Friday, February 16, 2018

100% clean, renewable energy is cheaper

A new analysis by Stanford University professor Mark Z. Jacobson and colleagues shows that the world can be powered by 100% clean, renewable energy, with today's technology.


The analysis looks at different pathways, using different ways of energy generation (by wind, water and sunlight), in combination with storage, transmission, and demand response, concluding that the world can also be powered by 100% clean, renewable energy at a lower cost than a BAU (Business-As-Usual) scenario dominated by fossil fuel.

“Based on these results, I can more confidently state that there is no technical or economic barrier to transitioning the entire world to 100% clean, renewable energy with a stable electric grid at low cost,” says Jacobson.

Moreover, the price of fuel currently excludes the cost of health and climate damage caused by fuel. When including these costs, the cost of clean, renewable energy is ¼ the cost of BAU.

The price of fuel looks set to go up over time due to decreasing economies of scale for fuel and due to the cost of conflict associated with fuel. As an example, a 2017 report puts the cost of U.S. military intervention in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan over the period FY2001-FY2018 at $5.6 trillion, or $23,386 for the average taxpayer. The report adds that, unlike past US wars, these wars have been paid for largely through borrowing. The $5.6 trillion includes the interest the US has already paid on this debt, but it does not include projected future interest. Even if the US stopped spending money on these wars right now, cumulated interest costs on borrowing will ultimately add more than $7.9 trillion to the national debt over the next several decades.

Meanwhile, the price of clean, renewable energy looks set to keep coming down, in line with ongoing innovation in batteries, efficiency improvements in electrical appliances, lights, etc.

What will further speed up the transition to clean, renewable energy are good local combinations of policy instruments such as fees on fuel and rebates on renewable energy, as in local feebates. The Climate Plan calls for dramatic cuts in emissions through such policies, while also calling for further lines of action.


Links

• Climate Plan
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/climateplan.html

• Matching demand with supply at low cost in 139 countries among 20 world regions with 100% intermittent wind, water, and sunlight (WWS) for all purposes, by Mark Z. Jacobson et al.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960148118301526

• Stanford engineers develop a new method of keeping the lights on if the world turns to 100% clean, renewable energy
https://news.stanford.edu/2018/02/08/avoiding-blackouts-100-renewable-energy

• Costs of War project, Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
http://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/

• Rapid Transition to a Clean World
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2015/11/rapid-transition-to-a-clean-world.html

• Roadmap for Repowering California for all Purposes with Wind, Water, and Sunlight
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2014/06/roadmap-for-repowering-california-for-all-purposes-with-wind-water-and-sunlight.html


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Is warming in the Arctic behind this year's crazy winter weather?

Is warming in the Arctic behind this year's crazy winter weather?

File 20180111 101511 sa3hd1.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Seriously cold: The ‘bomb cyclone’ freezes a fountain in New York City.
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
Jennifer Francis, Rutgers University

Damage from extreme weather events during 2017 racked up the biggest-ever bills for the U.S. Most of these events involved conditions that align intuitively with global warming: heat records, drought, wildfires, coastal flooding, hurricane damage and heavy rainfall.

Paradoxical, though, are possible ties between climate change and the recent spate of frigid weeks in eastern North America. A very new and “hot topic” in climate change research is the notion that rapid warming and wholesale melting of the Arctic may be playing a role in causing persistent cold spells.

It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to suppose that losing half the Arctic sea-ice cover in only 30 years might be wreaking havoc with the weather, but exactly how is not yet clear. As a research atmospheric scientist, I study how warming in the Arctic is affecting temperature regions around the world. Can we say changes to the Arctic driven by global warming have had a role in the freakish winter weather North America has experienced?

A ‘dipole’ of abnormal temperatures

Weird and destructive weather was in the news almost constantly during 2017, and 2018 seems to be following the same script. Most U.S. Easterners shivered their way through the end of 2017 into the New Year, while Westerners longed for rain to dampen parched soils and extinguish wildfires. Blizzards have plagued the Eastern Seaboard – notably the “bomb cyclone” storm on Jan. 4, 2018 – while California’s Sierra Nevada stand nearly bare of snow.
A study in contrasts: Warming near Alaska and the Pacific Ocean are ‘ingredients’ to a weather pattern where cold air from the Arctic plunges deep into North America.
NASA Earth Observatory, CC BY
This story is becoming a familiar one, as similar conditions have played out in four of the past five winters. Some politicians in Washington D.C., including President Trump, have used the unusual cold to question global warming. But if they looked at the big picture, they’d see that eastern cold spells are a relative fluke in the Northern Hemisphere as a whole and that most areas are warmer than normal.

A warm, dry western North America occurring in combination with a cold, snowy east is not unusual, but the prevalence and persistence of this pattern in recent years have piqued the interests of climate researchers.

The jet stream – a fast, upper-level river of wind that encircles the Northern Hemisphere – plays a critical role. When the jet stream swoops far north and south in a big wave, extreme conditions can result. During the past few weeks, a big swing northward, forming what’s called a “ridge” of persistent atmospheric pressure, persisted off the West Coast along with a deep southward dip, or a “trough,” over the East.

New terms have been coined to describe these stubborn features: “The North American Winter Temperature Dipole,” the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” over the West, and the “Terribly Tenacious Trough” in the East.
While the eastern U.S. suffered very cold temperatures in the recent cold snap, much of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere saw higher-than-average air temperatures.
NOAA, CC BY

Regardless what it’s called, this dipole pattern – abnormally high temperatures over much of the West along with chilly conditions in the East – has dominated North American weather in four of the past five winters. January 2017 was a stark exception, when a strong El Niño flipped the ridge-trough pattern, dumping record-breaking rain and snowpack on California while the east enjoyed a mild month.

Two other important features are conspicuous in the dipole temperature pattern: extremely warm temperatures in the Arctic near Alaska and warm ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific. Several new studies point to these “ingredients” as key to the recent years with a persistent dipole.

It takes two to tango

What role does warming – specifically the warming ocean and air temperatures in the Arctic – play in this warm-West/cool-East weather pattern? The explanation goes like this.

Pacific Ocean temperatures fluctuate naturally owing to short-lived phenomena such as El Niño/La Niña and longer, decades-length patterns. Scientists have long recognized that those variations affect weather patterns across North America and beyond.
When a persistent area of atmospheric pressure stays in the western U.S., air from the Arctic pours into the U.S, causing a split between the warm and dry West and the cold East.
Mesocyclone2014 and David Swain, CC BY-SA

The new twist in this story is that the Arctic has been warming at at least double the pace of the rest of the globe, meaning that the difference in temperature between the Arctic and areas farther south has been shrinking. This matters because the north/south temperature difference is one of the main drivers of the jet stream. The jet stream creates the high- and low-pressure systems that dictate our blue skies and storminess while also steering them. Anything that affects the jet stream will also affect our weather.

When ocean temperatures off the West Coast of North America are warmer than normal, as they have been most of the time since winter 2013, the jet stream tends to form a ridge of high pressure along the West Coast, causing storms to be diverted away from California and leaving much of the West high and dry.

If these warm ocean temperatures occur in combination with abnormally warm conditions near Alaska, the extra heat from the Arctic can intensify the ridge, causing it to reach farther northward, become more persistent, and pump even more heat into the region near Alaska. And in recent years, Alaska has experienced periods of record warm temperatures, owing in part to reduced sea ice.

My colleagues and I have called this combination of natural and climate change-related effects “It Takes Two to Tango,” a concept that may help explain the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge observed frequently since 2013. Several new studies support this human-caused boost of a natural pattern, though controversy still exists regarding the mechanisms linking rapid Arctic warming with weather patterns farther south in the mid-latitudes.

More extreme weather ahead?

In response to the strengthened western ridge of atmospheric pressure, the winds of the jet stream usually also form a deeper, stronger trough downstream. Deep troughs act like an open refrigerator door, allowing frigid Arctic air to plunge southward, bringing misery to areas ill-prepared to handle it. Snowstorms in Texas, ice storms in Georgia and chilly snowbirds in Florida can all be blamed on the Terribly Tenacious Trough of December 2017 and January 2018.
Cold weather from the Arctic combined with warm tropical air fueled a storm that produced well over a foot of snow and spots of flooding in Boston.
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
Adding icing on the cake is the tendency for so-called “nor’easters,” such as the “bomb cyclone” that struck on Jan. 4, to form along the East Coast when the trough’s southwest winds align along the Atlantic Seaboard. The resulting intense contrast in temperature between the cold land and Gulf Stream-warmed ocean provides the fuel for these ferocious storms.

The big question is whether climate change will make dipole patterns – along with their attendant tendencies to produce extreme weather – more common in the future. The answer is yes and no.

It is widely expected that global warming will produce fewer low-temperature records, a tendency already observed. But it may also be true that cold spells will become more persistent as dipole patterns intensify, a tendency that also seems to be occurring.

It’s hard to nail down whether this weather pattern – overall warmer winters in North America but longer cold snaps – will persist. Understanding the mechanisms behind these complex interactions between natural influences and human-caused changes is challenging.

The ConversationNevertheless, research is moving forward rapidly as creative new metrics are developed. Our best tools for looking into the future are sophisticated computer programs, but they, too, struggle to simulate these complicated behaviors of the climate system. Given the importance of predicting extreme weather and its impacts on many aspects of our lives, researchers must continue to unravel connections between climate change and weather to help us prepare for the likely ongoing tantrums by Mother Nature.

Jennifer Francis, Research Professor, Rutgers University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

North Pole forecast to be above freezing on Feb 5, 2018

The image below shows a forecast of above freezing temperatures over the North Pole on Feb 5, 2018.


Above image shows a forecast of air temperature of 0.2°C or 32.4°F at 1000 hPa over the North Pole on February 5, 2018, 21:00 UTC.


Above image shows a forecast of temperatures of 1.1 °C or 33.9°F at the North Pole at 1000 hPa, on February 5, 2018, 18:00 UTC.


Above image shows a large area around the North Pole forecast to be up to 30°C or 54°F warmer than 1979-2000 on February 5, 2018.


Above image shows sea surface temperatures as high as 15.1°C or 59.2°F near Svalbard on February 9, 2018, in the panel on the left, and air temperatures as high as 6°C or 42.7°F (at 1000 hPa) near Svalbard on February 10, 2018, in the panel on the right.


These high temperatures are caused not only by ocean heat, but also by strong winds pushing warm air and water up from the North Atlantic into the Arctic. Above image shows the Jet Stream moving at speeds as high as 315 km/h or 196 mph (green circle, February 6, 2018, 6:00 UTC), moving in backward direction over Scandinavia, while extending over Antarctica and crossing the Equator at a number of places.


The decreasing temperature difference between the North Pole and the Equator is slowing down the speed at which the jet stream circumnavigates Earth and this is also making the jet stream more wavy.

As a more wavy jet stream extends deeper down over land, it allows cold air from the Arctic to flow down over land. As temperatures over land fall, the difference between ocean temperature and land temperature increases, especially in winter when land temperatures are much lower than ocean temperatures. This increasing difference between land and ocean temperature makes winds stronger and faster over oceans.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
In above image, the left panel shows a wavy jet stream speeding up over the North Atlantic, reaching speeds as high as 345 km/h or 215 mph (at green circle, 250 hPa).

In above image, the right panel shows strong winds pushing warm air from the Pacific Ocean through Bering Strait, resulting in temperatures over Alaska as high as 6.6°C or 44°F (at green circle, at 850 hPa).

The image on the right shows that waves as high as 8.27 m or 27.2 ft (at green circle) are forecast to enter the Arctic Ocean near Svalbard on February 5, 2018, giving an indication of the huge amount of energy that is going into oceans.

Earth is retaining more heat. This translates into higher surface temperatures, more heat getting stored in oceans and stronger winds. This in turn is causing higher waves and more evaporation from the sea surface. The image on the right shows a forecast of total amount of cloud water (in air from surface to space) of 1.5 kg/m² (green circle) in between Svalbard and the North Pole on February 5, 2018.

Warm air, warm water and high waves make it hard for sea ice to form, while evaporation from the ocean adds more water vapor to the atmosphere. Since water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas, this further accelerates warming of the Arctic.

The high temperatures at the North Pole follow high temperatures over East Siberia, as illustrated by the image below.


Above image shows average temperature anomalies for January 31, 2018, compared to 1979-2000. The image below shows open water on the East Siberian coast in the Arctic Ocean that day.


Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice extent is very low. The image below shows that extent on January 30, 2018, was 13.391 million km², a record low for the time of the year.


In the video below, Paul Beckwith discusses the situation.


In the podcast below, by Wolfgang Werminghausenentitled Sam Carana about the Arctic and global temperature, Sam Carana's responses are read by Kevin Hester.

From the interview, Sam Carana: "Methane releases from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean have a strong warming impact, especially locally, AND methane releases in the Arctic also act as a catalyst for other feedbacks that are all self-reinforcing and interlinked, amplifying each other in many ways. It could easily become 10°C or 18°F warmer in a matter of years, especially in places where most people are now living."



The image below shows that on February 11, 2018, methane reached peak levels as high as 2925 ppb.

High methane peaks are becoming more common as the water temperature of oceans keeps rising, which also goes hand in hand with more water vapor and less sea ice. As said, these are all warming elements that amplify each other in many ways. 

On Feb 8, 2018, Antarctic sea ice extent was 2.382 million km², a record low for the time of the year and 1.811 million km² less than the extent on Feb 8, 2014.

The image on the right illustrates the huge loss of sea ice around Antarctica over the past few years. Antarctic sea ice looks set to reach an all-time low extent later this month, with a difference of close to 2 million km² persisting, compared to just a few years ago.

The image below shows a forecast for February 5, 2018, with as much as 3.84 kg/m² (green circle) Total Cloud Water in between South Africa and Antarctica.


More water vapor in the air contributes to global warming, since water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas. The image below shows a forecast for February 5, 2018, with temperatures on Antarctica reaching as high as 8.9°C or 47.9°F (update Feb. 11, 2018: 7.1°C or 44.7°F at 78°S, 17°E at 1000 hPa on Feb. 5, 2018, 15:00z).


At this time of year, global sea ice is typically at its lowest extent for the year. On February 7, 2018, global sea ice reached the lowest extent on record, as illustrated by the image below by Wipneus.

This means that a huge amount of sunlight that was previously reflected back into space is now instead getting absorbed by oceans.

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan.