hence my question about SEIA’s quarters. Unfortunately they don’t give the info for the states (or not all of them, anyway) for free. Do you of any sources for this kind of info? Thanks.

  21. 371
    Patrick 027 says:

    Also see #56. – yeah, I missed that one; I didn’t come into this thread until somewhere around 200. I see patrick @ 63 mentions the downdraft energy idea.

  22. 372
    Hank Roberts says:

    Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss., 4, 541-565, 2013
    Critical impacts of global warming on land ecosystems

    From the comment, “Clara Deser has demonstrated that projected trends in temperature can vary dramatically by the mid-21st century from ensemble member to member for a single GCM”

  23. 373
    Hank Roberts says:

    Climate Data Guide Spurs Discovery and Understanding

    David P. Schneider, Clara Deser, John Fasullo,Kevin E. Trenberth
    online: 26 MAR 2013
    DOI: 10.1002/2013EO130001

    Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union
    Volume 94, Issue 13, pages 121–122, 26 March 2013

    (more access to more info)

  24. 374
    Jerry Toman says:

    @ 370

    Without commenting on the bulk of your discussion, let me at least attempt to answer your last question concerning the existence of any relationship between the height attainable by a vortex and the diameter of the ground facilities.

    Before doing that, I would like to clarify that any atmospheric vortex that exists as a result buoyancy of warm/humid air near the surface entering into, and forming the core of a rising, spinning vortex, can technical be called a (heat) engine. It attains its movement by exploiting super-adiabatic temperature differences existing between the surface and the atmosphere at higher altitudes, as do thunderstorms (i.e., they both have CAPE). Ultimately the air that rises is replaced by the atmospheric process of subsidence.

    In a practical sense, if (little or) no attempt is made to extract energy from this movement, such as by installing wind turbines in or near its base, it is preferred that such a device be called an Atmospheric Vortex Ventilator.

    In addition to diameter, one would expect the following parameters to affect the buoyancy and intensity: heat-rate added at base, optimum vorticity (right balance between rise velocity and tangential velocity of air spinning for various *layers* admitted through facility for conditioning), relative humidity of exit air, the degree of wind shear (horizontal wind blowing across roof opening or at higher altitudes), molecular weight (little or no added CO2–more nitrogen relative to oxygen), radiative heat losses (again, no CO2 is better).

    With respect to heat-rate, it seems clear that if only (say) the bottom 5-10 m of air entering the facility were to be *conditioned* you couldn’t build a very powerful vortex (let’s say, using water at 40 C as the heat source) since you would be limited by the heat-rate. If you were to condition up to (say) the bottom 50 m of air, you could build a much more robust vortex capable of rising to very high altitudes. The layers added higher up in the *stadium* would form the outer layers or rings of the vortex and would supply additional angular momentum, which is the *force* that maintains the cohesiveness as the air rises, and prevents entrainment of outside (possibly dry) air.

    Let me also say that some have expressed concerned that if they are built too large or intense and don’t have proper controls, the resulting vortex could *punch into the stratosphere* and add water vapor there–a circumstance certainly to be avoided.

    Bottom line is that, regardless of *models* this is an *experiment in progress* and only building them would convince scientists as well as the public, and ultimately politicians (or power plant operators), that they work, which is what the AVEtec owners are attempting to do, albeit at a pace that leaves those of us who believe in their potential and interested in their rapid development more than *somewhat* exasperated.

  25. 375
    Hank Roberts says:

    > waterspouts

    Been studied:
    Waterspout outbreaks over areas of Europe and North America: Environment and predictability,

  26. 376
    Hank Roberts says:

    Young et al., 332 (6028): 451-455
    Published Online March 24 2011
    Science 22 April 2011: Vol. 332 no. 6028 pp. 451-455
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1197219

    Global Trends in Wind Speed and Wave Height

    Studies of climate change typically consider measurements or predictions of temperature over extended periods of time. Climate, however, is much more than temperature. Over the oceans, changes in wind speed and the surface gravity waves generated by such winds play an important role. We used a 23-year database of calibrated and validated satellite altimeter measurements to investigate global changes in oceanic wind speed and wave height over this period. We find a general global trend of increasing values of wind speed and, to a lesser degree, wave height, over this period. The rate of increase is greater for extreme events as compared to the mean condition.

    Compare that to this info, somewhat older, anticipating that wave height trend:

    “… Waves 10 to 15 m (33-49 ft) high are not uncommon under severe storm conditions; the lengths of such waves are typically between 100 and 200 m (330-660 ft). This length is about the same as the length of some modern ships, and a vessel of this length encounters hazardous sailing conditions, because the ship may become suspended between the crests of two waves and break its back.

    “Measurements of wave height taken in the North Atlantic over the past twenty-five years by the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences in England show a long-term continuing increase in wave height. Wave height has increased about 25% since 1960. Maximum wave height was 12 m (39 ft) in 1960 and is predicted to reach 18 m (59 ft) in the 1990s if the trend continues. Variations from year to year and season to season are large and there is no way of knowing whether the trend will continue. Weather-ship data from the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea also show an 11% to 27% increase in wave heights between the early 1960s and 1970s. There is no known reason for this apparent trend in increasing wave height.

    “Giant waves over 30.5 m (or 100 ft) high are rare. In 1933 the USS Ramapo, a Navy tanker, en route from Manila to San Diego, encountered … waves that, as measured against the ship’s superstructure by the officer on watch, were 112 ft (or 34.2 m) high. The period of the waves was measured at 14.8 seconds; the wave speed was calculated at 27 m (90 ft)/sec, and the wavelength at 329 m (1100 ft). Other storm waves in this size category have been reported, but none have been as well documented. It is also probable that ships confronted with such waves do not always survive to report the incidents….”

  27. 377
    Hank Roberts says:

    One more related to the above and appropriate to consider, if ocean wave height is in fact continuing to increase over time (with climate change?):

    “over the last 20 years, 200 supertankers and container ships longer than 200 m have sunk in severe weather, extreme waves certainly being a main suspect.” (2005)

    Still looking for numbers for the last 10 years.

    The problem isn’t the slow increase in the average — the problem is the amplification where several large waves overlap to create an extremely large one (or where other causes do the same).

  28. 378
    Hank Roberts says:

    and a back-burner question for Gavin et al. — would
    be worth adding to the sidebar? Reads well enough to me, but I don’t know how it’d compare to the FAQs you already have.

  29. 379
  30. 380
    Killian says:

    Critical impacts of global warming on land ecosystems

    From the comment, “Clara Deser has demonstrated that projected trends in temperature can vary dramatically by the mid-21st century from ensemble member to member for a single GCM”

    Oh, you mean a chaotic/non-linear signature? I guess they needed to confirm this, but aren’t the issues with initial conditions pretty well known? That is, wouldn’t it be weird if this *weren’t* what they found? The entire argument for urgent action on climate has to do with bifurcations and risk assessment.

  31. 381
    Killian says:

    Green Party response to Obama’s climate speech:
    Obama’s climate proposals fall dangerously short

    This response is absolutely accurate. No, no caveats, no conditionals, no equivocations in my statement. Obama’s speech is a suicide letter for humanity to humanity if it should become the broad response to climate, energy, collapse.

    Energy: Use them all. Blatantly, obviously, incredibly stupid. This is intended to do one thing: maintain the myth that unending growth in a finite space is possible. It isn’t. This is a prima facie reality.

    Technology: God of Tech lives and will take us all to Tech Heaven, here on Earth. Further idiocy. I am beginning to think nobody but me has ever read the work of Joseph TYainter and understood it. Tainter finds societies reach an apex in complexity, of which technology is clearly a large component, and then hit diminishing returns. If you know the Laffer Curve, you know this.

    The underlying assumption is that population growth cannot be challenged, much less stopped, so we have no choice but to tech our way out of growth limits.

    Nothing in that speech even hints at designing sustainable systems. If you think it does, you don’t understand the nature, the structure, the patterns, the principles of sustainable designs.

    This seemingly good news is a Trojan Horse in which Big Business, tech, energy companies, Big Ag, etc., are all hiding and about to jump out and end any chance at all of effective mitigation and adaptation to climate.

    If this stands as a blueprint for global action, it’s over. There is no time for a re-do.

  32. 382
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Oh, you mean …

    No, I don’t mean. If it’s your inference, claim it as your own.

  33. 383
    dhogaza says:


    “This response is absolutely accurate. No, no caveats, no conditionals, no equivocations in my statement. Obama’s speech is a suicide letter for humanity to humanity if it should become the broad response to climate, energy, collapse.”

    Obama is not a dictator. What he is proposing is pretty much all that can be done without Congress. If you don’t think it’s enough (it is not) focus on Congress. Congress is where laws are made, not Obama.

    It’s like my European friends who complain that Obama didn’t shut down Gitmo. He tried to, and Congress passed legal amendments to laws that forbade him from doing so. Since he’s not a dictator, he had to obey the new laws. No choice.

  34. 384
    prokaryotes says:

    Re SteveLL #369

    This post, covers your point

    Kevin Trenberth and Jennifer Francis on Climate, Ice, and Weather Whiplash
    Although nearly all climate scientists are in agreement on the general outlines of climate change and greenhouse gas effects, there are still, and will continue to be, areas of the science that are not yet “pound on the table we’re done” as Richard Alley likes to say. Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers has been making a persuasive case for the last year that polar amplification, and the loss of arctic ice and snow cover, are starting to have dramatic effects on global weather through the jet stream. See that video below if you have not already.

    Not everyone is in complete agreement. Dr. Kevin Trenberth is a highly respected senior researcher at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado. He reasons that because heat flows are so much greater in the tropics, that we should continue to look there for answers to the puzzle. I talked to both experts last month, and boiled down the discussion here.

    Though, you have to acknowledge that this is emerging science (only a few years old). But in general – Jet Stream configuration – behaviour it is very likely attached to the sea ice state. But tropical warmth probably plays into the atmospheric setup as well…

  35. 385
    prokaryotes says:

    Expedition into Antarctica (2012 docu)…

    Climate Puzzle – Investigating Climate Change in Antarctica

  36. 386
    Hank Roberts says:

    Zimbardo on time perspectives — how people view the world.
    Rather astonishingly pertinent to climate expectations and education.
    Give it ten minutes. It’s worth the time.

  37. 387
    SecularAnimist says:

    Killian wrote: “God of Tech lives and will take us all to Tech Heaven, here on Earth. Further idiocy … societies reach an apex in complexity, of which technology is clearly a large component, and then hit diminishing returns.”

    As I’ve written before, we had best hope that technology CAN provide a VERY quick fix to the immediate, short-term, EMERGENCY problem of eliminating virtually all greenhouse gas emissions in a VERY short time — i.e. a decade or two at most, with the steepest reductions front-loaded, beginning in five years at most.

    Because that’s the only way that the necessary reductions can possibly happen in the very short time frame needed.

    Profound, far-reaching changes to human society may well be needed or desirable in order to attain long-term, equitable, sustainable prosperity for the human species on this planet, but there is no way such changes are going to cause GHG emissions to peak and begin a steep decline within five years.

    On the other hand, rapid deployment of the efficiency and renewable energy and organic agriculture technologies that we have at hand NOW can do so, much more easily and rapidly and at much lower cost than most people realize.

    As for “complexity”, I don’t see what is inherently more “complex” about photovoltaic solar panels than coal-fired power plants (for example). The various PV technologies themselves are built on much more advanced scientific knowledge, but are in fact vastly simpler than turbines driven by steam heated by coal-fired furnaces (no moving parts, to start with).

    Arguably the electrical grid of the future, designed to intelligently handle input from a wide variety of electricity generators (variable and baseload and dispatchable, large and small scale, centralized and distributed) and consumption by “smart” users (empowered with energy management tools, onsite generation and storage) will be more “complex” than today’s grid, built around a much simpler model of large centralized power stations “broadcasting” power to “dumb” users.

    But we’ve built that kind of complexity before — and each person reading this text is in fact using it right now, in the form of the Internet. And in fact the “complexity” of the Internet (e.g. massive redundancy and routability) is its strength — it was, after all, designed that way so that it could survive a nuclear war. And given that the “smart” electric grid of the future, which is already being built around us today, will be built around modular, interconnected “microgrids” with their own generating and storage capacity and intelligent energy management, it will in effect be an “Intergrid”, and the sort of “complexity” that we see in the Internet is a good model.

  38. 388
    prokaryotes says:

    Re Hank Roberts #386

    To me this shows how old technology needs to be updated more frequently in order to keep up with the pace of change which comes with new inventions to our society. It also hints to evolutionary changes which arise as the climate changes and it’s obstacles and hurdles we have to master to successfully advance.

  39. 389
    Hank Roberts says:

    > designed that way so that it could survive

    Ah, yes, that was before. When it was like FIDOnet, any site could talk to and get updates from any other. Every node a leaf node — kind of like every hand a field hand, the slogan that used to be for the old farmer’s granges. Good old days, those.

    But, terribly inefficient at live video, targeted advertising, and personalized servicing. Now, just a few main sites have everything passing through.

    Personally, I imagine a nation full of separate little microgrids will be like a nation full of little local militias — each trying to maximize its local situation as it locally sees things. That’s exactly wrong with electricity — all the operators have to quickly contribute to load balancing, within minutes, to keep the whole thing working.

    Fewer operators, more cooperation.
    Thousands of little ones, who ya gonna call?

    But people have foreseen this problem and suggested ways to cooperate.
    Here’s a rather interesting one, just to make a bit clearer why cooperation and technical standards rigidly applied are needed — for each power supplier:

    “… today’s data center designs are shaped by the increasing awareness of energy costs and carbon footprint. We posit that shifting computational workloads (and thus, demand) across geographic regions to match electricity supply may help balance the grid. In this paper we will first present a real grid balancing problem experienced in the Paci c Northwest. We then propose a symbiotic relationship between data centers and grid operators by showing that mutual cost bene ts would be accessible. Finally, we argue for a low cost workload migration mechanism, and pose overarching challenges in designing this framework …”