Frozen in Time
Oct 05, 2008
Peru Studies Climate Riddle

By Terry Wade, Reuters

Scientists are using everything from a yellow submarine to weather balloons and special airplanes to solve a climate conundrum: why is Peru getting colder while the rest of the world heats up? Researchers from Europe, the United States and South America started collecting reams of data this week from clouds, the shoreline and deep underwater to try to figure out the dynamics of the southeastern Pacific. The area, home to a fifth of the world’s fish stocks, plays a crucial part in global weather patterns and scientists want to discover why temperatures have dropped on the desert coast.

“Peru has a very important role in global climate,” said Alexis Chaigneau, a French scientist leading experiments in Peru. “Over the past 50 years, the Peruvian coast has gotten colder, mainly because of stronger winds that have pulled up the deep cold waters of the ocean current.” The Humboldt current, which flows north to Peru from the frigid southern waters off Chile, is considered the world’s most productive marine ecosystem, in part because deep cold waters rich in nutrients interact with the sun’s energy to create life.

For the next three months, everything from a small satellite-controlled submarine to cloud-hugging airplanes will feed computers with information on oxygen levels in the water, temperature, salinity, wind speeds and current. Along the way, they also hope to solve the riddles of the famous El Nino and La Nina weather phenomenon that occur in the southeastern Pacific—the periodic oscillations in surface water temperatures that are linked to floods and droughts. Read more here.

Icecap Notes: A few things should be noted. Some of the world’s warming (most peer-reviewed studies suggest 50%) in the last half of the 20th century was due to urbanization and land use changes not properly accounted for by the national centers. Of course neither population nor land use is an issue in the waters off Peru. As the late John Daly showed here, most non-urban stations, island locations may have shown cyclical but no net changes long term.

Secondly the PDO cycle which went from cold 50 years ago to warm from 1979 to 1998 then cold again should produce no net change over 50 years but a net cooling over 30 years. Here is a plot of temperatures from the eastern most NINO regions (NINO12) - annual mean surface ocean temperatures fron 0 to 10 degrees south and between 80 and 90 degrees west. You see a no net change since 1950 but a warming from the first few decades to the 1980s and 1990s as in the Warm PDO, more El Ninos occurred and then a slight cooling recently with a return to a cold PDO.

See larger image here.

The TAO Triton buoy network established in 1984 after the super El Nino of 1982/83 provides a lot of valuable information about surface and depth water temperature patterns. Additional data analyses and plots are available here.

Oct 03, 2008
Winds are Dominant Cause of Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheet Losses

Climate Research News

Two new studies summarised in a news article in Science magazine point to wind-induced circulation changes in the ocean as the dominant cause of the recent ice losses through the glaciers draining both the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, not ‘global warming.’ See an animation from NSIDC that illustrates the dynamic nature of the arctic here.

The two studies referred to are:

‘Acceleration of Jakobshavn Isbrae triggered by warm subsurface ocean waters’ by Holland et al, published in Nature Geoscience. The Abstract states:

Observations over the past decades show a rapid acceleration of several outlet glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica. One of the largest changes is a sudden switch of Jakobshavn Isbræ, a large outlet glacier feeding a deep-ocean fjord on Greenland’s west coast, from slow thickening to rapid thinning in 1997, associated with a doubling in glacier velocity. Suggested explanations for the speed-up of Jakobshavn Isbrae include increased lubrication of the ice–bedrock interface as more meltwater has drained to the glacier bed during recent warmer summers and weakening and break-up of the floating ice tongue that buttressed the glacier. Here we present hydrographic data that show a sudden increase in subsurface ocean temperature in 1997 along the entire west coast of Greenland, suggesting that the changes in Jakobshavn Isbræ were instead triggered by the arrival of relatively warm water originating from the Irminger Sea near Iceland. We trace these oceanic changes back to changes in the atmospheric circulation in the North Atlantic region. We conclude that the prediction of future rapid dynamic responses of other outlet glaciers to climate change will require an improved understanding of the effect of changes in regional ocean and atmosphere circulation on the delivery of warm subsurface waters to the periphery of the ice sheets. And:

‘Modelling Circumpolar Deep Water intrusions on the Amundsen Sea continental shelf, Antarctica’ by Thoma et al, published in GRL. The Abstract states:

Results are presented from an isopycnic coordinate model of ocean circulation in the Amundsen Sea, focusing on the delivery of Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) to the inner continental shelf around Pine Island Bay. The warmest waters to reach this region are channeled through a submarine trough, accessed via bathymetric irregularities along the shelf break. Temporal variability in the influx of CDW is related to regional wind forcing. Easterly winds over the shelf edge change to westerlies when the Amundsen Sea Low migrates west and south in winter/spring. This drives seasonal on-shelf flow, while inter-annual changes in the wind forcing lead to inflow variability on a decadal timescale. A modelled period of warming following low CDW influx in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s coincides with a period of observed thinning and acceleration of Pine Island Glacier. Read more here.

See also this late 2007 story from NASA on Trendwatch how “...a team of scientists have assembled data showing that normal, decade-long changes in Arctic Ocean currents (driven by the winds) are largely responsible for the major Arctic climate shifts observed over the past several years.  These periodic reversals in the ocean currents move warmer and cooler water around to new places, greatly affecting the climate.”

Oct 03, 2008
Opinion: The Single Minded Stupidity of Energy Policy

By Mac Johnson, The Energy Tribune

The biggest problem in energy supplies today is that politicians think it is a problem with a solution. And by that I mean they seem to think it has exactly one solution. We can’t drill in the Arctic because the solution is conservation. We can’t build nuclear because the solution is solar. Offshore is not needed because the solution is biofuel. Natural gas, clean coal, coastal wind, oil shales, tar sands, tidal turbines, biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric - all in turn are argued against, because something better, or bigger, or cleaner, or cheaper, or more philosophically correct can be supported instead.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of our current energy “shortage” is the sheer number of options we have available to us - none of which is apparently the one perfect solution, and so all of which are delayed and obstructed. America’s leaders and would be leaders are pursuing our future energy policy with all the finesse of a child who believes the game must be won by a single home run. Who needs base hits? Because of this, America may be the first country in history to run out of energy due to too many options.

A rational approach to energy would be simple: it’s good, so let’s have more of it. But then nobody would be able to take credit for making the grand choice, would they? So instead we have an interminable debate over what best form energy should take. That we have a small number of people making the choice at all is an even bigger problem. If energy were treated as an economic issue, rather than a political or moral one, the exact modality used to power any region or industry would be left to those actually using the energy. This is known as “the free market.” In its place, a system of energy evolves that is allocation by grand national committee.

The most frustrating thing about a democracy in which government plays a huge role in energy policy is that no portion of the solution can proceed until a majority in Congress says it’s OK. So little is done. If market forces were given more weight, we could drill for oil wherever it’s found. We could build a wind farm wherever it’s windy. We could ship natural gas wherever it’s needed. We could install solar panels wherever they are profitable, guaranteeing them a deserved place on calculators and satellites.

Beyond the egotistical need of politicians to be great deciders, there’s a second reason markets are currently restricted: many would be deeply unhappy with the obvious winners chosen by the marketplace. Biofuels, solar, and the like are all touted as ways to save us from high oil prices. But even with oil at $120, these technologies cannot compete without steep subsidies. The supporters and beneficiaries of these technologies may feed the public a line about fighting high oil prices, but they know better than anyone how cheap oil is, compared to their alleged bargains.

It’s true that there is not enough oil in the Arctic to solve all our energy needs. There is not enough gas off the coast of Florida to solve all our energy needs. Neither can our needs be filled with nuclear or coal or wind alone. And yet all these facts are beside the point. The solution to our energy needs is to stop looking for a grand solution to our energy needs. If we just let the market find many small solutions to many small problems, we will find the larger problem brought down to size. Read Energy Tribune here.

Oct 01, 2008
The U.S. Faces Serious Risks of Brownouts or Blackouts in 2009, Study Warns

The NextGen Energy Council

Enviro Group Lawsuits, Cost Concerns, Climate Regulation Uncertainty Cited As Major Obstacles To Grid Improvements.  A new study released this week highlights what experts have been saying for years:  the U.S. faces significant risk of power brownouts and blackouts as early as next summer that may cost tens of billions of dollars and threaten lives. The study, “Lights Out In 2009?” warns that the U.S. “faces potentially crippling electricity brownouts and blackouts beginning in the summer of 2009, which may cost tens of billions of dollars and threaten lives.” “If particularly vulnerable regions, like the Western U.S., experience unusually hot temperatures for prolonged periods of time in 2009, the potential for local brownouts or blackouts is high, with significant risk that local disruptions could cascade into regional outages that could cost the economy tens of billions of dollars,” the report warned.

U.S. baseload generation capacity reserve margins “have declined precipitously to 17 percent in 2007, from 30-40 percent in the early 1990s,” according to the study.  A 12-15 percent capacity reserve margin is the minimum required to ensure reliability and stability of the nation’s electricity system.  Compounding this capacity deficiency, the projected U.S. demand in the next ten years is forecast to grow by 18 percent, far exceeding the projected eight percent growth in baseload generation capacity between now and 2016.

The study estimated that the U.S. will require about 120 gigawatts (GW) of new generation just to maintain a 15 percent reserve margin.  That will require at least $300 billion in generation and transmission facility investments by 2016.  “The facts presented in this study should stimulate a call for action by policymakers everywhere.  Our nation’s electricity system is clearly in trouble and we need to take rapid steps as soon as possible to remedy the situation,” said Bob Hanfling, Chairman of the non-profit NextGen Energy Council, which conducted the study.  “This isn’t the first study to come to these conclusions, and it won’t be the last.  We hope it illuminates current policy debates, from those on climate change to resource development to infrastructure build-out to national security. We also hope it will sound the alarm for every elected official, policymaker, business leader and citizen concerned about the future prosperity and security of our nation.”

The study also identified the primary barriers to getting new power plants and transmission lines built.  Chief among these is the “opposition of well-funded environmental groups that oppose and file lawsuits against virtually every new infrastructure project proposed.”

Other obstacles include opposition to natural gas production, which is needed to fuel the growing reliance on natural-gas fired power plants; challenges associated with putting more intermittent renewable power sources on the grid; regulatory uncertainty associated with climate change policy development; reluctance by state regulators to approve rate increases related to the imposition of new environmental or climate-related regulation; and the relatively shorter-term approach to resource planning and acquisition that industry has been forced to adopt because of all of the above factors. Among its other findings were these:

The U.S. will require more than 14,500 miles of new electricity transmission lines by 2016.  Regions represented by the Florida Reliability Coordination Council (FRCC) and the Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC) may require less than 400 miles of new transmission lines, while the Southeast Reliability Council (SERC) may require nearly 2,300 miles.  The Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) may require nearly 7,000 miles.

Substantial increases in wind turbine orders, and new wind capacity, has been slowed by a worldwide turbine shortage and local opposition to wind projects. Since wind generation is expected to grow substantially throughout the U.S., the integration of intermittent resources into the bulk power system is becoming increasingly complex and difficult.

While renewable energy proponents, and some elected officials, are saying that the U.S. needs to only add renewable power facilities such as wind farms, the annual capacity factor of wind generators is typically about 25 - 35 percent. However, the probability that wind generators are available at their rated value during annual peak periods is only between 5 - 20 percent and varies greatly from year to year and region to region.  Wind cannot be considered a reliable baseload capacity resource.

Sep 30, 2008
Lindzen: Corrupted Science Revealed

By Jerome J. Schmitt, American Thinker

Outsiders familiar with the proper workings of science have long known that modern Climate Science is dysfunctional. Now a prominent insider, MIT Meteorology Professor Richard S. Lindzen, confirms how Al Gore and his minions used Stalinist tactics to subvert, suborn and corrupt a whole branch of science, citing chapter and verse in his report entitled “Climate Science: Is it currently designed to answer questions?” His answer:  A resounding “NO!”

Detailing the corruption, he names a series of names.  Until reading this I did not know that: “For example, the primary spokesman for the American Meteorological Society in Washington is Anthony Socci who is neither an elected official of the AMS nor a contributor to climate science. Rather, he is a former staffer for Al Gore.” Page 5

Although a bit lengthy, this very important report is highly readable and revealing.  While some of the paragraphs are a bit technical, I encourage AT readers to wade through them because their purpose is to provide specific examples of how a radical cabal is forcing scientists to ignore or amend measurements that undermine the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming. Scientists are literally forced to include sentences in their papers that indicate their support of AGW, even if these sentences are non-sequiturs, or even if they conflict with the overall thrust of the paper. In this way, Al Gore’s uneducated political commissars are able to deliver the “consensus” he so craves.

How is this possible you might ask?  Prof. Lindzen gives considerable background history.

However, having been an undergraduate and graduate student in the hard sciences, and later a research collaborator with dozens of industrial scientists and university professors, perhaps I can shed some further light. Today’s scientists get to the top of their field by extreme dedication to their specialty involving inordinate focus and concentration that cannot tolerate distractions. The best scientists are constantly “at home” at their lab bench, with their instruments, analyzing data, teaching a few promising students and preparing publications.  Most scientists interact intensively only with other specialists in allied fields ("geeks"). 

Many scientists are naturalized citizens from Asia and Eastern Europe, unfamiliar and intimidated by American politics and government, to which they are dependent upon for visas and grant support.  Although all stereotypes are unfair to individuals, there is some truth to the one of the shy, retiring, absent-minded professor.  His or her absent-mindedness is most likely due to intense cogitation on a difficult scientific problem.  Their dealings with one another are only possible by maintaining extreme standards of honesty, integrity and open-mindedness to scholarly debate in search of the truth. The very qualities that make them good scientists and scholars thus leave them ill-equipped to deal with the raucous, underhanded, disrespectful, politically-motivated radicals unleashed upon them by Al Gore and his fifth column for a “hostile takeover” of their scientific institutions.

I naively thought that the National Academy of Sciences could impose some quality-control on an errant discipline.  Prof. Lindzen notes that event this august body has been penetrated by eco-activists by exploiting loopholes in its nominating procedures. Fortunately, in science “truth will out”.  The long term faith of the American public in science, a trust built up since WWI is at stake. Next it will be important to see whether a prominent scientific journal publishes this revelation.

Read more here and full paper here.

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