NASA Satellite Climatology Data

NASA has at least four satellites measuring key climatic data:

  1. Temperature
  2. Clouds
  3. Sea ice
  4. Snow cover
  5. CO2

In this post the NASA satellite data is reviewed and what it tells us about climate change is evaluated.

The image shows how global cloud cover has evolved with time at various latitudes since 1983 (to the left). Just one of the amazing data sets acquired by NASA but buried by the IPCC because it does not obey the global warming story line.

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How To Mitigate Climate Change

The University of Notre Dame maintains a “Global Adaptation Index”, a quantitative measure of how exposed different countries are to the predicted ravages of climate change. The index runs from 0 to 100, with zero representing maximum exposure and 100 representing no exposure (i.e. it’s backwards, but we’ll live with that). The methodology it uses to generate the numbers is described in this recent article and summarized thus:

The Notre Dame-Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN) is a free open-source index that shows which countries are most exposed to climate change impacts and their current vulnerability to the disruptions that will follow, such as floods, droughts, heat waves, cyclones, security risks and so forth, as well as their readiness to leverage private and public sector investment for adaptation actions. ND-GAIN brings together 45 indicators to measure the 178 UN countries from 1995 to the present.

The Huffington Post recently plotted the Notre Dame numbers on a map of the world and published it in an article entitled The Countries That’ll Survive Global Warming. Here’s the map:

Figure 1:  Notre Dame “Global Adaptation Index” by country

I looked at it and thought; that distribution looks familiar …..

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CO2 – the View from Space

NASA has a new satellite called the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) that is measuring CO2 levels in the atmosphere from space and the first results are in for October 1 to November 11 2014.

NASA: Global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations from Oct. 1 through Nov. 11, as recorded by NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2. Carbon dioxide concentrations are highest above northern Australia, southern Africa and eastern Brazil. Preliminary analysis of the African data shows the high levels there are largely driven by the burning of savannas and forests. Elevated carbon dioxide can also be seen above industrialized Northern Hemisphere regions in China, Europe and North America.

Roger reported on OCO2 on December 21st last year in Blowout week 51. John Reid at Blackjay provided further coverage. John was amused by “above northern Australia”, seemingly NASA’s new name for Indonesia. The post contains several very large graphics and may take a while to load. Click on graphics to get a large image that will open in a separate browser window.

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Blowout week 56

This week we condense OPEC, oil prices, Ukraine, Russia, energy shortages, climate change, terrorism, the European Union, Fukushima, Ed Davey and everything else that ails the world into one featured article:

Business Week: Only three minutes to Doomsday

Our leaders are failing, and planetary destruction is nigh. That’s the message sent today by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which moved the historic Doomsday Clock forward by two ticks. It’s now three minutes to midnight. The rising threats from unchecked climate change and nuclear weapons have created the biggest existential crisis for humanity since the Cold War, according to the group. Not since the 1950s has civilization been more imperiled.

And Colima, our local volcano is getting ready. This was last Thursday (credit Webcams de México).

The usual ration of varied stories below the fold, including more on “the warmest year on record”, OPEC, coal in China, health impacts of Australian wind turbines, Dungeness to stay open, Austria sues over Hinkley Point, Greenpeace names Nazca Lines despoilers, how climate change will cause more devastating La Niñas, European countries running out of gas  and UFOs sighted over French nuclear plants.

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Wind Blowing Nowhere

In much of Europe energy policy is being formulated by policymakers who assume that combining wind generation over large areas will flatten out the spikes and fill in the troughs and thereby allow wind to be “harnessed to provide reliable electricity” as the European Wind Energy Association tells them it will:

The wind does not blow continuously, yet there is little overall impact if the wind stops blowing somewhere – it is always blowing somewhere else. Thus, wind can be harnessed to provide reliable electricity even though the wind is not available 100% of the time at one particular site.

Here we will review whether this assumption is valid. We will do so by progressively combining hourly wind generation data for 2013 for nine countries in Western Europe downloaded from the excellent data base compiled by Paul-Frederik Bach, paying special attention to periods when “the wind stops blowing somewhere”. The nine countries are Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Germany, Spain and the UK, which together cover a land area of 2.3 million square kilometers and extend over distances of 2,000 kilometers east-west and 4,000 kilometers north-south:

Figure 1:  The nine countries

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Market Mayhem

Most of us won’t have noticed much market mayhem going on in our daily lives, distracted by terrorism in the heart of Europe. An instantaneous jump of 30% in the value of the Swiss Franc last week means very little to most people. If only we had stashed a few Swiss Francs in advance.

Most readers of this blog should be aware that the price of oil has more than halved in the last 6 months rendering much of the global oil industry unprofitable which is an unprecedented disaster for all of those dependent upon oil in their daily lives. But what is the underlying cause of all this market mayhem and does it really matter?  The S&P 500 is after all riding high and the US$ keeps marching towards new highs against the € and other currencies. This post takes a look at a number of indicators searching for answers which are elusive.

Figure 1 The copper price has been on the skids since 2011, recently breaking through the $3 support. This is a sign of chronic weakness in the global economy, probably linked to China (Figure 2). Chart from the FT.

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UK hits minus 13˚C and wind hits “zero” output

It’s been cold in the UK the last few days. Monday 19th January was the coldest day of the year when temperatures dropped to -13˚C in parts of central Scotland. It’s been beautiful clear, cold, calm weather.

At 14:05 on 19th January the output from the UK’s 11.99 GW fleet of wind turbines dropped to 0.191 GW. This is effectively zero and it’s hard to believe it could get so low given that 4 GW are off shore. This translates to a wind load factor of 0.016 – effectively zero.

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The Keystone XL Pipeline

Lobbyists are mobilizing to advance it. Environmentalists are mobilizing to stop it. The newly-elected Republican House has already voted to approve it. So has the newly elected Republican Senate. Obama has threatened a veto. The media are having a field day. What’s so important about Keystone XL?

Well nothing, really. Keystone XL is basically just another pipeline; a little longer and larger than most, but not unusually so, and it goes nowhere pipelines don’t already go. All it does is increase the capacity of the existing Keystone pipeline system, which has already transported over 550 million barrels of Canadian heavy crude from Alberta to the US. The crude Keystone XL delivers will make no difference to US crude imports; it will simply displace crude imports from elsewhere. And if Keystone XL doesn’t get built the crude it would have carried will go somewhere else, meaning that no CO2 emissions would be saved by not building it. (Although building it probably would save CO2 emissions because much of the Canadian crude that now moves south on trucks and rail tankers would pass through Keystone instead.)

So what’s all the fuss about?

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Blowout Week 55

The verdict is in. 2014 was the warmest year on record:

New York Times: 2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics

Last year was the hottest on Earth since record-keeping began in 1880, scientists reported on Friday, underscoring warnings about the risks of runaway greenhouse gas emissions and undermining claims by climate change contrarians that global warming had somehow stopped.

Or was it?

Berkeley Earth: 2014 Ties For Warmest Year

The global surface temperature average (land and sea) for 2014 was nominally the warmest since the global instrumental record began in 1850; however, within the margin of error (0.05C), it is tied with 2005 and 2010, and so we can’t be certain it set a new record.

Daily Caller: Satellite Data Says 2014 Actually Wasn’t The Warmest On Record

Climate scientists John Christy and Roy Spencer with the University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH) said, ”2014 was third-warmest, but barely.” Christy said, “2014 was warm, but not special. The 0.01 degree Celsius difference between 2014 and 2005, or the 0.02 difference with 2013 are not statistically different from zero. That might not be a very satisfying conclusion, but it is at least accurate.”

Stories on oil prices, OPEC, layoffs in the petroleum industry, Russia losing its natural gas clout in Europe, France wanting more nuclear plants, blades falling off wind turbines in Scotland, the US Senate voting on whether climate change is real, energy storage using methane and a hybrid wind/solar generator below the fold:

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Gridwatch UK December 2014

This is the first in what I hope will become a monthly series chronicling the UK generation statistics from BM reports and Gridwatch that will be archived on the main menu bar above. As the database grows it will become possible to identify seasonal and temporal, policy driven, changes to the UK grid. But for now I will let the charts speak for themselves. Note that if you click on the charts you will get a very large version that opens in a separate browser window.

Figure 1 Coal, gas, nuclear, wind and imports kept the UK lights on in December. See Figure 3 for the vital statistics. The story is fairly simple. Nuclear provided a very stable base load averaging 7.6 GW. Coal was the biggest producer in Bright Green Britain averaging 12.8 GW and absorbing some of the load following strain, gas averaged 8.6 GW absorbing most of the load following strain including the diurnal demand and wind variance, wind averaged 3.9 GW and the wind blew quite consistently through the month and electricity imports via inter-connectors averaged 2.3 GW.

Peak demand was 51.8 GW early evening on 4th, 8th and 15th December. Minimum demand was 24.5 GW during the night on 22nd December. Peak was 2.1 times greater than minimum.

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Gridwatch France

Engineer Leo Smith developed the Gridwatch web resource to record UK power generation from various sources as reported by Balancing Mechanism (BM) reports. Power generation data for the UK are now available since 2009. Since November 2014, Gridwatch has also been recording generation data in France (thank you Leo) and this post is a first look at these data. The data cover only the period since November 20th, 2014 and are not always of top quality, but there’s enough information to provide some interesting insights.

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Scotland Gagging on Wind Power

I last looked into the details and consequences of Scottish energy policy in the pre-referendum post Scotch on the ROCs. The expansion of Scottish renewables is progressing at breakneck speed and the purpose of this post is to update on where we are and where we are heading whether anyone likes it or not (Figure 1). Objections to wind power normally come from rural dwelling country folks whose lives are impacted by the construction of wind turbine power stations around them. My objections tend to be rooted more in the raison d’être for renewables (CO2 reduction), their cost, grid reliability and gross environmental impact. One issue I want to draw attention to is the vast electricity surplus that Scotland will produce on windy days in the years ahead. That surplus has to be paid for. Where will it go and how will it be used?

Figure 1 The rapidly changing face of electricity generation in Scotland. Wind power seems destined to grow from virtually nothing in 2010 to 15.8 GW come 2020. Maximum power demand in Scotland is 6 GW (red line).

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Blowout Week 54

The festive season is over, so this week it’s back to OPEC, who are claiming that the current turmoil in the oil market is everybody else’s fault:

Bloomberg:  OPEC Finds Everyone Else Guilty in Oil-Glut Blame Game

When OPEC blames everyone else for a glut that’s sent oil prices to the lowest in 5 1/2 years, it’s not without some merit. The chart of the day shows crude production in the U.S. increased 75 percent over the past 5 years while output from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries grew 5 percent. Canada boosted supplies by 42 percent while Brazil pumped 24 percent more, according to data from New York-based Energy Intelligence Group. Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali Al Naimi has asked why he should be responsible for cutting output while U.A.E. Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said non-OPEC producers should reduce “irresponsible” production.

A mixed bag below the fold, including more on OPEC, grid batteries for solar & wind, a new Integral Molten Salt Reactor, climate change displacing millions of people, threatening mass extinctions and forcing us to leave 80% of coal, 50% of gas and 30% of oil reserves in the ground, the Earth’s flipping magnetic field, coal strike in India threatens blackouts, market traders say UK has plenty of spare capacity, outrage in West Virginia that climate change will no longer be taught as a “foregone conclusion” in schools and the National Grid under constant cyberattack.

Your attention is also directed to the note at the end relative to posting comments.
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WWF Spins Again

On January 3rd WWF issued a press release purporting to show how 2014 was a “massive year” for wind power in Scotland. Euan Mearns put this claim firmly into perspective here. Then two days later, on January 5th, WWF issued another report summarizing the results of a consultant study which purports to show how Scotland could generate 92% of its electricity requirements from renewables by 2030 without the need for any fossil fuel or nuclear backup. Here we will look briefly into the question of whether this proposal is in any way feasible.

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Oil Production Vital Statistics – January 2015

This is the first in a monthly series of posts chronicling the action in the global oil market in 12 key charts.

  • The oil price crash of 2014 / 15 is following the same pace of the 2008 crash. The 2008 crash was demand driven and began 2 months ahead of the broader market crash.
  • The US oil rig count peaked in October 2014, is down 127 rigs from peak and is falling fast.
  • Production in OPEC, Russia and FSU, China and SE Asia and in the North Sea are all stable to falling slowly. The bogey in the pack is the USA where a production rise of 4 Mbpd in 4 years has upset the global supply dynamic.
  • It is unreasonable for the OECD IEA to expect Saudi Arabia to cut production of cheap oil in order to create market capacity for expensive US oil [1].
  • There are likely both over supply and weak demand factors at play, weighted towards the latter.

Figure 1 Daily Brent and WTI prices from the EIA, updated to 29 December 2014. The plunge continues at a similar speed to the 2008 crash. The 2008 oil price crash began in early July. It was not until 16th September, about 10 weeks later, that the markets crashed. The recent highs in the oil price were in mid July but it was not until WTI broke through $80 at the end of October that the industry became alert to the impending price crisis. As I write, WTI is trading at $48 and Brent on $51.

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WWF – Masters of Spin

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued a press release on 3rd January detailing Scottish renewable energy production for 2014. The press release is based on data provided by WeatherEnergy, an organisation whose business I have yet to establish*. Here’s how my local Press and Journal reported the story:

Wind turbines generated enough power to supply more than 100% of Scottish households on 25 out of the 31 days of December. Throughout the year wind provided enough power for the electrical needs of 98% of Scottish households with solar power meeting two-thirds or more of household electricity or hot water needs, it added.

In fact what this should say is:

Our computer model of wind and sunshine distribution suggests that wind turbines may have provided 35% and solar photovoltaics 0.44% of Scotland’s electricity in 2014.

The rest is hype and propaganda designed to deceive and confuse and to advance the objectives of WWF, whatever those might be, with no regard for the welfare of Scotland’s people.

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Blowout Week 53

This week we take a temporary break from the world’s harsh realities and lead off with a story about US climate refugees:

Global News:  Scientist predicts mass exodus of climate refugees to Pacific Northwest

Cliff Mass, an atmospheric science professor from the University of Washington, predicts the Pacific Northwest will be one of the best places to live as the earth warms from Global Warming. He foresees a mass exodus of climate change refugees. On his blog , Mass details why so many people may be “forced” to move, and why the Pacific Northwest could fare better than other parts of the world with climate change, referring to the region as a “potential climate refuge.”

Caption: The coloured areas represent extreme climate change. Yellow indicates areas that will be highly stressed for water. Orange represents additional locations that might be significantly affected by hurricanes. Purple dots for the blank locations with substantial heat wave risk. Red areas indicates regions that will experience substantial negative impacts of global warming from sea level rise.

Why choose this story? Because a lot of Americans living here in Mexico – including my neighbors – are climate refugees from the Pacific Northwest.

More stories below the fold, including the requisite dose of oil and OPEC, oil exports from the US, natural gas from Australia, US fuel in Ukranian nuclear plants, trees absorbing more CO2 than expected, tidal power in Canada and Scotland, carbon-free cities, EON spins off fossil fuels, decorator wind turbines and a new low point for climate change attribution – the crash of AirAsia flight MZ8501.
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UK Electricity Interconnectors – a Double-Edged Sword

The UK currently has four interconnectors totaling 4 GW of capacity:

  1.  2 GW with France (the IFA link)
  2.  1 GW with the Netherlands (the BritNed link)
  3.  500 MW with Northern Ireland (the Moyle link)
  4.  500 MW with the Republic of Ireland (the East-West link).

Section through a submarine cable (credit Subsea Cables UK)

Overall these interconnectors have contributed significantly to UK electricity supply over the last few years. In the third quarter of 2013 they in fact delivered almost as much electricity to the grid as wind and solar (6,031GWh vs. 6,680GWh).

The UK’s energy plan assumes that more interconnectors will contribute to future energy security by allowing power surpluses on the Continent to be delivered to UK when power is in short supply. And the more interconnectors the better, hence additional interconnectors with France and Ireland plus new interconnectors linking the UK with Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Iceland are now in various stages of planning or construction. If all of them are completed on schedule the UK will have somewhere around 12GW of interconnector capacity – three times the current amount – by 2020.

But will these interconnectors increase UK energy security? Here we will look at what the four existing interconnectors have done so far.
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A Mammoth Enigma

During the depths of the last glaciation hundreds of Wooly Mammoths died and froze quickly sometimes with food in their mouths. The beasts became entombed in bogs that froze solid and remain frozen today in the East Siberian permafrost. (Image Wikipedia)

Why were there bogs in East Siberia during the depths of the last glaciation? And why has the permafrost not thawed during 10,000 years of Holocene interglacial?

That is the Mammoth Enigma.

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What if the world can’t cut its carbon emissions?

Many people, including more than a few prominent politicians, accept that global warming must be limited to no more than two degrees C above the pre-industrial mean, or a little more than one degree C above where we are now, to avoid dangerous interference with the Earth’s climate. Let’s assume these people are right, that the 2C threshold really does represent the climatic equivalent of a cliff and that bad things will happen if we drive off it.

So how do we apply the brakes?

According to the IPCC by limiting cumulative future global carbon emissions to no more than 500 gigatons, and even then we would have only a two-thirds chance of success:

To have a better than two-thirds chance of limiting warming to less than 2°C from pre-industrial levels the total cumulative carbon dioxide emission from all human sources since the start of the industrial era would need to be limited to about 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon. About half of this amount had already been emitted by 2011.

Here we will ignore the one-third chance of failure and use 500 gigatons as the “safe” emissions limit. Can we stay below it? Figure 1 summarizes the current position. The black line (data from EDGAR) shows progress, or lack thereof, in cutting global emissions since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) started the ball rolling in 1992. The red line is a projection of the black line. The blue line, which intersects zero in 2117, amounts to 500 Gt of future carbon emissions. I assumed a linear decrease for simplicity but other pathways are of course possible:

Figure 1:  Current position on cutting global emissions to “safe” levels

Obviously the world is going to have to reverse course in a hurry if it is to have any chance of keeping warming below the 2C danger threshold. What are the chances that it can? Let’s look at which countries the emissions are coming from and see what the prospects are.

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