Another Historic Storm: Surreal Ophelia Strikes Ireland with Hurricane Force

“Ophelia is breaking new ground for a major hurricane. Typically those waters [are] much too cool for anything this strong. I really can’t believe I’m seeing a major just south of the Azores.” — National Hurricane Center scientist Eric Blake on Twitter.

*****

Warmer than normal ocean temperatures due to human-forced climate change are now enabling major hurricanes to threaten Northern Europe. A region that was traditionally considered primarily out of the range of past powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricanes under 20th Century climatology. One that, in a warmer world, is increasingly under the gun.

(Ophelia roars over Ireland. Image source: NASA Worldview.)

On October 14, Ophelia hit major hurricane status as it moved swiftly toward Europe. Packing 115 mph maximum sustained winds over a region of ocean where we’ve never recorded this kind of powerful storm before, Ophelia set its sights on Ireland. Crossing over warmer than normal North Atlantic Ocean waters, the storm maintained hurricane status up to 12 hours before barreling into Ireland. At that time, cooler waters caused the storm to transition to extra-tropical. But this transition was not enough to prevent Ireland from being struck by hurricane-force gusts up to 119 mph, storm surge flooding, and seeing structural damage reminiscent to a category one storm.

360,000 power outages and two deaths were attributed to a storm that should have not maintained such high intensity so far north and east. Yet another historic storm that forced the National Hurricane Center to shift its tracking map east of the 0 degree longitude line (Greenwich) since they had not planned for a hurricane or its tropical remnants to move so far out of the typical zone for North Atlantic hurricanes (see image at bottom of page).

(Human-caused climate change produces angrier seas off Ireland as amped-up Ophelia rages.)

As with many of the recently powerful storms, 1 to 2 degree Celsius above average sea surface temperatures were a prime enabler allowing Ophelia to maintain such high intensity so far north. And under the present trend, it appears that the Atlantic coasts of Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland and England are now all more likely to see tropical storm and hurricane impacts in the future as sea surface temperatures continue to rise. In the past, strikes by tropical cyclones to places like Ireland were considered to be rare — with the last Hurricane to impact Ireland being Debbie in 1961. But recent climate science studies indicate that global warming is likely to increase the frequency of hurricane and tropical storm impacts to Northern Europe:

In a paper published in April 2013, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute predicted that by the year 2100, global warming would greatly increase the threat of hurricane-force winds to western Europe from former tropical cyclones and hybrid storms, the latter similar to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. One model predicted an increase from 2 to 13 in the number of cyclones with hurricane-force winds in the waters offshore western Europe. The study suggested that conditions favorable for tropical cyclones would expand 1,100 km (700 mi) to the east. A separate study based out of University of Castile-La Mancha predicted that hurricanes would develop in the Mediterranean Sea in Septembers by the year 2100, which would threaten countries in southern Europe.

The present Atlantic hurricane season can now only be described as a surreal caricature of what we feared climate change could produce. Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and a dozen or more Caribbean islands are now devastated disaster areas. Some locations may feel the effects of the off-the-charts powerful storms enabled by a warmer than normal ocean for decades to come. Puerto Rico, unless it receives far more significant aid from the mainland than the Trump Administration appears to be willing to provide, may never fully recover.  And now Ophelia has maintained hurricane status until just twelve hours before striking Europe’s Ireland as a powerful extra-tropical storm.

2017 has also been an extraordinary year basin-wide by measure of storm energy. Total accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) for the North Atlantic as of October 15 was 222.5. So far, according to this measure, 2017 is the 7th strongest hurricane season ever recorded since records began in 1851. The most intense season, 1933, may see its own record of 259 ACE exceeded over the coming days and weeks. For storms still appear to be forming over record warm waters. According to the National Hurricane Center, a disturbance off the East Coast of the United States now has a 40 percent chance of developing into the season’s 16th named storm over the next 48 hours. Meanwhile, during recent years, powerful late October storms like Matthew and Sandy have tended to crop up over warmer than normal ocean waters even as late season storms ranging into November and December appear to be more common. In other words, we’re not out of the woods yet and 2017 may be a year to exceed all other years for total measured storm intensity as well as overall damage.

(UPDATED)

Links:

Ex-Hurricane Ophelia Batters Ireland Under Orange Skies

The National Hurricane Center

Colorado State: Accumulated Cyclone Energy

NASA Worldview

Tropical Cyclone Effects in Europe

Hat tip to Eleggua

Hat tip to Jeremy in Wales

Advertisements

Significant Monsters: Climate Change Enhanced Wildfires Tear Widening Swath Through California

“We are facing some pretty significant monsters,” — Cal Fire incident commander Bret Couvea to a room of about 200 firefighters and law enforcement officials at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on Wednesday morning.

“Think of the climate change issue as a closet, and behind the door are lurking all kinds of monsters — and there’s a long list of them,” — Steve Pacala.

*****

As of Wednesday, the massive fires blazing across California and concentrated in the north had consumed over 141,000 acres, resulted in the loss of 17 lives, and destroyed more than 2,000 structures. Approximately 50,000 people are now evacuated from the fire zones. And about 500 individuals are reported missing. A grim tally that is unfortunately likely to worsen as the hours and days progress.

This outbreak is now one of the worst fire disasters ever to strike California. One which may break all previous records for tragic loss of life and property when this terrible event finally winds down many days from now and all losses are counted.

Significant Monsters…

In total, eight major fires are still burning across the state. As all but one fire remains uncontained, the area consumed continues to expand. The seven large out of control fires presently range in size from 7,500 to 37,000 acres each and have burned approximately 40,000 additional acres in just the past 24 hours alone. Lighter winds and cooler weather have aided firefighting efforts. But the sudden large scale of the fires erupting Sunday through Tuesday and very dry and occasionally gusty conditions with no rain in sight have produced serious challenges for firefighters.

(The skies of northern California blanketed by smoke from massive blazes streaming like ‘liquid fire’ across Northern California on Tuesday, October 10. Image source: NASA Worldview.)

As of yet, no direct initial cause for the fires has been identified. But the co-location of some fires with downed power lines due to wind gusts up to hurricane force late Sunday night have provided one potential ignition source. Human error or malicious activity have not yet been ruled out.

… Fed by Climate Change …

Regardless of direct cause of ignition, the fires lit in vegetative growth that sprang up after an abnormally wet winter and spring. This growth has flash-dried over summer in a region that received 10-20 percent of its typical moisture allotment over that period. Northern California over recent years has experienced severe drought, extreme rains, and during summer of 2017 flash drying of new vegetative growth. This is a cycle of extremes consistent with human caused climate change. So as with the major hurricanes blowing up over the ocean this year we can definitely say that climate change has played a role in setting conditions that enabled this event to hit a much more fierce than usual intensity.

… Caused by Bad Energy and Environmental Policy Choices

Bad choices — primarily involved with continued policies promoting fossil fuel burning (#1), harmful agricultural practices (#2), and deforestation (#3) have brought us to this pass. Failure to rapidly enable a renewable energy transition and to produce policies that promote less harmful consumption and more sustainable land use will result in an ever-increasing tempo of extreme events.

We see this high tempo now in events that bear the names Harvey, Irma, Maria, California fires and so, so many more over the past few years. Let us hope and pray that it relents enough to give us the space to make the right choices for ourselves, the life supports of our planet, and our children.

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

A recent climate study found that warming oceans have weakened the southwestern monsoon generating a prevalence for droughts and wildfires in the region. This is a direct result of human-caused climate change:

Links:

The National Interagency Fire Center

NASA Worldview

Some Pretty Significant Monsters

Pure Devastation

California Fires: Before and After Photos

How Did the California Fires Become so Devastating?

Hat tip to Eleggua

Hat tip to Genomik

 

Led By Tesla, September U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales Surge

The month of September was another big one for U.S. electrical vehicle sales. And, once again, despite a growing barrage from its increasingly irrational detractors, Tesla just keeps crushing it as a U.S. and global clean energy leader.

Tesla Leads Record September EV Sales

In total, 21,325 plug-in vehicles were sold in the U.S. during September. This sales rate represented a 24 percent growth over September of 2016 and amounted to the second highest number of electrical vehicles sold in the U.S. during any month on record. Total annual sales are now 142,514 and appear ready to approach or exceed the 200,000 mark by year-end.

(Strong electrical vehicle sales growth in the U.S. continued during September — with Tesla remaining ahead of the pack. Image source: Inside EVs.)

Tesla again showed itself as a strong market leader with combined Model S and X sales of 7,980. These models, respectively, held the top two sales spots for the month — followed closely by the long-range Chevy Bolt EV at 2,632 sales after nearly a year on the market. The Toyota Prius Prime and Chevy Volt plug-in hybrids rounded out the top five spots at 1,899 and 1,453 sales, respectively.

The main story of these best-sellers appears to be range — with all of these vehicles boasting long range electric or plug-in-hybrid capability. But Tesla’s high quality luxury offerings still hold an edge due to better technology, better charging infrastructure support, and superior overall capabilities. What’s even more ironic is that Tesla’s vehicles — that often sell for upwards of 100,000 dollars each — are still moving at greater volumes than the 35,000 dollar Chevy Bolt.

Chevy Bolt and Model 3 — Place-Holder vs Industry-Mover

The Bolt has a 238 mile range, which is a bit shorter than the higher-end Teslas which now can travel for between around 250 and 315 miles on a single charge. The Bolt’s quality is also considerably lower than the higher-priced Teslas — with slower acceleration, economy body styling, inferior handling and less features. As noted above, the Bolt also does not enjoy the support of Tesla’s large and expanding charging infrastructure. All that said, the Bolt remains an excellent EV for the price. It’s just that one wonders if GM’s heart is really in it to go all-in to sell the vehicle. Or is GM just placing a necessary high-quality competitor in a strategic attempt to stymie enthusiasm for the upcoming, trend-setting, Tesla Model 3?

(Obama-era CAFE standards are a major driver for auto industry transformation away from polluting fossil fuels and toward zero-emissions electric vehicles. Industry leaders like GM have long fought a policy that incentives electrical vehicle production and ultimately produces the combined benefits of moving the country toward energy independence, renewable energy, healthier air, and a less hostile climate. This year, the Trump Administration has sided with fossil-fuel based automakers and moved to roll back Obama’s helpful CAFE standards. Image source: Alternative Energy Stocks.)

A big hint comes in the form of continued opposition by major automakers like GM to increasing CAFE standards. From Electrek earlier this week:

In a time where a surprising number of major automakers are announcing that they believe electric cars are the future of the auto industry, we are still seeing them complaining about, and in some cases lobbying against, the fuel emission standards.

Now trade groups representing virtually the entire auto industry are again putting pressure on U.S. regulators to weaken rules that would force them to produce more electric cars.

So the rational question arises — would an automaker who really believes that the future is electric, who is really dedicated to the success of vehicles like the Bolt and the Volt also be fighting to remove fuel economy standards? If this appears like hypocrisy to some, then it probably is. A duck, after all, does quack from time to time.

Moving Economic Eggs into the All-Electric Basket = No Harmful Fossil Fuel Conflict of Interest

Tesla, on the other hand, only produces electrical vehicles. So, unlike GM, it doesn’t have a gigantic fossil fuel burning vehicle production infrastructure hanging around its neck and dragging it back down into the vast ocean of structural industry contributors to worsening climate change impacts.

And while critics decry production delays for the Model 3, GM’s own ambitions for the Bolt were comparatively modest — aiming for around 50,000 sales per year vs Tesla’s ultimate goal of 400,000 to 500,000 for the Model 3. One of these cars, therefore, looks like a shot at an industry defender while the other appears to be aimed directly at transformation. And who wins out in this David and Goliath struggle will have far-reaching energy, climate, and vehicle industry repercussions.

(Total U.S. EV sales for the year of 2017. Image source: Inside EVs.)

Sales of the key vehicle in question, the Model 3, remained slow at 115 units in September. This following 30 and 75 sales respectively during July and August. Tesla admitted facing production bottlenecks in its planned massive ramp up for the Model 3 aimed at meeting the demand of an amazing 500,000 pre-orders. Tesla critics have had a field day as the all-electric automaker struggles in its attempts to get its famed ‘alien dreadnought’ production of all-electric vehicles up and running.

The slower ramp in Model 3 production, so far, is admittedly a bit of a bump in the road for Tesla. But critics’ claims of Tesla’s ‘imminent demise’ have become a common and hackneyed cry over recent years. So we can take the present brouhaha with a couple of grains of salt and view any major downward moves in Tesla stock as a panic-induced opportunity for more steady, savvy, and environmentally conscious investors.

Investing in Clean Energy Future Makes Moral and Economic Sense

To this point, Tesla uses its stock market capitalization to help fund its energy transformation efforts. So Tesla investors are helping to fund a global move away from fossil fuels. And for putting their money on the line in this way, we should express to them our thanks and gratitude.

In the larger context, electrical vehicles, and more broadly, a related ramping battery storage production chain forms one of three key pillars to the global energy transition away from fossil fuels. The other two pillars are composed of wind and solar. All of these technologies produce zero carbon emissions in use. And due to their ability to hit economies of scale in production that result in reduced costs, higher efficiency, and higher energy densities over time, they have a demonstrated capability to increasingly out-compete dirty fossil fuels and rapidly reduce carbon emissions.

So when new clean industry leaders like Tesla are forcing laggards like GM to produce electrical vehicles and market them, even as market-defenders, then those of us who support clean energy and are worried about the threat of climate change should all be cheering.

RELATED INFORMATION AND STATEMENTS:

If true, then why continue to fight CAFE standards? —

DISCLOSURE:

I presently hold Tesla stock as part of a larger renewable energy and sustainable industry investment portfolio. For me, this is part of a morally driven choice to divest from fossil fuel based energy companies and invest in clean energy companies. Though these choices incur considerable financial risk, I believe that wholesale investment by society in fossil fuels results in severe ultimate harm — which I will not be a party to. I urge others to seriously consider joining the campaign to divest/invest.

Links:

Monthly Plug-in Sales Scorecard

Automakers Claiming to be ‘All-in on Electric Cars’ are Still Lobbying Against Stricter Fuel Standards

Aggressive New CAFE Standards

Firestorm: 1,500 Structures Destroyed as Massive Wildfires Blaze Through Northern California

Heat and drought and fire. A common litany these days for California — a state that has, year after year, been wracked by a series of unprecedented climate extremes.

After a brief respite this winter, northern parts of a state reeling from woes related to human-caused climate change again settled into drought this summer. Having received near record amounts of rain during winter — enough to wreck the spillway at the Lake Oroville Dam — vegetation sprang anew. This rain-spurred growth then subsequently dried — developing widespread fuels for fires.

(Northern California near Santa Rosa saw humidity drop to as low as 10-12 percent even as strong winds raged through the region. Such dry, windy condition are key ingredients for increasing fire hazard. Widely available fuels from the abnormally wet winter carried over into a drier than normal summer to increase fire risks. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

These are exactly the kinds of extreme conditions climate scientists warned about as a result of human-forced warming. And the impacts for Northern California over the past 24 hours have been terrible.

Yesterday evening, a frontal system brought with it gusts approaching hurricane force to the region. The winds — warm and dry — raked over the lands and forests. Red flag warnings were posted. For even the smallest spark could spur a very dangerous fire under such dry, windy, and warm conditions.

Multiple fires, source presently unknown, subsequently erupted. The fires rapidly grew — raging across the hills and valleys near Santa Rosa. Embers caught up in the gusts traveled for miles. Where-ever they landed, tinder-dry fuels ignited.

Thousands were forced to flee in the middle of the night late Sunday and early Monday morning as the rapidly growing fires encroached on neighborhoods, towns and cities. Many had no time to gather belongings as pristine lands exploded into hellish flares. So far, 1,500 homes and commercial buildings are counted among the lost even as a number of people have gone missing. Entire subdivisions and wineries went up in flames. Two hospitals were forced to evacuate. Cell phone coverage to the region was cut off.

Today, the fires still rage as weaker winds provide some hope that an army of scrambling firefighters can start to get a hold on the firestorm. What is known is that this particular event is one of the worst wildfire disasters in California state history.

In this context, we should be very clear that human carelessness often provides the ignition sources for fires in areas like Northern California. However, without the underlying severe climate conditions, such fires would not have become so large or spread so fast.

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

Links:

California Firestorm Among Worst in State History

Earth Nullschool

Unprecedented Climate Extremes: One Year After Record Drought, Lake Oroville is Spilling Over

Extreme Weather and Climate Change

Hat tip to Genomik

 

Wounded Tropical Forests Now Emit 425 Million Tons of Carbon Each Year — Restoration, Fossil Fuel Emissions Cuts Now Urgent

In his seminal piece — Collapse — Jared Diamond documented how a number of civilizations who failed to protect their forests ultimately also experienced severe systemic decline.

Forests provide innumerable ecosystem services. They filter the air and water, provide a habitat for helpful plants and animals, prevent erosion, sequester moisture that enables healthy rainfall patterns. To keep forests safe and to nourish them is to keep the land itself safe. To keep life safe. To, ultimately, keep human civilizations safe.

In other words, a city or nation cannot healthily exist without healthy forests to support it.

Mistreated Tropical Forests become Carbon Source

From the point of view of confronting climate change, maintaining healthy forests is also essential. Healthy forests sequester more carbon — keeping that carbon locked in plants and soils. Unhealthy forests do the opposite — they release carbon stored over years and decades.

Since time immemorial, short-sighted forms of human civilization have harmed forests by cutting down too many trees, by killing off the creatures that support healthy forests, or worse, by burning the forests down. Ultimately, most of those civilizations also cut their own life-spans short. In the present day, we see this kind of harmful activity throughout the tropics. And, as a result, the tropical forests which have done us such an amazing service by drawing down a substantial portion of the fossil-fuel based carbon emission are ailing.

(In this image from Earth Nullschool, we can see high present carbon dioxide concentrations at the Earth’s surface. High CO2 concentrations show up in light colors. Low CO2 concentrations show up in dark colors. As you can see in the above image, the rainforest regions of the Amazon and Equatorial Africa are presently drawing down a considerable amount of atmospheric CO2 — which is generating a lower local concentration. That said, these forests do not draw down as much carbon as they used to. They have been disrupted by harmful human activity such as clear cutting and hunting of key species. As a result, through decay, fire, and drought, these forests are now emitting more carbon than they take in on net.)

According to a recent report out of the journal Science, about 425 million tons of carbon are being released, on net, from tropical forests around the world each year. This is equivalent to about 4 percent of global human emissions (primarily from fossil fuel burning) of around 11 billion tons of carbon each year. In other words, poor forest management is already amplifying the impact of fossil fuel based climate change.

The tropical forest carbon release occurred between 2003 and 2014. Study authors noted in The Guardian:

“This shows that we can’t just sit back. The forest is not doing what we thought it was doing. As always, trees are removing carbon from the atmosphere, but the volume of the forest is no longer enough to compensate for the losses. The region is not a sink any more.”

These same authors attributed this turning of a net carbon sink into a net carbon source primarily to poor land management practices. Primary sources of harm and loss involved the “thinning of tree density and the culling of biodiversity below an apparently protected canopy – usually as a result of selective logging, fire, drought and hunting.” More of the forested land has been turned over to developers and hunters when the land should have been set aside for protected parks and for the use of indigenous peoples whose ways of living help to support forest ecosystems.

An Urgent Need to Rapidly Cut Carbon Emissions While Restoring Healthy Forests

While human-caused climate change is now adding pressure to tropical forests, poor land management is presently a greater source of harm. In the past, sustainability-minded scientists had assumed that tropical forests would remain mostly functional as a carbon sink until warming approached 3-4 C above late 19th Century averages. At that point, heat alone will be enough to wring carbon out of these forests on net. But harmful human activity has pushed that time forward to the first decade of the 2000s.

Ultimately, the early failure of forests as a tropical carbon sink means that there’s less of a so-called carbon budget available. At this blog, we have long asserted that the effective carbon budget for a safe Earth at this time is basically zero. What this means is that some bad climate outcomes such as worsening weather, reduction of habitability in the Equatorial and near-Equatorial region, possible disruptions to growing seasons, declining ocean health for at least the next century, and sea level rise forcing mass abandonment of coastal settlements are already possible, likely, or happening now. Any addition of carbon thus makes an already troubling situation worse. That said, rapid cuts to fossil fuel emissions can still prevent worse outcomes such as more rapid sea level rise, much worse weather, very extreme heat rendering large regions practically uninhabitable for present societies, and a potentially worst-in-class global mass extinction associated with a hothouse ocean anoxic event.

(How removal of large animals through hunting and poaching can harm a forest’s ability to sequester carbon. Image source: Carbon Brief.)

Present science pointing toward loss of Tropical forests as a carbon sink means that our window is, again, rather smaller than past scientific oracles previously identified. The urgency for rapid carbon emissions cuts, therefore, could not be greater. But we also need to protect and restore forest vitality — which will be necessary to help the natural world bounce back from the insult we’ve already produced.

From study author Wayne Walker:

“We need to be positive. Let’s turn tropical forests back into a sink. We need to restore degraded areas. As far as technology for reducing carbon is concerned, this is low-hanging fruit. We know how to protect and sustain forests. It’s relatively cost effective.”

To be very clear, without emissions cuts to zero and subsequent atmospheric carbon drawdown substantial enough to prevent 3-4 C warming, these forests will eventually be in trouble due to the very harmful impacts of rising heat alone. So we need to do both. And we need to do it now.

Links:

Tropical Forests are Now a Net Carbon Source

Alarm as Study Reveals Tropical Forests are a Huge Carbon Source

Earth Nullschool

Carbon Brief

Collapse

Hat tip to Umbrios

Tesla’s Electric Sales Explode Despite Slow Model 3 Production Ramp

Around the world, electric vehicle makers are starting to make serious inroads into the global auto market. And aspirational industry leader Tesla continues to break new ground and open new markets despite an increasing array of challenges.

Record Tesla Sales

During the third quarter of 2017, Tesla sold 26,150 all-electric vehicles. A new quarterly sales record for the company which included 14,065 super-fast luxury Model S sedans, 11,865 of the also super-fast and highly luxurious Model X SUV, and 220 of the mid-class luxury-sport Model 3. In total, during 2017, Tesla has sold more than 73,000 vehicles. Placing the all-electric vehicle and renewable energy systems manufacturer in a position to challenge the 100,000 cars sold mark by end of December.

(Tesla production and sales by Quarter shows that Q3 2017 beat Tesla’s previous record by more than 1,300 vehicles. Tesla appears on track to hit near 100,000 vehicle sales in 2017. Note that Model X production took 6 Quarters, or approximately 18 months to fully ramp to present sales rates above 10,000 per Quarter. Telsa ultimately expects to produce more than 60,000 Model 3s per Quarter by 2018. Investment analysts are more conservative — with Morgan Stanley targeting 30,000 Model 3s per Quarter. Image source: Commons.)

Surprises in Tesla’s Q3 report include greater than expected overall Model S and X sales. Pessimistic speculation about Tesla struggling to sell its higher-quality line as customers await the anticipated but less expensive and tweaked-out (but still bad-ass) Model 3 abounded throughout August and September. Those contributing to this brouhaha, however, did not appear to anticipate the excitement generated by Tesla’s Model 3 launch which appears to have spilled over to the more expensive line-up even as Tesla both offered incentives on some of its showroom vehicles and cut shorter range, lower cost versions of its Model S line-up.

Tesla Model 3 Production Ramp — A Miss, But Still in the Window

Tesla did, however, fail to meet Model 3 production ramp goals of 1,500 by the end of September. And this was one point where the Tesla pessimists ended up proving at least partly right. Citing production bottlenecks, the luxury EV manufacturer noted that it had produced only 260 Model 3s by end month — a 1,240 vehicle short-fall for the Quarter.

Overall vehicle production had still grown from July through September — hitting 30 in July, about 80 in August, and about 150 in September. This is still an exponential rate of expansion. But the more rapid anticipated ramp was not achieved. Tesla noted that most of their fast production chain was functioning as planned. But that a few bits of the complex and highly automated Model 3 manufacturing subsystems were taking “longer than expected to activate.”

(Tesla’s ground-breaking Model 3 missed company production targets by a fairly wide margin this month — triggering a big controversy among investors. Long term prospects for the Model 3 remain strong as Tesla works through what is, effectively, an employee beta testing period. Image source: Tesla.)

At first blush, this appears to be a fairly wide miss in Tesla’s planned production ramp. But if rapid production scaling is still achieved this fall, it will look like nothing more than a bit of a bump in the road. After the Q3 report, Elon Musk noted:

“I would simply urge people to not get too caught up in what exactly falls within the exact calendar boundaries of a quarter, one quarter or the next, because when you have an exponentially growing production ramp, slight changes of a few weeks here or there can appear to have dramatic changes.”

In other words, we are still in the window for rapid production scaling, even if the earlier, more rapid, ramp was missed by a few weeks.

The company previously struggled with its very complex production of the ultimately popular Model X. To address production challenges, Tesla aimed to simplify production for the Model 3. But integration of new automated equipment into large manufacturing chains as the vehicle is built and product-tested by employee-customers is proving to again pose a few challenges. Challenges that, at this time, do not appear to be anywhere near as serious as those encountered during the Model X production ramp, but are still enough to produce delays.

Tesla Model 3 Production Still About to Explode as EV Maker Enjoys Serious Structural Advantages

Keeping these facts in mind, we can take some of the overly negative reports following Tesla’s failure to hit early Model 3 production targets with a lump of salt. The company still produces amazing cars, is still going to flood the world with high-quality and much more affordable all-electric Model 3s. The company owns a massive manufacturing apparatus in the form if its Freemont plant and Nevada Gigafactory. An apparatus that is rapidly growing. Outside this expanding manufacturing chain, the company is the only major automaker to seriously invest in and rapidly expand crucial EV charging infrastructure. All of these are systemic underlying strengths that the electric automaker will continue to leverage and expand on.

(Tesla battery sales help to reduce EV battery pack costs by producing economies of scale in production. The reverse is also true. With demand for Tesla’s powerwall and powerpacks on the rise, the company possesses a number of systemic advantages that most automobile manufacturers lack. Image source: Tesla.)

Tesla is in the process of transitioning from an automaker that produces a moderate number of vehicles each year to a major automaker that produces more than half a million vehicles each year. And it’s bound to encounter a bump or two in the road from time-to-time. Ultimately, the Model 3 production ramp will hit its stride as Tesla works out the kinks. Around 500,000 reservation-holders will still get their cars.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley recently:

warned investors against “micro-analyzing the monthly ramp of the Model 3.” Most vehicle launches have hiccups, and quality and attractiveness count for far more importance than quantity “at least for now,” they said in a note.

Tesla was quick to stress that it foresaw no serious issues with the Model 3 production. That the company understood what needed to be fixed in the manufacturing chain and was working to address those issues. If this is the case, we should see Model 3 production start to ramp more swiftly over the coming weeks. But even without rapidly ramping Model 3 production — which is on the way sooner or later — Tesla is still smashing previously held all-electric sales records.

And for those of us concerned about climate change, that’s good news.

Links:

Tesla Shares Shake off Bad News of Model 3 Deliveries

Tesla

Tesla Q3 Report

 

 

Reflections of Opal and Why Trump’s Response to Maria’s Monumental Strike on Puerto Rico is, Thus Far, Vastly Inadequate

As a veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard, I’ve responded to my fair share of natural disasters. And having responded to some of the costliest and most devastating storms to strike the U.S. in the 90s, I know what it means when damage estimates, as they do now with Maria, hit a range of 30-95 billion dollars. When you get reports that evacuees are fleeing Puerto Rico with many saying they will never return.

It means total devastation of infrastructure requiring an equally unprecedented level of response to effectively manage a disaster of a class that we are not presently used to dealing with. And without an effective response, you get exactly what we are seeing now — refugees fleeing what has become, through neglect, a sacrifice zone.

(Editorial note — too little, too late.)

The present response to Maria by the Trump Administration is comparable to the level of response to Hurricane Opal. Opal was a devastating storm in its own right. But the damage inflicted by Opal was more than an order of magnitude less than the damage inflicted by Maria. Our response, therefore, must be equal to the level of harm and dislocation inflicted by the disaster. 5,000 troops and FEMA responders for Maria is, therefore, about 45,000 short of the mark.

Moreover, we can absolutely say that failure to pre-position an adequate number of troops, supplies and ships leading up to this disaster, a failure to secure a means of entry into Puerto Rico for troops and other emergency relief workers, a failure to establish law and order in devastated regions, and a failure to adequately and in a coordinated manner work to re-establish infrastructure and communications on the island is leading to a combined expanding disaster and mass exodus.

Reflections on the Effective Response to Opal

Back in 1995, when category 4 Hurricane Opal was roaring toward the Florida Panhandle packing 150 mph sustained winds, I received word of my mobilization while sitting in Shakespeare class, interrupted from listening to the lilting voice of my professor recite the bard in the idyllic halls of Flagler College.

It was October 3rd. And with the storm expected to make landfall sometime early on October 4, troops were already being called in. Units were already prepping. And supplies were already being pre-positioned.

My unit, an Infantry Company based out of Sanford Florida, possessed air mobile capabilities. This meant we linked up with a helicopter unit, mounted up, and performed the functions of air cavalry and air assault. A majority of the unit were ex-Rangers or Special Ops types serving out their retirement in the Guard. The rest were mostly ‘green’ college-age kids like me and a number of police officers, public servants, and school teachers. Our commanding officer was a Bank exec — your archetypal citizen-soldier. Our ranking NCO was a company first sergeant and ex-Ranger who’d served multiple tours in Vietnam.

(When hurricane Opal made landfall along the Florida Panhandel, it became the third most costly hurricane to ever strike the U.S. at the time. Hurricane Maria [above] was larger than even Opal — which at the time was considered to be one of the largest strong storms to strike the U.S. Its impacts devastated the entire island of Puerto Rico — not just a single long stretch of coastline. In dollar estimates, Maria is presently ten times more costly than Opal. However, with the economy of Puerto Rico less vibrant than that of the Florida panhandle, comparative damages are far more extensive. Image source: Commons.)

In the event of war, our mission was to support the 82nd Airborne. But in this peace-time disaster relief operation, our goal was to put first boots on the ground in the disaster area. To assess damage, establish rule of law and order, establish communications, secure key infrastructure, protect life and property, and to establish secure points of entry for disaster relief supplies and technical relief personnel such as medical professionals, engineers, and FEMA personnel.

The lessons-learned from devastating Hurricane Andrew were fresh on our minds as we readied for a hit that some thought could be as bad or worse.

A Far More Effective Mobilization and Response

For my part, mobilization meant cramming my individual gear into my personal vehicle — a 50 mpg Honda CRX — and making an unexpected drive from St. Augustine to Sanford to join with my unit on the afternoon of October 3. As with the environments around most hurricanes, the weather at the time was fair. But a tall, white outflow plume could be seen far off to the west.

Arrival at the unit was met with the usual flurry of activity. Most of our supplies had already been sent out on two and a half ton trucks to a pre-position location in the Pan Handle, but far enough away from the expected path of the storm not to put the unit at serious risk. We drew weapons, communications equipment, and packed up on food and water. Someone issued water purification tablets. I was the radio guy for my platoon — which was a recon platoon modeled after similar units in the U.S. Army’s Ranger divisions. So I picked up that heavy thing and loaded out with the necessary lithium batteries.

Flooding can be seen from the air as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations, DHC-8 prepares to land in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, September 22, 2017. U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Kris Grogan. More than a week after Maria, the situation in Puerto Rico is arguably getting worse. After a few days of a well organized response and relief effort following Opal, impacted regions had already begun to recover.

We piled into our two and a half ton trucks — which we called duces — and headed out.

By late that evening we arrived at a local school gym in some small town inland in the panhandle. Spreading out on the floor of the gym — we mostly slept. This is a habit you pick up on real quick in the military — sleep when you can, because you don’t know when you’re going to get it next.

Outside, the winds picked up, and tree limbs fell to the ground as Opal’s outer tropical-storm-force bands lashed over our location.

As soon as conditions had relented early that morning, we were loading up into our trucks and running out to a local tar-mac. Helicopters were waiting at the airport. Some of us, including me, piled into the ‘copters. The rest formed a convoy that would attempt to forge a land route out to the beaches along the far western Panhandle. Places like Destin Beach, Fort Walton Beach, and Gulf Breeze near Pensacola.

But those of us on the helicopters would be first in to the disaster area.

Opal had weakened as it roared into the coast. Still packing 115 mph winds, the storm had pushed a massive 15 foot storm surge through the region we were now approaching. From the air, we could see large sections of barrier islands that were literally cut in half. A one-mile section of coastal highway 98 was completely taken out by the surge. Most barrier islands were park beaches. But damage to homes along waterways and the shore line was immediately apparent. In parts, the homes had been completely removed from their foundations as if they were never there in the first place.

(In Navarre Beach, storm surge damage from Opal was quite extensive. In places, homes were washed across barrier islands and into the sound. Image source: Weather.gov. Maria’s impacts were far more widespread and severe.)

Power lines and trees were down everywhere and damage was extensive — if no-where near rivaling the wind-caused devastation of Andrew. Most causeways to the islands appeared to have suffered extensive damage and it appeared that the convoy was going to have a tough time getting in.

After getting a visual assessment from the air, we located a relatively clear landing zone in Destin and set down. Immediately, we began to set up a forward base of operations while sending out patrols into the nearby cities. In the hardest hit sections, we placed armed guards at intersections as a show of force to reassure the public and prevent looting. Residents who’d stayed had lost power entirely. Many were grilling all the food in their refrigerators — engaged in an odd kind of block party where once the food was gone, it was uncertain when one would get more. We handed out some of the water we had (a few pallets had come on the ‘copters) and let people know where we were setting up aid locations for food, water, and medical attention.

We were initially very concerned about individuals needing immediate medical attention or those trapped in buildings. But at our location, it appeared that most people were fortunate — aside from the odd scrapes, bruises and gouges. Most residents near the immediate coast appeared to have gotten out before the massive storm surge rolled in, which was a blessing.

Reports of looting at a local car dealership came in and our platoon dispatched a squad to secure the area, apprehend and detain looters, and secure car keys so that no vehicles were stolen. And that was all on day one.

Over the next few days we slowly re-established order and rapidly widened the aid chain. It was a rough hit, but not as bad as Andrew, and it looked like the region was on the road to recovery.

Quantifying the Urgent Need for a Larger Response

Hurricane Opal inflicted 5.1 billion dollars of damages — mostly to the Florida and Alabama coasts and inland due to very heavy rainfall totaling up to 15 inches. The storm killed 63 people. In total, 3,500 National Guard troops and 700 police officers were mobilized to respond to the disaster. As you can see from the above account, much of this mobilization effort occurred prior to the storm striking land.

In contrast, Hurricane Maria has inflicted far greater damage over a much wider region. Total damage estimates for Maria now range between 30 and 95 billion dollars. Maria’s winds were close to 150 mph at landfall and the thunderstorms associated with this very powerful hurricane dumped as much as 40 inches of rain over Puerto Rico. As of one week and a day following Maria striking Puerto Rico, the Department of Defense had only mobilized 4,500 troops. Members of the U.S. Congress, meanwhile, recommend sending 50,000 — which would be an appropriate response. 

Due to a failure to immediately mobilize the forces necessary to deal with such a massive disaster, Puerto Rico remains on its knees. Reports are coming in that looting is expanding even as people grow desperate after being unable to access food, water, electricity and controlled climates for more than a week. Many homes have been destroyed and the homeless are mostly destitute and without help as disaster relief organizers blunder about trying to reach them. Meanwhile, thousands are leaving a Puerto Rico that looks, increasingly, as if it was basically abandoned for at least one week following one of the most devastating strikes by a hurricane in the Caribbean on record.

To be very clear, this thus far totally inadequate response to Maria is a failure of leadership at the highest levels.

Links:

Hurricane Maria Could Be a 95 Billion Dollar Storm for Puerto Rico

50,000 Troops Needed for Puerto Rico

U.S. Response to Puerto Rico Pales Next to Haiti Quake

Hurricane Opal

Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Opal Floods Florida

Hurricane Maria Dumps 40 Inches of Rain on Puerto Rico

Evacuees Leave Puerto Rico by Cruise Ship — Some Doubting They Will Ever Return

A Call For All True Americans to Stand With Puerto Rico in Their Hour of Need

When I began writing this blog, it was in the hope that human beings would stand united to face the dire threat that is climate change. I also feared that events such as those that have recently occurred in the Atlantic would begin to rise to ferocious intensity.

Puerto Rico did not deserve the terrible blow she received on September 20th. A small island territory, she did very little to contribute to the warming oceans and atmosphere that made Maria worse. That considerably increased the devastation that was inflicted that engorged the risk to the now 3.4 million Americans who are, tonight, rendered refugees.

It does not have to be this way. Though we cannot control the force of a hurricane, we can determine the resolve of our response. We can aim our efforts at helping those who have been thrust into sweltering 100 degree heat indexes without power, air conditioning, water, and in many cases food. We can provide the leadership, as a country united in the face of adversity, that the person who presently and unjustly claims the office of President so glaringly lacks.

This is the time when we all need to pull together for the people of Puerto Rico who are also the people of this great country. To show, as Elon Musk did today, the true nature of our charity and compassion for one another. To show that we resolve ourselves to leave no American behind in the face of rising climate disasters. That we will respond with heart and justice — not with cynicism or an eye toward gaining personal power by dividing America. By responding for Texas and Florida — but not for Puerto Rico.

This is a general call to all who listen and hear these words to act in any way that you can. Though the storm is now over we risk the loss of thousands, a mass exodus of the destitute, and the surrender of a portion of America to the great and dark abyss. In the absence of Presidential leadership we must each now become a leader and take responsibility for our fellows. It is only in this way — together, indivisible — that we can successfully navigate the time of troubles ahead.

With Indicators Pointing Toward Back-to-Back La Ninas, NASA Shows August 2017 was Second Hottest on Record

The Earth really hasn’t backed off that much from the record heat of 2016. And since we’re experiencing what NOAA states is more and more likely to be back-to-back La Nina periods, the world should really sit up and take notice.

El Nino and La Nina Variability as Part of the Larger Warming Trend

As a measure of natural variability, La Ninas bring cooler conditions to a large portion of the Equatorial Pacific Ocean. Since the influence of this ocean on the larger climate system is so strong, La Ninas tend to generate periodic cooling in surface temperatures across the globe. El Nino, by contrast, generates periodic warming. The cycling between these two states can be imagined as a wave form.

(1998 and 2016 were both strong El Nino years — producing new record hot global temperatures when they occurred. Follow-on La Nina years resulted in counter-trend cooling that was not great enough to disturb the much larger overall global warming based trend. Image source: NASA.)

This cycle, however, should not be confused with the overall larger climate trend — which has been for considerable and rapid warming over the course of more than a century. That said, and despite the larger and obvious warming trend, La Nina years have tended to be cooler than El Nino years. This prevalence has resulted in years in which global surface temperatures temporarily, but slightly compared to the larger trend, back off from recent records. Meanwhile, El Nino years have tended to bring on new record hot temperatures due to their peaking influence on the greater trend of fossil fuel and carbon emissions based warming.

August 2017 Second Hottest on Record; 2017 Also Tracking Toward Second Hottest Year

According to NASA, August of 2017 came in as the second hottest August in the 137 year climate record. Overall August temperatures were 1.09 C warmer than 1880s averages. A measure that came in 0.14 C cooler than the record hot August of 2016 and 0.05 C warmer than the third hottest August — 2014. This added heat to the Earth System continued a larger record trend that has been in place at least since 2014 in which temperatures near the Earth’s surface spiked to far higher than previous levels (see image above).

Present NASA tracking shows that the first 9 months of climate year 2017 (Dec-Aug) were 1.14 C hotter than 1880s averages. By comparison, climate year of 2016 (Dec-Nov) hit 1.24 C above 1880s averages with January through December hitting 1.22 C above 1880s averages. The third warmest year on record, 2015, came in at around 1.09 C hotter than 1880s. Given this larger trend, NASA scientists presently provide an 83 percent probability that 2017 will come in as the second hottest year on record.

Back to Back La Ninas Probably on the Way, But no Significant Cool-Off So Far

It appears that 2017 is likely to hit around 1.11 C above 1880s averages. This is a 0.11 C dip below the record hot year of 2016. And it’s a dip enabled by the formation of a La Nina during fall of 2016 and a likely back to back formation of La Nina during the same season of 2017. In contrast, the strong La Nina following the 1997-1998 El Nino produced a much greater relative global temperature drop of around 0.2 C. An approximate 0.1 C return from the very strong 2016 spike is not much of a variability-based fall back and could point toward a stronger relative warming and a possible near term challenge to the 2016 global record in a likely El Nino during 2018-2020.

(One of the sole cooler than 30-year climatology regions in the Pacific is the Equatorial zone stretching from the Central Pacific to the West Coast of South America. Periodic cool water upwelling is driving this cooling which is a signal for La Nina. NOAA presently identifies a 55 to 60 percent chance of La Nina developing during fall of 2017. If this happens, late 2016 and late 2017 will feature back to back La Ninas. Despite this development, global temperatures are still hanging near record hot ranges. Image source: NOAA.)

Wild cards for this fall will hinge, in part, on how strong Northern Hemisphere polar amplification ramps up as Arctic cooling lags. Arctic sea ice extent appears to be tracking toward 5th to 6th lowest on record at end of the summer melt season. While sea ice volume has hit near second to fourth lowest on record. Both re-radiated heat from warmer than normal Arctic Ocean sea surfaces and larger energy transfer from the middle latitudes should drive a strong polar amplification signal similar to those seen during recent years. And, already, it appears the upper latitude Northern Hemisphere cooling is lagging typical 30-year climatology. However, it remains to be seen whether fall of 2017 will rival fall of 2016’s record observed heat transfer over the Pacific and north into the Beaufort region.

Such a signal would likely firmly solidify 2017 as second hottest on record. However, stronger than expected variable La Nina based cooling could upset this trend and bring 2017 closer to 2015 values. With so many months already passed, we’re looking at a possible swing of 0.02 to 0.04 C on the lower end if La Nina is stronger and a strong polar amplification signal does not emerge — which would still result in less of a variable dip than we saw post 1998.

(High amplitude Jet Stream waves to again transfer prodigious volumes of heat into the Arctic during fall of 2017? Watch this space. Earth Nullschool GFS model based image from September 28, 2017 shows another larger ridge forming over the Pacific Northwest and extending up into the Arctic.)

The end result is that the world is now firmly in a 1 to 1.2 C above 1880s temperature zone. Such a zone is one that is well outside of typical recent human experience. One that will tend to continue to produce unsettling and harmful weather and climate extremes. Furthermore, increasingly harmful climate change related events are likely to more swiftly ramp up with each additional 0.1 C in global temperature increase and as the world approaches the 1.5 C to 2 C threshold.

Links:

NASA

Dr. Gavin Schmidt

NOAA

Earth Nullschool

JAXA

PIOMAS

DMI

Climate Change Related Extreme Weather Rocks World, Weird Major Hurricane Forms East of Bermuda, Cyclone Energy Closing in on Records

Around the world, the litany of climate change related extreme weather events reached an extraordinary tempo over the past week. And it is becoming difficult for even climate change deniers to ignore what is increasingly obvious. The weather on planet Earth is getting worse. And human-caused global warming is, in vast majority, to blame…

Climate Change Related Extreme Weather Spans Globe

(Climate and Extreme Weather Events for September 17 through 24.)

Puerto Rico is still knocked out a week after Maria roared through. With Trump basically ignoring this worst in class blow by a hurricane ramped up by human-caused climate change, it will be a wonder if this territory of 3.4 million U.S. citizens ever fully recovers.

In other and far-flung parts, Brazil is experiencing an abnormally extreme dry season. Australia just experienced its hottest winter on record. In Teruel, Spain, thunderstorms forming in a much warmer than normal atmosphere dumped half a meter of hail. Antarctic sea ice is hitting record lows after being buffeted by warm winds on at least two sides. And in Guatemala, Mexico, Poland, the Congo, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, India and Oklahoma, there have been extreme or record floods.

Weird Major Hurricane in Central Atlantic

More locally to the U.S., in the North Atlantic warmer than normal surface waters have fueled the odd development of hurricane Lee into a category 3 storm. It’s not really that strange for a major hurricane to develop in the Atlantic during September. It’s just that we’d tend to expect a storm of this kind to hit such high intensity in the Gulf of Mexico, or over the Gulf Stream, or in the Caribbean. Not at 30.6 N, 56.8 W in the Central North Atlantic south and east of Bermuda and strengthening from a weaker storm that was torn apart in the Inter-Tropical-Convergence-Zone, before drifting considerably to the north over what would typically be a less favorable environment.

But typical this present hurricane season is not. Maria, which is still a hurricane after ten days, is presently lashing coastal North Carolina with tropical storm force gusts as it moves ever so slowly to the north and east. With Irma lasting for 14 days, Jose lasting for 17, and Lee lasting for 13 so far, 2017 may well be the year of years for long duration, intense storms. Meanwhile, a disturbance to the south of Cuba shows a potential for developing into yet another tropical cyclone.

Closing in on Record Accumulated Cyclone Energy

(2017 Accumulated Cyclone Energy for the North Atlantic. Image source: Colorado State University.)

Storms lasting for so long and hitting such high intensity produce a lot of energy. And the primary measure we have for that expended energy is ACE or Accumulated Cyclone Energy. 2017 is bound to achieve one of the highest ACE measures for any Atlantic Hurricane Season. Since 1851, only 8 years have seen an ACE value hit above 200. Present 2017 ACE is at 194 and climbing. Highest ever ACE values were recorded in 2005, at 250, and 1933 at 259.

Individual storm ACE values are also impressive with 2017 presently showing 3 storms with an individual ACE higher than 40. Only 27 storms with a 40+ ACE value are ever recorded to have formed in the Atlantic. Irma, so far, is the highest ACE for 2017 at 66.6 — which is the second highest individual storm ACE ever for the Atlantic. Jose produced an ACE of 42.2 (24th) and Maria an ACE of 41.4 (26th).

If 2017 continues to produce strong, long-lasting storms over a record hot Atlantic, it is easily within striking distance of a record ACE year. The restrengthening of Lee to major hurricane status so far north and out in the Atlantic was yet one more surprise that shows how much energy the Atlantic is bleeding off this year. Such a tendency will likely continue through October but with storms probably not forming quite so frequently as during September and originating in regions closer to the Caribbean and U.S.

Links:

Puerto Ricans Waiting For Aid a Week After Maria’s Devastation

When Does it Rain Again in Brasil?

Hail Storm Causes Chaos in Teruel

Antarctic Sea Ice Hits Another Record Low

Colorado State University

The National Hurricane Center

2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Accumulated Cyclone Energy

Hat tip to Suzanne

Hat tip to Vic

Hat tip to Umbrios

Tesla’s All-Electrical Spark is About to Grow Much, Much Brighter

Can a single venture born out of one man’s vision for a more sustainable future help to spark the complete transformation of global automobile markets, aid the U.S. and other nations moves toward energy independence, help tamp down the problem of human-caused climate change, spur a rapid influx of renewables in the electrical generation sector, and, all the while, compete toe-to-toe with nationally funded battery, automobile, and renewable energy companies emerging in China?

We’re about to find out.

Tesla, Daimler, China Invest in Gigafactories; Musk and Daimler Spar on Twitter

This week, large German automaker Daimler announced that it would invest 1 billion dollars in an EV battery production plant in Alabama. The move followed very heavy similar investment and policy announcements by China and a multi-billion dollar investment by all-electric automaker Tesla in the first of a number of planned battery gigafactories.

Elon Musk, noting the size of Daimler’s available capital for investment, made the following pithy remark on Twitter:

Daimler, appearing more than a little sensitive to the remark, replied that it would be investing 10 billion in EV development in total, with 1 billion going to batteries. Musk replied — “Good” — with Daimler stating that it had been developing electrical vehicles for more than 100 years.

Of course, Daimler, unlike Tesla, still primarily produces fossil fuel based vehicles. The company’s planned launch of EVs capable of competing with Tesla’s present offerings are slated for around 2020. By that time, Tesla is likely to be producing well north of half a million all-electric vehicles per year. Daimler would have to significantly increase investment to adequately meet such a major challenge by Tesla.

The history of Daimler is one in which it has mostly dabbled in electrical car production while instead dedicating the lion’s share of its efforts to producing unsustainable carbon emitting cars and trucks. In 2016, Daimlier sold 3 million vehicles — the vast majority of which were ICE-based. With Tesla gobbling up larger and larger market share as an electric-only vehicle supplier, that may soon change. A result that would be “Good” for everyone on the planet. Especially in the present situation where harms from human-caused climate change are rapidly ramping higher.

But despite Daimler’s 100 year history of experimenting with electrical vehicle designs, it has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to confronting a serious market competitor in the form of the all-electric Tesla.

Tesla Ahead in the Electric Race

To understand how serious, we need only look at Tesla’s growing suite of top-in-class vehicle offerings combined with an emerging fierce logistics chain of increasingly low-cost EV batteries.

Part of this story begins at Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory 1. To look at even the 1/3 complete Gigafactory is to behold the awesome potential of mass production writ large. Back in 2014 when Gigafactory 1 began construction under a partnership with Panasonic, the ultimate aim was to build a facility capable of producing 35 gigawatt-hours of batteries per year by 2018. That number has been raised to 50 gigawatt-hours — with an ultimate goal for this single factory in the range of 100 to 150 gigawatt-hours. By comparison, the entire global total of battery production in 2014 was around 35 gigawatt-hours. And total national production by battery giant China is presently at around 125 gigawatt hours — set to hit around 230 gigawatt-hours by 2023.

(Tesla Gigafactory 1 shows 9 of 21 planned modules complete by late August of 2017. Image source: Commons.)

Producing so many batteries in one facility will enable Tesla to leverage some serious economies of scale. This, in turn, will result in lower prices for the batteries it produces — allowing the automaker to sell electrical vehicles for less or make higher profits on models that are produced. Already, with about 15 percent of the planned gigafactory now producing batteries, Tesla is starting to see the benefits of this scaling. And recent reports indicate that it has pushed battery prices to below 140 dollars per kilowatt hour during 2017. Ultimately, many industry analysts expect the Gigafactory 1 to enable Tesla to produce batteries at near the 100 dollar per kilowatt hour mark before 2020 — substantially reducing base production costs for EVs in total.

Masses of Model 3s

This mass production of batteries is the cornerstone for Tesla’s expected mass release of its Model 3 vehicle.

To be very clear, Tesla’s spearhead Model 3 is the ultimate aim of all of the company’s efforts thus far. Each sale of the more expensive luxury Model X and Model S versions have gone to fund the more mass market Model 3. And recent cancellations of lower cost, shorter range Model S versions appear to have been aimed at creating space for the Model 3 in the 35,000 to 59,000 dollar market segment.

(This week’s Tesla Model 3 news.)

Present production of the Model 3 appears to be ramping up according to Tesla’s plans. More and more of the vehicles have been sighted on California highways. A forward-shifted delivery date spurred a rumor that the Model 3 was being produced faster than expected. Texas has already started to receive some of its Tesla employee-ordered Model 3s. Rising rates of battery production at the Nevada Gigafactory 1 site have been observed. And the appearance of VIN numbers above 700 earlier this week roughly jibe with a planned ramp to 1,500 Model 3s produced by end September.

A clearer picture of this critical production ramp may emerge over the next couple of weeks as Tesla analysts pick up on monthly Model 3 production information and the Tesla Q3 report begins to take shape.

Tesla All Electric Sales Tracking Toward 230,000 to 500,000 in 2018

By end of this year, Tesla expects to be producing 20,000 of these vehicles per month. By end 2018, Tesla is aiming for 40,000 Model 3s per month. Pre-orders in the range of 500,000 vehicles show that demand support for this level of production exists. And even conservative forecasts by investment firms like Morgan Stanley show Tesla vehicle production and sales more than doubling from an expected 90,000 to 100,000 in 2017 to over 230,000 in 2018.

Already Tesla sales appear to be edging higher — with Q3 expected sales in the range of 24,000 to 25,000 including the ramping Model 3 production. Meanwhile, Tesla’s own goals far outstrip expectations by forecasters like Morgan Stanley with the company aiming for 500,000 total sales in 2018.

(Tesla’s Model 3 planned production timeline. Image source: Tesla.)

Regardless of whether Tesla sells 230,000 cars or 500,000 cars in 2018, it will be the first automaker in a long time to see such rapid sales growth. According to Adam Jonas at Morgan Stanley, it has been generations since we’ve seen growth like this. It’s not just 2018 that forecasters like Stanley are looking at. By 2023, the investment firm expects 3 million Tesla cars to be ranging the world’s highways with that number growing to 32 million by 2040.

Tesla’s own goals appear to be significantly more ambitious. The expected 150 gwh ultimate production capacity of Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 alone could support an annual production of 2-3 million Model 3 type vehicles. And earlier this year Tesla announced plans to construct 3 more similar facilities with an ultimate goal of 10-20. Locations for the 3 new expected Gigafactories are set to be announced later in 2017.

Given the totality of this amazing undertaking, it’s unlikely that any present individual vehicle manufacturer is pursuing mass EV production at a quality and scale comparable to that of Tesla. Daimler may now be spending billions, but they are in a race to catch up. Meanwhile, it appears that Tesla may even rival China in its ultimate ability to scale battery production.

Half-way to Catastrophe — Global Hothouse Extinction to be Triggered by or Before 2100 Without Rapid Emissions Cuts

Over recent years, concern about a coming hothouse mass extinction set off by human carbon emissions has been on the rise. Studies of Earth’s deep history reveal that at least 4 out of the 5 major mass extinctions occurred during both hothouse periods and during times when atmospheric and oceanic carbon spiked to much higher than normal ranges. Now a new scientific study reveals that we have already emitted 50 percent of the carbon needed to set off such a major global catastrophe.

Fossil Fuel Burning = Race Toward a 6th Mass Extinction

The primary driver of these events is rising atmospheric CO2 levels — often caused in the past by the emergence of masses of volcanoes or large flood basalt provinces (LIP in image below). In the case of the worst mass extinction — the Permian — the Siberian flood basalts were thought to have injected magma into peat and coal formations which then injected a very large amount of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans.

(In the Earth’s deep past, the worst global mass extinctions were driven by large igneous provinces like the eruptions across Siberia during the Permian. The initial killing mechanism during these extinctions was a result of the upshot ocean anoxia, acidification, and biochemistry change. During the Permian, effects eventually spilled over to land and possibly the upper atmosphere. Today’s human carbon emissions will ultimately produce worse impacts over shorter time scales than the Permian. Image source: Skeptical Science and The History of Seawater Carbonate Chemistry, Atmospheric CO2, and Ocean Acidification.)

Higher atmospheric and ocean carbon drove both environmental and geochemical changes — ultimately setting off hyperthermal temperature spikes and ocean anoxic events that were possibly assisted by methane hydrate releases and other climate and geophysical feedbacks. The net result of these events was major species die-offs in the ocean and, during the worst events, on land.

Considering the fact that present human activities, primarily through fossil fuel burning, are releasing vast quantities of carbon into the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans at a rate never before seen in the geological past, it appears that the world is racing toward another major mass extinction. In the past, the location of this dangerous precipice was a bit murky. But a recent study in Science Advances attempts to better define the threshold at which the worst of the worst mass extinction events — set off by rising ocean and atmospheric carbon — occur.

310 Billion Tons Carbon Entering Ocean = Mass Extinction Threshold

The study used a relatively easy to identify marker — ocean carbon uptake — in an attempt to identify a boundary limit at which such mass extinctions tend to occur. And the study found that when about 310 billion tons of carbon gets taken in by the oceans, a critical boundary is crossed and a global mass extinction event is likely to occur.

Presently, human beings are dumping carbon into the atmosphere at an extremely high rate of around 11 billion tons per year. Today, about 2.6 billion tons per year of this carbon ends up in the ocean. In total, since 1850, humans have added about 155 billion tons of carbon to the Earth’s oceans — leaving us with about another 155 billion tons before Rothman’s (the study author) extinction threshold is crossed.

(Thresholds of Catastrophe in the Earth System finds that present carbon emissions bring us about halfway to the global mass extinction boundary limit. That carbon emissions cuts need to be more aggressive than the most aggressive present international policy scenario to reliably avoid risk of setting off a global mass extinction event.)

At the presently high rate of fossil fuel burning and greenhouse gas emissions from humans, that gives us about 60 years. This is true even if emissions levels remain steady and do not increase. If emissions increase along a business as usual pathway, we could cross that threshold by or before the 2050s. And under all present emissions scenarios identified by international climate policy, the 310 billion ton threshold is either closely approached or greatly exceeded by 2100.

This should set off warning bells for global governments and climate policy advocates alike. What it means is that halting fossil fuel burning and transitioning to renewable energy needs to occur at rather swift rates — with annual global carbon emissions peaking within the next 1-10 years and then rapidly diminishing to zero — if we are to avoid a high risk of setting off another major global mass extinction. Of course, this does not mean that such a response will avoid harmful climate impacts — a number of which have already been locked in. Just that such a major response would be needed to avoid a high risk of setting off a catastrophic global mass extinction event equal to some of the worst in all of Earth’s deep history.

Rapid Movement Toward Terrible Long-Term Global Consequences

The study notes that past major extinctions like the Permian occurred on 10,000 to 100,000 year time-scales. And that during these events the changes inflicted upon the global environment by major carbon additions to the ocean and atmosphere occurred too swiftly for organisms to adapt. The pace of human carbon addition is presently faster than even during the Permian — the worst mass extinction event. So if this very large carbon spike were to continue it has the potential to set off impacts as bad, or worse than the Permian and over much shorter time horizons.

The study also notes that it takes about 10,000 years for the worst impacts of a mass extinction carbon spike to be fully realized. So hitting the 310 billion ton threshold by or before 2100 runs a high risk of consigning the world to many, many centuries of increasingly worsening climate impacts.

Links:

Thresholds of Catastrophe in the Earth System

History of Seawater Carbonate Chemistry, Atmospheric CO2, and Ocean Acidification

Today’s Climate Change is More Comparable to Earth’s Worst Mass Extinction

Heading Toward a Permian Future

Hat tip to Abel

Dark and Flooded — Puerto Rico Devastated by Maria’s Unprecedented Rains, Terrible Winds

“Once we’re able to go outside, we’re going to find our island destroyed.” — Puerto Rico Emergency Management Director Abner Gómez Cortés.

“There is no hurricane stronger than the people of Puerto Rico. And immediately after this is done, we will stand back up.” — Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.

“The rain gauge near Caguas, PR also measured 14.31″ in one hour. That’s a candidate for the most ever, worldwide.” — Eric Holthaus.

*****

At present, it is difficult to take account of the scale of the devastation that has been visited upon Puerto Rico. Electrical power has been knocked out for the entire U.S. island of 3.4 million people. Meanwhile, as of this morning, the whole island had been placed under a flash flood warning due to historic rainfall hitting as high as 14+ inches per hour in some places. As a result, communications are spotty at best. Furthermore, the hardest hit areas are still mostly inaccessible due to debris-choked roads, loss of electronic communication, and flooding.

That said, we are starting to get a hint of the vast and often unprecedented damages that have been inflicted.

Power Outages Could Last for 4-6 Months

After suffering a glancing blow from Irma, Puerto Rico’s ailing and under-funded grid was already ill-prepared to face down the strongest storm to make landfall on the island in more than a Century. Fragile hanging lines, ancient substations, and centralized fossil fuel based generation that resulted in flickering lights even during the best conditions were ill-prepared to deal with the might of Maria.

At present, the entire island is without grid-based power generation. And the damage is so severe that officials are saying that it could take up to 4-6 months to completely restore electricity. Since electricity is essential to both communications and a swath of basic disaster relief services, such a severe and extended loss could greatly hamper recovery efforts for this island commonwealth.

Winds Remove Roofs, Collapse Buildings, Knock Holes in Concrete Structures, and Threaten Wildlife

Maria’s winds, which at landfall were as strong as 155 miles per hour (sustained), not only knocked out the entire Puerto Rican grid, they inflicted major structural damage on buildings and littered roads with debris. Across the island, roofs were peeled off even as holes were knocked in some of the strongest concrete structures. Metal gates to affluent homes and communities were torn down even as electrical power poles were snapped like twigs.

In San Juan, reports were coming in that the concrete walls of some condominiums were blasted away, that metal traffic lights had been torn down, zinc roofed structures were destroyed, and windows and doors were knocked out. Some stadiums used for disaster shelters lost their roofs, windows and doors — forcing those inside to huddle under archways.

There is no word, as yet, of the fate of the hundreds of wild horses exposed to the worst winds of Maria as they raked the island of Vieques just south and east. A potential tragedy of innocents to add to all the woes inflicted upon the people of Puerto Rico.

World Record Rainfall

As Maria circulated over the hilly terrain of Puerto Rico, clouds more heavily laden with moisture in a warming atmosphere unburdened their historically extreme loads upon the countryside. More than 20 inches of rain fell in one day or less over most of Puerto Rico — with totals in rainfall hot-spots hitting close to 40 inches in one 24 hour period. Across the island, rivers rose to historically high levels as towns were turned into lakes and roads into churning rivers.

At Caguas, the rain gauge recorded an unprecedented 14.31 inches in just one hour. According to records provided by Christopher C. Burt at Weather Underground and statements by meteorologist-reporter Eric Holthaus, this total, if confirmed, is in the running for the highest hourly rainfall rate in the world on record. After this very extreme rainfall pulse, Caguas saw continued severe rains from Maria totaling 39.67 inches in one 24 hour period. This is more than the typically rainy city of Seattle gets in an entire year.

As a result of this incredibly unprecedented rainfall, rivers were exceeding record flood stages by leaps and bounds. With one river gauge on the Rio Grande de Manati hitting 42.9 feet or 17.7 feet higher than the previous record flood level ever recorded at that location. At another river — the Rio Grande de Loiza — river water volumes increased 200-fold to hit a record flow six times the previous record at that location.

The Climate Change Context

The combined extreme winds, record rains, and storm surge flooding of Maria have produced an unfolding human and natural tragedy that will reverberate across Puerto Rico for months and years to come. This extreme damage adds to Harvey’s record floods, Maria’s earlier devastation of Dominica and the Virgin Islands, and Irma’s own swath of destruction that ran from the Northern Leeward Islands to Florida and the Southeast U.S. Total damages in dollar estimates for the present hurricane season now exceed 160 billion — a number expected to climb and one that may top 300 billion before all is said and done. And nothing can replace the 210 souls lost or the homes, memories, and livelihoods that have been wrecked.

It’s a tough fact that we need to reiterate time and time again under the present cloud of politically-motivated climate change denial — the weather is getting worse and human-based fossil fuel burning is causing it. The peak potential intensity of the most extreme storms has been increased by a warming world. More atmospheric water vapor increases the highest potential record rainfall amounts even as all that added heat and moisture push the weather toward greater drought and downpour extremes. We can see this in the increasingly prevalent heavy rainfall events, wildfires and droughts across the globe. We see it in the larger, heavier and longer-lasting storms.

(During late 2016, billionaire Richard Branson — who has advocated for responses to climate change — appeared willing to give climate change denying Donald Trump a bit of a window to pivot away from his nonsensical and unethical positions. After having his Carribbean home wrecked by a climate-change-fueled Irma, Branson has since gone after Trump and climate change deniers with a vengeance.)

For the Atlantic, the long term trend has been for more category five hurricanes to form. Back during the late 19th Century no Category 5 storms were recorded for the North Atlantic in the entire 50 year period from 1851 to 1900. In the 27 year period from 1991 to 2017 we’ve had 13 — with some years featuring as many as 2 or more Category 5s in a single season. 2017 was the only year other than 2007 in all of the last 167 years to see two category 5 storms making landfall. So we can clearly state that the long term trend for the Atlantic is for more Category 5 storms and for more of these storms impacting land.

2017 was also the only year to see 3 category 4 hurricanes make landfall in the U.S. (Continental U.S. + Puerto Rico. 1915 saw 2). And according to the Weather Channel only 24 category 4 storms and 3 category 5 storms have made U.S. landfall in the entire 167 year period since 1851.

(Warm ocean surface waters are the primary fuel driving hurricane peak intensity and ability to form. The Atlantic Ocean surface is now warmer than at any time in the past 10,000 years [at least]. Sea surface temperature anomaly map shows variance outside the already warmer than normal 30 year average. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Recent out-of-season tropical cyclone formation appears to have also grown more frequent and intense. For example, 2016’s Hurricane Alex was only the second hurricane to ever form during January. Moreover, 2017 saw the April formation of Arlene — which was only the second named storm to ever form in that particular month.

Stepping back from these figures, we should be very clear that warmer ocean waters and moister atmospheres both provide more fuel for the tropical cyclones that do form and increase the ability of such storms to form in typically cooler months. The warmer ocean surface has loaded the climate dice for both out of season storm formation and higher peak intensity even as a hotter atmosphere more heavily laden with moisture provides a similar effect by enhancing atmospheric lift. So if we keep dumping prodigious volumes of carbon into the atmosphere, we can expect worse and worse storms to come as the world keeps heating up.

Links:

Maria Strikes and Puerto Rico Goes Dark

Maria Rips Caribbean

2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Earth Nullschool

NOAA Hurricane Data

List of U.S. Landfalling Hurricanes

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to Eleggua

Hat tip to Wili

As the Worst Storms Grow More Frequent, San Francisco and Oakland Sue Fossil Fuel Companies over Rising Sea Levels

Faced with ramping damages and increased infrastructure costs from rising seas, both San Francisco and Oakland are suing major fossil fuel companies for their considerable contributions to the problem.

According to a report from SF Gate today, the claim is asking coal, oil and gas companies like Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Shell and BP to pay billions of dollars in damages for not only producing the heat-trapping gases that drove sea-level rise but for knowingly doing so.

Fossil Fuel Companies Sued For Role in Rising Seas, Attempts at Cover-up

The suits join those already filed by San Mateo and Marin counties as well as the community of Imperial Beach. San Francisco and Oakland, however, are the first large cities to engage in the suit –with these two cities combined representing a total population of 1.3 million people.

(Melt in the vulnerable regions of West Antarctica produces proportionately high rates of sea level rise for the U.S. West Coast. Sea levels could rise by as much as ten feet, according to recent scientific reports, resulting in tens of billions of dollars in damages and mass displacement of west coast populations. Video Source: California Sea Levels Could Rise 10 Feet by 2100.)

San Francisco notes that seas may rise by as much as 10 feet by the end of this Century. Consequently, the city expects to invest 5 billion dollars or more in improved flood defenses over the long haul. The suit argues that fossil fuel burning is the primary contributor to this problem and that fossil fuel companies have known since at least the 1980s that burning their products would result in these risks and damages. The suit also notes that these corporations falsely attempted to convince the public that they weren’t the primary cause — standing in defiance of basic scientific facts and public safety alike.

The text of the suit reads:

“Defendants stole a page from the Big Tobacco playbook and sponsored public relations campaigns, either directly or through the American Petroleum Institute or other groups, to deny and discredit the mainstream scientific consensus on global warming, downplay the risks of global warming and even to launch unfounded attacks on the integrity of leading climate scientists.

“This case is, fundamentally, about shifting the costs of abating sea level rise harm — one of global warming’s gravest harms — back onto the companies. After all, it is defendants who have profited and will continue to profit by knowingly contributing to global warming.”

San Francisco and Oakland are just two of thousands of coastal communities that now face rising sea levels and worsening ocean storms that were in great majority caused or worsened by fossil fuel burning.

Rising Seas, Worsening Storms Due to Fossil Fuel Burning

While it is less easy to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a single storm was caused by climate change, it is obvious that they are overall growing worse in a warming world.

As an example, the number of the absolute worst cyclones in the Atlantic basin has considerably risen since the 19th Century — from zero Category 5 storms during the 50 year period from 1851 to 1900 to 13 during the 27 year period of 1991 to today. Where two such most powerful storms formed in the 30 year period from 1901 to 1930, the same number have formed during just the single year that is 2017. The climate dice, in this instance, have, indeed, been terribly loaded. And as we have seen throughout the Atlantic, Caribbean, and along the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts, these more frequent, more intense, most powerful, storms represent a dire threat to those inhabiting the cities, states, and island nations in their path.

Moreover, the link between human-caused climate change through fossil fuel burning and sea level rise is irrefutable. As sea level rise through glacial melt and thermal expansion is a direct and obvious result of the warming that comes from rising global temperatures due to increased levels of heat trapping gasses in the atmosphere.

Links:

San Francisco and Oakland Sue Major Oil Companies Over Rising Seas

California Sea Levels Could Rise 10 Feet by 2100

Catastrophic Category 5 Maria Strengthens as it Tracks Toward Puerto Rico

As of the 9:00 PM advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Maria was located 145 miles southeast of San Juan Puerto Rico. The very dangerous storm was tracking toward the west-northwest at 10 miles per hour. Packing maximum sustained winds of 175 miles per hour and a minimum central pressure of 909 mb, the storm is now stronger than it was just prior to devastating Dominica yesterday evening and features a lower central pressure than Irma at maximum intensity. Furthermore, the storm is now one of the ten strongest ever to form in the Atlantic by measure of central pressure alone.

 

Along its present and projected path, the storm will reach the vicinity of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands a bit after midnight. Following a close encounter with St. Croix, the storm should approach Vieques and the Puerto Rican southeast coast by early morning on September 20th. Hurricane force winds should arrive about three to four hours prior to passage of the storm center. Tropical storm force winds are already affecting parts of the Virgin Islands and should begin to impact Puerto Rico soon.

In addition to catastrophic winds, the National Hurricane Center expects 7-11 foot storm surges in the Virgin Islands and 6-9 foot storm surges in Puerto Rico topped by powerful breaking waves. Rainfall totals are likewise expected to be quite extreme — totalling 10-20 inches in the Virgin Islands and 12-25 inches in Puerto Rico.

Some of the far outer bands of Maria are presently lashing Puerto Rico with rains and gusty winds. Meanwhile, St Croix in the Virgin Islands recently reported a wind gust of 72 mph.

Maria is passing over very warm sea surfaces in the range of 29 to 30 degrees Celsius. These abnormally warm ocean waters appear to be facilitating further intensification just prior to potential landfalls.

Maria is now a somewhat larger storm than it was when it approached Dominica. Hurricane force winds now extend upwards of 35 miles from the storm center and tropical storm force winds up to 140 miles. The storm appears to still be strengthening with the most recent report of 909 mb pressures near the storm center over the past hour 11 mb lower than a reading taken late Tuesday afternoon and 3-4 mb lower than a reading taken just one hour ago. Maximum sustained winds from this more recent pass were recorded at 175 mph. Maria is now stronger than Irma at peak intensity by measure of central pressure. A yet more powerful storm capable of producing more damage along a wider swath than during last night’s encounter with Dominica.

To say this is a dangerous situation is an understatement. Those in the path of this storm should heed any and all statements from emergency officials and do everything possible to seek shelter or flee the path of this terrible storm.

Conditions in Context

Climate change related factors like warming ocean surfaces, more intense Equatorial thunderstorms, and increasing atmospheric water vapor content have contributed to higher storm intensities during the present hurricane season. Natural factors, like La Nina-like conditions in the Equatorial Pacific, have also contributed. But we should be clear that the primary limiters to peak hurricane intensity — ocean surface temperature and atmospheric water vapor content — are now higher than they were in the past. So the storms of today can hit higher bars than before.

(Accumulated Cyclone Energy or ACE for 2017 so far is well above average. There are approximately 8 weeks left in this year’s hurricane season. Image source: Colorado State University.)

Overall, 2017 has been a well above average year for storms. One in which a number of records have already been broken.

One measure of tropical cyclone intensity — accumulated cyclone energy or ACE — has hit considerably higher than normal marks during 2017. So far, 2017 has outpaced all years since 2010 and appears to be on track for one of the highest ACE years on record. The record highest ACE for any given year was 2005 at approximately 250.

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

(UPDATED– UPDATES TO FOLLOW)

Links:

The National Hurricane Center

Colorado State University

Hat tip to Eleggua

Hat tip to Bostonblorp

Energy World Rocked as China Cuts Coal Imports, Aims for Fossil Fuel Car Ban

The global energy posture is changing almost as rapidly as a climate increasingly choked with greenhouse gas emissions. And few parts of the world show this emerging trend more clearly than China. In short, China is adding restrictions to both domestic coal production and coal imports even as it is rapidly building new solar generation capacity and moving to ban domestic fossil fuel based vehicle sales.

Cutting Coal as Solar Grows

Recently, China made two major policy moves that have rocked the global energy markets. The first was its recent closing of terminals to coal imports — which may result in a net reduction of imported coal by 10 percent during 2017. Since July, China has closed approximately 150 smaller facilities to coal imports. These ports, which China has designated as tier two, are less able to test coal for compliance with China’s new emissions standards. As a result, coal imports have re-routed to larger (tier 1) facilities. A move that has created a backlog of coal off-loading ships.

In early September, China then closed the major port of Guangzhou to coal imports ahead of a cyclone. Guangzhou is one of China’s largest ports — capable of handling 60 million tons of coal per year. The closure sent shivers through coal exporters like Australia as the line of ships waiting to off-load coal lengthened. This port has since re-opened but larger constraints to China’s coal import market remain.

(China is defying all expectations with regards to the rate at which it is adding new solar electrical generation capacity. Such a strong renewable energy addition is coming in conjunction with far more restrictive domestic and import policies aimed at reducing coal burning and improving air quality. Image source: Renew Economy.)

Recently, China imposed caps on domestic coal production and aimed to reduce total coal generating capacity. These caps and cuts led some coal exporters to believe that China’s large fleet of coal plants would require more imports to fill a perceived demand gap. But China’s new, more restrictive import policies are belying those earlier notions.

In the larger context, China is engaged in a major shift toward renewable energy production. Through July, China had added approximately 35 gigawatts of new solar electrical generation capacity — with 24 gigawatts of that capacity being added in June and July alone. By early August, China’s total solar electrical generating capacity had exceeded 112 gigawatts. Strong adds that have to be putting more than just a little bit of pressure on traditional and dirty generating sources like coal. Add in China’s more restrictive policies and the picture for coal in the country during 2017 doesn’t look very rosy.

Fossil Fuel Vehicle Ban

After imposing tougher restrictions on coal imports, China’s second major policy move involves a recent statement that it will declare a ban date for all fossil fuel based vehicles. During the weekend of September 10th, Xin Guobin, China’s industry and information technology vice minister, announced that China would set a deadline for car makers to stop selling vehicles that run exclusively on diesel and gasoline.

Though no deadline has presently been announced, the move has resulted in a big freak-out by majority fossil fuel vehicle producers like General Motors.

(National polices are aiding a rapid transition away from fossil fuel based vehicles. These actions are enabling the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and providing hope for reducing the terrible impacts of human-forced climate change. See interactive graphic of above image here: Bloomberg.)

China’s announcement comes alongside similar moves by Britain, France, Norway, the Netherlands, and India. France and Britain both plan to ban fossil fuel based vehicle sales by 2040. Meanwhile, the Netherlands and India have announced their own plans to phase out carbon-emitting cars. And, according to Bloomberg, countries accounting for 80 percent of the global vehicle market are now undertaking polices pushing toward the phase out of petroleum vehicles and the adoption of electrical vehicles.

China’s 28 million per year automobile sales, however, is a huge addition. And if the country imposes a deadline, it will force major automakers to further accelerate electrical vehicle production plans or become basically irrelevant as the fossil fuel vehicle market disappears.

(Rapid transition away from fossil fuel vehicles means declining prospects for oil just as a rapid transition to wind, solar, and battery based storage means declining prospects for coal and gas. Do we really want to be putting economic eggs into shrinking fossil fuel baskets? Image source: IEA, Bloomberg.)

Ironically, China’s move appears to be mirroring similar policies already put in place by U.S. states like California and U.S. technology leaders like Tesla. Sophie Lu, a Beijing-based China researcher for Bloomberg New Energy finance recently noted that: “Chinese regulators see the success of Tesla and other Californian companies, and want to promote the same success amongst Chinese car manufacturers.”

The fact that the world is following in the footsteps of both California and Tesla should set off a loud ringing in the otherwise deaf to new energy ears of the present administration in Washington. More to the point, valid analysis shows that China is setting itself up to dominate the newer, cleaner, less harmful to climates, and more appealing energy and technology markets of the future. And a failure to successfully engage in what is an emerging global competition at the federal level sets the U.S. up for a serious future failure and ultimate energy market irrelevance.

Links:

China is Banning Traditional Auto Engines: It’s Aim — Electric Car Domination

China Port Halts Coal Imports

China Announces Intention to Ban Fossil Fuel Vehicles

Fears Raised as China Cuts Coal Imports

Electric Cars Reach Tipping Point

 

Hellish Intensification — Maria’s Winds Jump 50 mph to CAT 5 Strength in Just 12 Hours

A special statement from the National Hurricane Center reports that Maria has reached Category 5 intensity — with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph and a minimum central pressure of 924 mb. This is, perhaps, one of the most rapid intensifications the Atlantic basin has ever seen — with the storm seeing a 40 mb drop in pressure in approximately 6 hours and crossing the Category 4 threshold to Cat 5 intensity in even less time.

Maria is now a very dangerous hurricane — barreling into Dominica and the Leeward Islands before turning toward both the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico over the next 36 hours. It is also the second Category 5 storm to threaten the region in just two weeks time.

As of this morning, Maria was a strong Category 2 Hurricane featuring 110 mph maximum sustained winds. Forecasters noted a potential for rapid intensification as the storm began to move over warmer than normal surface waters in the range of 29 degrees Celsius (84 to 85 degrees F) and as the atmospheric conditions became more favorable for storm development.

By late morning, the storm had strengthened into a major hurricane with 120 mph maximum sustained winds. But Maria still had a few surprises in store. The storm swiftly developed a small, pinhole, eye. Such small eye structures enable storms to more rapidly wrap winds around a compact center. It’s the kind of structure that can result in very fast intensification.

After the pinhole eye structure formed, Maria jumped to category 4 strength with 130 mph winds by late afternoon. Then, by the 9 PM advisory from the National Hurricane Center, the storm made the considerable leap to Category 5 status with 160 mph maximum sustained winds.

The storm, at this time is now zeroing in on Dominica — which is presently seeing very rapidly deteriorating conditions.

Maria presently has a smaller hurricane force wind field than Irma — with hurricane strength winds only stretching about 15-20 miles from the storm’s center. Those winds, however, are very intense and capable of inflicting catastrophic damage. All within the path of this terrible storm should seek shelter in the strongest structures possible immediately and heed any warnings or advice from local disaster authorities.

Conditions in Context

Like Irma and Harvey, Maria is tapping warmer than normal sea surface temperatures which is helping it to reach a higher peak intensity. This year, thunderstorms in the Inter-Tropical-Convergence-Zone (ITCZ) have been unusually intense. Strong thunderstorms in this region are basically the seeds that can grow into powerful tropical cyclones. So the larger, more energetic, more moisture-rich, and more numerous these storms, the higher potential that a strong hurricane will ultimately form once such systems enter the Tropical Atlantic. Warmer ocean surface temperatures are a direct upshot of human-caused climate change and there is some evidence that climate change is also increasing the intensity of the world’s most powerful thunderstorms — particularly over the Equatorial regions.

In addition to these climate change related factors, La Nina-like conditions in the Equatorial Pacific are helping to reduce wind shear over the Tropical Atlantic. Reduced shear helps to allow the larger than normal storms emerging from Africa to tap the warmer than normal surface waters across the Atlantic. So in total, this is a pretty vicious combination of both natural and climate change related factors. A set that is enabling one of the worst hurricane seasons on record for the Atlantic.

(UPDATED: UPDATES TO FOLLOW)

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

Links:

The National Hurricane Center

Hat tip to Bostonblorp

Major Hurricane Maria Could Hit 150 Mph+ Intensity as it Barrels Toward Puerto Rico

As of early afternoon on September 18, Hurricane Maria had reached major hurricane intensity of 125 mph maximum sustained winds and a 956 mb minimum central pressure. Moving west-northwest at 10 mph, the storm is tracking through already the hurricane-weary eastern Caribbean islands on a path toward a Puerto Rico still recovering from its close brush with Category 5 Hurricane Irma.

(National Hurricane Center’s [NHC] projected path and intensity for Maria shows a major hurricane threatening Puerto Rico over the next two days. Image source: NHC.)

Maria is expected to track over very warm Caribbean waters in the range of 84 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (29+ C) as it enters a favorable atmospheric environment. And forecasters now call for Maria to rapidly intensify. Hurricane watches have already been issued for the American territory of Puerto Rico. And the present official Hurricane Center track and forecast intensity for Maria (see above image) shows a severe blow by a powerful category 4 storm striking somewhere along southeastern Puerto Rico early Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph.

2017 Already a Season for the Record Books

It’s worth noting that some models presently show Maria tracking north of Puerto Rico. So the island could still avoid a direct hit. But the current official consensus is a rather grim forecast.

(IR satellite imagery of Maria shows an increasingly organized storm. Forecast points and sea surface temperatures included for reference. Image source: National Hurricane Center.)

Maria is the fourth major hurricane to form in the Atlantic during 2017 — which has been an exceptional season in many respects. This year saw the early formation of Arlene in April — only the second named storm recorded to have formed during that month. It saw the strongest hurricane ever to form outside of the Carribbean or Gulf of Mexico — Irma — which was also tied as the strongest land falling hurricane in the Atlantic. Both Category 4 Harvey and Irma struck the continental U.S. — the first time two Cat 4 storms have struck the states in a single month. And Harvey produced the heaviest recorded rainfall total from a tropical system at 51.88 inches. Overall damage estimates from the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season presently stand at 132 billion dollars — which makes this season the second costliest so far (behind 2005).

How Climate Change and Other Global Factors Contributed

With damages from Harvey and Irma still uncounted, with Maria barreling in, and with a week and a half left to September and all of October remaining, it’s likely that 2017 will see more to come. Though Irma and Jose have churned up cooler waters in their wakes, large sections of the Gulf, Caribbean, and North Atlantic remain considerably warmer than normal.

(Sea surface temperature anomaly map shows that much of the North Atlantic and Carribbean are between 0.5 and 2 C warmer than the already warmer than normal 30-year average. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Meanwhile, a very vigorous Inter-Tropical-Convergence-Zone (ITCZ) is still producing powerful thunderstorms over Africa. And cool water upwelling in the Pacific has generated La Nina-like conditions that tend to cut down on Atlantic wind shear — allowing more storms to fully develop and tap those warmer than normal waters to reach higher maximum intensities. Some of these factors — particularly the warmer than normal surface waters and possibly the increased intensity of ITCZ thunderstorms are climate change related. So yes, statements from those like Dr. Michael Mann claiming that this season’s hurricanes were made worse by climate change are absolutely valid.

(UPDATES TO FOLLOW)

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

Links:

National Hurricane Center

Earth Nullschool

Longest Global Coral Bleaching Event Officially at an End; But Severe Worldwide Risk to Corals Remains

In the Equatorial Pacific, the chances for an ocean-surface-cooling La Nina are on the rise (more on this later). But even with a cool pool of water upwelling in this key climate region, the risk to corals in a record-warm world remains high.

This risk comes despite the fact that by June of 2017, NOAA had officially declared an end to the longest global coral bleaching event on record. The event lasted from 2014 to 2017 and impacted multiple major coral reefs for 2-3 years in a row. According to NOAA, the event affected more reefs than any other previous global coral bleaching event. Meanwhile, some reefs that had never before seen significant bleaching — like northern sections of the Great Barrier Reef — saw severe damage.

(A portrait of the world’s worst global coral bleaching event shows that 70 percent of the world’s corals took a major hit. Image source: NOAA.)

In total, more than 70 percent of the worlds reefs experienced heat stress capable of producing bleaching. An extent never before attained. One that is difficult to imagine. The NOAA graphic above provides some context of the terrible expansiveness — with dark red areas representing widespread bleaching and significant coral mortality and light red regions representing significant coral bleaching over the totality of the 2014 to 2017 event.

To be very clear, the primary driver of this very widespread event was a human-forced warming of the world through fossil fuel burning. This driver has resulted in sea surfaces that are, in many regions, more than 1 degree Celsius above 19th Century temperature averages. Temperatures that are now enabled to spike to 3, 4, or even 5 C above average during variable warming events like the recent strong 2015-2016 El Nino. Temperatures that now never really back off to previous lows. A regime that provides little respite for corals.

For these heat-sensitive creatures, such systemically warming ocean temperatures represent a rising risk of mass mortality in the coming years. And over the next decade alone, global temperatures are expected to continue to increase by between 0.15 and 0.3 C above already harmful ranges.

(4-Month NOAA forecast shows that widespread risk for major coral mortality remains despite an end to El Nino conditions, increasingly likely La Nina conditions, and an official end to the 2014-2017 global coral bleaching event. Image source: NOAA.)

Even with the longest global coral bleaching event officially over and with a potential La Nina on the way, risk of widespread heat stress to corals remains. NOAA’s 4-month heat stress forecast shows a 60 percent that large areas of the Pacific, the Caribbean, and the tropical Atlantic will experience significant bleaching, widespread bleaching, and mass coral mortality (light and dark red areas).

These are severe impacts. Ones that should not be occurring as the Equatorial Pacific is going through a variable cool phase. Ones that have been set off by continued fossil fuel burning and the mass dumping of carbon into the atmosphere at the rate of around 11 billion tons per year annually which has pushed the world into an entirely new and already harmful temperature range.

Links:

NOAA Coral Reef Watch

NOAA ENSO

Major Greenhouse Gas Reductions Needed

Irma’s Projected Path Shifts West; Storm Expected to Restrengthen to Category 5

As of the 5 PM advisory from the National Hurricane Center (NHC), dangerous Hurricane Irma was packing 155 mph maximum sustained winds and tracking just north of due west off the Cuba coast.

The new advisory provides a couple of surprises. One, Irma’s path has shifted more to the west. As a result, the West Coast of Florida and western South Florida is under more of a threat from Irma. That said, the NHC has not backed off its storm surge forecast of 5-10 feet for places like Miami. So, so far, that vulnerable city is not out of the woods — particularly for southern sections of the city.

(Official track shifts west for Irma as the Hurricane Center now predicts the storm will restrengthen to category 5 intensity over the Florida Straits after raking the coast of Cuba. Image source: The National Hurricane Center.)

This is likely due to the fact that Irma has a very large circulation with tropical storm force winds extending outward up to 160 miles from its center and hurricane force winds extending up to 60 miles from the storm’s center. So a west coast landfall in South Florida has the potential to still bring hurricane conditions to places like Miami. That said, if the track continues to shift west, Miami may dodge a bullet as our concerns shift to places like Fort Myers and possibly Tampa.

The NHC’s full statement on present storm surge potential is as follows:

SW Florida from Captiva to Cape Sable…8 to 12 ft
Cape Sable to Boca Raton including the Florida Key…5 to 10 ft
Venice to Captiva…5 to 8 ft
Anclote River to Venice including Tampa Bay…3 to 5 ft
Boca Raton to Flagler/Volusia County line…3 to 6 ft

So basically all of South Florida from Cape Coral to Boca Raton is looking at a 5-12 foot storm surge according to the present NHC forecast. That includes Miami, Ft Lauderdale, the Keys, and the Fort Myers area.

(The NHC’s 5 PM storm surge inundation map shows the potential for significant flooding from South Miami to the Cape Coral area and on out to the Florida Keys. For reference, blue regions are expected to see more than one foot of water above ground, yellow more than three feet, orange more than six feet, and red more than nine feet.)

The second surprise in the recent official forecast is that the NHC now briefly expects Irma to regain category 5 status as it crosses the Florida Straits. Projected 36 hour intensity from NHC is for a storm packing 160 mph winds at that time. This increase in strength now jibes with a number of model forecasts that show Irma tapping much warmer than normal Gulf Stream waters just prior to striking Florida.

It’s worth noting that intensity forecasts are sometimes tough to nail down and the NHC is quick to caution that fluctuations in storm strength are likely. In any case, this is a very dangerous storm that bears watching.

(UPDATES TO FOLLOW)

 

%d bloggers like this: