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Despite Stronger La Nina, January of 2018 was the Fifth Hottest in the 138 Year Climate Record

Major signals of on an ongoing and inexorable global warming trend continued to be apparent during January of 2018, according to NASA records.

The first month of this year saw global temperatures in the range of 0.78 degrees Celsius above NASA’s 20th Century baseline — or about 1 C warmer than 1880s averages when NASA record-keeping began.

Despite the influence of La Nina — which during 2018 is stronger than a similar 2017 Pacific Ocean cooling event — January was the 5th hottest such month in all of the 138 year global climate record. According to NASA, all of the top five hottest Januaries ever recorded have occurred since 2007, with four of those five occurring during the last five years.

(Arctic warming is the primary feature of the fifth hottest January in NASA’s 138 year climate record. Image source: NASA.)

Warm temperature departures for the month were most extreme over the Arctic, over western North America, and through North and Western Europe. This outlier warmth contributed to record low sea ice extent measures in the Arctic and helped to rapidly expand drought conditions across the U.S. In the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctica — recently seeing a series of glacial calving events in the west which hint at a quickening pulse of ice entering the world’s rising oceans — saw an abnormally warm austral summer month. Meanwhile, Australia experienced its own third hottest January even as concerns over renewed mass coral bleaching across the Great Barrier Reef were again on the rise.

During La Nina, movement of warm air and water toward the polar region is enhanced. To this point, global sea ice extent measures are again in record low ranges even after receiving a serious hammering during the winter of 2017. In January, record to near record polar warmth helped to drive a rapid fall in global sea ice extent to today’s record low values in the range of 16 million square kilometers.

Record low sea ice coverage is a climate change amplifier in that it uncovers dark ocean surfaces that capture more of the sun’s rays than white, reflective ice. In addition, open ocean ventilates more heat into the polar atmosphere. Heat that would typically be sequestered beneath the ice. This warming amplification (polar amplification) can also have an impact on the polar circulation of the Jet Stream — causing it to meander more which results in increasing instances of extreme weather (hot, cold, wet, dry, stormy) in the middle latitudes.

(Global sea ice extent is again in record low ranges. This is a primary signal of a warming polar environment — which can have far-ranging harmful impacts. Image source: Global Sea Ice and NSIDC.)

Over the coming months, we should expect some continued stress to both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice — with the caveat being that cloudier late springs and early summers have tended to retard warm season ice loss during recent years in the Northern Hemisphere. That said, continued movement into record low ranges for the Arctic hint that rapid advance of melt during winter may eventually translate to summer.

The primary driver of these serious changes to the global environment is continued fossil fuel burning. And with atmospheric CO2 likely to hit between 411 and 412 parts per million this year (with CO2e ranging toward 493 ppm adding in all greenhouse gasses) the amount of warming already being locked in is starting to look quite dangerous in a number respects. That said, damage can still be greatly limited if the world works to rapidly transition toward renewable energy and keeps harmful fuels where they belong — in the ground.

 

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Breaking Through the 300,000 EV Barrier: What Math Can Tell us About Tesla Model 3 Production

Like most of Elon Musk’s endeavors, Tesla is not a risk adverse venture.

Quite to the contrary, by taking on established energy and automotive players on fields that they’ve dominated for decades socially, politically, and economically, it would seem that Musk and, by extension, Tesla have done everything they can to give risk a big, fat, honking troll.

Helpful Risk of Undertaking Clean Energy Transition vs Risk of Extreme Harms From Climate Change

But if there was ever a time when the serious risk inherent to rapidly breaking new ground in the clean energy field was necessary, then it is now. Just today, in the dead of what should be frigid Arctic winter, a tanker brimming full with climate change amplifying liquified gas (LNG) crossed the typically frozen solid Arctic Ocean. And here’s the kicker — it did it without the need of an escorting ice breaker.

This is the first time a vessel has navigated across the Arctic in such a way during February. Ever. An ominous new marvel made possible by a warming Arctic that is also bringing along such terrors as a multiplying list of endangered species, loss of fisheries, increasing rates of ocean acidification, thawing permafrost, melting glaciers, massive Arctic wildfires, and quickening sea level rise.

In light of such hard facts, we could reasonably say that the risks Tesla and Musk are taking are needed, are indeed necessary if modern society is to have a decent chance at confronting the rising age of human-caused climate change. That the efforts by Tesla and others to speed a transition to energies that do not contribute to the already significant climate harms coming down the pipe are something both valid and necessary. Something that all true industry, education, civil and government leaders would responsibly step up to support.

Of course, the story of clean energy isn’t all about Tesla. It’s about the global need for a swift energy transition away from climate change driving fossil fuels. But Tesla, as the only major U.S. integrated clean energy and transport corporation presently operating that does not also have a stake in fossil fuel infrastructure, is a vision of what energy companies should look like if we are to achieve a more benevolent climate future. And it is for this reason that the company has generated so much support among climate change response and clean energy advocates.

300,000 All-Electric Vehicles Produced

But in order for Tesla to succeed in helping to speed along a necessary clean energy revolution, it needs to produce clean energy systems in increasingly high volumes. During recent days Tesla crossed a major milestone on the path toward mass production of clean energy vehicles. For as of the first half of February, Tesla is reported to have produced its 300,000th electrical vehicle.

A somewhat vague indicator, it nonetheless gives us an idea of the pace at which Tesla EV production is increasing. And, by extension, how fast the more affordable Model 3 is also ramping up.

Consider that approximately 101,000 Teslas were produced during 2017. Also consider that by the end of the year, Tesla had produced about 286,500 EVs throughout its lifetime as a company. If the company crossed the 300,000 mark during early February as indicated, it tells us that Tesla is presently producing around 10,000 EVs per month in total.

This extrapolated pace (keep in mind, we are reading tea leaves here), suggests that Tesla is already building on record 2017 production levels. It also suggests that Model 3 is having a strong impact on the overall rate of production. What’s even more significant is that Tesla production has historically tended to slow down at the start of each quarter and then speed up at the end of each quarter. Right now, overall Tesla production appears to still be on an up ramp.

(Bloomberg has built a model aimed at tracking the total number of Tesla Model 3s produced. It presently estimates that 7,438 Model 3s in total have been built and that Tesla has finally broken the 1,000 vehicle per week threshold consistently. See Bloomberg’s report and interactive graphs here.)

Add to this report the results of a recent Bloomberg model study estimating that around 7,438 Model 3s have been produced in total since July of 2017 and that average weekly production rates are now slightly above 1,000. The Bloomberg study relies on extrapolation from VIN number reporting and observation as well as on internet reports. The reports and data are then plugged into a mathematical model that provides an estimate of total Model 3 production.

The Bloomberg study indicates that Model 3 hit a big surge in production during late January and early February. Which is cautious good news for those still standing in the long line waiting for one of these revolutionary vehicles. A 1,000 Model 3 per week production rate roughly translates to 4,000 per month — which would account for the apparent early year acceleration in total Tesla EV production. But in order to satisfy demand any time soon, Model 3 production will have to increase to more than 5,000 vehicles per week in rather short order.

So Model 3 still has a long way to go before it can start substantially meeting the amazing pent-up demand of the 500,000 person waiting list. In addition, production will have to continue to rapidly pick up if Tesla is to meet the stated goal of 2,500 Model 3s per week by the end of March. That said, Tesla appears to be well on the road toward expanding mass clean energy vehicle production and could more than double its annual EV output this year. Considering the state of the world’s climate, this couldn’t happen sooner.

 

 

Coastlines in Danger: The Rate of Global Sea Level Rise is Accelerating

A new NASA study published just yesterday confirms long-held warnings about rising oceans from IPCC and other climate change watch dog bodies. What it found, looking back over the last 25 years, was not only that seas were rising, but that they were rising at an ever-increasing annual rate.

If we took a snap shot of the present day, we’d find that oceans are rising at a rate of around 3.3 mm per year. If that rate were to hold steady, it would translate to a 33 centimeter rise per century. Or about 1.1 feet. This is global average rise, of course. In more vulnerable places like Tidewater, VA, or New Orleans, or Miami, such a larger swelling of the world’s ocean could translate to 2-3 feet due to local conditions like subsidence or ocean current change.

That’s bad enough. But it’s not the whole story.

(NASA study shows that sea level rise rates are accelerating due to the melting of large glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica. The key driver of this melt is human fossil fuel burning and related accumulation of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. Carbon dioxide levels this year will hit near 412 ppm in April-May, a level not seen in 10-15 million years. Video Source: NASA.)

According to NASA, that annual rate of sea level rise is also rising. In other words, it’s accelerating like a car when you slowly but inexorably increase pressure on the peddle.

The present annual increase measured by NASA’s satellites shows a 0.08 mm rate of acceleration averaged over the past 25 years. What this means is that if the rate of increase remains steady, next year seas will rise by 3.38 mm, and the following year seas will rise by 3.46 mm. Extrapolate that to the end of this Century and you’d get an annual rate of rise of around 10 mm per year — or about 3.3 feet every 100 years.

This translates to roughly 26 inches of additional sea level rise from now to 2100 globally — or about 3-5 feet in more locally vulnerable places like Tidewater, New Orleans, and Miami.

(Over the past 25 years, the rate of sea level rise has been accelerating by 0.08 mm per year. A backwards extrapolation by NASA of satellite data is a broad confirmation of sea level observations and predictions by IPCC. However, increasing ice sheet instability in Greenland and Antarctica could further spike rates of acceleration, endangering coastal cities even more. This serious global risk is amplified by continued fossil fuel burning, and moderated by more rapid transitions to clean energy. Image source: AVISO.)

Of course, given the fact that we continue to burn fossil fuels, that the necessary renewable energy transition continues to be delayed by predatory industries and their proxy politicians (primarily republicans like Trump in the United States), there is no guarantee that the rate of annual increase in sea level won’t accelerate faster than it already is. So, for this reason, the new NASA, IPCC-confirming, report should be viewed under a caveat (Dr Eric Rignot points toward sea level rise of greater than 1 meter by 2100).

In other words, if we don’t respond soon, the glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica that are already speeding the rate of global sea level rise could start to really let loose and get us into even more trouble than we already are.

(UPDATED)

Arctic Sea Ice Extent at Record Lows as Winter Temperatures Soar

Five point five degrees Celsius above average.

That’s how much warmer than ‘normal’ the entire region of the Arctic above the 66 degree North Latitude Line was earlier today. Areas within this large warm pool saw temperatures spike to a range of 15 to 25 C warmer than the already warmer than normal 1981-2010 base period. And broad regions saw temperature between 10 and 20 C above that 30-year average.

(The entire Arctic is an incredible 5.5 C warmer than normal today. Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice extent has plunged, once-more, into record low ranges. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

It’s just a snapshot. But day after day, week after week, month after month, the story has been much the same throughout Fall and Winter of 2017-2018.

And as during last year’s ridiculously warm Arctic winter, the sea ice has taken a considerable pounding. Yesterday dropping to a new record low extent of 13.774 million square kilometers. Beating out the previous record low for the day set just last year. And dipping more than 1.8 million square kilometers below the 1979-1990 average. A period that already featured greatly reduced Arctic sea ice cover when compared to extents seen in the early 20th Century.

(Arctic sea ice extent for 2018 [lower pink line above] dipped into new record low ranges during recent days. Note that the 1979 – 1990 extent average is indicated by the green line at top. Image source: NSIDC.)

The primary cause of these ice losses is warming both of the ocean and of the air. And, as we can see in the ongoing trend, the Arctic is getting more than its fair share of both. Such polar amplification is a direct upshot of the massive volume of harmful greenhouse gasses being injected into the atmosphere through fossil fuel burning. And we are seeing the dark fruits of that burning now in the massive and ongoing winter losses of sea ice, the harm to various Arctic life forms like puffins and polar bears, and the risk of increasing sea level rise, ocean circulation destabilization, and increasingly extreme weather events that all result from the heating-up of polar environments.

What’s the Real U.S. Weather Story for Fall and Winter of 2017-2018? Abnormally Warm, Abnormally Dry.

It seems that every time a snow storm or burst of cold weather roars out of a less stable and warming Arctic, the news media is all a-buzz. Perhaps this is due to the fact that these events are abnormal in their own right. Perhaps because they are more and more the extreme punctuations and back-blasts of a larger warming climate. Perhaps it is due to the fact that cold events are steadily becoming more of a nostalgic novelty even if, when they do arrive, they can come on with a fierce intensity.

 

(The overall trend for winter is one of warming. This despite the fact that more extreme Jet Stream patterns due to polar amplification can still produce bursts of cold weather. Note that regions furthest north are warming the fastest. Image source Climate Central.)

In the larger trend of warming and related climate change signaled extremes, the U.S. fall and winter of 2017-2018 is no exception.

Over the past 90 days, temperatures have been well above average across the western two-thirds of the country. Consistent blocking high pressure systems over the Pacific have generated both warmer and drier than normal conditions. In states like Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado, sections have experienced 5-6 C (9-11 F) above average temperatures for the entire three month period.

The Northeast, by comparison, which has seen the bulk of news coverage for recent briefer, less consistent, generally less intense cold events, has, at most, seen temperatures ranging 2-3 C (3.6 – 5.4 F) below average. In other words, the peak warm anomalies are beating out the peak cool anomalies by about 3 C — or 2 to 1 on the basis of intensity overall.

(Most of the U.S. has been much warmer and much drier than normal during the Fall and Winter of 2017-2018 with western heat and drought as the prominent feature. Image source: NOAA.)

Meanwhile, the high amplitude jet stream waves featuring cold air driven out of the Arctic by larger warm air invasions have been increasingly linked by scientific studies to human-caused climate change. These intense local cold snaps are now more often identified as a by-product of Arctic warming. Great floods of warm air invade northward, driving remnant cold air into the middle latitudes.

This bullying of cold by hot pushing mid-latitude temperatures into off-kilter extremes overlays a larger warming trend and is related to both sea ice loss and polar warming. But this particular climate change link — the fact that warm air in the Arctic is basically bullying the cold air out and is generating local, if intense, cold snaps — is presently under-reported in major broadcast weather media. Nor is the fact that daily record highs for the U.S. continue to greatly outpace daily record lows in the longer term trend being consistently highlighted.

(Though a handful of regions are experiencing cooler than 30 year average temperatures on February 7 of 2018, most of the globe today is much hotter than normal. Note that cold snaps, where they do occur appear to be concentrated in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes. Also note that none of the major climate zones are experiencing below average temperatures even as much warmer than usual conditions are concentrated at the poles. These are all signatures of a warming world. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Despite a general overlooking of the context and causes for mid latitude weather extremes as identified by climate science, perhaps the most under-reported weather and climate change related story of the Winter of 2018 is the return of drought. Presently, more of the Continental U.S. is under drought conditions than not. And we are now experiencing, as a nation, the largest drought footprint in four years.

This is notable due to the fact that four years ago — 2014 — the U.S. west was experiencing one of the worst droughts in its history with California in the grips of a six year long extreme drought period. In other words, it would take both widespread and intense drought conditions to begin to compare to the 2014 drought situation either in extent or intensity.

With California receiving so much rain last winter (2016-2017) it is also notable how rapidly drought conditions have returned. California exited a drought emergency just a little more than a year ago. Now, a similar situation is again looming. Snow packs there are swiftly diminishing — and are presently just 27 percent of average for a normal February. Fire hazard never really went away following the record blazes of spring, summer, and fall of 2017. And concern over water reservoirs is again an issue on the minds of city and state emergency planners.

As is the case in climate change related impacts on Cape Town, South Africa’s own dwindling water supply half a world away, warming related concerns are a serious issue now for California and the U.S. West. And the fact that the most populous state in the U.S. may again be facing a similar crisis so soon after the 2012-2017 drought is a major piece of weather and climate news that everyone should be reporting. It’s part of a larger and ongoing climate crisis that a few flakes of snow or even a few severe cold snaps across the Northeast can’t really even hold a candle to. Especially when a jet stream riled by an Arctic forced to warm through human fossil fuel burning is the common thread running between both the eastern cold snaps and the western heat and drought.

Tesla Model 3 Leads Record Electrical Vehicle Sales in January 2018

For those concerned about human-caused climate change, electrical vehicles and the batteries that their engines derive stored energy from are a key innovation. These zero emissions platforms stand to potentially replace more than a billion internal combustion engines — each dumping about three tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere every year. Moreover, the powerful batteries in these cars can be used to store electricity generated by renewable sources. Making clean energy available 24/7 despite hours of darkness and lulls in the wind periodically sapping generation.

(In this National Renewable Energy Laboratory study, the most rapid carbon emissions reductions were achieved in scenarios where large-scale EV deployment was combined with wholesale replacement of coal, oil, and gas fired electricity generation with renewable sources like wind and solar.)

Recognizing the climate-saving potential of this clean tech, nations have pledged to rapidly transition vehicle fleets away from fossil fuel burning automobiles. Leaders of this revolutionary move include China, India, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Britain.

The U.S. is also presently a leader in EV innovation — primarily due to efforts by California, a handful of states, and locally based clean energy giants like Tesla. However, U.S. leadership in this crucial new industry is presently threatened by the Trump Administration which is seeking to remove incentives for EV adoption while also undermining the ability of states like California to set clean car goals.

(With numerous countries, states and cities planning to ban fossil fuel based vehicles, the Trump Administration’s proposed policies to disincentivize EVs would put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage. Image source: Commons.)

Such moves could rightly be called myopic as the global electrical vehicle market last year grew to 1.2 million and will likely hit near 2 million in 2018. So EV incentives in states like California aren’t just good for the environment, they’re good for U.S. competitiveness even as they benefit the larger economy. By the early 2020s, if Trump succeeds in undercutting the U.S. clean car market, around 5 million EVs will be sold per year even as U.S. automakers will be faced with the prospect of dwindling fossil fuel vehicle sales. A combination that may, once again, threaten bankruptcy for a key U.S. industry.

That said, despite ominous moves by Trump, the U.S. EV market presently continues to grow apace.

Tesla Model 3 Leads U.S. EV Sales

During January of 2018, approximately 12,000 EVs were sold. This beats out January of 2017 by about 1,000 cars to hit a new record for the U.S. market. And topping January’s sales is Tesla’s flagship Model 3. In all, about 1,875 of these clean cars were sold on the U.S. market last month according to Inside EVs. That’s about 80 percent growth from December sales and probably represents a total production of between 2,000 and 2,500 cars for the month.

(With 500,000 reservations, the all-electric, zero emissions Tesla Model 3 is probably the most desired car produced by an American automaker within the last 40 years. Can Tesla satisfactorily meet this demand by swiftly scaling production of high-quality versions? If it does, it will rapidly rocket to the top of the automotive world. Image source: Tesla.)

Model 3 is thus still steadily moving up the S curve according to this recent Inside EVs report. It is not, however, yet anywhere near target production volumes of 5,000 to 10,000 vehicles per week (which it now plans to meet by June). Nor is it in a position to hope to fulfill an unprecedented 500,000 pre-orders before 2019. Tesla thus still appears to be facing some production bottlenecks. But they appear to be steadily clearing even as the Model 3 line continues to ramp up. And at this point, it is notable that the Model 3 is now the best-selling EV in the U.S. We are likely to see continued progress with around 2,400 to 4,000 Model 3s sold during February. Ensuring that the Model 3 remains a top contender for the #1 EV sales spot for the foreseeable future.

2018 Nissan Leaf Enters U.S. Market with Potential to Surprise

Other top clean car sellers during January included Chevy with its Bolt (1,177) and Volt (713) offerings, Toyota’s Prius Prime (1,496), Honda’s Clarity (853), and Tesla’s Model X (700) and S (800).

(The 2018 Nissan Leaf ain’t as sexy as the Tesla Model 3. But it’s no slacker either — having already racked up numerous awards and tens of thousands of sales around the globe, this EV is now starting to enter the U.S. market. With a 150 mile range, a 30,000 dollar price point, and a jump in horsepower, this car has the potential to surprise during 2018. Image source: Commons.)

Nissan also released its new longer range Leaf in January.  But low initial rates of production resulted in only 150 sold. This vehicle will be one to watch as Nissan has a track record for both producing and selling Leafs in high volumes. The Leaf has good reviews and a considerably expanded range, horsepower and other capabilities. It also comes in at a price about 5,000 dollars lower than the higher performance luxury Model 3. So it’s not surprising that the car has already racked up 14,000 pre-orders in the U.S.

Overall EV sales in the U.S. near 200,000 represented about 3 percent of the 2017 market. During 2018, we should expect the U.S. EV market share to grow to between 280,000 and 400,000. This growth will primarily be dependent on new higher performance, lower cost Model 3, Leaf, and Bolt sales. But detrimental policy moves by Trump or his Republican allies in Congress may negatively and unexpectedly impact this key emerging market.

FEB 5 UPDATE: Tesla Model 3 Sales Projections For January Now Range Between 1875 and 3,000

In lieu of actual numbers coming out of Tesla itself, two firms have lately been producing reliable numbers based on analysis of factory output, VIN numbers, and employee statements — Inside EVs and Clean Technica.

This weekend, Clean Technica put out its own estimate in which total numbers of Model 3s, Model Ss, and Model Xs sold were considerably higher than Inside EVs estimates at 3,000, 2,300, and 2,200 respectively. If Clean Technica’s numbers are correct, then the Model 3 is much further up the S curve than we thought earlier. In addition, the larger Model S and X estimates would be enough, if they bear out, to push total U.S. EV sales to over 16,000 for January.

Clean Technica’s perspective is one of more rapid growth. But either estimate shows both growth and progress. And they probably provide a decent bracket between the more conservative and aggressive estimate ranges. We’ll see who ends up revising their numbers over the coming days and weeks. But overall, this is cautious good news for EV and clean energy enthusiasts.

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