Melting Ice Everywhere — Arctic Sea Ice Extent Hit New Record Lows in Late July and Early August

If there is one word I’d use for the summer of 2019 it would be awakening. Awakening to a general public awareness of a climate crisis driven by fossil fuel burning we are now entering the throes of.

(According to NOAA, July of 2019 was the hottest July on record for the state of Alaska. This likely presages a July that will be globally the hottest July ever recorded in 2019. Much of this excess July heat was centered on the polar zones during the month — resulting in serious ice loss for both Greenland and the floating Arctic sea ice. Image source: NOAA.)

The global record hot month of June along with its related severe heatwaves, storms, and droughts have certainly served to raise the general awareness of trouble. Our new youth advocates such as Greta Thunberg and an expanding Extinction Rebellion, have certainly served to amplify the much-needed message. But vividly melting ice in tremendous volume — particularly in Antarctica, Greenland and on the ocean surface has also played its role.

The Arctic zone has seen an outrageous hotter than normal period that has extended throughout July and well into August. States and regions within or near the Arctic Circle have experienced temperatures from the upper 70s all the way into the lower 90s. Great wildfires have blanketed large sections of thawing permafrost and boreal forest — casting out smoke plumes covering as much as 4 million square kilometers at a time. Greenland saw a single day in which ice melt exceeded 11 billion tons. By volume, that’s 11 cubic kilometers — roughly equal to 11 moderate sized mountains — gone in a single 24 hour period (what does one cubic kilometer look like? See here.).

Out in the ocean waters of the Arctic, another key feature of our climate system that keeps the Earth environment stable, was getting hammered by the rising heat. For every day from July 22nd through August 9th, Arctic sea ice extent had been running in record low ranges below previous low marks set for this time of year during 2011 and 2012.

2012 in particular was a very severe Arctic melt year. Both sea ice and Greenland saw significant losses at that time. But it appears as we end the decade of the 2010s and start to enter the 2020s, Arctic summers like the one that occured in 2012 will become commonplace even as new hot outliers are more possible. For 2019 has begun to replace some of the previous worst losses seen during 2012.

(Arctic sea ice extent entered new record low ranges below the 2011 and 2012 lines during late July and into early August. By August 11, Arctic sea ice had dropped to 5.249 million square kilometers the second lowest measure for the date. Image source: NSIDC.)

As we get into August, it appears that at least some of 2012’s late season sea ice records will hold. The new August 11 measure of 5.249 million square kilometers is just above 2012’s low mark of 5.190 million square kilometers. And August 10 saw 2019 edging just above the 2012 line in the NSIDC measure.

Looking forward, the second week of August is expected to bring 1.38 C above average temperatures for the Arctic region. This is a rather significant departure for August as Arctic temperature anomalies tend to moderate during summer. And very warm ocean surface temperatures ranging well above 4 C warmer than average for large regions is likely to continue to enhance sea ice melt (see right image below).

(Greatly reduced Arctic sea ice extent [left] faces off against much warmer than normal Arctic ocean waters during August of 2019 [right]. Image sources: Uni Bremen and DMI.)

But a present lack of forecast strong weather systems that typically impact ice at this time of year such as burly high pressure ridges over the Central Arctic or major storms invading from the south may help to maintain at least some of the ice. Nonetheless, with so much heat left in the Arctic system and with sea ice perilously thin for this time of year, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that anything can happen between now and traditional melt season end in mid September.

(Related video blog above.)

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What 2019’s Hottest June Ever Recorded Says About the Climate Crisis

Hint — It’s accelerating.

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To be a climate scientist, to read the science, or to otherwise track today’s unfolding global disaster brought on by fossil fuel burning, is to witness a historical event beyond the scope anything encountered by human civilization.

(July 14th’s record low Arctic sea ice ringed by far northern wildfires and related smoke plumes is just one signal of a rapidly heating global climate. Image source: NASA Worldview.)

Over the past Century, heat trapping pollution has forced the world to warm by about 1.1 degrees Celsius. That’s 1/4 the difference between what humans are used to and an ice age — but on the side of hot. Seas, swollen by this heat and by thawing glaciers, have risen by an average of about 17 centimeters since 1900. Nine trillion tons of ice — the equivalent to 9,000 mountains — have melted from those glaciers into our oceans. Wildfires in the U.S. now burn twice the number of acres as they did 30 years ago. Flood events are more than twice as frequent as during the 1980s. Strong hurricanes have doubled in frequency in the North Atlantic over a similar period. The Arctic’s sea ice is in full retreat.

And if we continue burning fossil fuels, this is just the beginning.

June of 2019 was the hottest June ever recorded in the 139 year global climate record provided by NASA. It was about 1.15 C hotter than 1880s averages and exceeded the past hottest June — 2016 — by a full 0.11 C margin. In climate terms, this was a big jump upward.

(Distribution of hotter and colder than average temperatures shows most of the globe sweltering under greenhouse gas induced heating. In particular, the Arctic has been hit quite hard in the most recent round of extreme temperatures. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Perhaps more importantly to the larger trend, the first half of 2019 was the second hottest first six month period on record. Meanwhile, 2019’s heat comes in the context of the past five years. All were one of the five hottest years ever recorded. And NASA GISS head Dr. Gavin Schmidt’s projection is pointing toward a potential second hottest 2019 as well. Dr. Schmidt stated as much to the Guardian, saying:

“It is clear that 2019 is shaping up to be a top-five year – but depending on what happens it could be second, third or fourth warmest. The warmest year was 2016, which started with a big El Niño, which we didn’t have this year, so a record year is not particularly likely.”

With the global climate system so large and subject to swings (produced mainly by El Nino and La Nina), consecutive hot years are a signal of accelerating global heating. A trend born out by NASA’s global temperature record. In the 1990s, decadal temperatures averaged around 0.61 C above 1880s readings. The 2000s — 0.8 C hotter. The 2010s thus far — 1.08C hotter. In other words, the global heat gain from the 1990s to the 2000s was approximately 0.19 C while the heat gain so far from the 2000s to the 2010s is about 0.28 C. A near doubling of past 0.15 C decadal temperature increases.

(Record hot July may follow record hot June…)

This apparently accelerating global heating is driven by rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Dr Michael E. Mann noted to Mashable today:

“As we have shown in recent work, the record warm streaks we’ve seen in recent years simply cannot be explained without accounting for the profound impact we are having on the planet through the burning of fossil fuels and the resulting increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.”

Carbon dioxide, which is the primary driver of heat gain, is now at around 411 parts per million37 percent higher than during any period in the last 800,000 years. This level of heat trapping gas is unprecedented in human terms — likely about as high as readings seen during the Middle Miocene 15 million years ago and at least as high as those seen during the Pliocene 3 million years ago.

Methane — another very potent greenhouse gas and the second strongest overall contributor to the climate crisis — is also continuing to rise in concentration. This rise, along with increasing CO2, has been the cause of some anxiety among scientists who monitor the global climate system.

(Rising atmospheric CO2, primarily driven by fossil fuel burning, is the main driver of the global heating crisis we are now experiencing. Image source: NOAA ESRL.)

Together with other trace heat trapping gasses, the global CO2 equivalent heat forcing is around 499 ppm during 2019 (extrapolated from NOAA data). In other words, we’ll be crossing the ominous 500 ppm CO2e threshold very soon.

What all this data means is that we have now turned the ratchet of climate crisis at least once. A set of serious impacts are now locked in. Indeed, we are seeing them. But if we keep burning fossil fuels and turn the ratchet again, it gets much worse from here on out.

(Want to help fight the climate crisis by transitioning to a clean energy vehicle? Get 1,000 free supercharger miles at this link.)

NASA: April of 2019 was Second Hottest on Record

Before we get into the latest record or near record global heat news, I’d just like to make a brief announcement. Concordant with editorial guidance from The Guardian, I’ll be changing my climate communications to more fully reflect the crisis that is now ongoing. Whenever possible, I’ll be using the words — climate crisis to replace climate change, and global heating to replace global warming.

I’ve already made liberal use of the term human forced climate change — this will change to human forced climate crisis or global heating when possible. In addition, the elevation of linkages between fossil fuel burning — which is the crisis’ primary driver — to present global heating will continue.

(Global heat for April of 2019.)

In my view, this verbiage more sufficiently communicates a necessary sense of urgency. For the climate crisis is upon us now and we are now experiencing more extreme impacts. In other words, we’ve already taken one full turn of the climate crisis ratchet by allowing fossil fuels to continue to dominate our energy systems. We don’t want to experience a second or third full turn and the related terrible tightening.

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The climate crisis deepens further…

According to NASA GISS, global temperatures have again jumped into near record hot ranges. Readings from this key global monitor found that April of 2019 hit 0.99 degrees Celsius above mid 20th Century ranges. This is about 1.21 C above 1880s values that bound the start of the NASA monitor. In total, it’s a value that makes April of 2019 the second hottest such month in the 139 year global climate record. And the temperatures we are experiencing now are likely the hottest annual and decadal averages in the last 120,000 years.

(April of 2019 anomalies paint a picture of global heat. Image source: NASA.)

Looking at the NASA temperature anomalies map above we find the greatest departures from typical April averages centering on the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. This distribution of abnormal warmth is consistent with polar amplification in which relative warming tends to center on the poles as atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations increase. The ongoing and massive burning of fossil fuels — beginning in the 18th Century and rapidly ramping through the 20th Century — has provided the majority of these gasses. They are pushing the Earth system into the severe warming spike we now see today.

The Equatorial region also showed elevated heat — consistent with an ongoing weak El Nino (which also nudges Earth into the warm side of natural variability, making regional and global all time heat records more likely). Meanwhile, very few cool pools were found. The notable region being a persistent cool zone in the North Atlantic near melting Greenland (predicted by climate models and a facilitator of unstable weather for North America, the Northern Atlantic, and Europe).

Overall temperature track for 2019 is still behind the record hot year of 2016 (see predicted range by Dr. Gavin Schmidt above). And it appears likely that 2019 will hit in the range of 5th to 1st hottest on record. This year, however, is likely to strike close to or even above 2016 values during some months as the effect of the weak El Nino combined with the larger trend of global heating by fossil fuel burning sets the stage for potential new high temperature records.

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Perturbed Earth: Why is Heat-Trapping Methane on the Rise?

Globally, atmospheric methane levels have been on the rise over recent years. And though the rate of rise is not as dramatic as seen during the late 1980s (yet), the relative rise of atmospheric methane has caused concern among scientists.

Methane is a major heat trapping gas. And it is the #2 driver of human-forced global warming behind fossil fuel burning based CO2 according to NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Lab. It also has an out-sized potential to swing global heat trapping values higher due to the fact that a single molecule of methane can trap around 86 times more heat than a single molecule of CO2 over the same period of time.

ch4_trend_all_gl

(Global trends in methane show a concerning jump in atmospheric values since leveling off in the mid-2000s. A combination of earth environment feedbacks to warming and fossil fuel related extraction, burning and transport activity are primary suspects for this increase. Image source: NOAA ESRL.)

Methane is a much shorter lived gas (one molecule lasts 8 years in the atmosphere while a molecule of CO2 lasts 500 years), and atmospheric concentrations of methane are far, far lower than CO2 (measured in parts per billion, not parts per million), however. Which is one of the reasons why CO2 (primarily from fossil fuel based burning) is the gas in the driver’s seat of the majority of present warming.

Given this context, the new upward swing in methane is troubling for a number of reasons. Which begs the question — where is the excess methane coming from?

One primary suspect is that the Earth System, warmed by fossil fuel burning, is starting to produce its own feedback carbon emissions. The way this works is that warmer wetlands (a major source of methane) become more biologically active and, in turn, produce more methane. Heavier rains might provide more flooded regions in which microbes become productive. And thawing permafrost in the far north may be providing new wetland based methane sources. So the nascent methane emissions could be coming from such varied sources as tropical wetlands (as some experts point out), from thawing and expanding biologically active permafrost zones, from increasing wildfire activity, from increasing methane emissions due to drought, or any combination of the above.

Add in potentially very leaky and large-scale, fossil fuel infrastructure related to gas and legacy infrastructure related to coal and the list of suspects grows very long indeed. A hint at where the larger sources of methane show up, at least at present, is provided by the atmospheric observatories. In particular, I’m going to turn to the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring System (CAMS) for this part of today’s discussion:

Atmospheric Methane Hot spots

(Global atmospheric methane hot spots indicated by CAMS.)

What we find from looking at this map is that the highest concentrations of methane presently correspond with the densest collections of fossil fuel based industrial activity. This jibes with findings that 60 percent of the presently elevated atmospheric methane value is due to human activity — leaky gas infrastructure, leaky coal mines, and various human-based farming practices that produce methane (rice farming, cow belches etc). It also highlights the recently discovered fact that fossil fuel based leaks are 60 percent more extensive than previously indicated. Confusing this point is the recent Nature finding that though leaky gas and coal infrastructure were more leaky than expected, the large fossil fuel based infrastructure methane emission was not increasing over time.

So the visible, top-down readings in the CAMS monitor may mask a larger feedback delta, or change, in how the the Earth System itself is producing methane. In other words, the new bump in methane may be coming from a perturbed Earth.

As noted by NOAA research scientist Lori Bruhwiler in a recent Wired article:

“The most important science question we face now is the question of carbon-climate feedbacks. The question that’s really important is, what’s coming down the road?”

In other words, is the recent methane spike coming from changes to the Earth System driven by the longer term fossil fuel based warming? And if so, how much will it continue to feed back? How much more methane can we expect from tropical wetlands, fires, droughts and thawing permafrost? This is a big question with wide-ranging implications for our climate future.

(Want to help fight climate change by transitioning to a clean energy vehicle? Get 1,000 to 5,000 free supercharger miles at this link.)

Very Long Period of Severe Weather Predicted For Coming Days

One of the longest periods of severe weather in recent history may be on tap for regions of the Central U.S. over the coming week. A zone in which 44 million people live and that covers 18 states is under the gun for severe weather formation for at least the next 8 days. And there are a number of climate change related factors that are contributing to the severe storm potential.

Heavy rainfall U.S.

(NOAA’s seven day precipitation outlook shows the potential for flooding rains over large swaths of the Central and Western U.S. The risk for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms will also spike during this time period according to reports from the Storm Prediction Center. Image source: NOAA QPF.)

First, a strong storm track has established over the Pacific Ocean. This storm track is feeding unseasonable levels of moisture and stormy conditions into the U.S. West. These storm impulses are predicted to track eastward, helping to establish the predicted Central U.S. storm pattern over the coming days. Warm ocean surface temperatures in the range of 1-2 C above normal across the Pacific are helping to load this storm track up with higher levels of moisture.

To the south, a second serious of features related to climate change are feeding into the larger pattern. The Gulf of Mexico is providing its own pool of moisture from warmer than normal ocean surfaces which is predicted to ride northward into the middle part of the country — providing further fuel for storm formation. In addition, smoke from Mexico’s recent spate of more severe than normal wildfires spurred by an extended period of above average temperatures is lurking over the Gulf. This smoke will also be drawn north and may aid in potential tornado formation during the present event.

(Analysis of factors related to the predicted severe storm event.)

To the north, Arctic temperatures are ranging well above normal for this time of year. Recent scientific reports point toward a warming Arctic’s influence on persistent severe weather patterns related to long-lasting trough and ridge patterns in the Northern Hemisphere jet stream. And the predicted storms are expected to fire in an unstable region where troughs have now persisted for much of the spring season.

In combination, these factors provide a larger influence on the presently forming severe weather pattern. One that is occurring in an atmosphere that, on net, has been more heavily loaded with the moisture and heat that strong storms feed on. These are aspects of our world — warmed by fossil fuel burning. And for the millions now under the gun from potential storm threats, they face a higher risk of stronger storms because of it.

(Want to help fight climate change by transitioning to a clean energy vehicle? Get 1,000 to 5,000 free supercharger miles at this link.)

The Hot 15 Million Year Time Machine — 415 Parts Per Million CO2

The clanking, wheezing, gasping, choking engines of fossil fuel burning are propelling us backwards toward hotter and hotter geological contexts. And with new atmospheric CO2 records shattered this week, it is, once again, time to take stock.

Jonathan Overpeck, dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability yesterday noted:

“We keep breaking records, but what makes the current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere most troubling is that we are now well into the ‘danger zone’ where large tipping points in the Earth’s climate could be crossed.”

One way we can get a sense of how far we’ve crossed into Overpeck’s ‘danger zone’ is by looking at how present atmospheric heat trapping gas levels compare to past climate ages. Taking measure, we find that over the last few days, carbon dioxide levels have spiked to over 415 parts per million. An ominous new record driven by fossil fuel burning that spells more warming and climate disruption for a planet already in crisis.

As a report in LiveScience yesterday noted — the present spike in atmospheric CO2 is unprecedented in the past 800,000 years. A span of time when we are able to directly measure historic atmospheric carbon dioxide due to air bubbles trapped in the ice of ancient glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland.

But as we can see in the above image, 415 parts per million is not only the highest atmospheric CO2 level in the last 800,000 years, it significantly exceeds all historic measures in this time period. The 2nd highest reading came in about 320,000 years ago at around 300 parts per million. 415 parts per million is nearly 40 percent higher than this peak value. It’s more than double the heat-trapping atmospheric CO2 averages seen during ice ages.

We have to go far, far back, much further back, to find a time when atmospheric CO2 values were likely similar to those experienced today. Indirect proxy readings indicate that the last time levels of this heat trapping gas were so high extend not hundreds of thousands, but millions of years.

(Atmospheric CO2 levels are now the highest since the Middle Miocene of 15 to 17 million years ago. Image source: Skeptical Science.)

In fact, we have to push into a period of time about 15 million years ago to see similar atmospheric CO2 readings. In other words, present CO2 levels are comparable to the Middle Miocene climate epoch when global temperatures were 3-4 degrees Celsius hotter than late 19th Century levels. And if we keep burning fossil fuels at present rates over the coming decade, we will keep elevating CO2 by around 3 parts per million each year. This continued activity would put us near the 450 part per million mark in just one decade further solidifying a Middle Miocene to early Ogliocene climate context.

Dr Michael Mann yesterday noted to Livescience:

“If you do the math, well, it’s pretty sobering. We’ll cross 450 ppm in just over a decade. [Such high levels of CO2] are likely to lock in dangerous and irreversible changes in our climate.”

What this means is that our continued fossil fuel burning brings with it heightening climate disruption. More heatwaves, wildfires, powerful storms, blows to ocean health, sea level rise, and harm to those living on Earth. The only way to significantly blunt that disruption is to rapidly reduce the fossil fuel based emission and transition to clean energy.

(CO2 hitting 415 ppm in the Mauna Loa Observatory puts us far out on a global warming limb.)

Present energy forecasts show a leveling off of fossil fuel burning over the ten year horizon. But clean energy substitution will have to ramp up considerably to prevent rapidly hitting new major and dangerous climate thresholds — driving not just a leveling off, but a decline in fossil fuel burning.

It is worth noting that adding in other greenhouse gasses such as methane puts us even further over the mark — at around 495 parts per million CO2 equivalent in 2019 and near 550 ppm CO2e within about 15 years if projected fossil fuel burning and extraction continue. However, since methane is a short lived gas, fossil fuel extraction reductions and changes to agriculture could tamp down a portion of the CO2e overshoot.

It’s time to get very, very serious about reducing fossil fuel burning and rapidly building out clean energy. The climate disruption that is coming won’t hold back. We need to pull out all the reasonable stops to prevent it. This is why everything from individual action to climate change focused policies like the Green New Deal are so important.

(Want to help fight climate change by transitioning to a clean energy vehicle? Get 1,000 to 5,000 free supercharger miles at this link.)

 

U.S. Just Experienced its Wettest 12 Month Period on Record

According to reports from NOAA, the U.S. just saw its wettest 12 month period since record keeping began 124 years ago. The fact that this stretch of extremely wet weather was preceded by a time of extraordinary drought during the 2010s is also notable. Because it is exactly this kind of swing from one extreme to the next that you would expect in a world being forced to warm by fossil fuel burning.

US Precipitation History

(Annual precipitation has increased by about 7 percent across the contiguous U.S. during the past Century. This jibes with our understanding of atmospheric physics in which the rate of evaporation and precipitation increase as the amount of atmospheric moisture climbs by 6-8 percent for each 1 degree C of global warming. It’s worth noting that though precipitation is increasing, it doesn’t mean that soils, in general, hold more moisture. This is due to the fact that rising temperatures also increase the rates at which soils dry. And because precipitation and drying are not spread evenly, you tend to get regions and times of preference for more intense storms or more intense drought. Image source: NOAA. Hat tip to Weather Underground.)

In this part 2 of our hydrology and climate change discussion, I’ll take a look at some of the drivers for the extreme swing from U.S. drought to deluge. The first being that overall global surface warming in the range of 1.1 C is having the effect of amping up global evaporation and precipitation rates by 6-8 percent. In the U.S. this larger climate change influence helped to spur the multi-year droughts across the U.S. west as well as severe drought years for the Central and Eastern U.S.

On the flip side of the hydrological spectrum, warmer land surfaces and oceans have helped to fuel storms through increased evaporation of water moisture — pumping more water vapor into storms and enabling convection. For the past 12 months this has manifest in the form of the powerful and moisture-rich Hurricane Florence. It has also generally loaded the dice for powerful storms and flooding rains as a persistent trough swung over the Central and Eastern U.S. during spring of 2019.

(Examining climate change’s influence on the wettest 12 months in the last 124 years.)

The recent 12 month record wet period thus fits into a regime of extremes. What these larger trends mean is that in the future the U.S. is likely to continue to experience bipolar precipitation patterns — with hard swings between deeper dry and more intense wet periods coming to dominate as the Earth heats up.

The primary mitigation for this continuing trend is tamping down human based carbon emissions. And a clean energy transition away from fossil fuel burning is central to that more optimistic prospect.

(Want to help fight climate change by switching to a clean energy vehicle? Get 1,000 to 5,000 free supercharger miles through this link.)

(UPDATED)

Wildfires Rage in Mexico — Smoke May Move into U.S., Fueling Storms

Climate change impacts the water cycle in a number of rough ways. First, at its most basic, for each 1 degree C of global temperature increase you roughly increase the rate of evaporation by 6-8 percent. This loads more moisture into the atmosphere — which can lead to more extreme rainfall events. It also causes lands to dry out more rapidly — which can drive more intense droughts and wildfires.

Wildfire outbreak southern Mexico

(Major wildfire outbreak in Mexico fills the Central American skies with smoke. Image source: NASA Worldview.)

Today we have major news of two hydrological events that were likely impacted by climate change. The first is a large wildfire outbreak in Mexico that threatens to send smoke over the U.S. this week. The second — that the past 12 months were the wettest such period for the contiguous U.S. in recorded history — is for a follow-on post.

This weekend, a state of emergency was declared for 11 counties in Mexico due to furiously raging wildfires. The wildfires have spurred hundreds of firefighters to action even as they blanketed much of Mexico in ash-filled smoke. The smoke has traveled as far north as Mexico City — where officials are urging residents to cover windows with damp rags in an effort to keep indoor air clear.

(The climate state contributing to Mexico wildfires and U.S. severe storms analyzed.)

The wildfires come following hotter than normal temperatures and a long period of drought across Southern Mexico. Persistent high pressure and a stagnant air mass has contributed to the overall heat, drought, and fire regime.

Over the coming days, a warm front moving northward from the Bay of Campeche is likely to push smoke gathering over the Gulf of Mexico into the U.S. These smoke particles could get entangled in a predicted severe storm outbreak later this week. For recent research indicates that smoke particles can contribute to major U.S. tornado outbreaks.

(Want to help fight climate change by trading in your CO2 spewing gas guzzler for a clean energy vehicle? Get 1,000 to 5,000 free supercharger miles through this link.)

Greenland Melt off to a Rather Early Start

Of the two great masses of land ice capable of dramatically raising sea levels and altering hemispheric weather patterns through global warming spurred melt, Greenland is the one closest to home for many humans living on Earth. And as fossil fuel burning keeps dumping more carbon into our atmosphere, Greenland melt continues to dump tens of billions of tons of water into the world’s oceans each year.

Greenland melt extent 2019

(Early bump in Greenland melt may be a blip — or a presage to another above average surface melt during summer. Image source: NSIDC.)

At present, Greenland contributes approximately 280 billion tons of water to global sea level rise through melt and mass loss per annum. And as the Earth warms, the potential for Greenland to spill still more into the North Atlantic is a rising concern.

So each spring through summer, we go through a ritual of anxiously monitoring the Greenland ice sheet for surface melt increases. Such monitoring is not without merit. According to recent reports in Nature, approximately 60 percent of mass loss in Greenland is driven by surface warming and melt. And during 2012, a major warming event resulted in practically all of the Greenland ice sheet experiencing surface melt during summer.

(Since surface mass loss is the primary driver of Greenland melt, the summer season is a big deal for the Northern Hemisphere’s largest cache of land ice.)

We haven’t had another melt year like 2012 in the intervening time through today. But we have seen continued net mass loss from Greenland — with the additional 40 percent coming from melt due to contact with warming oceans. In other words, we’re experiencing Greenland melt both at the surface and from below. And, sooner or later, so long as fossil fuel burning keeps dumping greenhouse gasses into Earth’s atmosphere, we’ll see another summer like 2012. Or worse.

So we watch.

For the present year, Greenland surface melt has gotten off to a relatively strong and early start. Melt extent jumped to around 7 percent in early May. A pace well beyond the top 10 percent of recorded melt years for the period in which the spike occurred. And it may presage another summer of ponding spreading across the face of Greenland. But the present mid-May bump is not a fully reliable indicator — as 2017’s melt progression featuring a strong start with a relatively moderate and late peak shows.

For further comparison, we saw some rather strong early melt spikes in March and April of 2012 prior to that record surface melt year. And during 2018, which was only a somewhat above average (1981-2010) melt year, there were practically no melt spikes during March through late May.

A primary driver for surface melt during the present years of record and rising global heat has been the formation of jet stream ridges and strong upper level high pressure systems over Greenland during spring and summer. To point, this year’s recent melt spike coincided with a strong ridge that locked into place during mid April through early May.

Over the next ten days, the atmosphere above Greenland is predicted to fluctuate as highs and lows progress. Temperatures are expected to remain somewhat above average near the surface of the ice mass. Compared to the stronger signal we saw earlier, the indicators here are somewhat mixed — at least for the next ten days. But if the ridge pattern reasserts from late May and on into June — watch out. Then, we could see another big melt spike coinciding with the onset of summer.

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Coastal Arctic Temperatures hit 84.2 F Today

Fossil fuel burning is really ramping up the global heat. And for the typically cold Arctic Ocean coastal region, this means that temperatures are now able to strike into the 80s during mid-May.

Today, a very extreme wave in the Jet Stream produced an elongated ridge pattern that ran far to the north over Eastern Europe. This high amplitude wave brought with it temperatures that ranged up to 20 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal for this time of year. A heat surge which pushed temperatures to 29 C or 84.2 F near Archangel, Russia.

Extreme heat Arkangel

(Severe heat strikes northeastern Europe as part of an extreme jet stream wave pattern. Image source: WX Charts. Hat tip to Peter Sinclair.)

The kind of jet stream wave that spurred this extreme heat has become common over recent years. It’s an atmospheric feature that some scientists have associated with polar amplification — an aspect of human-forced climate change in which the poles warm faster than the lower latitudes.

During 2019, heat transfer into the Arctic has contributed to near record low and record low sea ice extent values in the months of March, April and May. The wavy jet stream patterns have also been associated with a number of severe weather events. Today’s extreme northern heatwave fits into a longer-term pattern of similar occurrences.

(Analysis of recent extreme jet stream pattern over Eastern Europe.)

Wavy, persistent jet streams have recently been associated with worsening weather — heat waves and wild fires in the ridge zones and severe precipitation in the trough zones. Scientists like Dr. Michael E. Mann and Dr. Jennifer Francis have warned that the associated Jet Stream waves are linked to human-forced climate change and are likely contributors to recent events.

Dr. Mann notes:

The extreme weather we’re seeing around the Northern Hemisphere, such as heat waves, floods, droughts, and wildfires, is related to an unusual, undulating pattern in the jet stream. The other part of this that’s atypical is that this undulating pattern doesn’t usually hold longer than a few days. But this one isn’t going anywhere. Our work shows that this sort of pattern, which has been associated with many of the most extreme, persistent weather events in recent years, including the 2003 European heatwave, the 2010 Moscow wildfires, the 2011 Texas and Oklahoma drought, and the 2016 Alberta wildfires to name a few, is becoming more common because of human-caused climate change, and in particular, because of amplified Arctic warming.

It looks like 2019 is no exception to the longer-term trend. And we have already seen a number of instances of middle latitude extreme weather contributed to by the jet stream features Dr. Mann mentions above this year.

(Want to help fight climate change by switching to an electric vehicle? Get 5,000 free supercharger miles through this link.)

Global Sea Ice At Record Lows For More than a Month

As a weak El Nino combines with continued rising atmospheric greenhouse gas levels to push global temperatures higher in 2019, we are seeing some pretty extreme warming impacts the world over. Just one of these impacts involves sea ice.

(An analysis of factors contributing to global sea ice loss.)

Looking north, we already observe that Arctic sea ice is pretty much tied for lowest visible extent on record in the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) measure. According to NSIDC’s Charctic Graph, sea ice extent in the Northern Hemisphere is ranging around 12.465 million square kilometers. This is just slightly above the record low for the date set in 2016 at 12.422 million square kilometers.

To the south, Antarctic sea ice extent has recently slipped into new record low ranges for this time of year. As of May 10th, NSIDC showed sea ice extent near the frozen southern continent in the range of 7.898 million square kilometers or about 200,000 square kilomters below the previous daily record low set in May of 2017. These record lows have occurred on the back of a rather warmer than normal late Southern Hemisphere Fall season.

Global Sea Ice

(Global sea ice graph provided by Wipneus. Date provided by NSIDC.)

Two hemispheres experiencing record low or near record low sea ice conditions over an extended period during April through May of 2019 have now generated a historical period for global sea ice. The result is that recent major global sea ice losses occurring during 2016-2019 are being further solidified. Yet one more aspect of the larger global warming regime enforced by continued fossil fuel burning.

(Interested in fighting climate change on a personal level by switching to a clean energy vehicle? Get up to 5,000 free supercharger miles with this referral code.)

 

How I Used Rideshare to Afford a Tesla Model 3 (You Can Do it Too)

So I’ve got a bit of a background in the field of emerging threats — both as a former military intel analyst and as an editor at Janes Information Group back in the early 2000s. And, in my opinion, the biggest threat facing civilization today is a twofold crisis.

Climate Change and the Failure to Use Clean Energy Crisis

We could easily call this crisis climate change — because these are the effects we see around us in the form of melting glaciers, changing seasonal weather patterns, rising seas and more extreme weather. We could easily call it global warming. Because net energy gain through heat trapping gas increase in the atmosphere is causing the Earth System to warm up.

But that’s just the first side of the problem. The ‘what’s happening’ side. The other side of the problem is systemic. It’s also cultural to a certain extent. And it mainly has to do with how we presently use energy to drive a massive global economic system that supports most of the 7 billion people living on the Earth. More importantly, the driver of the vast majority of the global warming we see (in the range of 80 percent or more) is the direct carbon emission coming from fossil fuel burning and extraction. About thirteen billion tons of heat-trapping carbon comes from this primary source and enters the atmosphere each year.

You could also call the climate crisis a harmful energy crisis. But that misses a bit of the story as well. For back during the 20th Century, competing clean energy sources failed to move to the fore. We knew how to generate energy from the sun and from the wind in a carbon-free manner. And we knew how to store that energy. But, mainly due to the fact that the fossil fuel interests held more political and economic power, these clean energy sources got sidelined. Bringing us to the final way that we could characterize this crisis — the failure to use clean energy crisis.

Setting an Individual Policy for Climate Action

It’s at this point in the discussion that we come down to little ol’ me. What’s my level of responsibility? What can I do as a person to help correct this problem. To not contribute to the failure to use clean energy crisis?

IMG_2493

(Optimized for zero emissions. My clean energy Tesla [Clean KITT] recharging at a local solar garage. Planning to purchase a Tesla that’s capable of sucking energy direct from the sun? Get up to 5,000 free supercharger miles through this link.)

This has been a big issue for me for some time. I don’t make a huge amount of money. I’m a writer after all. And my wife works for a not-for-profit. Sure, we are probably better off than some. But when it comes to being able to produce the capital to access 40,000 dollar electric vehicles, or a home where I can charge it in the garage, or the 20,000 dollar plus for solar panels and the other 7,000 dollars or so for energy storage at home, all that stuff may as well have been on the moon with me waiting for an Elon Musk rocket to get me there.

Sure the costs had come down. And sure clean energy was more accessible to me than it was before. But it wasn’t accessible enough. I needed just a little extra push to start to get there.

In all honesty, I really wanted to make the push. As a climate change blogger, I’ve been harassed by anti-clean energy trolls for the better part of 7 years. And you can say what you want, but proving trolls wrong can be a powerful motivator. So I wondered what I could do personally to generate enough capital to afford a primary clean energy platform.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. So I’ll just step back and put you in my place during fall of last year. Then, I was looking at a way to individually make a difference for climate change. Sure, we all need to support climate change response policies like Paris, and the Green New Deal. And we, as societies, need to escalate those policies pretty quick if we’re gonna have a real Extinction Rebellion. But as people and individuals, there are things we can do as well to try to correct our failure to use clean energy crisis. We can set our own personal climate policies in place.

For my part, I set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2025. And as a first step, I settled on getting an electric vehicle. I figured I could cut my family carbon emissions on net by about 2 tons per year including all the typical travel my wife and I engage in. But when I started to think about how I could afford something in the range of 35,000 to 40,000 dollars, I stumbled on the notion of rideshare.

Streetfighting Against Climate Change

You see, a local buddy of mine had been Ubering — even as he worked full time as an electrician. He told me that Uber was really flexible (if you decide to rideshare for clean energy, you can help this blog by using my referral code robertf30288ue). Your work hours were entirely yours to control and there was no commute except for the walk out to your car. I decided to look into it. And after a little research, I found that the average income for an Uber driver in D.C. was just short of 20 dollars per hour.

Now you may be smirking at me through your fingers. For a lot of people, 20 bucks an hour isn’t really much at all. But you have to remember that I’m working from a blogger’s/writer’s baseline that is rather short of that. And if I could somehow combine my writing income with an extra 25-30 hours of Uber income, I could make about 2,000 to 2,500 extra each month. This would be more than enough to cover the cost of a new, long-range electric vehicle.

(Paying for a Tesla using rideshare.)

The idea to then rideshare with the EV to multiply my clean energy system usage was a natural follow-on from this notion. Elon Musk had always talked about a master plan to use vehicle autonomy to achieve this kind of clean energy access multiplication on a mass scale. But what if I could use my basic human gumption to accelerate the process by a year or two or three even as I helped to make the local public more aware of how badass clean energy vehicles had become?

By this point, I had a plan. As many of you who have attempted difficult or ambitious plans before know, the major step is not coming up with a decent idea. It’s executing it. So I set out to, for lack of a better phrase, start busting my tail. This meant that I had to temporarily let go of some of my less lucrative work. Those of you who frequent this blog will attest to the fact that I went dark for a number of months. Mia Culpa! But contrary to one of about a bazillion climate change denier memes — those of us who communicate on the issue of climate change all-too-often don’t make minimum wage back for our time.

So I went dark and worked hard. In doing so, I met a lot of people. And aside from the odd Heritage Foundation pick-up (yes we Uber drivers pick up political org folks in D.C.), I’d say 95 percent of the people I talked to about my project were both concerned about climate change and interested in clean energy advancement. In other words, they were supportive of my goal. Plus they were also pretty geeked out about the potential notion of riding Uber in a Tesla.

As I drove, I also became keenly aware of how expensive it was to operate even an efficient internal combustion engine vehicle like a Hyundai Elantra. The cost of gas alone increased for me by about 250 dollars per month. Add in the new 50 dollar monthly oil change, and I began to get an understanding of how much an electric vehicle could save me later (more on this in a future blog).

How You Can Raise Funds for a Clean Energy Vehicle Through Rideshare

Long story short, after busting my tail, I had enough funds to afford a clean energy vehicle by April. I did this by using the rideshare app Uber. And by saving a portion of the profits to invest in a Tesla Model 3. I have now driven 800 miles in this clean machine. Like so many EV converts, I am never going back.

It is here that we get to the nitty-gritty of this post. How can you make enough money to afford a Tesla Model 3 if you’re strapped for cash like I was? One way is to do what I did — use Uber or Lyft part-time and save the profits for an EV purchase a few months down the road. This works well if you can set aside an extra 10 hours or more per week. And if you have the time, then fantastic! I recommend you give it a shot if you want to gain access to the amazing piece of clean tech that is the Tesla Model 3 and help fight climate change in one go.

Uber destination trips

(Uber destination trips allow you to pick up riders and earn money through the app while driving to and from work. This is a great way to optimize time and earn money for a clean energy vehicle. Image source: Uber.)

Many of us do not have an extra 10 hours a week or more, though. So I’m going to make this additional time optimization suggestion for rideshare usage to purchase a clean energy vehicle. And this suggestion includes the nifty little Uber feature called destination trips. What the destination trips feature allows you to do as an Uber driver is to set a way-point, drive to that way-point, and take trips toward that destination as you drive.

If you’re a regular office worker type, who makes a long drive to work and back, this has huge potential benefits. What it can allow you to do is turn your regular daily commute into a money-making endeavor. Just log into Uber in the morning, set your way-point to your office, drive the usual rush hour drive, and pick up a few rides in on the way to work. You’ll make about 15-20 dollars or more in an average rush. On the ride home, repeat. Now you’ve got an extra 150-200 dollars per week in your pocket to work with. Counting in future gas saved, that’s more than enough to cover the monthly payment on a Tesla Model 3 SR+.

Full disclosure, this will probably increase the time it takes to get to and from work. So plan accordingly. However, all the time during the work commute has now become gainful employment in the service of the clean energy transition. Nice! Of course, if you have a short commute, then such a plan is less optimal. But for our long commuters, this optimization will both enable you to make money while commuting and turn the tables on typical transport energy usage to fight climate change.

Not too shabby!

Now I know that I haven’t provided every little detail in my post. So if you have any questions about how to employ rideshare to help you purchase a clean energy vehicle and get you off the fossil fuel pollution wagon, I will be regularly checking the comments section below. So feel free to ask any question that you might have.

Thanks so much for stopping in! For the next blog post, I’ll be talking about Arctic sea ice as we haven’t had an update on that subject here in a while. Kindest regards to you all! And if you want a riddle for a near future blog post/Radio Ecoshock interview topic it’s a word with a hidden meaning: Lucina.

How Climate Change is Making Storms Stronger — Evaporation, Precipitation, Instability

With Cyclones Idai and Kenneth generating record breaking, back-to-back landfalls in Mozambique, with new studies indicating an increase in U.S. tornado activity and a general movement of tornadoes eastward, and with many air travelers recently grounded, it’s a good time to revisit climate change’s overall effects on extreme weather.

Kenneth approaches Mozambique

(Kenneth was the strongest storm to strike the north coast of Mozambique in at least the last 60 years. Packing peak 10 minute sustained winds of 130 mph, roughly equivalent to a category 4 Atlantic storm, Kenneth pushed a storm surge of 10-16 feet and dumped up to 24 inches of rain. According to reports, the storm destroyed 35,000 homes and has impacted 700,000 people. Image source: NASA Worldview.)

Warming Lands and Waters

Human-caused climate change (primarily driven by fossil fuel burning) has already warmed the Earth’s land and water (ocean) surfaces by around 1.1 degrees Celsius globally. This warming is not uniform. It is focused more on the poles — tending to generate islands of high surface temperature anomaly (variance from norms) interspersed with areas of somewhat above average to near normal temperatures along with smatterings of the occasional cooler pool.

Evaporation

In general, a warmer Earth evaporates more ocean water, lake water, river water, and land moisture into the atmosphere. This has the effect of increasing drought intensity and worsening the spread of severe wildfires. But evaporation also provides convective lift and moisture to local atmospheres. Rising columns of warm, wet air are primary ingredients for storms. Such columns of high energy air are key to both the formation and intensification of hurricanes. And a thunderstorm has at its heart a core of rapidly rising moist air (see embedded video below for more info).

(Climate change as storm intensification engine.)

Precipitation

Overall, evaporation rates tend to increase by about 8 percent over the surface of the globe for each 1 degree Celsius of global temperature increase. Since what goes up must come down, you also get an overall increase in precipitation rates across the globe of about 8 percent as well. The net effect is that when it does rain in a warming world, the rainfall tends to come in more intense bursts from taller, more moisture-rich storm clouds.

Instability

Like the mottled nature of global temperature increase, evaporation and precipitation changes in a warming world do not occur in uniformity across the globe. You get hot spots. Evaporation intensifies the most where the globe is warmest and where the globe warms more compared to past periods. Precipitation tends to intensify in trough zones — or regions where the atmosphere is relatively cooler than the surrounding air. All of this unevenness — the more rapidly rising air columns in hot zones, the heavier moisture loading, and the higher deltas between hot and cool and wet and dry zones tend to increase instability. And instability is also a major driver of storms.

Increase in tornado frequency US

(Tornado frequency and intensity has generally increased in the U.S. since 1979 even as tornadoes have tended to shift eastward. Image source: Spatial Trends in United States Tornado Frequency.)

At present, these are the atmospheric dynamics set in play by human-caused climate change. And they are likely to last for some time — worsening if the Earth continues to warm for at least another degree or two. So we’ll likely see a rising frequency of the more severe forms of weather. And it’s pretty clear that the early phase of this impact has already arrived.

(Want to fight climate change and reduce your individual carbon emissions by approximately 2 tons per year by switching to an electric vehicle? Considering the all-clean-energy Tesla? Get 5,000 free supercharger miles with a purchase at this link [limited until May 28, 2019 after which it reverts to 1,000 free supercharger miles].)

Street Fighting Against Climate Change in a Tesla Model 3

So I have a big announcement to make. And you’ll have to excuse my enthusiasm because this has all been a rather heady experience. But I listened to your feedback and took delivery of a Tesla Model 3 SR+ this past Thursday. If you want to take a look at my new clean energy monster, then feast your eyes below:

IMG_2454

(My new Model 3 SR+ — which I’m calling Clean KITT after Knightrider from the 1980s series.)

It’s a big deal for me for a number of reasons. First, the Model 3 is the most significant vehicle purchase I’ve ever made in terms of cost. Paying 39,500 dollars for a car is something I would have never even dreamed of doing just a decade ago. But when it comes to driving a capable, long-range electric vehicle your prices are going to range from around 36,000 dollars to 40,000 dollars even for the most affordable options. I expect to recoup a decent amount of this cost, though. And I’ll be talking about how in a future blog post.

Comparing the capabilities of other EVs in this price range — such as the Leaf Long Range, the Chevy Bolt, the Hyundai Kona, and the Kia Niro — it became more and more apparent that the Tesla Model 3 was a non-pareil. Here is a vehicle that competes directly with the Mercedes C class and the BMW 3 series on luxury and muscularity. One with a similar all-electric range (240 miles from a 59.5 kW battery pack) and with a similar price, but one that features much faster charging, a far better and more expansive charging network, and integrated electronics intended to maximize its sustainability potential (more on this later as well).

IMG_2471

(Supercharging at the Woodbridge station in Northern Virginia this weekend.)

The disparity became even more apparent after my test-drive on Thursday at the Montgomery Mall Tesla Sales Center followed up by this weekend’s 230 mile round trip journey from Gaithersburg, MD to King George VA and back — including two Supercharger stops in which the Tesla refueled at 50-70 kW and 90-120 kW rates. The kind of fast charging that other vehicle brand EVs only dream of having widespread access to.

Second, this vehicle is really something to be proud of. It’s going to help me cut my driving-based carbon emissions by about 2/3. That’s going to drop my personal emissions by about 2 tons per year. It’s going to enable me to share about another 4 tons per year of carbon cuts through rideshare. And it’s going to let me do it in a very stylish and attractive way. In such a way that will really help me to make the clean energy transition look very, very appealing.

(Introducing Clean KITT!)

Third, my Tesla purchase will be an investment in an all-clean-energy company with an integrated plan to fight climate change. The dollars I sent to Tesla will in turn be spent building massive battery and EV factories, producing solar panels, and sending out more carbon-cutting vehicles and products all over the world. In other words, my actions at home and on the street will help to form part of a global transformation action as well (Planning to buy a Tesla? Click here for 1,000 free Supercharger miles).

In the coming week, I’m heading out on the rideshare circuit in this Tesla through Uber (I’ll be blogging more about how to earn money for a Tesla through rideshare later, but if you want to jump the gun and start now, please help this blog and use my referral code: ROBERTF30288UE).

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(Clean KITT takes on the fossil fueled dinosaurs through rideshare this week!)

So, until next time, I’m off to streetfight against climate change in Tesla Model 3. And if I’m going to go to the increasingly heat-blasted concrete to fight against the biggest challenge ever to face humankind as just little ol’ me, I’m glad that the ally in my corner is this amazing clean machine.

Hot March, Melting Sea Ice, Record High CO2, and a Weak El Nino 

Good afternoon everyone. It’s April 15 of 2019. And it’s high time I provided another update on the present global climate state.

(Indicators explained.)

Yes, I’ve been off this cart for a bit due to my personal climate action that I’m calling extreme clean. And I’ve got to say that this action is in solidarity with the tens of thousands of young people who continue to demonstrate for a more responsible political response to climate change around the world.

Action of all kinds is very important. But political action is where the rubber is really going to meet the solar and wind powered EV road of the future. It’s what’s going to help us navigate a necessarily fast clean energy transition away from the carbon spewing fuels of the present. And the fossil fueled politicians like Trump are going to have to be kicked out for that to happen.

(Human forced climate change loads the dice for stronger storms like Idai which devastated parts of Africa during March of 2019. Image source: NASA Worldview.)

At present, fossil fuel burning has really put us in a tough spot. That is the subject of today’s writing. Where we are today according to some major climate indicators — atmospheric CO2 (the primary greenhouse gas driving climate change), global surface temperature, Arctic sea ice, and the near term ENSO climate variability factor.

Atmospheric CO2 likely to hit between 413 and 415 ppm in May (monthly average)

For the first factor, atmospheric CO2 during recent days has risen to between 411 and 416 parts per million. This level is likely higher than at any time in at least the last 5 million years and is probably closer to ranges seen during the Middle Miocene around 15 million years ago. That’s pretty bad — implying about 2-3 C or more of global warming over the long term if those values aren’t somehow brought down.

(Present atmospheric CO2 levels are ranging between 411 and 416 parts per million on a daily basis at the Mauna Loa Observatory. These are the highest levels seen in at least 5 million years, possibly more. Image source: NOAA.)

Of course, due to the present pace of fossil fuel burning, atmospheric CO2 just keeps rising. Which is why a clean energy transition to get us to net zero and net negative carbon emissions is so, so important for our future.

CO2 isn’t the only greenhouse gas related to human activity. But according to agencies like NASA, it is the most important. Adding in other greenhouse gasses like Methane, NOx, and various other manufactured chemicals that trap heat, you end up with an atmospheric CO2 equivalent of approximately 497 ppm during 2019 (extrapolated from NOAA’s greenhouse gas index). This is a bit of a scary number for me as it implies that the top end indicator of all greenhouse gasses combined is about to move outside the Middle Miocene context soon.

Going back to the only slightly less scary CO2 figure, it appears likely that this primary greenhouse gas will top out at around 413 to 415 parts per million monthly average values during May of 2019. This indicator for annual peak values puts the present climate state increasingly out of the range of Pliocene past climates that many scientists are now researching as a corollary for present day climate impacts — at least on a greenhouse gas forcing basis.

March of 2019 was third hottest on record

It takes many decades and centuries for climates to balance out in response to a particular forcing. So present atmospheric warming driven by the greenhouse gasses mentioned above lag behind the initial global forcing. For this reason, on an annual basis, global temperatures are presently ranging between 1 and 1.2 degrees Celsius above 1880s averages as they continue to climb higher.

(The globe substantially heated up again during March — as seen in the above map provided by NASA. Image source: NASA GISS.)

These present departures roughly compare to temperatures during the Eemian climate epoch of about 120,000 years ago in which readings were 1 to 2 C warmer than 1880s averages. So we’re not yet in the Pliocene with regards to temperatures (2-3 C), but what we get long-term is probably the Miocene (3-4 C) if present greenhouse gas values remain stable. And we head for even more warming (4 C+) if we keep burning fossil fuels.

It’s in this rising temperature context that we are now experiencing more rapidly melting glaciers, ramping sea level rise, increasingly intense storms, wildfires and droughts, rising damage to corals, worsening heatwaves, more extinction pressure on plants and animals, and declining ocean health. It’s also worth pointing out that present temperatures are just a passing milestone on the way up if we keep burning fossil fuels and don’t learn how to pull down that excess atmospheric carbon.

(This graph of zonal temperature anomalies since 1880 is a visual representation of warming across the globe. These zones show various latitudes and their anomaly values vs mid 20th century averages over time. The long term warming trend is quite clear. Image source: NASA.)

According to NASA GISS, March of 2019 set its own benchmark as the third hottest such month on record. Temperatures for the month hit around 1.33 C above 1880s averages (1.11 C above NASA’s 20th Century baseline). This is pretty amazingly warm.

It was in this environment that the globe experienced a hyper-charged cyclone striking Africa, extensive damage due to flooding in the Central U.S., and recent very severe storms from the U.S. south through New England.

Arctic Sea Ice at Record Low for Recent Days

All this added heat has had its own impact on the Arctic where sea ice during recent days has plunged into new record low territory. According to information provided by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Arctic sea ice yesterday measured just 13.518 million square kilometers. The lowest on record for today.

(Graph of Arctic sea ice measures for January through May of 2003 to present compared to the 1981 to 2010 average [gray line]. The orange line dipping below the pack is the measure for 2019. These are record lows for this time of year. Image source: NSIDC.)

That’s about 300,000 square kilometers below the previous record low set in 2017 and about 1.4 million square kilometers below the 1981 to 2010 average. A period in which major sea ice melt was already ongoing.

Sea ice melt doesn’t have a significant direct impact on sea level rise. You need land ice melt and ocean thermal expansion for that. But sea ice is a big ocean based heat reflector that helps to keep the Arctic environment stable and to prevent the world’s waters from sucking up an even greater amount of warming than they already do. That heat reflector is in decline and it’s one of the reasons why the Arctic is warming up at a faster rate than the rest of the globe.

(Early season sea ice melt is progressing through the Bering and Chukchi seas as overall Arctic sea ice extent hits record daily lows for this time of year. Image source: NASA Worldview.)

Major media appears to have recently had a bit of an epiphany about sea ice as recent reports from sources such as PBS note startling losses for the Bering region during 2019. It’s worth noting that individual seas tend to experience higher rates of ice variance. But the trend for the overall Arctic, which is the combination of all its incorporated seas, is one of consistent decadal sea ice decline.

Weak El Nino Means Uncertain Challenge to 2016 Record

While the world is heating up overall and experiencing many of the changes noted above, a shorter term variability feature of global temperature is the ENSO cycle. This periodic warming and cooling of Pacific Ocean surface waters relative to the globe sets down the rough markers of 3-5 year global temperature variability. During the Pacific cool phase, or La Nina, the global surface tends to cool off a bit. During the Pacific warm phase or El Nino, the global surface tends to warm.

This is not to be confused with total global heat gain — which is still occuring on a practically constant basis as oceans warm and glaciers melt in addition to atmospheric warming. It’s just a major factor in what we tend to see over the shorter term at the Earth’s surface.

(Present warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific indicate a weak El Nino. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

For 2019, we are again tipping into the warmer side of this natural variability based trend. And combining that with the larger influence of human-forced warming, it appears that the dice are loaded for a challenge to the new record hot surface temperatures set in 2016.

But not so fast! 2019’s El Nino — or Pacific Ocean surface warming event — is, according to NOAA, likely to be rather weak. This compares to the Super El Nino event of 2016. So the swing toward warm side will tend to be relatively weaker. As a result, it’s less certain that 2019 will beat 2016 as hottest on record. And overall, it’s more likely that 2019 will place in the top 3 as 1st, 2nd or 3rd hottest (You may want to ask Dr Gavin Schmidt over at NASA GISS to see what he thinks. He’s been putting out some pretty accurate predictions over the past few years.).

So far, according to NASA GISS, December, January and February of climate year 2019 came in as 3rd hottest. With the weak El Nino ramping up, it does appear that March, April, May could heat up as well. We shall see!

Living in a rapidly warming world

Looking at all of these shorter term indicators, it’s easy to miss the bigger context. That being — we are living in a world in which atmospheric greenhouse gasses are rapidly increasing. These gasses, in turn, are causing the world to rapidly warm resulting in surprising changes and increasing damage. And it’s in this context that climate action on the part of individuals, businesses and governments becomes all the more necessary.

Best EV Charging Options for Rideshare and Personal Use?

In this more difficult present life, we confront the problems caused by human-forced climate change on a daily basis. And over the past week, midwest flooding resulting in more than a billion dollars in damages with multiple communities disrupted is just the most recent example.

It’s the same kind of persistent extreme weather pattern that many scientists warned was likely to emerge as the Earth warmed into the present range of around 1-1.2 C above 1880s averages. And it’s just one aspect of a crisis brought about by fossil fuel burning that we are all presently called to fight.

(According to NASA, February of 2019 was the third hottest such month in the 139 year climate record. Global temperatures ranging around 1.14 C above average are presently tipping the scale toward more extreme climate change related events. This situation keeps getting worse if we continue to burn fossil fuels. Image source: NASA.)

My personal project in response to this crisis at present is to transition to clean transportation and to share it with others through rideshare technology. And last week many of you helped me to make a first step toward that response. Thank you! The votes are in and most of you appear to favor the Tesla Model 3 vs Nissan Leaf Long Range, the Chevy Bolt, and the Hyundai Kona/Kia Niro (see the results of last week’s poll here).

Before I make my final choice, I’d like to take a look at one last criteria — available charging infrastructure. For my part, I’ve got an added challenge. I do not presently have the ability to charge at home. So I need to be able to access a public or work charging station in order to charge my clean ride. I think a good number of people are probably in the same situation.

(A video walk-through of clean vehicle charging options for climate change response.)

For the work piece, I work at home. So no dice. But luckily for me the sweetie (my wife — Cat) works at the Humane Society of the U.S. which does provide a work charging station. Use of that charging station during her work hours alone would enable me to charge the Tesla for both rideshare and personal use through a level 2 charger (240 outlet and J1772). To practically use this I would probably have to rotate use of my ICE — giving me about 2/3 clean ride coverage. That’s doable, but not ideal. A more perfect method would be to purchase two electric vehicles and rotate those through Cat’s work charger. But, at present, we don’t have the funds for such an endeavor.

As a result, I’m going to have to access public charging infrastructure to fill the gap if I want to maximize my clean riding time. Thankfully, there’s an app called Plugshare which provides a great deal of information about charging infrastructure across the U.S. and around the world. If you’re interested in getting an EV but are anxious about charging — I encourage you to check it out. Very helpful!

According to Plugshare, here in Gaithersburg, there’s a huge number of public chargers. Many of these are nearby.

(My home community of Gaithersburg supports numerous electric vehicle charging stations. Level 2 chargers are shown in green and fast chargers are shown in orange [not origin ;)]. Image source: Plugshare.)

If you look at the above image you’ll see a map of the Gaithersburg area covered in green and orange images. The green images indicate level 2 charging stations which are capable of providing between 15-30 miles worth of vehicle range per hour. The orange images indicate fast chargers which are capable of near full recharge in between 35 minutes to one hour and fifteen minutes. Thankfully, my home location in Gaithersburg is within 1-2 blocks of three level 2 charging stations. Two of these stations cost around 45 cents per kilowatt — which is comparable to present gas prices. Not ideal, but decent in a pinch. One of these stations is free.

So, already, looking at both Plugshare and work options, I have potential access to two free charging stations and two pay stations in rather convenient locations. Pretty cool. Now for the next step — fast charging. And here is where we start to differentiate between electric vehicles. For this evaluation, we will compare between Tesla Model 3 and all the rest. The reason? Chiefly that Tesla has its own massive national network of Superchargers.

The rest — Bolt, Leaf, Kona, Niro — are presently beholden to 50 kW charging in my area. This is due to internal vehicle fast charging ability and due to rated chargers nearby. Networks like CHAdeMO, EVgo, and Charge America, provide 5 such fast chargers within five miles of my home location. Pretty wide coverage and much better options than I’d originally anticipated. But not the same as…

(The Tesla Supercharger network of 12,888 chargers at 1,441 stations across North America provides a major, high tech support for clean energy drivers. Image source: Tesla.)

For Tesla we have the nearby Rio Supercharger which provides up to 120 kW charging at 12 stalls. Such chargers are about 1.5 to 2.5 times faster than the other fast chargers. And soon these chargers will be upgraded to the version 3 — which is rated at 250 kW. It’s worth noting that I couldn’t use this Supercharging station while ridesharing. However, fair use would let me Supercharge my clean energy vehicle 1-2 times per week here at the going rate of 28 to 32 cents per kilowatt. About 40 percent less than gas. Impressive, most impressive!

It’s worth noting that different vehicles are charged by different plugs. And, in total there are at least five plugs available. So any electric vehicle will probably need adapters to access the wider EV charging network. In general, though, most non Tesla vehicles can access non Tesla fast chargers without an adaptor. With an adaptor, Teslas can access both Superchargers and Fast Chargers while non Teslas cannot access the vast Supercharger network.

Overall, there are good charging options in my area. But the most potentially versatile EV for charging, among Bolt, Leaf, Model 3, Kona and Niro is again the Model 3. So it looks like we have a front-runner here.

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Thanks for joining me again! I hope this most recent blog was helpful and informative to you. If it was, please share widely! In addition, if you are interested in participating in clean rideshare to help fight climate change please consider using my Uber referral code ROBERTF3028UE. For the next blog, I’ll be making a big announcement. Hope to see you then!

 

Which Clean Energy Vehicle is Best for Rideshare?

More than 1 billion… That’s how many carbon spewing internal combustion engine vehicles presently operate on the road today. Approximately 2.6 billion — that’s how many tons of carbon the use of this ground transport spews into the atmosphere each year (see also).

We’re Well Behind the 8-Ball on Climate Change — So What to Do?

Simply transforming this system to electrified transport would remove roughly half of these heat-trapping emissions. Emissions that are, even now, worsening our weather, melting our glaciers, warming our world, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, and threatening the emergence of a Hothouse Earth. And 90 percent or more of vehicle based carbon emission could be removed by linking electric vehicles to clean energy generation sources like wind and solar.

hothouse earth

(Tipping into a hothouse Earth state will happen if we keep burning fossil fuels. Individual and group action is now needed to prevent this catastrophe. Image source: The Potsdam Institute.)

Doing this would provide a big step forward in addressing the climate crisis. It would help to peak carbon emissions early on a global scale. It would provide the needed energy storage production for transforming the larger energy system. And it would prove to the world that we do not need to sacrifice quality of life or life-saving technologies in order to clean up our act.

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Welcome to the second installment of Extreme Clean — my personal journey to cut my carbon emissions to zero and to multiply my clean energy footprint by sharing it with others. I hope you will join me in this much-needed endeavor.

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From the standpoint of a single individual in a massive system that presently injects mountains of heat-trapping carbon into the atmosphere each year, the question needs to be asked — what can I do to speed up the clean energy transition process? In such a large world, how can the actions of a single individual matter? And how can I multiply my impact?

Choosing a Clean Energy Vehicle to Meet My Needs

For my part, and for the first phase, I have decided to purchase a clean energy vehicle. But I’m not just going to buy one and keep it for myself. I’m going to rideshare it through the Uber app. Thus multiplying my clean energy impact. I’m already living a veg-vegan lifestyle. My wife, two cats, and I already live in a relatively modest abode. But this is not enough. Not nearly enough. So step one is cleaning up my transport and sharing it with others.

Swallow Falls

(Cat and I hiking at Swallow Falls in 2018. For clean energy to work, it needs to provide for families like mine. We’re going to see if it’s possible to do that and more.)

In order to do this, I’ve go to make a choice. I’ve got to pick a clean energy vehicle that meets my transportation needs. This includes driving my wife to her work at the Humane Society of the U.S. about a mile away. It includes a vehicle capable of making the trek to the mountains where we enjoy hiking and camping. It includes one that is able to make the annual family reunion trip to Murrell’s Inlet some 500 miles away. One that can make the seasonal treks to my parents and grandparents in Virginia Beach — which is about 250 miles from my abode in Gaithersburg, MD. And if I rideshare it, I’m going to need something capable of consistently driving 100 to 200 miles per day on a 4-5+ day a week basis.

In other words, what I need is an affordable advanced clean energy vehicle. And for my purpose, for this blog post, I’ll be evaluating the capabilities of these vehicles before making a choice in a future installment. This first evaluation will look directly at the vehicles themselves. In particular, I’m interested in their range, their features, their price,  their level of efficiency, and their charging speed. In a second blog, I’ll be looking at another key feature — the availability of the charging infrastructure that supports them. This is crucial for me — as I presently live in a condo with no home charging capability. So I’ll need access to nearby local charging stations and fast charging stations. But, for now, I’ll be looking simply at vehicles themselves.

Five Highly Capable Clean Energy Vehicles on Offer

Luckily, at this point in time, there are now numerous affordable, advanced clean energy vehicles on offer. Even just last year, this was not the case. But, for the U.S. market, the number of clean energy vehicles that roughly meet my stated needs is about five. Last year, it might have been 1 — the Chevy Bolt. Arguably, the Tesla Model 3 also met my needs in 2018. But, on price (at around 50,000 dollars and up), it was then unattainable.

No more. The 2019 Model 3 Standard and Standard + are now within reach as well.

In 2019, Nissan is also offering a longer range version of its global best-seller — the Nissan Leaf. In 2018, the longest range a Leaf could achieve was approximately 150 miles. For my needs, this was a bit too short-legged. But the new Leaf + now boasts more than 200 miles of all-electric range. So we can add it to our list.

Rounding out the final two we have that Hyundai Kona Electric and the Kia Niro Electric. Both offer 200+ miles of range and prices in the mid 30s before some still substantial incentives.

If I wait until 2020, there will probably be more electric vehicles on offer that meet my needs. But at this time strong government incentives are now available for early adopters. In addition the purpose, for me, is to help provide a climate saving impact. To send a signal to markets demanding clean energy now. So acting sooner rather than later is very helpful to support this goal.

Evaluating the Cars

What follows is a pretty deep dive into the features and capabilities of these five vehicles. So hold onto your hats! The information is about to get dense!

Chevy Bolt

(Achieving a mass market debut in 2018, the Chevy Bolt is a highly capable, affordable electric vehicle featuring 238 miles of range and a number of highly attractive options. Image source: Chevy.)

Digging deeper into the individual cars on range, we find that the Chevy Bolt presently boasts an EPA range of 238 miles. This compares favorably to the Tesla Model 3 Standard at 220 miles of EPA range. However, the similarly priced Model 3 Standard + edges the Bolt out at 240 miles. Nissan Leaf Long Range is very close but lags a little at 226 miles. It is also worth noting that the Nissan is the only vehicle on offer with a passive cooling system. In the past, this has had negative impacts on battery life — which means that there’s a bit higher risk that the Leaf’s range could degrade more rapidly over time. Depending on local climate and use, my mileage may very. But this is a concern given the big swings in temperature the D.C. area has recently experienced. Moving over to the Hyundai Kona Electric, we get a bit of a break-out with 258 miles of range. This is pretty impressive and is one of the features that makes the Kona a pretty attractive offering to me. Finally, the Kia Niro matches the Standard + version of the Model 3 with 240 miles of electric range.

To me, this is all very impressive and roughly matches what only versions of Tesla’s Model S and X could do on range just a few years ago — but for around 75,000 to 90,000 dollars. Of course, none of these vehicles are as luxurious as the S or X. But the longer legs makes them all far, far more attractive to potential EV buyers — further shrinking the range gap with the ICE.

Looking at features, I’m going to provide a rough overview of the various aspects of each car. This is by no means fully comprehensive, but it does give a rough overview. Chevy Bolt is a relatively roomy sub-compact with 94 cubic feet of interior space and 17 cubic feet of storage. It has five seats, but might be a crunch for some larger folks in ride-share. Like most sub compacts, it can expand its cargo capacity by lowering the rear seats. The base Chevy Bolt comes with a rear camera and a 10.2 inch digital touch screen. Like many electric vehicles, Bolt has a lot of zip with 200 horsepower. Pretty surprising to pack so much torque into a sub-compact body design. Autonomous and more advanced AI features are available on the 41,000 dollar version. But the base version is, well, pretty basic in this respect. In addition, a number of people have complained about the seat comfort of the Bolt. An issue that, hopefully, Chevy is working to address.

Model 3 Standard

(At 35,000 dollars base price, the Model 3 Standard is Tesla’s fulfillment of its promise to provide an affordable mass market electric vehicle. And it’s a real thing of both beauty and clean energy aspirational achievement. Image source: Tesla.)

Features for the Model 3 Standard and Standard + are a bit more luxurious and muscular than the Bolt. The interior for the Model 3 is 97 cubic feet. However, storage is less than the Bolt at a still respectable 15 cubic feet including the front and rear trunks. Seating for the standard version is cloth, but the Standard + boasts vegan leather (faux leather) along with front heated seats. Basic level of autonomy including collision warning is standard for the vehicle. However, full autopilot is a 7,000 dollar upgrade (and out of reach for me). The central screen is 15 inches and includes most control options for the vehicle. Doors and windows both open at the push of a button from the inside (no levers). And outside entry is controlled either by fob or cell phone. Even the Standard Model 3 features sport car performance at 130 mph top speed and 5.6 second 0-60 acceleration. With the Standard + improving to 140 mph and 5.3 second acceleration. Overall, the feel of the Model 3 is that of a pretty awesome clean machine featuring minimalist styling, impressive design, decent AI capability, and powerful road performance. In terms of overall features, it’s a step beyond the competition, putting it in a class all its own.

Nissan Leaf + features include a unique customizeable display panel — which is pretty cool. Standard also includes automatic breaking — a basic autonomous capability. Like many EVs, the 226 mile/62 KwH battery is pretty muscular providing 214 horsepower and quite a bit of torque. Top speed is limited to 98 mph and 0-60 time is about 7 seconds. Central screen is a bit small for the class at 8 inches. Another compact model, the Leaf does boast a rather large storage area at 23.6 cubic feet. Hatchback design allows for good optimization of space. Other standard provisions include a heated steering wheel — nice for cold mornings.

Nissan Leaf Long Range

(Nissan has already sold more than 400,000 all-electric Leafs globally. Its new 226 mile range offering is bound to extend the legacy of this clean energy vehicle brand through seriously expanded capability. Image source: Nissan.)

Hyundai Kona Electric comes standard with another relatively beefy 201 hp electric motor. The vehicle is equipped with a relatively small 7 inch central display screen. Autonomous features include forward and side collision avoidance. A crossover/compact SUV, the vehicle looks really attractive both outside and inside. It sits higher than Bolt, Model 3, and Leaf — which likely provides some additional interior comfort. Overall cargo space is a decent 19.2 cubic feet. Seating for five might be a bit tight in back for larger riders — a repeating theme for the class of new, affordable electrics. Overall, a very attractive vehicle with notably high review ratings.

Kia Niro Electric rounds out our list with another 201 hp motor. It’s worth noting that the basic design is shared with the Kona, so a number of vehicle aspects will be similar. Kia Niro’s body, however, is roomier than Kona — with more space for those five passengers and 19. 4 cubic feet of storage. It is worth noting that Niro is still not yet available in the U.S. — so details are a bit less specific than the other options above. If the vehicle is not available in Maryland by mid April, it may opt itself out of the running for me. In general, there have been some issues with U.S. availability for the Kona as well — which appears to be limited to around a 20,000 vehicle per year global production rate. This compares to Bolt which will likely hit above 30,000, Leaf at around 100,000ish for 2019, and Model 3 at 250,000 to 300,000 (estimated figures).

Price comparisons are pretty comparable between these various high-performance, lower cost EVs. Chevy Bolt starts at $36,500 while the Tesla Model 3 Standard and Standard + start at $35,000 and $37,500 respectively. The longer range Nissan Leaf starts at $37,445. Kona shows a starting price of $36,500 — at the same point as the shorter range Bolt. Meanwhile it’s suggested that Niro will start at $37,500. Model 3 and Bolt have both lost the full $7,500 dollar tax credit, however. So at present that incentive is bumped down to $3,750 dollars. In addition, Maryland offers its own $3,000 dollar subsidy for electric vehicle purchases — which applies to all of the above models. Other features related to price include reported generous rebates on Bolt by Chevy as well as very attractive financing offers by Tesla (3.75 percent) and Bolt (zero percent for some qualifying buyers). Adding money to the ledger could include hidden costs like Tesla’s 1,200 dollar destination fee. All vehicles would be subject to sales taxes for their regions.

Kona Electric

(Kona Electric is a beautiful, highly capable 258 mile range EV crossover. But can Hyundai produce enough to meet expanding global EV demand and will it reach all markets in the U.S. during 2019? Image source: Hyundai.)

Not included in the price is the likely savings over time for lower maintenance and fuel costs. For regular drivers, this is pretty substantial — amounting to $1,000 dollars in savings per year or more. For higher usage drivers involved in rideshare, this savings is likely in the range of $3,000 per year when including reduced fuel costs, reduced wear and tear on brakes, no need for an oil change (I’ve changed my oil once per month on the Hyundai!), and overall return due to more simple design. These savings may be somewhat offset by rarer parts for EVs and potential longer periods in the shop as the maintenance infrastructure for EVs is somewhat smaller than for ICEs at present. In addition, use of aluminum to lighten the frames for Tesla vehicles may also add to body costs as aluminum work tends to be a specialized skill. Reports are, however, that Model 3 was simply designed for ease of use, manufacture and repair. We shall see if these claims hold out.

Efficiency is one factor where electric vehicles are head and shoulders above their ICE counterparts. Electric engines, in general are about 3 times as efficient as internal combustion engines. So far less energy is wasted overall. This is one reason why even EVs plugged into standard grids get far better fuel economy ratings and emit far, far less carbon than their ICE counterparts. EPA rated efficiency numbers for all the above vehicles are quite extraordinary. But it is an interesting metric to compare and determine which vehicle(s) stand out and which lag a bit. In the end, those with the highest efficiency will produce the lowest carbon footprints in use when plugged into the grid — which is important to me.

Kia Niro Electric

(Kia Niro Electric is another beautiful and highly capable affordable EV crossover. Will it release in time and in large enough numbers to have an impact on the U.S. market, much less make it available as a viable choice for me? Image source: Kia.)

EPA testing shows that the Chevy Bolt comes in at 119 mpge fuel efficiency. This is an amazing rating approximately four times better than my present Hyundai. But the Tesla Model 3 Standard and Standard + leap ahead with a 134 mpge rating. This is amazing considering that the vehicles have a rather high curb weight. But Tesla’s newer batteries appear to be breaking ground in a number of respects. Nissan Leaf long range lags both Bolt and Model 3 at a still impressive 112 mile per gallon equivalent. Kona follows at 120 mpge efficiency — which is also pretty strong. Finally, Niro rounds out the pack at 112 mpge. Overall, very impressive but with Tesla coming in as a clear leader.

Last but not least, we finally come to the important metric of charging speed. Typically, most of these vehicles can recharge at a rate of around 15 to 30 miles per hour of range through level 2 charging stations or the same capability charger at a home garage. However, in a pinch, all of these vehicles possess some form of fast charging capability — enabling charging rates of 150 miles per hour or more. For rideshare, this is important due to the fact that I might find myself relatively far afield and need to return home while still a 100 or more miles out. In addition, since I’m going to be using my vehicle for long trips, rate of charge will be a major factor in determining how long it takes for me to get to a distant destination.

Starting with the Chevy Bolt we find that this EV supports up to 50 kW rates for fast charging. What this means is that the Bolt can go from a low level of charge to a near full level of charge in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Nissan Leaf also is capable of recharging at 50 kW per hour rates and produces comparable recharge times during fast charge. True to trend, Kona and Niro also both charge at 50 kW per hour rates. And this rounds out the rest of the pack.

Pretty decent, but nowhere near as fast as the Tesla Model 3 using a Supercharger. Present Superchargers can provide between 72 kW and 120 kW of charge at most locations. For Model 3 Standard, these can provide a near full level of charge within between 40 minutes and an hour. A new version 3 supercharger rated at 250 kW is being introduced in California during early 2019. The Model 3 is equipped to handle this level of charging — which could cut near complete charging times down to 20-30 minutes or less. However, it will take a few years for these ultra-fast chargers to trickle through Tesla’s vast Supercharger network. It is worth noting that the Supercharger Network is presently closed to rideshare drivers. However, a Tesla representative recently noted that fair use of the network was typically considered to be once or twice per week. So on the rare occasion that I’m stranded far from home while ridesharing, I can simply turn off the Uber app, drive to the nearest Supercharger, get enough charge to return home, then link up with a local level 2 charger for the remainder (more on charging networks in another blog). So still useful in a pinch.

Final Thoughts

At this point, I’m 2900 words into the report and what I can say is that I’m very impressed with all the electric vehicles on offer. If you’d have told me 5 years ago that five very attractive EVs with this price range and capability would be available in 2019, I would have hoped you were right, but I might have doubted your conclusion. In addition, I’d like to add that there is a lot to consider when buying an EV for extreme clean energy use. Far more than I had initially thought. The details in this report are pretty extensive and, for me, quite a lot to digest.

At this point, I’m still evaluating which vehicle to choose. And I’d like to ask you for your help and opinions — so please feel free to post them below! I’ve also added a twitter survey at the start for feedback.

For our next blog, we’ll be looking at the ability of various charging networks to meet my stated needs. The availability of chargers is a big deal for me given the fact that I live in a Condo, don’t have a personal garage, and don’t have a charging station presently in my parking lot. So, yeah, access to various chargers nearby is going to be pretty key.

As ever, thank you all for joining me. I hope you have found this evaluation helpful. I also hope that some of you will decide to take the leap and rideshare in a clean energy vehicle. If you do, please help this blog by using my Uber referral code: ROBERTF3028UE. And if you have found this blog helpful and informative, please share widely! Warmest regards and, until next time, ciao!

Extreme Clean — Fighting Climate Change in Daily Life

The climate story of past weeks has grown all-too-familiar. The Central U.S. has been flooded by record rains whose extremity was spiked by the heat trapping gasses still building in our atmosphere. A city of half a million people was devastated by a cyclone feeding off of record warm waters. The oceans continue their rise. The glaciers their melt. The corals their dying. The fisheries their shifting. The seasons their altering. In other words, the climate upon which we all rely for so much is gradually becoming FUBAR.

warmer than normal sea surface temperatures

(Warmer than normal sea surface temperatures related to human caused climate chance contributed to a city-devastating cyclone striking Mozambique. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

The story of the recent climate change related disasters could have been written a month ago, a year ago, two years ago. And ten years from now it will be the same story. Only worse. Though we have not yet entered the truly catastrophic age of climate change driven by fossil fuel burning and greenhouse gas emissions, for some, the situation is already a catastrophe. Whole towns have burned from worsened wildfires. Entire islands are being swallowed by the rising sea. The heat is more dangerous, the droughts more difficult with each passing year. And new, terrible storms range the globe with increasing frequency.

In my last blog, I made an appeal for U.S. and global action in the form of a Green New Deal. Why? Because I believe this is our all hands on deck moment. The time when we, both as people and as societies, need to do everything we can to blunt the coming trouble. And true to that cause — I went dark.

Why?

(More on present day climate impacts and action.)

Well, I figured that it was time to stop simply writing about climate change and start doing something about it on a personal level. Sure, I’d already done what I could in some respects. My wife and I worked to be as energy efficient as possible. We adopted a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle (which reduces our carbon emissions by about 10-15 percent). I promoted clean energy through my work and writing. I voted for politicians who would adopt helpful climate policy like the Green New Deal. But for me, those actions were not enough. In order to be most effective, I needed to pursue the goal of a clean energy transition and a net zero carbon lifestyle for self and family and to help others to do the same. In the parlance of my military/emerging threats background, I needed to become a climate change response force multiplier.

That public effort begins today. It will be a no-holds barred description of my clean energy transition attempts. A down in the dirt expose of my successes, my struggles, and my failures. And an attempt to transfer all the knowledge gained in that process to as many of you as possible. I’m calling this effort — Extreme Clean. And I hope you join me in pursuing it.

Though the public effort begins today, the private effort started back in September of 2018. Back then, I decided that the first major goal of my clean energy transition attempt would be to purchase an advanced electrical vehicle and to share access to this clean energy system with others. Gaining access to a long range electric vehicle would not be easy. Costs, compared to the reach of my middle class income, were relatively high — ranging from around 29,000 dollars to the upper 40s. And sharing an electric vehicle would not be easy. Slower refuel times and somewhat shorter range than internal combustion engine vehicles were all also limiting factors.

Reduced emissions with electric vehicles

(Electric vehicles allow you to cut transport based carbon emissions by half or more. Image source: Union of Concerned Scientists.)

At the time, I didn’t have the money or the means or even a plan. My access to clean energy, as had been the case for too, too long, was limited. But there were a growing set of options coming from clean energy business and a new economy that I thought could help me reach my goals.

My first move was to begin ride-sharing during the time I would typically spend blogging. I planned to use the ride share money to save for an electric vehicle. The vehicle I was driving (and continue to drive) is a 2009 Hyundai Elantra. Not a gas guzzler, for sure, but a vehicle with a total carbon footprint in the range of 2-3 times that of a fully electrified vehicle plugged into the cleaner Maryland grid. One that would be even less if I could eventually get a home equipped with solar panels.

Rideshare

(My present goal: ridesharing an electric vehicle as a clean energy multiplier.)

Since September of I have completed 1,139 shared rides using the Uber rideshare application. This enabled me to have lots of chats about climate change and clean energy with riders. And I’ve got to say that many, many people out there are very concerned. These folks come from all walks of life and political persuasions. And though I did get into a few polite discussions with people of the climate change denial persuasion, my overall sense is that the vast majority of riders I picked up basically got it and shared my concern.

To me, this experience was pretty liberating. But even more liberating was the fact that I was able to save a good deal of money using the Uber app to put toward the purchase of a clean energy vehicle. To start taking rides in an electrical vehicle in order to multiply my clean energy impact.

So as of this point in time, I am looking at logging my reservation of a long range electrical vehicle by mid April, to take delivery of that vehicle by sometime in May or June, and to start sharing clean rides with people by that time. But before I do that, I’m going to have to actually choose a brand of electrical vehicle to purchase. And in that process, I’m going to need to look at cost, capability, maintenance, and charging. To look at what works best for me given my personal needs and my clean energy goals. It won’t be easy. I live in a condo. I don’t even have access to a garage. So for me, the bar for clean energy access is pretty high. But that’s what the Extreme Clean program is all about. Attempting to overcome difficult obstacles in order to help save our future. And I hope you all will weigh in as I go through the process of picking an electrical vehicle that’ll work for me given my situation and goals.

So thanks so much for stopping by. Thanks for taking part in Extreme Clean. And until next time — cioa!

(Want to help spread the word about personal clean energy transformation? Then please share this blog far and wide. Wish to engage in a similar Extreme Clean effort through rideshare? Then please help by using this Uber referral code: ROBERTF30288UE.)

A Green New Deal For Global Security

As we enter the New Year of 2019, we face the potential for more record global warmth. The fossil fuel burning that has continued for so long, that has been industrialized and unwisely linked (by industry and policy) to economic growth in many regions continues at a devastating pace. A pace that injects about 37 billion tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into our atmosphere each year. For in too many cases, the necessary transition to an admittedly much stronger and far more viable clean energy economy has been blocked or delayed.

A Harmful Status Quo

We are a world locked in conflict between old fossil fuel interests and emerging clean energy and pro climate change response interests. Thus far, the conflict has generated a state of both economic and political grid-lock. One that at present perpetuates the harmful status quo.

We face vast continued greenhouse gas emissions presenting a growing danger to everyone and everything living on Earth. The threat of damaging climate change occurring on human time-scales is no longer some far-off object whose emerging reality can easily be hidden from public view by republican deniers in the U.S. government and abroad or related mass media campaigns funded by the fossil fuel monetary and political interests who authored the crisis.

surface melt ponding Amery ice shelf

(Increasing surface melt ponding in both Antarctica and Greenland, as seen in this January 1, 2019 satellite shot of the Amery Ice Shelf, is one visible sign of climate change’s growing impacts. Large land ice sheet melt is the primary driver of both sea level rise and changes to ocean circulation. Just two of many harms driven by fossil fuel burning and related carbon emissions. Image provided by NASA Worldview.)

The threat posed by human-caused climate change is one that impacts us now. And though present impacts are mild compared to a future in which vast fossil fuel burning and related dumping of carbon into Earth’s atmosphere continues, we are faced with growing damage, hurt, and harm today.

How did we get here? It’s a big question. One to be answered fully by future historians. But we can simply say that we haven’t transitioned away from fossil fuel burning fast enough. That we haven’t yet adopted clean energy or clean political thinking at a swift enough pace. That the old ways of power-brokering linked to fossil fuel burning continue with a tenacity which is, itself, difficult to deny.

Old Smoke-Stack Politics vs New Clean Energy Politics

Though a single blog is perhaps too short an article to address such a vast issue fully, it is certainly possible to take a look at the tip of the (metaphorically and literally) melting ice-berg. In doing so, we ask the teasing question — how are such seemingly far-flung objects as Amery Ice Shelf melt ponds, a Green New Deal, Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and Russian nuclear capable bombers in Venezuela linked?

As literary objects go the question is, of course, rhetorical. But it is one that reveals how old smokestack style power-plays can keep us stuck in the ongoing harmful pattern of fossil fuel burning, warming, and increasing global environmental damage together with the related geopolitical conflict that all too frequently results. It also opens up the avenue to a new geopolitical contest to old regimes. One based on clean energy economies of scale and technological innovation coupled with climate change response.

Clean Energy Enabled Obama’s Counter to Russian Aggression

Back during the Obama Administration, there was a larger challenge to old forms of power brokering. It happened when Russia invaded the Ukraine and the U.S. sanctioned Russian oil ventures such as the fossil fuel multinational — Rosneft.

The U.S., under Obama, through both clean energy policy and increased oil extraction at home had become more energy independent. But more importantly, with policies such as EV incentives, increased fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, the sun shot initiative, adherence to the Paris Climate Agreement, and the implementation of the Clean Power Plan taking hold, the U.S. was also turning toward a future that was finally less dependent on fossil fuels and, more importantly, the broad availability of oil and gas. The U.S., under Obama, was thus able to move more and more away from the old oil and gas politics that might have forced our nation to turn a blind eye to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. Instead, old oil-based global policy gave way to something new as the U.S. effectively canceled an Exxon-Mobil contract with Rosneft even as it moved to hamper Russia’s oil oligarchs in retaliation for its physical aggression.

Russia — Slave to Oil and Gas Revenue

Then and now, Rosneft was a cornerstone of Russian political and economic power. The company, like the East India Trade Company of the old British Empire, serves Russia as a way of projecting its power abroad. We see this in Russia’s past use of gas shipments to influence Europe. We see it in Russia’s past and present use of oil ventures like Rosneft to gain political footholds in places like Venezuela. And we see it in Russia’s attempts to use Rosneft to directly influence U.S. policy through relationships with western oil giants like Exxon.

Western sanctions against Rosneft and related oil oligarchs put a check on Russian power projection. It also leveled a direct threat to Russia’s narrow economic power base. Represented, in part, by its use of Rosneft as a political tool for power projection, Russia is itself fully invested in fossil fuel burning. For not only is Rosneft a lever for Russian power brokering abroad, the company exists in a context in which 16 percent of Russian GDP comes from oil and gas money. Moreover, 52 percent of Russia’s federal budget is funded by fossil fuel revenues from state-corporate entities such as Rosneft. Meanwhile, 70 percent of Russia’s export revenue comes from the oil and gas sector. Unable or, more likely, unwilling to diversify its economy away from oil and gas, Russia is instead a slave to it.

2016 Election Meddling in Context

Given the above, we can see that the Russian economy suffers a kind of resource curse in relation to its dependence on fossil fuels. But Russia has also taken a rather odd stance with regards to climate change. National policy has long considered climate change beneficial to Russia. This despite the fact that recent research shows numerous harms including movement of rains away from most productive soils, expanding wildfires in the north, widespread loss of land due to sea level rise, and destabilization of border states to the south.

(How a Green New Deal would make America great by enabling us to confront foreign adversaries and climate harms in one go.)

That said, after grappling with an Obama Administration more emboldened to sanction its fossil fuel industry, Russia had every short term economic and political incentive to seek regime change in the U.S. Trump, with his climate change denial, promise to double down on old energy sources like oil gas and coal, and his stated aims to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement while cancelling programs like the Clean Power Plan appeared to be ready to generate policy more beneficial to Russia’s fossil fuel sector. With oil and gas presently so central to Russia’s economy, the motivation to support Trump on an economic and political power basis alone must have been quite strong. This on top of a widely cited motivation to generate chaos and division in the U.S. during election season.

Venezuela: Oil as Power Lever and Motivator for Aggression

Following its meddling in the 2016 U.S. election with the stated aim to place Donald Trump as President, Russia’s oil-based power plays continued. This time, Rosneft gained a lien on 50 percent of Citgo — the Venezuelan state oil company. Venezuela, even more heavily dependent on oil revenue than Russia, has been facing economic decline ever since oil prices crashed during the late 2000s. Smelling opportunity, Russia has moved into Venezuela, funded its debt, and announced joint oil production agreements.

Russia’s increased hold over Venezuela is also reminiscent of past cold war power moves in which easily leveraged resources like oil often played a key role in establishing vassal or proxy states. The most recent move by Russia brings with it the old sabre rattling of nuclear capable weapons system movements and related media sensationalism as Russia’s deployment of two nuclear bombers to a Venezuelan air base ruffled feathers from Europe to the U.S.

Green New Deal — A Way Forward for U.S. Climate and National Security

Russia’s power plays may seem similar to the past. But they occur in a context where the U.S. increasingly has the option to respond by doubling down on clean energy policy as a means to directly counter the might of bad actor regimes dependent on fossil fuel revenue. This is in direct contrast to the cold war where hard power responses like troop movements and weapons systems deployments were seen as central to national defense.

In the new era, such movements of troops may also be seen as necessary. But the response that matters most to long term U.S. national security is the lessening of reliance on fossil fuel to give the U.S. a better bargaining position vis a vis petro states like Russia while simultaneously reducing the nation’s contribution to the climate crisis.

Such synergistic foreign policy benefits evoking a new U.S. economic and moral leadership would seem to make clean energy based programs like the Green New Deal and revitalization of energy efficiency and clean energy supports a no-brainer nationally. These are domestic programs with global consequences for the future of the United States. And the fact that adversaries like Russia are working hard to prevent the implementation of such programs at home should provide a clear incentive for all Americans to support them.

2018 Likely to be 4th Hottest; But 2019 Might Break All Records

According to NASA’s global monitoring division, the period of December 2017 through November 2018 was the fourth hottest such time ever measured in the global climate record. Starting in 1880, the measure now spans 138 years. And it marks a period of unprecedented rapid change in the Earth’s climate system — driven primarily by fossil fuel burning and the resulting emission of heat trapping gasses into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Global temperatures 2018 NASA

(The above graphic provided by NASA GISS shows the ongoing monthly warming trend since 1880. Recent record hot years show up in red. Present 2018 dates and temperatures are indicated by the black dots and red line near the top of the graph. Image source: NASA.)

NASA’s monitor shows 2018 hitting 0.82 degrees Celsius above its own mid 20th Century baseline for the 12 month time-frame. This puts 2018 about 1.04 C above 1880s averages in the December to November period composing NASA’s climate year. 2018 is now on track to be the fourth hottest year behind 2016 (#1), 2017 (#2), and 2015 (#3). As a result, every year of the past four years represents the hottest years ever recorded since consistent measurements began more than a century ago.

According to every major climate monitoring agency, the uncontested driver of this warming trend is an ongoing and growing fossil fuel based greenhouse gas emission. During 2018, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose to an average near 410 parts per million and carbon dioxide equivalents, a measure taking into account all greenhouse gasses, hit near 495 parts per million. This level of heat trapping gasses is unprecedented for at least the past 18 million years and will result in significant continued warming if they remain or keep rising.

Looking forward, an emerging El Nino combined with these high and rising levels of heat trapping gasses has the potential to produce record global temperatures during 2019. According to NOAA, sea surface temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific are presently in the El Nino range and the climate monitor is predicting a 90 percent chance of official El Nino formation during the winter of 2018 with a 60 percent chance for its continuance during spring.

(Video blog providing in-depth analysis of NASA’s most recent global temperature update.)

El Nino is the hot end of the natural variability scale. When combined with rising atmospheric greenhouse gasses trapping more heat in the Earth system, it has tended to produce record hot or near record hot years. 2016 saw a very strong El Nino along with a major new global temperature milestone in the range of 1.21 C above 1880s averages. Though the 2019 El Nino is predicted to be milder than the 2016 event, high and rising greenhouse gasses means that a new record could be breached with temperatures likely to hit a range between 1.17 C and 1.3 C.

With present temperatures now well outside the typical range for the past 10,000 years following the last ice age, each additional 0.1 C of warming is likely to bring additional impacts on top of the more severe weather, worsening fires, rising seas, and ocean health impacts we have already seen. It is thus the case that the age of human caused climate change is upon us and that escalating climate action is needed to prevent a quick ramp to catastrophic events.

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