Tag Archives: drought

Climate clippings 201

1. Australian fund managers short Tesla and Elon Musk

When Elon Musk dramatically promised to build a grid-scale battery in South Australia, the media was enthralled. Share traders and a string of Australian fund managers smirked. They’d seen it all before, and were shorting him in the market.

In that very week he was in the market with plans to raise $US1.15 billion in equity and convertible notes. I understand also that Tesla has gone strangely quiet about SA since then. Continue reading Climate clippings 201

Climate clippings 128

1. Hot and cold

My sister in Toronto tells us how cold it has been. She can’t remember the last time it reached -5°C.

Yet NASA finds that Feb 2014 to Jan 2015 was the hottest 12 months on record. The picture tells the story:

NASA1-15-550

2. Record megadroughts predicted

The American Southwest and the great Plains could experience the worst megadroughts in ancient and modern times.

According to the findings, future droughts in both regions will be more severe than even the hottest, driest megadroughts of the 12th and 13th centuries, which are believed to have contributed to the fall of ancient Native American civilizations that inhabited the Southwest, such as the Pueblo Indians.

Climate Central gives the odds.

The chances of a megadrought (lasting 35 years or longer) are up to 50%.

The odds of a decade-long drought are around 90%.

There’s also a 5-10 percent chance that parts of the region could see a state of “permanent” megadrought lasting 50 years or longer under the highest-warming scenario, a greenhouse gas emissions path we’re currently on.

3. New era of climate action and hope

Christiana Figueres reckons 2015 is going to be a transformational year in climate change action. She of course is the boss-person of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which is sponsoring the Paris talks in December.

Amongst other things she mentions the June Live Earth concerts initiated by Al Gore and Kevin Wall (reviving their 2007 effort) to be held in New York, South Africa, Australia, China, Brazil and Paris.

She also plugs the UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change initiative, including Lighthouse Activities.

4. UK parties in pact on climate change

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have agreed to work together to tackle climate change, as they warned it posed a threat to national security and economic prosperity.

In what might be seen as a surprising move in the run-up to the general election, the three party leaders have pledged to work “across party lines” to agree cuts to the UK’s carbon emissions.

They have also signed up to seeking a “fair, strong, legally binding” international climate deal, set to be negotiated in Paris at the end of the year, to limit global temperature rises to below 2C – the level beyond which “dangerous” climate change is expected.

And they pledged to move to a low-carbon economy, ending the use of coal without technology to capture and store its emissions for power generation. (Emphasis added)

5. Tesla’s fancy home battery

Tesla will start production in about six months, all going well.

“We are going to unveil the Tesla home battery, the consumer battery that would be for use in people’s houses or businesses fairly soon.”

“Some will be like the Model S pack: something flat, 5 inches off the wall, wall mounted, with a beautiful cover, an integrated bi-directional inverter, and plug and play.”

Thanks to Geoff Henderson who linked to this one recently at Saturday Salon. Yes, it could indeed be a game changer.

6. Laser ignition to replace spark plugs

A team at Princeton Optronics working on replacing conventional spark plugs with laser igniters has produced a running engine and they claim that replacing spark ignition with lasers could improve the efficiency of gasoline powered engines by 27%. Considering that the basic design of the spark plug hasn’t really changed in over a century, this would be a revolutionary step, frickin’ lasers or not.

Because the spark plug is located on the edge of the combustion chamber, not all of the fuel is combusted. Laser ignition can be directed to the centre of the chamber, or in fact to multiple parts of the chamber in extremely rapid succession. Ignition can also be more accurately timed in relation to the movement of the piston. The result is a more complete burn and greater fuel efficiency.

7. Climate oscillations and the global warming faux pause

Michael Mann posts on research he was conducted, with others, on multidecadal climate oscillations in the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. They found that the Pacific dominates and was the predominant cause of a slight slowing in predicted warming over the past decade-and-a-half or so.

It is possible that the downturn in the PMO [Pacific Multidecadal Oscillation] itself reflects a “dynamical response” of the climate to global warming. Indeed, I have suggested this possibility before. But the state-of-the-art climate model simulations analyzed in our current study suggest that this phenomenon is a manifestation of purely random, internal oscillations in the climate system.

This has implications for the future.

Given the pattern of past historical variation, this trend will likely reverse with internal variability, instead adding to anthropogenic warming in the coming decades.

The “false pause” may simply have been a cause for false complacency, when it comes to averting dangerous climate change.

Reminder Climate clippings is an open thread and can be used for exchanging news and views on climate.

Climate clippings 118

1. Growth in CO2 slows

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production grew 2% in 2013 to the new record of 35.3 billion tonnes of CO2. This was about half the average for the last 10 years and less than global GDP growth of 3.1%.

2. Aradhna Tripati gets a gong

The Center for Biological Diversity presented its third annual E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation to Dr. Aradhna Tripati for her groundbreaking research on carbon dioxide’s role in climate change.

Tripati’s work revealed that the last time CO2 levels were as high as they are today was 15 million to 20 million years ago, when the distribution of plants and animals was dramatically different, global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees warmer, and the sea level was 75 to 120 feet higher than today. Her research suggests that the CO2 threshold for maintaining year-round Arctic ice may be well below modern levels.

Converting from Fahrenheit to Celsius and feet to metres that would make 2.7 to 5.5°C and 23 to 36 metres.

I would caution that the shape of the ocean basins may have been different, but these are alarming findings.

3. 1000-year drought history of Queensland and New South Wales

By analysing ice cores Australian scientist have found that there were eight droughts in the last millennium that lasted more than five years, with one of the so-called mega droughts lasting for almost 40 years. That was back in the 12th century.

This tends to indicate that the Millennium Drought and the Big Dry from 1997 to 2009 were not unusual.

From the official news release:

Explaining the findings, Dr Vance said the ice core analysis had significantly enhanced our understanding of a relatively poorly understood phenomenon known as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO).

The IPO describes a roughly 25-year cycle in the sea surface temperature, wind and other factors in the Pacific Ocean.

The IPO’s positive phase is closely linked with longer and more severe droughts in the United States and Australia. The risk of droughts occurring in Australia is higher during the IPO’s positive phase.

I’m not questioning the findings but how drought in Queensland and NSW can be derived from drilling ice cores in the Antarctic is not immediately obvious.

Where does this leaves global warming? The authors don’t say, but the clear implication is that severe droughts are part of the natural cycle. Warming is a given. The most recent analysis I recall is that drying along the southern edge of the continent has a climate change component. North of the Victorian border there is uncertainty.

4. Lifters or leaners?

Or backmarkers. UK PM David Cameron thinks Australia does not want to be a “backmarker” on climate change action. Global pressure will make us do more. Has he met our Tones?

Christian Downie thinks the real achievement of the Lima climate talks

wasn’t the goals set, but the fact that international talks like these make it increasingly hard for breakaway countries to ignore the issue.

John Kerry spells it out:

“If you are a big developed nation and you do not lead, you are part of the problem.”

Part of the problem indeed, and perhaps an active climate change vandal. Kieran Cooke reports that in Lima Australia was “lobbying for rules that undermine the integrity of the emissions accounting system”.

5. Antarctic sea ice

One of the conundrums of climate science has been the question of why the Antarctic sea ice has been expanding. Eric Steig at RealClimate takes a detailed look. One of the complexities is that the sea ice is expanding in some places and contracting in others. This, he says, rules out simplistic notions like an increase in westerly winds.

However, if you take into account the changes in all the wind patterns in the Antarctic you get a better match, indeed a good match.

Finally Steig says:

Not incidentally, changing winds also have a lot to do with what’s been happening to the Antarctic ice sheet (meaning the land-based glaciers, distinct from the sea ice). I’ll have another post on that later this month, or in the New Year.

Climate clippings 79

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as an open thread. This post has emphasised science, observations and impacts. Comments, about science, observations impacts, and future predictions are welcome. I do not, however, want a rehash of whether human activity causes climate change.

1. SAM and ENSO divorce

Roger Jones at Understanding Climate Risk has a post on global warming breaking the link between SAM and ENSO, with consequences for our weather.

To help, GMT in the graph means ‘global mean temperature’.

wang-cai-fig-3_500

With the global warming signal taken out (top panel), the relationship between ENSO and SAM is strong but with it in, they depart in the late 1960s (lower panel).

There’s also an article in The Age.

From Jones:

So what does this mean for Australia’s climate? It means that an overwhelmingly positive SAM is keeping the westerlies south and contributing to our drier autumn winters and delivering weather typical of the Riverina to southern Victoria according to Cai. Recovery of the ozone layer and reduction in greenhouse gas emission would stabilise this process, rather than continuing to send it south.

In summer it also allows the easterly trades greater access, bringing in more moisture from the tropics and enhancing La Niña summer rainfall. Continue reading Climate clippings 79

Climate clippings 69

1. Electric cars

you have about 750 million cars in the world today; you’re going to have about 1.3 billion cars in about 25, 30 years; and you can’t expect them all to be running on gasoline. There isn’t that much gasoline around.

Stan Correy has a look at the future of the car industry and our potential place in it on ABC RN’s Background Briefing.

Evan Thornley, who is behind Better Place, thinks our niche in the electric car future is in the larger powerful muscle car, where we have always been. Continue reading Climate clippings 69

Climate clippings 64

I’m currently working on another project, which is taking up much of my time. This week we had about 200mm of rain in one day. That could have been why my cable connection to the internet disappeared for 36 hours. I’m grateful to John D who sent me the links for each item in the following except the last.

Zero-emissions engine that runs on liquid air

A new zero-emissions engine capable of competing commercially with hydrogen fuel cells and battery electric systems appeared on the radar when respected British engineering consultancy Ricardo validated Dearman engine technology and its commercial potential.

The Dearman engine operates by injecting cryogenic (liquid) air into ambient heat inside the engine to produce high pressure gas that drives the engine – the exhaust emits cold air. It’s cheaper to build than battery electric or fuel cell technology, with excellent energy density, fast refuelling and no range anxiety. It just might be a third alternative.

Among the advantages are that it doesn’t catch fire or explode and doesn’t require rare materials. Continue reading Climate clippings 64

Climate clippings 52

7 billion and counting

With the world’s population passing 7 billion there have been reports and analysis all over the media.

George Monbiot, clear-headed as usual, says the real problem is consumption. He also takes a look at the UN calculations, and is not impressed, but one way or another the graph is going to go up for about four decades.

Fred Pearce is not an economist, but he may have a point in saying that ageing is the trend and with that your economy goes down the tube. Japan has become the land of the setting sun.

Those two are part of The Guardian’s Crowded Planet series. Our ABC has 7 challenges for 7 billion put together by 7 academics. Continue reading Climate clippings 52

Climate clippings 15

These posts include a brief mention of a number of news items relating to climate change. They don’t preclude treating any of these topics at more length in a separate post.

They can also serve as an open thread so that we can keep each other informed on important climate news.

Beware the collapse of the planet’s lungs

Amazon drought is consistent with what scientific models predict for a warmer globe.

Normally, rainforests function like great carbon sinks, absorbing a large proportion of the CO2 that human activity produces. But in 2005, thanks to deforestation, the Amazon became a net emitter of carbon dioxide. In that year, the rainforest is estimated to have emitted some 5 billion tonnes of CO2, almost as much as the entire output of the United States.

Continue reading Climate clippings 15

Climate clippings 14

These posts include a brief mention of a number of news items relating to climate change. They don’t preclude treating any of these topics at more length in a separate post.

They can also serve as an open thread so that we can keep each other informed on important climate news.

Monckton madness

John Cook at Skeptical Science has a post on two of Monckton’s oft-repeated pieces of climate change misinformation – that climate sensitivity, a measure of how much the earth warms from rising CO2, is so low that you can burn coal with impunity and that sea levels are not going to rise much in the future.

Cook has conveniently collected all his articles on Monckton Myths. Indeed this one lists 15 of them together with their antidotes. For example, Monckton claims that Arctic sea ice loss is matched by Antarctic sea ice gain, whereas in fact Arctic sea ice loss is three times greater than Antarctic sea ice gain.

Oops, said I wasn’t going to mention ice this time. Continue reading Climate clippings 14

Climate clippings 5

These posts include a brief mention of a number of news items relating to climate change. They don’t preclude treating any of these topics at more length in a separate post.

They can also serve as an open thread so that we can keep each other informed on important climate news.

Cancun’s beaches are washing away

Indeed they are.

Rising sea levels and a series of unusually powerful hurricanes have aggravated the folly of building a tourist destination atop shifting sand dunes on a narrow peninsula.

Two huge dredgers are being used to pump tons of sand from offshore sandbars. Continue reading Climate clippings 5

Climate change and the Murray Darling Basin

With record rainfall in large parts of Australia in recent months there has been a bit of a tendency to think that normal service has been returned. But record rainfall is by definition exceptional. This is how the last three months look on the BOM maps: Continue reading Climate change and the Murray Darling Basin