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ICECAP in the News
Jun 21, 2014
How forecasting has changed

Joseph D’Aleo, CCM

I do a local column in the Weeklies in southern New Hampshire addressing weather and climate issues. here was my latest column posted Friday, June 20, 2014.

I started weather forecasting in the 1970s for CBS in New York City for local radio, TV and the network show Energy and then as a college professor at Lyndon State College in Vermont where I taught weather and climate analysis and forecasting, and with my students started telephone, radio and ski area forecasting.

We had tools that were very primitive relative to today. Weather forecasters then depended on pattern recognition and empirical rules developed over the years. We looked globally and at all levels of the atmosphere. Computer models were in their infancy extending out with surface forecasts just 2 days. There were no 7 or even 5 day forecasts on television.  The third day was considered an outlook.

I left the college in 1980 to join John Coleman in Chicago where we produced Good Morning America weather and plan for the Weather Channel (TWC), which we started with the helps of many of my former students in 1982. The early 80s saw a technology revolution to computerized weather data and graphics and real time local radars. TWC started right at that transition and pioneered new ways of doing both forecasting and TV weather.

The science greatly advanced the next two decades with the explosion of satellite delivery of information and graphics and then the internet and availability of data and global computer modeling going out to 16 days into the future in detail.  These models are now run multiple times a day and multiple times in every run (called ensembles) to give forecasters an idea of the range of possibilities and degree of confidence in their outlooks. Model skill has increased in the first 7 to 8 days enough so now the TV meteorologists routinely do a 7-day forecast.

Even though the tools have improved, the best forecasters are the ones like my students and the old timers that understand the basics and can better determine which computers to believe and why and how to interpret what it means for the local area. In my company, Weatherbell.com, we cover the whole world for our clients, extending the challenge. We have to worry about unusual cold and snow in southern Brazil, frigid air in Europe, a slow monsoon onset in India, a heat wave in China, not enough rain in West Africa as well as a snowstorm in New England.

To do so, we at Weatherbell.com developed our own statistical models that combine factors like El Nino and La Nina, the longer term states of the oceans (Multidecadal Oscillations in the Pacific and Atlantic), all the solar variables that affect our weather, the winds in the tropical and temperatures in the polar high atmospheres, the magnitude and location of any volcanism, and patterns of soil moisture and snow cover patterns.

Sometimes like this past winter, other strong localized anomalies show up that override all other factors.  A very warm water pool that developed after the super La Nina of 2010/11 in the Pacific northwest of Hawaii grew as it drifted to the Gulf of Alaska last summer and fall. After record Alaska snow and cold in the prior two winters, this warm pool deflected the jet stream north into Alaska making last winter warmer there.  The jet stream then turned south into Canada and the central United States forming the ‘polar vortex’, driving arctic and at times Siberian air south in a steady stream from November into the spring.

In the end we have found, the warm and cold pools in the ocean really drive the dominant weather regimes, where it will be cold or warm, and where storms track and thus where it will be wet or dry, and in winter, snows will tend to fall. And we see strong evidence that the sun drives these ocean patterns.

This extreme cold scenario like this past winter happened in the 1976-79, 1916-1918 periods in both cases, a few years after strong La Ninas and quiet sun periods like this past winter.

Seeing that evolution, Weatherbell told our clients last summer that a very cold winter was coming despite the official government climate center forecast of a warm winter.

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Indeed 2013/14 brought the coldest December to March ever in Chicago since records began in 1872. It was the 3rd snowiest there, snowiest ever in Detroit and other spots, and second snowiest in Philadelphia. The amount of ice on the Great Lakes set an all time record, well above normal in every week, peaking at 92% coverage in March and not disappearing entirely until June 10.

That ocean warm pool will persist at least into next winter and the El Nino that is coming on will settle near the dateline (called a Modoki El Nino) as it did in 2002/03, 2009/10.

These two factors argue for the cold last year over the central to shift further east - over us.  The El Nino southern storm track will have California and Texas farmers dancing in the rain. You can expect another snowy winter on the east coast where we already have had 12 major impact snowstorms this decade just 4 years in, beating out the old record of 10 in the 1960s and the 2000s.

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Climate forecasters whose business success depends on getting it right will tell you these same natural factors that determine our seasonal weather patterns can also explain all the past climate cycles and extremes very nicely. 

Jun 15, 2014
Doomsters have completely misunderstood the reason why the West Antarctic Ice Sheet diminished

Tallbloke’s Talkshop

Phys.org finds a nice way of saying the doomsters have completely misunderstood the reason why the West Antarctic Ice Sheet outlet has been thinning. New research finds hotter than previously thought geothermal activity underneath the glacier. This means the animated model showing massive WAIS recession by 2350 Cabot Institute director Prof. Rich Pancost was scaring the punters with down at SPRI last week is junk science:

Thwaites Glacier, the large, rapidly changing outlet of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is not only being eroded by the ocean, it’s being melted from below by geothermal heat, researchers at the Institute for Geophysics at The University of Texas at Austin (UTIG) report in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings significantly change the understanding of conditions beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet where accurate information has previously been unobtainable.

The Thwaites Glacier has been the focus of considerable attention in recent weeks as other groups of researchers found the glacier is on the way to collapse, but more data and computer modeling are needed to determine when the collapse will begin in earnest and at what rate the sea level will increase as it proceeds. The new observations by UTIG will greatly inform these ice sheet modeling efforts.

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Using radar techniques to map how water flows under ice sheets, UTIG researchers were able to estimate ice melting rates and thus identify significant sources of geothermal heat under Thwaites Glacier. They found these sources are distributed over a wider area and are much hotter than previously assumed.

The geothermal heat contributed significantly to melting of the underside of the glacier, and it might be a key factor in allowing the ice sheet to slide, affecting the ice sheet’s stability and its contribution to future sea level rise.

The cause of the variable distribution of heat beneath the glacier is thought to be the movement of magma and associated volcanic activity arising from the rifting of the Earth’s crust beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Read more here.

Jun 13, 2014
Fired for ‘Diverging’ on Climate: Progressive Professor’s fellowship ‘terminated’ after WSJ OpE

Climate Depot

Professor’s fellowship ‘terminated’ after WSJ OpEd declaring ‘the left wants to stop industrialization - even if the hypothesis of catastrophic, man-made global warming is false’

Prof. Caleb Rossiter: ‘Just two days after I published a piece in the Wall Street Journal calling for Africa to be allowed the ‘all of the above’ energy strategy we have in the U.S., the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) terminated my 23-year relationship with them...because my analysis and theirs ‘diverge.’

IPS email of ‘termination’ to Rossiter: ‘We would like to inform you that we are terminating your position as an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies...Unfortunately, we now feel that your views on key issues, including climate science, climate justice, and many aspects of U.S. policy to Africa, diverge so significantly from ours’

By: Marc Morano - Climate Depot Exclusive

Dr. Caleb Rossiter was “terminated” via email as an “Associate Fellow” from the progressive group Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), following his May 4th, 2014 Wall Street Journal OpEd titled “Sacrificing Africa for Climate Change,” in which he called man-made global warming an “unproved science.” Rossiter also championed the expansion of carbon based energy in Africa.  Dr.  Rossiter is an adjunct professor at American University. Rossiter holds a PhD in policy analysis and a masters degree in mathematics.

In an exclusive interview with Climate Depot, Dr. Rossiter explained:

“If people ever say that fears of censorship for ‘climate change; views are overblown, have them take a look at this: Just two days after I published a piece in the Wall Street Journal calling for Africa to be allowed the ‘all of the above; energy strategy we have in the U.S., the Institute for Policy Studies terminated my 23-year relationship with them...because my analysis and theirs ‘diverge.’”

“I have tried to get [IPS] to discuss and explain their rejection of my analysis,’ Rossiter told Climate Depot. “When I countered a claim of ‘rapidly accelerating’ temperature change with the [UN] IPCC’s own data’, showing the nearly 20-year temperature pause - the best response I ever got was ‘Caleb, I don’t have time for this.’”

[Climate Depot Note: Intimidation of skeptical scientists has been well documented. Climate scientist Dr. Lennart Bengtsson - who converted from warmist to skeptic - resigns from skeptical group after ‘enormous group pressure’ from warmists - Now ‘worried about my health and safety’ - ‘Colleagues are withdrawing from joint authorship’]

Caleb Rossiter

Climate Depot has obtained a copy of a May 7, 2014 email that John Cavanagh, the director of IPS since 1998, sent to Rossiter with the subject “Ending IPS Associate Fellowship.”

“Dear Caleb, We would like to inform you that we are terminating your position as an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies,” Cavanagh wrote in the opening sentence of the email.

“Unfortunately, we now feel that your views on key issues, including climate science, climate justice, and many aspects of U.S. policy to Africa, diverge so significantly from ours that a productive working relationship is untenable. The other project directors of IPS feel the same,” Cavanagh explained.

“We thank you for that work and wish you the best in your future endeavors,” Cavanagh and his IPS associate Emira Woods added.

Rosstier’s May 4, 2014 Wall Street Journal OpEd pulled no punches. Rossiter, who holds a masters in mathematics, wrote: “I started to suspect that the climate-change data were dubious a decade ago while teaching statistics. Computer models used by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to determine the cause of the six-tenths of one degree Fahrenheit rise in global temperature from 1980 to 2000 could not statistically separate fossil-fueled and natural trends.”

His Wall Street Journal OpEd continued: “The left wants to stop industrialization - even if the hypothesis of catastrophic, man-made global warming is false.” He added: “Western policies seem more interested in carbon-dioxide levels than in life expectancy.”

“Each American accounts for 20 times the emissions of each African. We are not rationing our electricity. Why should Africa, which needs electricity for the sort of income-producing enterprises and infrastructure that help improve life expectancy? The average in Africa is 59 years - in America it’s 79,” he explained.
“How terrible to think that so many people in the West would rather block such success stories in the name of unproved science,” he concluded his WSJ OpEd.

Rossiter’s and IPS seemed a natural fit, given Rossiter’s long history as an anti-war activist.  IPS describes itself as “a community of public scholars and organizers linking peace, justice, and the environment in the U.S. and globally. We work with social movements to promote true democracy and challenge concentrated wealth, corporate influence, and military power.

But Rosstier’s credentials as a long-time progressive could not trump his growing climate skepticism or his unabashed promotion of carbon based fuels for Africa.

Rossiter’s website describes himself as “a progressive activist who has spent four decades fighting against and writing about the U.S. foreign policy of supporting repressive governments in the formerly colonized countries.”

“I’ve spent my life on the foreign-policy left. I opposed the Vietnam War, U.S. intervention in Central America in the 1980s and our invasion of Iraq. I have headed a group trying to block U.S. arms and training for “friendly” dictators, and I have written books about how U.S. policy in the developing world is neocolonial,” Rossiter wrote in the Wall Street Journal on May 4.

Rossiter’s Wall Street Journal OpEd continued: “The left wants to stop industrialization - even if the hypothesis of catastrophic, man-made global warming is false. John Feffer, my colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies, wrote in the Dec. 8, 2009, Huffington Post that ‘even if the mercury weren’t rising’ we should bring ‘the developing world into the postindustrial age in a sustainable manner.’ He sees the ‘climate crisis [as] precisely the giant lever with which we can, following Archimedes, move the world in a greener, more equitable direction.”

“Then, as now, the computer models simply built in the assumption that fossil fuels are the culprit when temperatures rise, even though a similar warming took place from 1900 to 1940, before fossil fuels could have caused it. The IPCC also claims that the warming, whatever its cause, has slightly increased the length of droughts, the frequency of floods, the intensity of storms, and the rising of sea levels, projecting that these impacts will accelerate disastrously. Yet even the IPCC acknowledges that the average global temperature today remains unchanged since 2000, and did not rise one degree as the models predicted.

“But it is as an Africanist, rather than a statistician, that I object most strongly to ‘climate justice.’ Where is the justice for Africans when universities divest from energy companies and thus weaken their ability to explore for resources in Africa? Where is the justice when the U.S. discourages World Bank funding for electricity-generation projects in Africa that involve fossil fuels, and when the European Union places a ‘global warming’ tax on cargo flights importing perishable African goods?”

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November 20, 2012: Good Germans, Munich, Brownshirts, Deniers, Churchill: Enough with the World War II Analogies!

Here is what my friend and anti-imperial compatriot John Tirman, executive director of the M.I.T. Center for International Studies, “tweets” about me and others who are not convinced that industrial emissions are the primary cause of the one degree rise in global average temperature since 1860 - or that this historically minuscule rise, whatever its reasons, is a primary cause of random storms and droughts: “One day, climate change deniers will be viewed like Holocaust deniers are now. #sandy #climatechange’ Ouch.

How am I, a statistician who teaches about the uncertainty of exploratory computer climate models in separating human-induced warming from natural fluctuations of various cycles and extreme randomness (an uncertainty that is openly acknowledged by the modelers themselves, who call their models “scenarios” and not “predictions"), analogous to someone who denies that the Nazis planned and carried out the murder of six million Jewish civilians?

Can’t I just be called an “industrial-emissions-warming-catastrophe” skeptic, honoring Diogenes, Socrates, and the core tradition of scientific thought, the refusal to accept claims “on authority” without testing them with reality?  Skepticism has brought us a better understanding of our solar system (thanks, Copernicus and Gallileo) and our universes big and little (thanks, Einstein and Heisenberg), the end of the unjust and brutal social systems of monarchy, feudalism, slavery, imperialism, and colonialism, as well as the modern medicines and treatments of water, crops, and materials that have extended our lives some 50 years on average from the 1600’s.  Skeptic, please.

Please, call me a skeptic.  And lay off World War II.

May 21, 2014
Specialized Meaning of Words

by Dr. Tom Sheahen, MIT

Q. On TV I saw that the ice in Antarctica is collapsing, and that will raise sea level and inundate cities. Others reports say this will take thousands of years. How serious is the problem?

What you are witnessing here is a result of confusion between the public perception of the ordinary meaning of words, and the very special definitions used in scientific discourse.

Geologists deal with changes in the earth that occur over epochs of millions of years. Anything that happens in less than 10,000 years is “sudden,” and something happening in only 1,000 years is “instantaneous.” To geologists, the word “collapse” is appropriate for a 10,000 year process.

A hot-topic in the media these days has to do with the West Antarctic Ice Shelf (WAIS), a region comprising about 8% of the ice covering Antarctica. Within that region, there are two glaciers that are sliding down to the sea at a steady pace, as glaciers always do.  They comprise about 10% of the WAIS, less than 1% of Antarctic ice. This descent has been in progress for several thousand years, and is neither new nor man-caused. It will go on for a few thousand more, after which they’ll be gone. In the parlance of geology, those two glaciers are collapsing.

If that doesn’t sound to you like your usual meaning of the word “collapse,” you’re absolutely right. It’s a specialized geological term.

Unfortunately, the major media overlook the distinction of meanings, and then make the further generalization from two specific glaciers to the entire WAIS, and moreover to Antarctica in general. Scientists who point out the small actual glacier size (and volume of ice) are brushed aside in the rush to get a headline or a flamboyant sound byte that will keep the viewers tuned in. Words like unavoidable collapse carry a sense of foreboding.

This isn’t just a problem from geology. Confusion over the meaning of words used in science crops up frequently. Laws of physics (e.g., conservation of energy) are said to be true in general, meaning “always true.” But if a physicist says “that is generally true,” a non-scientist hears “that is usually true” - meaning “most of the time, but not always.” Neither is aware of the other’s interpretation.

The word “average” is easily misunderstood. For any set of data, about any topic, you can construct an average. But it may be irrelevant, a good example being the “average temperature of the Earth.” Regional and seasonal variations are so great that a single average number is meaningless. And yet people have such familiarity with the word “average” - batting averages, school grade averages, etc., that it’s commonplace to believe that any statistic called an “average” represents something real.

Climate change is another prime example. In the ordinary sense of the term, everyone realizes that the climate changes, and there is no argument about it.  However, there is a very special limited definition given to the term by the U.N. around 1990: “Climate Change” refers only to changes caused by mankind’s emissions of CO2. Under that restricted definition, anyone who doesn’t think that CO2 is the cause of the changes we’re experiencing is labeled a “denier” of Climate Change. The frequently-recited figure of “97% consensus” is too small for the percentage of scientists who recognize climate change in the ordinary sense of the term; it’s much closer to 100%.  But in the specialized U.N. sense (about CO2 driving the change), there is widespread disagreement based on reliable opposing scientific data.

In the absence of quotation marks, italics or capitals, ordinary citizens have no idea that the controversy is rooted in radically different meanings of the same words.

Elected officials striving to be responsive to their constituent’s concerns are often pressured by advocacy groups who have latched onto an incorrect interpretation of words. Scientists are sometimes guilty of riding a bandwagon that formed when the public misunderstood and exaggerated their original meaning; perhaps it’s convenient, prestigious and financially advantageous to let that confusion continue uncorrected. The effect snowballs and leads to new laws being passed, with expensive new regulations. Years later, with nothing accomplished, people ask “Oh, is that what you really meant?” Then the blame game begins, after much taxpayer money went down the drain unnecessarily.

Even words like “increase” and “decrease get distorted. When a budget (national, state or local) goes up, you might think that’s an increase. But if the amount is less than the rate of inflation, those wanting the money call it a decrease, a budget cut. The problem is particularly troublesome at election time, when politicians hurl accusations at their opponents. Without precise definitions, clarity is very elusive.

Unfortunately, attending to precise definitions takes time and seems boring. The media don’t want to run the risk of being boring, and so they take shortcuts and oversimplify. Consequently, a lot of people are misled by statements that use scientific words incorrectly.

Apr 17, 2014
Alien sitings correlate best with temperatures

Dr. Roy Spencer

Do aliens cause global warming? The data say ‘yes!’
April 15th, 2014 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

It’s been over 11 years since the late novelist Michael Crichton advanced the hypothesis that aliens cause global warming.

I decided it was time to test his claim with real data.

Well, sure enough, the monthly UFO reports in recent decades are highly correlated with the increase in global ocean heat content. In fact, the relationship is so strong, if this was an epidemiological study it would be time to regulate UFOs. Between 1979 and 2011 the number of UFO reports has been increasing right along with the average temperature of the upper 700 meters of ocean:

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Fig. 1. Time series of monthly UFO reports and global average ocean temperature anomalies from the surface to 700 m depth. Trailing 12 month averages are also shown.

The correlation between UFO reports and ocean temperature is over 0.95, clearly better than the correlation between that boring old carbon dioxide and ocean warming:

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Fig. 2. Lag correlations between UFO reports vs. upper ocean temperature, and CO2 versus upper ocean temperature.

In fact, note the tendency for CO2 to follow ocean temperature , suggesting a weak tendency for warming ocean water to outgas CO2 (or reduce the uptake of atmospheric CO2). In other words, warming causes a CO2 increase, versus the common view that CO2 causes warming. In contrast, the peak correlation between UFO reports and ocean temperature is at zero time lag. UFOs visit, the ocean warms.

(And for you alien deniers out there, here’s the spreadsheet with the data and links.)

But correlation isn’t necessarily causation. We need some sort of hypothesized mechanism for how and maybe why aliens cause global warming.

My hypothesis is that the extraterrestrials’ spaceships have some sort of powerful heat generators which are dumping energy into the ocean. Maybe an antigravity-based thermogenic flux capacitor technology (that’s just a guess...I’m only a rocket scientist, not a nuclear physicist or movie star).

But why? Why are the aliens trying to warm our oceans?

Do they come from a warm waterworld? Do they want to colonize our ocean after it is sufficiently heated up? Or are we just the proverbial frogs in a pot of water on the stove?

Clearly, aliens like warmer weather, because there is a strong annual cycle in UFO reports, with the peak number of visitations in July, which is when global average temperatures also peak:

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Fig. 3. Average number of UFO reports by calendar month, illustrating aliens’ affinity for warmer weather.

This is also consistent with the fact that aliens are known to not have any fur, let alone any clothes, probably because their home planets are so warm:
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Fig. 4. Famous aliens have no fur or clothes, suggesting their home planet(s) are quite warm.

Or, maybe they just like to people-watch. More people are out and about in the summer. That would make abductions easier, too. A two-fer.

On an unrelated matter, I’ve also been working on a new generalized theory of where straight lines come from. Since they are all perfectly correlated with one another, I believe they have a common origin...maybe a super line that extends to infinity and beyond, which generates all other, lesser lines. But the linear algebra is proving to be kinda messy. Stay tuned.

Finally, I’d like to conclude with a quote from Mark Twain:

“There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”

A Closing Thought I talked with Michael Crichton before his death about his experiences getting involved in the global warming debate through his lectures, his book State of Fear (in which John Christy and I were represented by a lady scientist), and his congressional testimony on the subject of climate change. I think he believed he was doing a public service, but the politicization of the issue (and the way he was treated in congress) took him totally by surprise. That left a bad taste in his mouth, and he said he would no longer be involved in the climate issue. This is a crazy business we work in, and most sane people choose not to get involved in the public debate.

Apr 13, 2014
Is Ocean Acidification a Crisis?

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D.-R.I.) once castigated “climate deniers” for ducking the issue of ocean acidification, claiming skeptics “ignore facts they cannot explain away.”

The term “acidification” is a bit loaded and rhetorical. Although ocean pH has declined from about 8.2 to 8.1 over the past 200 years, there’s no danger of it decreasing to below 7.0 - the pH of neutral water. “De-alkalization” might be a more accurate way of describing the effect of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions on ocean chemistry.

Be that as it may, in a rebuttal to Sen. Whitehouse, I noted that CO2Science.Org, one of the oldest and most prominent skeptic blogs, hosts an extensive (and growing) ocean acidification database, and regularly reviews new scientific research on the topic.

This week on CO2Science.Org, chief blogger Craig Idso posts a 5,700-word essay reviewing 17 field studies of changing ocean pH levels, coral calcification rates, and coral health.

Much of the alarm over ocean acidification is based on short-term laboratory exposure studies. Field studies, notes Idso, “more aptly represent conditions in the real world, many of which conditions are impossible or impractical to incorporate into a laboratory setting.” Here are results from three of the studies reviewed.

Bessat and Buigues (2001) found that, instead of the 6-14% decline in calcification rates predicted by a prominent laboratory study, calcification rates in massive Porites corals in French Polynesia increased during 1801-1990.

Meron et al. (2012) examined two coral species off the coast of Naples, Italy, where CO2 from underwater volcanic vents produces a natural decline in pH levels. The researchers found that the “corals present at the lower pH sites exhibited only minor physiological changes,” and that “no microbial pathogens were detected.”

Similarly, Noonan et al. (2013) examined six scleractinian coral species exposed to elevated CO2 concentrations from volcanic “seeps” near Papua New Guinea. Dissolved CO2 concentrations were 28%-88% higher than in adjacent control areas. Nonetheless, the six species “were all able to not only survive, but to function well throughout the full range of CO2-induced pH values to which they had been exposed throughout their entire life spans,” Idso writes.

For a more extensive review of the literature on acidification and impacts on marine plants and animals, Idso’s chapter on aquatic life in the just-released report Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts.

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The Cooler Heads Digest is the weekly e-mail publication of the Cooler Heads Coalition. For the latest news and commentary, check out the Coalition’s website, www.GlobalWarming.org.

Apr 05, 2014
This winter’s price energy spikes - brownouts and blackouts will only get worse under Obama’s EPA

Dave Solomon, Union Leader

A congressional committee has joined New England senators in demanding some answers as to why natural gas and electricity prices soared during the winter that’s finally winding down.

Ranking representatives on the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to the regional manager of the New England wholesale electricity market on March 27 with a long list of questions related to affordability and reliability.

“This year’s brutally cold winter stressed the electric grid, causing electricity prices to spike across the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, and highlighted our nation’s reliability vulnerabilities,” they wrote. “Members are concerned these problems will only worsen as more coal plants are scheduled to shut down due to environmental regulations.”

Included in the letter is a link to a staff report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that reveals just how stressed the electricity grids were throughout much of the country, not just in New England.

New England avoided any brownouts brought by extreme cold and high energy costs, but other regions were not so lucky. “According to FERC, January’s cold weather events stressed the bulk power system with high loads, and other challenging operating conditions, including more than 50 gigawatts of forced outages,” the letter states.

A report prepared by FERC staff notes that forced outages were significant in some regions during the week of Jan. 4.

“In the Southeast, Duke Energy Progress and South Carolina Electric and Gas implemented voltage reductions on Tuesday morning, Jan. 6. Several generating units also tripped in the SCE&G area, forcing the company to implement rotating outages and shed approximately 300 megawatts of firm load during the morning peak. The load was restored later in the morning,” the report states.

The fact that much of the country was facing the prospect of roving brownouts during what was admittedly a severe winter worries people.

The letter from the House committee to ISO-NE and three other grid operators that together cover most of the U.S. east of the Mississippi, came just a week after a group of U.S. senators from the six New England states called on federal regulators to ensure that markets functioned properly and that prices were not increased by speculation or manipulation.

The senators, five Democrats and one Independent, focused on the possibility of foul play, while the House committee, controlled by a Republican majority, focused on the impact of EPA regulations that could force more coal-fired plants offline in the years ahead.

“We are concerned that outages and price increases could be exacerbated in the future as coal-fired power plants that utilities have relied on to meet the surge in demand are shuttered for environmental reasons,” the letter from the Energy and Commerce Committee states.

The letter cites a February report from the Energy Information Administration suggesting that the number of coal-fired power plant retirements will be higher than originally anticipated, and that an estimated 60 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity will retire by 2020.

“We are specifically concerned that the loss of these critical generation facilities in such a short timeframe will make it increasingly difficult to meet electricity demands in the future, thereby putting reliability at risk and driving up electricity prices for consumers,” the representatives write.

In New Hampshire, PSNH is under pressure from regulators to sell off its coal-fired plants in Bow and Portsmouth. Those plants were called upon to produce electricity throughout much of the winter, when their cost of operation was actually lower than the cost of electricity produced by natural gas.

The president of ISO-NE, Gordon van Welie, warned that things are likely to get worse before they get better, when he addressed an energy industry conference in Washington, D.C., in mid-March. The region will be in a “precarious operating position” for the next three to four years, he said.

The regional grid operator, ISO-New England, attributes these sharp increases to the combination of “low temperatures, high demand for natural gas and constraints on natural gas pipelines.” Because natural gas runs so much of New England’s power generation, the price of that fuel is closely tied to the price of electricity.  The lawmakers are probing into the price spikes. 

The lights stayed on this winter largely because of the ISO’s “Winter Reliability Program.” Power plants that could burn oil (some of which hadn’t done so in a while) stocked up on fuel inventory and were able to run on oil when natural gas was either unavailable or too expensive.  Over the course of the winter, these power plants had burned through most of the 3 million stockpiled barrels.  Some generators, at one point, only had two days’ worth of oil left.  See with next year’s early outlook (given the El Nino Modoki and warm pool in the Gulf of Alaska and more blocking than 2013) why we would have trouble especially given the shutdown of 95% of all coal plants due to EPA’s reckless regulatory assault. Remember Obama promised electricity prices would necessarily skyrocket. Expect if blackouts occur the democrats will be blaming the oil companies.

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Mar 29, 2014
The Denier Mantle Moves On

By Dr. Charles Battig March 28, 2014

By their consistent refusal to acknowledge the accumulated facts of climate history, the mantle of “climate denier” has rightfully passed on to those who continue to promote misinformation and the unwarranted fear of manmade climate change. It is time that the fabricators of fear be so labeled.

These new-age denialists have elevated their computer models above the real world of factual observations. Prof. Chris Folland, Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research set the standard for climate pseudo-science. “The data doesn’t matter. We’re not basing our recommendations on the data. We’re basing them on the climate models.”

“The models are convenient fictions that provide something very useful,”: Dr. David Frame, Climate modeler, Oxford University. Indeed so, since the designer of the model can decide which “very useful” output is desired. The baking of a cake is a useful analogy. The cook decides which ingredients to include in the recipe, the quantity of each, the final shape and name of the cake. It could be named a lemon meringue, but if the lemon flavoring is omitted, it certainly will not be a valid lemon meringue.

Computer climate modeling has formed the basis for the continuing plethora of climate scare stories. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calls them “scenarios,” but these computer fabrications are treated by the media, politicians, and general public more like predictions. The common ingredient in the dozens of these General Circulation Models (GCM) used by the U.N. and its supporters is the assumed primary role of manmade carbon dioxide in driving Earth’s climate. They assert that the role of manmade carbon dioxide is the singular answer to making their climate models work, and thereby match some carefully chosen period of climate history. Like the lemon in the cake, the prime role of fossil fuel carbon dioxide in driving the results of their climate computers is the one essential ingredient purposely baked into the computer/cake. “Lemon in, lemon out.”

The full list of climate determinants ("cake ingredients"), their multiple interactions, relative temporal significance, and relative quantitative importance remain beyond current scientific understanding. Even the basic records of global temperature, surface or atmospheric, are in dispute because of faulty measurement technology, selective editing, missing data sites, and urban heat contamination. Yet, manmade carbon dioxide has been computer preprogrammed to a predetermined prime importance as the main determinant of global temperature and climate change.

What does the Earth say about the climate computer models? The real-world record documents no warming for the past 17 years, even as atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased about 9 per cent. How bad were the computer models? A recent paper found that “global warming over the past 20 years is significantly less than that calculated from 117 simulations of the climate by 37 models." Oops.

The deniers claim deadly sea level rise based on their computers. The actual record shows that recent global sea level rise has decelerated 31 per cent. Oops.

Did the U.S. have an extreme weather year in 2013? Tornadoes? The number of tornadoes in the US in 2013 was the lowest total since 2000 and the lowest total in several decades. Oops.

U.S. wildfires? The number of wildfires across the US in 2013 is the lowest it has been in the past ten years and the acreage involved is at the second lowest level in that same time period. (http://www.nifc.gov/)

U.S. extreme heat in 2013? Extreme heat was down across the US for 2013. The number of 100 degree days across the country during 2013 was down, and may have been the lowest in about 100 years of records. (NOAA, USHCN reporting stations; through August)

U.S. hurricanes? The U.S. is in the longest period since the Civil War Era without a major hurricane strike in the US (i.e., category 3, 4 or 5). The last major hurricane to strike the US was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

So who are the climate deniers? The U.N.’s IPCC would be the presumptive leader, as it was founded to find the imprint of “human induced” climate change. Other drivers of climate were largely dismissed unless they could be shown to support the pre-determined conclusion that there was a significant human fingerprint. This body is a political entity, not a scientific research organization. It is notable that even as earlier IPCC predictions of the impact of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide have proved false, and their magnitudes lessened in subsequent IPCC reports, the organization remains unrepentant in its claims of certainty.

Notable scientific organizations such as the World Meteorological Organization (present at the founding of the IPCC), the American Meteorological Society, and the American Physical Society have, at the leadership level, supported the premise of harmful climate change, primarily caused by manmade carbon dioxide. Their published papers are mostly skeptical of climate drivers not based on manmade carbon dioxide. Most recently, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has declared itself firmly in the skeptics’ camp by issuing its report to “Recognize Climate Change Risks.” The failure of climate modeling predictions is not acknowledged...the relevance is denied.

There are many individuals including Al Gore, science advisor John Holdren, and John Podesta who are skeptics of scientific reports which point out the disconnect between the manmade climate change mantra, and the actual physical record.

Most notable is the lack of a definitive scientific report that can identify and quantify the impact of human carbon dioxide on global climate, and distinguish it from the natural background of climate change over time. The presumptive human influence signal is lost as background noise in the over-riding signal of normal climate variability.

The deniers of computer-generated climate failures are denying the real world.

Charles Battig, MD , Piedmont Chapter president, VA-Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment (VA-SEEE). His website is www.climateis.com

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