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Energy Matters is the personal blog of Dr Euan Mearns. My objective is to provide high quality research and data analysis of the Earth’s energy system in the hope that key decisions about our energy future are based on facts as opposed to ideology. The effort is extremely time consuming and cannot be sustained without significant financial support.

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6 Responses to Support Energy Matters

  1. It is not quite correct that changes in the geomagnetic field have been unimportant in the time frame covered by your post on solar influence on glaciation. It is true that the last major pole reversal was 780 kya, but lesser geomagnetic excursions are more frequent. The last one, known as the Laschamp event, was only 41 kya. It involved a full reversal, but the whole thing lasted only 440 years. During the change, the field dropped to 5% of its former value, and the cosmic ray flux more than doubled.

    The scary thing is that we now seem to be in the early stages of a similar event. The N magnetic dip pole has left the Canadian Arctic; it is now at 86 N and barreling towards Siberia at 60 km/yr. This is as fast as the maximum speed during the Laschamp event. If it continued, compasses would point at some point on the equator only 180 years from now — but it will probably break up long before then. The very recent data from the ESA Swarm satellites indicate that the field is becoming disorganized and decreasing in intensity by 5%/decade.

    It seems quite likely that we will lose the protection of the geomagnetic field within decades to perhaps a century, exposing satellites, communication systems and terrestrial power grids to serious damage, and requiring much heavier shielding for astronauts in Earth orbit (and perhaps for people at high latitudes, such as Scotland). Moreover, if the field weakens substantially while we are still in the coming Grand Solar Minimum, the climate may become much colder than the Little Ice Age.

    This prospect demands immediate serious attention, including objective studies of the connection between GCRs and climate, close observations of the evolving solar and geophysical phenomena, and preparation of contingency plans to counter the effects on agriculture, public health, the economy and living conditions.

    Phil Chapman (Sc.D., physics, MIT, long ago)
    Scottsdale, AZ

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Hi Phil, thanks very much for this most instructive comment. Its not every day I get a retired NASA astronaut calling by to comment. It has concerned me for many years that we are possibly / likely marching towards a new Little Ice Age that could bring occasional severe winter conditions to parts of the N hemisphere creating the need for an absolutely robust power generation system. I sometimes imagine turbines in our mountains iced up, blades lying on the ground. N Sea oil platforms may of course be exposed to similar risks though they tend to produce enough heat and energy to keep warm.

      A MAJOR issue with IPCC thinking and the way this has been forced on large parts of the population is that the physical past has been constant for millennia while history tells another story. The fact is we have only had electric grids for a century or so and satellites for half of that time, during what I believe was the anomalous quiescent 20th Century. And so we have little historical record of how changes to magnetic field and cosmic ray flux may impact life on Earth other than the cosmogenic isotope record.

      We may be entering a period where both Earth’s and Sun’s magnetic shields are down (not good enough Scotty) combined with what seems to be a quieter but perhaps more explosive phase of solar activity. How exposed are our satellites? How exposed are our grids to cosmic rays and solar ejections?

      I was somehow unaware of the Laschamp event, despite having visited the lavas in Claremont Ferrand many years ago. It is somewhat frustrating that they have managed to curtail the 10Be record just after that event although there are clear signs of enhanced productivity. It makes you wonder – had it been me nailing that event in GISP 2 would have been a top priority.

      This is clearly not the best place to hold this conversation. I was wondering if you would be interested to expand your comment a little (1000 words) and I could post it as a guest post – I’m sure it would generate a lot of interest. Alternatively I can build a short post around your comment. I’ll send you an email.

  2. Capell Aris says:

    How on earth do I submit comments to this blog?

    I wanted to post on the Scottish “Gagging” topic to the effect that I have studied wind energy production across the whole of the UK, Ireland, and northern Europe over 9 years taking data from 43 sites. This has been published by Scientific Alliance/Adam Smith Institute. The headlin summary for Europe’s intermittency in that period would be as follows:
    • Power exceeds 90 % of available power for 4 hours per annum,
    • Power exceeds 80 % of available power for 65 hours per annum,
    • Power is below 20 % of available power for 4,596 hours (27 weeks) per annum,
    • Power is below 10 % of available power for 2,164 hours (13 weeks) per annum.

    European interconnectors may have other uses for grid management, but they will
    have little impact upon the mitigation of wind fleet intermittency and variability.

    The paper is here:

    Capell Aris

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Capell, comments are closed on posts after 3 weeks. The best place to post this is on the most recent Blowout which is a news / Open thread. I suggest you post this again to Blowout, perhaps wait for the new one on Sunday.

  3. Brian Perrin says:

    Hi Euan, I have followed the Oil Drum and your website for years now but this is maybe the first reply to anything. I also look at other energy posts elsewhere and have just read one that I would like you to do a critique on. It uses DECC data but I think draws the wrong conclusion.
    It is :-

  4. Hi, occasional commenter here. I’ve seen guest posts from time to time and I wonder if it’s possible to do one? I have a pretty new analysis of ‘carbon efficiency’ in the US + 14 European countries. I can’t find an email address anywhere but would be glad to submit it.

    Merry Christmas

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