Monthly Archives: January 2014

Balmy weather in Alaska

Today, Thursday January 23rd was a noteworthy day for South-central Alaska.  It was 48 degrees F at my house in the Hillside area of Anchorage, and we had 7 hours of daylight.  The Sun is getting a bit higher in the sky and the extraordinarily flat light that is early January is beginning to fade.  On December 21st, we had only 5 hours, 27 minutes and 41 second of daylight.  Today we had 7 hours, 2 minutes and 31 seconds.  And the Sun is 4 degrees higher in the sky than it was just a month ago.

And that 4 degrees is a big change.  As we near the Winter Solstice, the Sun almost disappears, rising to about 5.5 degrees above the horizon.  Such is life at 61 degrees North Latitude.   On January 20th, we were all treated to a spectacular sunrise.   The sun rises at a flat angle, which allowed for viewing like this that lasted half an hour as the Sun struggled to come up above the Chugach Mountains:

We are having a Chinook, which means we have a warm wind blowing down from the mountains east of Anchorage.  The warm wind makes it’s quite a bit warmer near the mountains, and cooler down in the flat-lands.  Also,  there’s a funny bend in the Jet Stream causing most of the State to feel a warm wet Southerly flow of air.  The same bend is making it super cold in the Midwest.

The result. It’s almost 30 degrees F warmer than the average Anchorage January Day.  Yesterday, the Weather Channel, AP and ABC News  all ran the same Alaska  weather story.  Alaska was on average 2 degrees F warmer the lower 48 states.  Yep, the calculated average for the State of Alaska was 24 degrees F and the lower 48 US States were a whopping 22.

It was a fun story to read, but was it true?   Let me use today as an example.  Today my car thermometer said 37 degrees in a midtown parking lot.   I immediately drove the 10 miles to my house where the same thermometer said 48.  I have no idea what the temperature was 10 miles east of my house.  Nobody knows.   It’s in the middle of an uninhabited mountain range.   Alaska is a really big place with not very many weather stations.

Today my house was 10 degrees warmer than the official weather station.   In cold clear weather, I am 5 to 10 degrees cooler…and I’m only 10 miles away.  The trip from Anchorage to Barrow is 800 miles long and crosses two mountain ranges…including the tallest Mountain in North America.

Any single number temperature for the entire state at any given time must be a guess.  A Scientific Wild Ass Guess.   It has been a warm January.   No doubt about it.  One for the record books.  But, we really don’t know  how warm, exactly.  Nobody knows.  But we can give a pretty good educated guess….and it is just that, a guess!

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Nuclear Power is Necessary if IPCC is right

Shortly after Al Gore’s film was released, I had a discussion with my brother.  We were talking global climate change.    It was not our typical agree to disagree discussion.   I was presumed to be wrong, horribly wrong.   Global disaster was coming and coming soon.   And then I asked him the difficult question.

Where do you stand on Nuclear Power?

He could not, or more accurately, would not answer the question.  Therein lies the problem.   Increased Nuclear Power is absolutely necessary if the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is correct in their recently leaked gloomy predictions of world climate.   There is no solution that will work right now that does not include increased use of Nuclear Power.

Germany has been leading the charge into a renewable world.   Let’s try to learn something from their experience.

Germany has embraced solar and wind with some interesting consequences.  Despite it’s northern location, Germany is the largest solar power market in the world.  And it has a significant amount of wind power too.  Today, Germany has 35 gigawatts of installed solar and 32 gigawatts of installed wind.   On any given day they need about 70 gigawatts of power.  Sounds promising.

Germany gets less power from wind and solar than you might expect.  I know I was surprised.  Solar produces about 5.3% of the total, wind a bit over 8%.  Wow.

Wind and Solar both  are becoming more affordable.   Unfortunately the stuff is notoriously and predictably unreliable.  Germany provides detailed data on their production.  It’s chock full of interesting graphs.  Some weeks like week 2 make wind and solar look really bad:

http://i0.wp.com/cleantechnica.com/files/2014/01/germany-electricity-prices-winter.png?fit=570%2C1200

Very little wind (green) or solar (gold) on the chart and lots of conventional fuel (grey).  But a week earlier there was lots of wind and the renewable picture looked more promising:

http://oneinabillionblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/german-electricity-data-for-week-1-2013.png

Germany has a system that takes the renewable energy when it’s available.  It’s base load plants (mostly coal and nuclear) cannot be easily started and stopped.  The result is surplus power that is exported (bright green) to other countries in Europe.  On December 31, 2012 something a bit odd happened.  Lots of wind on a day when not much power was needed.   German utilities had to pay people in other countries to take their excess power!  Notice how the price of energy in the wholesale market (blue)  fluctuates.

As the sun approaches equinox, the solar picture begins to improve and the energy picture looks a bit different:

http://i2.wp.com/cleantechnica.com/files/2014/01/electricity-prices-solar.png

March 17, 2013 had a few hours during the day where half the power being generated was from renewable energy.  Once again, as the wind came up, wholesale prices for power went down.  The utility pays a fixed rate for the power and must take it under Germany’s system. German utilities are going broke.

Lots of wind on Saturday, none on Wednesday.  Throw in a bit of cloudy weather and nearly no power is generated by renewable energy (Wednesday March 13).

The utility has to provide  power all day every day.   And the only way that can be done without carbon dioxide emissions is with Nuclear Energy.  Every northern climate in the world faces the same problem.  German utilities must provide service when neither wind nor solar is available which happens to be most of the time.  They in effect must build 100% redundant power systems.

Germany is walking away from Nuclear power.  They are closing old plants and not replacing them.   The 2011 disaster in Japan has them running scared.  They fear Nuclear Power more than they fear global climate change.   Germany talks tough on climate change, but do they really believe?

Do you?

Mt. Tambora – A Mann Hockey Stick Problem

Whenever I look at the Mann Hockey Stick reconstruction of past climate I am ever awestruck by the small amount of temperature change depicted during the first 900 years of the chart.  It just doesn’t seem possible.  Very nearly no climate variation for hundreds of years, and then presto, lots of variation.

I often wonder what the powers that be at the UN must have been thinking in 2002 when they made the Mann Hockey Stick Graph the new climate standard.  A new, untested theory with multiple indications of probable sloppy mathematics; science is not supposed to work that way.  It is still around, and still defended vigorously by many in the climate community.

Here is a copy of an image of the 1000 year Mann graph I pulled from a Skeptical Science web  post defending  Mann’s work:

Climate variation shown before 1950 is, according to the IPCC, mostly natural climate variation. The increase in variation started at about the same time direct measurement replaced indirect measurement.   This chart begins using direct measurement in 1902.  Interesting….and odd too.

The UK’s East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) has direct measurement data that begins in 1860.  NOAA data dates back to 1880. Why start in 1902?   And when does the data begin to look like a hockey stick?  Hmmm…1900…enough said.

Zoom in on 1815 if you can.  A very small decrease in temperature that had been trending downward since about 1775, stops in about 1830.   The net change for the entire period was only a bit over -0.1 degree C.  Something is wrong.  This should be a time of spectacular natural change.  The very small, nearly no change shown makes no sense. Why?  Mt. Tambora.

Mt. Tambora is a 9354 ft. mountain in Indonesia.    It used to be over 14,000 feet tall.  One day in April of 1815, the top 5000 feet went away.  Imagine if you can, an eruption 150 times larger than the Mount St. Helens eruption of May 18,1980.  Tambora is  the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history.   The eruption has been estimated to be 10 times the size of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption of 1991.  Mt. Pinatubo has been credited with cooling  the world’s weather by about 0.5 degree C for 2 years.

Tambora was and still is a big deal.   1815 has been called the year without a summer because the air pollution from the eruption made the world a darker and colder place. Five degrees F. colder or so says a USA Today article. The winter of 1815-16 was a spectacularly cold one all over the world.

An eruption that big should have caused a significant temporary change in the world climate that would have lasted for several years, perhaps longer.   Look at the Mann Chart.  Nothing.   Where did the Mt. Tambora impact go?

Skeptical Science provided the following temperature reconstruction as a defense of the Mann work on their web site.  The two studies supposedly confirm each other.  The new study has an advantage over the Mann work in that it covers a shorter period of time making it easier to read:

Where is the -3 degree C blip in 1815?   Nothing, Nada, Zip?  Whaaaaat? A smaller but significant eruption in 1883, Krakatoa, is not visible either.   Another significant eruption, at Huaynaputina, in 1600 fails to make the chart.   Too small to be detected I suppose.  Changes in the 20th century are here, there and everywhere.  This inconsistency  has never made sense to me.

The Mann reconstruction is a Northern Hemisphere reconstruction of a 1000 year period.   At it’s beginning settlers in Greenland grew hay and their diet was 80% farm animal based including cattle.  Yep cattle in Greenland.   400 years later, most settlers were gone.  The survivors ate primarily whatever they could harvest from the sea.  And all the while the world only cooled 0.1 degree C?  I don’t think so.

20th century warming  7 or 8 times that much?

Most warming before 1950, and some warming since 1950 is presumed to be natural climate variation. No natural climate variation for centuries and then magically lots!?  AND it coincided with a change in the data source.  Come on guys.  Get REAL.

I don’t doubt that the world has warmed, but I do believe that all the data before 1902 in the Mann reconstruction is a guess….a wild ass guess.   Mann has claimed the entire Medieval Warming Period was a regional event or so he is cited in a Scientific American article published in 2005.   I don’t buy it.    Greenland was warm for hundreds of years.   Records all over Northern Europe support the notion that the warmer weather was widespread and lasted for hundreds of years.

Before the Mann study it was widely believed that the Medieval Warming Period was warmer than Mann claims.   Simple charts were included in UN studies as  this one that was featured in the first study published by the IPCC in 1992..

https://i1.wp.com/www.science-skeptical.de/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/lambh23.jpg

The Third Assessment of Climate (TAR), published by the IPCC in 2002 featured a new world order, the Mann chart.  Magically, the Medieval Warming Period disappeared.

Now consider this.

The scale for measuring volcanoes is called the Volcanic Explosivity Index.  It goes up to 8.  Mt. St. Helen’s was a 5, Mt. Pinatubo, Huaynaputina and Krakatoa were in category 6.  Mt. Tambora was a 7.  The average 7 is 100 times larger than the average 5.

Some 26,500 years ago a big chunk of New Zealand went away in the world’s most recent category 8 eruption at Taupo Volcano.  A category 8 eruption is on average 10 times larger than a category 7.  Imagine what that must have done to the ecosystem.  Now there’s a tipping point, Nature’s tipping point.

This happened during an ice age cold spell.  Wow.

Now consider this.

Taupo was a boringly average category 8.   75,000 years ago, plus or minus 5000 years, the Indonesian area blessed us with Toba, the largest category 8 known to man.  This beast was the equivalent of 3 Taupo’s and is suspected of starting a 1,000 year cooling period.

I’ll bet you right now that science will discover more significant volcanic activity.  Some of that activity will have global climate implications.   Who knows how many more will be discovered that have the ability to impact climate as we look back in time?

Climate Science – A data plucking epidemic

Cherry picked data and wild ass guessing  are everywhere in climate science discussions.   I just spent three posts discussing a new gloom and doom article by James Hansen and 17 other scientists.   The whole article is chock full of cherry picked data and wild guesses.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the starting assumption, namely that the world temperature has risen 1 degree C in the 20th century.   Well that’s not strictly true.  Here is the East Anglia University Climate Research Unit(CRU) Chart from 2009:

https://i1.wp.com/davidpratt.info/climate/climategate18.gif

The NOAA  data looks similair but a bit different.  The NOAA data is best viewed by looking at their web site.  The NOAA data is interactive.  One can place a curser on any year and get a specific reading for that year.   The year 1900 was -0.1 degree C and 2000 was +0.4.  The years around 1910 were -0.4 which would have been provided a +0.8 net total for the time period.   The only way you get a 1 degree C reading is to stop in 1998 (a strong El Nino year).

And the data keeps changing all the time.   Here is the 2012 East Anglia data.

Notice how 1998 is now cooler and 2010 is the new hottest ever!

Suppose I wanted to support the argument that the climate hasn’t changed much in the last 130 years.  I could start with 1879, a +0.1 degree C year according to NOAA…and end my data in ….well lets look at some Satellite data and cherry pick our best number:

https://i1.wp.com/www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_December_2013_v5.6.png

Let’s pick 2008.

The satellite is using a slightly higher temperature as their zero point which means there is some warming, but probably less than +0.2 degree C. in that specific period from 1879 to 2008.     So how much warming did we have?   And how much is natural climate variation and how much is man caused?  I don’t know and neither does Dr. Hansen.

World temperature is a guess that does not stay constant.   In 2006, a skeptic noticed that the NASA climate data was flawed.   They had used raw rather than corrected data for most of North America in their models and they had been doing it since the year 2000.  NASA corrected their mistake and suddenly 1939 got lots warmer relative to 1998 and 2005.   1939 no longer makes even the top ten.  Between 2006 and 2013…1939 got colder!?  And so did 1998.

World temperature is a SWAG number.  There are two mains reasons I am comfortable saying that.  Oceans and test site irregularities.

70% of the world is ocean.  Before 1979 we had almost no data.  Ships at sea provided temperatures.  These temperatures have been accumulating for a long time, but standards have existed only since the 1950’s.  When should a temperature be taken, how often should it be taken, and at what point on the hull?

Ocean temperature outside shipping lanes began with satellite data in 1979.   And Satellite data measures the air near the surface, not the sea temperature.  Buoys began being used in the 1980’s which provided better data.  But buoys drift and most are near land.  So what was the temperature of the Pacific Ocean near Antarctica in 1879?   What is it right now?  AND how much has it changed between 1879 and 1979?

Test sites are impacted by their environment.   As the environment becomes more urban, the temperature at the site rises.   There are literally thousands of sites that must be adjusted.  A paved road and/or new mechanical equipment nearby have the ability to impact calculations.   Cities are warmer than the countryside nearby.  When a site does not provide data, and that does happen, the data must be surmised is some way.   SWAG is rampant.

Here is a piece of information provided by a skeptic demonstrating the difference between raw and corrected data for New Zealand. .  First the unadjusted data:

https://i2.wp.com/davidpratt.info/climate/climategate8.jpg

And now the adjusted data:

https://i1.wp.com/davidpratt.info/climate/climategate9.jpg

I have absolutely no idea as to whether the adjustments are right or wrong.  I do know this though….they tell a different story.

When I am told storms are becoming more frequent and more extreme, I tend to question the source.  The world is a spectacularly changeable place.  Here are a few simple examples that come to mind.

  • Settlements in Greenland a thousand years ago.
  • Villages high in the Alps that have shown up after recent melting.
  • A Sahara that has gone from sand to lush vegetation and back again to sand in the last 5000 years.
  • Starvation of the Mayans due to severe and prolonged drought less than 1500 year ago.
  • The dust bowl of the 1930’s (at the end of another prolonged warm spell).
  • Krakatoa volcano eruption of 1883. And throw in the 1815 Mt. Tambora eruption.  Krakatoa is assumed to have lowered the world’s temperature for 5 years.  The year following the Mt. Tambora eruption is know around the world as the year without a summer.
  • Parts of New York State were under 5000 feet of ice just 20,000 years ago.

Whenever I hear a climate hawk talk about gloom and doom and a climate tipping point, I think about Super Volcanoes.    Ahhh.   More on that next time.

Rubbish and Speed Bumps

Last fall I was out of the country for a few weeks, traveling in Fiji and New Zealand.  I love the odd little surprises encountered along the way when visiting a place for the first time.

New Zealand has rubbish containers.  I grew up in Hawaii and in Hawaii trash is frequently referred to as rubbish….but I never knew….it is common in New Zealand too.  For years Hawaii has had signs that encourage travelers not to litter by saying Do Not Throw Rubbish over Bridge.   UNDER OR ALONG the bridge is apparently OK.

Imagine my surprise when I encountered Rubbish containers in New Zealand.  Here, there, everywhere.  Rubbish containers are right next to the recycling containers at most restaurants and in parks.   A use of the English language that I thought particularly Hawaii, was more widespread.  Who knew.

When I am asked about Fiji, I comment that I liked the place even if I felt a bit isolated. Small towns, lots of agricultural land; everything is pretty spread out.  The distance from the International Airport at Nadi to Suva, the capitol is about 200 kilometers.   Google maps calculates the driving time at 2 hours 39 minutes.   They were on a different island than the one I visited.

The one main road….well….it works on Fiji time. The main island has a semi paved highway near the coast that is the main transport between  Nadi and Suva, the Queens Highway.  The road has an 80 kilometer speed limit and many local police officers with radar guns to enforce the maximum.

All along the road are many small towns with slower speed limits, and speed bumps.   I have encountered speed bumps in odd places before, but never on the major highway between the two major cities of a country.

Each individual town has a town speed limit, frequently it’s 50 kph or less.  And the speed bumps are a challenge at any speed over about 20 kph … and they are everywhere.   Most noteworthy, one town had 7 speed bumps in about 1 kilometer.  That works out to one every 500 feet.   Drivers accelerate to 50 in between the bumps only to slow again as they approach them.  Fascinating.

If you are planning to drive from Nadi to Suva, figure 3 1/2 to 4 hours travel time.  Relax and look around, it’s a beautiful drive.