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Wisconsin Hit Hard by Heavy Rain — More On the Way

Flood emergencies have been declared as parts of western and southern Wisconsin have been hit hard by rainfall totals ranging between 5 and 15 inches over the past week. The above analysis provides both weather and climate contexts for this event.

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Aiming For 1.5 C Part II: This is Your Home

In achieving any kind of real progress toward an important end, it’s necessary to set goals that are difficult to attain. To aim further than you think you can go. And that’s even more important for a climate crisis that will produce catastrophic outcomes if we don’t set some very serious renewable energy, emissions reduction, and sustainability goals.

(This is your home.)

Because the important end that we are now trying to attain involves saving the future. Future prosperity, future vitality, future generations of human beings and living creatures. In the end it’s about the future of your home. For each 0.1 C of additional warming will bring with it more risk. More potential for increased harm.

It doesn’t matter if you live in Miami or Bangladesh. In Norfolk or Washington DC. In London or LA. In Calgary or Quebec. Where you live is where climate change is happening now. And where you live is where the future catastrophic impacts from climate change will be felt if we don’t do the necessary work.

In saying this, I can also say with confidence that we have a pathway out of this crisis. We have the renewable energy technology available now that is capable of replacing fossil fuel burning — so long as it is deployed on a mass scale. We have the ability to make our energy systems more efficient. We have the ability to change the way we manage lands and farms. And we can do all this — getting to net zero carbon emissions — without the kind of (post-Maria Puerto Rico-like) austerity invoking collapse of the global economy that the mongers of fear, uncertainty and doubt falsely say is necessary.

But to do this, to prevent catastrophe — not harm, because we are already going to see harm — we have to set our goals high. We have to try to achieve what might not be possible. And that’s why we aim for 1.5 C. Because this is your home. And we will employ every tool in our kit in our fight to save it.

Hat tip to Dr. Michael E Mann

Trump’s Hot Air vs Australia’s Solar Revolution

What’s the difference between bad (Trumpian) energy policy and good (clean energy based) energy policy? For Los Angeles and San Diego which both experienced an extreme, climate change driven, heatwave over the past week, about 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

In other words, fossil fuel burning under Trump policies would be of much greater magnitude and extend for far longer into the future. This would pump more heat trapping carbon into the atmosphere and ratchet global temperatures much higher.

According to a recent science-based article from Joe Romm at Think Progress, what it means is that the 110 to 120 degree (F) heatwaves of today, under Trumpian policy, will turn into the 131 degree heatwaves of tomorrow.

(Trump’s heatwaves vs Australia’s solar surge.)

In other words, it’s not a question of whether climate change will worsen. It will, at least for a while. It’s a question of how bad things will get. And from Obama to Trump we have a clear example and contrast between various helpful policies like increasing CAFE standards, the Sun Shot Initiative, the Clean Power Plan, and the Paris Climate Summit to various attempts to force people to buy coal, allowing the most toxic high emissions trucks on the road, putting up vast swaths of public lands for drilling, all while denying the scientifically proven existence of climate change and doing everything possible to roll back and withdraw from past positive policies.

One of these governments is clearly not like the other. And while we, as environmentalists and clean energy advocates could criticize individual climate policies for not going far enough, we must certainly concede that they were, on net, significantly helpful.

To this point, I’d like to call your attention to a recent spot-on statement by Dr Michael E. Mann:

And we are coming to realize how much more F’d we will be if we let those like Trump win out.

In the end, so much of the future of humankind is decided by international, national, state, and city government policy. If policies support a transition away from fossil fuel burning and toward a renewable energy based economy, then fossil fuel burning will halt more rapidly and warming will be reduced.

If, on the other hand, governments (like the one under Trump) fight to extend fossil fuel burning indefinitely into the future, to deny access to clean energy and to prevent the advance of efficiencies and energy savings, then warming will proceed very rapidly along what is known as a business as usual pathway. A pathway that is better described as the fast lane to increasingly hot and hellish conditions on Earth.

One future is probably survivable by human civilizations. The other future is very painful and difficult, calling prosperity and even habitability for large regions of the Earth’s surface into serious question.

(U.S. Heatwaves under some climate response [RCP 4.5] vs Trump policies leading to no climate response [RCP 8.5]. Image source: Think Progress and The National Climate Assessment.)

That other future is the one that pro fossil fuel governments like the Trump Administration are fighting for by trying to delay or deny access to renewable energy all while attempting to extend the burning of fossil fuels indefinitely.

So we are at a crossroads in more ways than one. But we should hold a measure of cautious optimism due to the fact that the economics of renewable energy are increasingly superior to those of ailing fossil fuels. And, in some cases, these economic conditions have been enough to overwhelm the negative, pro-fossil fuel policy stances of certain federal governments presently holding sway.

Take Australia, for example, which since 2013 has been headed by pro fossil fuel parties led by Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. These governments, holding thin majorities have done whatever they could to water down clean energy policies, reduce emissions cuts and support fossil fuels. During recent sessions, they have repeatedly attempted to send taxpayer money to coal facilities so that they will continue to operate (sound familiar, Rick Perry?).

But despite these efforts, solar energy is surging throughout Australia. Recent reports indicate that solar adoption rates will grow threefold in 2018 over the previous record year 2017. In total, Australia is on track to add about 4 gigawatts (GW) of solar to its present 7 GW total capacity.

(Major increase in clean solar adoption in Australia has primarily been driven by falling solar prices even as various Australian states continue to push hard for adoption despite the federal government’s fossil-fuel backing. Image source: Green Energy News and WA Today.)

What’s driving all this new solar? Well, for one many regions in Australia still incentivize solar. Meanwhile, some federal policies supporting solar still remain in place. But the one factor that has changed dramatically is that the cost of solar energy now out-competes practically every other major source in Australia. Panel prices are presently around 50 cents per watt down under and are falling to 40 cents per watt. This means that many customers can now recoup their investment in 3-5 years time. And with electricity prices running high, this is a really big incentive.

Solar possesses what is called a positive learning curve. What this means is that the more solar panels produced, the lower the future cost of solar panels. Both wind and batteries benefit from the same economies of scale. But if politicians like Trump increasingly use subsidies to prop up fossil fuels while fighting to kill off clean energy, then that horrible business as usual future that Joe Romm mentioned above is a very distinct possibility.

Or as Michael Mann put it — how F’d up do you want to see things get. From where I’m sitting, they’re already messed up enough.

Hat tip to Kassy

“Never Before Experienced” Rains Hammer Japan During Early July

“We’ve never experienced this kind of rain before. This is a situation of extreme danger.” — The Japan Meteorological Agency

*****

During recent days as much as 25 inches of rain has fallen over parts of Japan shattering previous all time precipitation records for parts of the island nation. The resulting floods have spurred a major emergency response by 54,000 personnel, taken the lives of more than 125 people, and forced more than 2.8 million to evacuate.

(Rising global surface temperatures increase atmospheric water vapor levels — providing liquid fuel that spikes the most powerful rainfall events to even greater extremes.)

On July 3, Typhoon Prapiroon swept over southwestern Japan bringing with it a spate of heavy rains. Over the following days, Prapiroon got caught up in stationary front even as a high pressure system to the east continued to circulate tropical moisture into the region. Beneath that eastern high, sea surface temperatures ranged between 2 and 3.5 degrees Celsius above normal. Meanwhile, warmer than normal ocean surfaces dominated a region east of the Philippines. These large, abnormally warm zones produced excess evaporation which helped to feed even more moisture into the region.

The result was a historic and devastating rain event for Japan. Isolated locations received more than 39 inches (1000 mm) of rain over a three day period. With one hour rainfall exceeding 3 inches in a number of locations. Motoyami received one day rains of 23 inches. With Mount Ontake seeing more than 25 inches over three days.

(Warmer than normal ocean surfaces, as shown in yellow and red in this sea surface temperature anomaly map, helped to fuel Japan’s recent extreme rainfall event. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Rising global temperatures increase overall atmospheric moisture loading by approximately 8 percent for each degree Celsius of global temperature increase. Water vapor provides fuel for storms both through enhancing convection and by engorging clouds with moisture. Recent scientific studies have found that climate change can greatly enhance the peak intensity of the most severe storms in this way. And the U.S. National Climate Assessment has identified a historical trend of increasing instances of heavy precipitation.

US EV Sales Likely Hit 26,000 in June

The big surge in electrical vehicle sales within the U.S., primarily driven by clean energy leader Tesla, continues.

According to reports from Inside EVs, total U.S. EV sales are likely to hit near 26,000 for the month of June. Such sales increases have primarily been driven by Tesla — which sold over 11,000 EVs in the U.S. for the month — representing nearly half (42 percent) of the entire U.S. market.

(Unpacking why EVs are so important to confronting climate change.)

Tesla’s dominance was spear headed by its Model 3 — which sold over 6,000 in June to the U.S. (and approximately 2,000 to Canada). Meanwhile, combined Model S and Model X sales were in excess of 5,000 in the U.S.

Other U.S. clean energy vehicle leaders for the month of June included Toyota Prius Prime (a plug in hybrid electrical vehicle), the Nissan Leaf, The Chevy Bolt and the Chevy Volt (plug in hybrid). In total, all of these four models combined represented less sales than Tesla — approximately  5,900 in total or about 55 percent of Tesla’s sales. Of these, only the Prius Prime cracked the 2,000 mark (see more here).

(U.S. EV sales are rapidly increasing in 2018. Image source: Inside EVs.)

Overall, it appears that U.S. EV sales are likely to hit near 400,000 on the back of Tesla’s rapid expansion in production rates. In addition, GM has recently acknowledged that it is unable to meet high demand for the Bolt in the U.S. and has stated that production lines are set to expand by 20 percent. Though this is unlikely to satiate rising EV demand, it will add to the widening trend of ramping clean energy sales here.

GM recently saw big Bolt sales gains in South Korea. And the company recently acknowledged that it is not doing enough to meet consumer’s clean energy needs in North America. Though a bump from 26,000 to approximately 31,000 Bolts sold from 2017 to 2018 is a drop in the bucked compared to the approx 100,000 or more new EVs Tesla will be adding by itself vs 2017 (100,000 total EVs in 2017 to approx 200,000 total in 2018).

(Tesla hits past 5,000 Model 3’s per week in late June and early July. Image source: Bloomberg.)

Looking ahead, Tesla appears set to sell well in excess of 10,000 Model 3s alone in the U.S. in July as weekly production rates surge. According to Bloomberg’s Model 3 Tracker (image above), the company has sky-rocketed weekly Model 3 production rates to above 5,000 during late June and early July. And while some wag is likely between the mid 2,000s to mid 5,000s as Tesla continues to work on its lines, the company is on a clear path for increased production — aiming at another surge to 6,000 per week by August.

Three Hundred Foot Tall ‘Fire Tsunami’ Burns Through Colorado

A massive 100,000 acre blaze has hurled off 300 foot high walls of fire that local authorities are describing as a ‘fire tsunami.’

The Spring Creek Fire, now the third largest in the Colorado state record, has forced more than 2,000 people to evacuate, destroyed or damaged 200 homes, and drawn the emergency response of 1,000 firefighters.

(Explosive Spring Creek Fire reaches 300 feet in height — forcing hundreds to flee.)

According to public information officer Ben Brack, firefighters were dealing with:

“unprecedented fire behavior. Because the fire has been moving so fast we don’t know exactly how big it has become. It was a perfect firestorm. This is a national disaster at this time. You can imagine standing in front of a tsunami or tornado and trying to stop it from destroying homes. A human response is ineffective.”

Thankfully, and due in large part to heroic efforts by firefighters and emergency responders to evacuate those in the fire’s path, no reports of loss of life have yet been received. Overnight rainfall on the 5th to 6th of July has also given firefighters an opportunity to respond. And now this enormous blaze is 35 percent contained. However, the explosive, lumbering fire is still a serious threat to the region.

Spring Creek Fire burn scar

(NASA satellite image of the Spring Creek Fire burn scar.)

Across the west, fully 60 large fires are now burning across the U.S. from Alaska to the Southeast. But the most intense fires are occurring in the west. These fires are sparking as record heat and severe drought conditions strike the west. And, presently, over 2,900,000 acres have burned on U.S. soil.

Heat is a primary enabler of wildfires. And with temperatures rising due to human-caused climate change, the western wildfire season has grown from 5 months in the 1970s to more than 7 months today. In some locations, like Southern California, the fire season is now year-round. In addition, the size of fires out west is increasing. So long as human fossil fuel burning and related carbon emissions continue, the western fire situation will worsen. With burn areas projected to increase by as much as 650 percent for some regions.

UPDATED

Temp Records Shattered Across Northern Hemisphere; 33 Lives Lost to Heat in Quebec

Over the past week, 21 all-time temperature records were shattered across the Northern Hemisphere. These records coincide with an extreme heatwave blanketing large parts of Europe, North America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. A heatwave that has resulted in the tragic loss of 33 lives in Quebec.

(Global heatwave in context.)

According to news reports, major temperature records in this broad ranging swath of heat included a 105 F (40.5 C) reading in Denver, a scorching 122.4 F (50.2 C) temperature in Pakistan, a ridiculous 97.9 F (36.6 C) reading in Montreal, and a 91.8 F (33.2 C) reading in Motherwell Scotland of all places (see graphic here).

In Quebec, safety officials were inundated with 1,200 calls per day due to heat stress and heat injury. Emergency crews were at the ready with 3,400 house visits conducted each day. Despite the high state of readiness, 33 people so far are reported to have lost their lives — primarily middle aged to elderly males. High heat, high humidity, and lack of residential cooling all contributed to heat injuries and loss of life over this typically much cooler region.

In context, a total of 23 all time record high maximum and record high minimum temperatures have been produced as a result of the present heatwave during the past 7 days. This compares to zero all time record low maximum and zero record low minimum temperatures over the same time period. Daily and monthly record highs and record high minimum temperatures are outpacing record low temperatures on a global basis at a rate of 4-12 to 1.

Global warming due to fossil fuel burning has put us in a 115,000 year heatwave on a whole Earth system based context. So we can continue to expect record high temperatures to be breached at higher rates.

(Very high incidence of all time record hot temperatures over the past 7 days. Image source: NOAA.)

According to GFS model forecasts, extreme heat is expected to continue to impact of number of Northern Hemisphere regions over the coming days. Though the North American East may see a respite from the heat over the 1-5 day horizon, high temperatures are expected to continue to hammer western and central zones. Northeast Siberia is predicted to see extreme heat early on, which is then expected to shift west into Eastern Siberia and Scandinavia. Meanwhile, the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Central Asia are predicted to continue to experience much hotter than normal summer temperatures.

 

 

Tesla Achieves Model 3 Production Goals

Tesla achieved a major surge in clean energy vehicle production during the second quarter of 2018.

According to reports from Tesla, the all renewable energy corporation produced a whopping 53,339 electrical vehicles during Q2. Of these, 24,751 were Model S and X. Meanwhile, Tesla produced an amazing 28,578 Model 3s.

Overall, this is almost double the 25,708 EVs produced during Q2 of 2017. A very impressive jump that included Tesla exceeding 5,000 Model 3s produced during the final week of June with a total weekly EV production rate of nearly 7,000 (see below).

(Tesla hits clean energy vehicle production milestones during Q2 of 2018.)

These are huge numbers for Tesla — showing that the company is achieving its goal of mass produced clean energy automobiles. A feat that is even now setting off shock-waves through the global auto market (and a major smear and fear campaign at the hands of pro-fossil fuel Tesla shorts).

Tesla appears to be well on its way to hitting around 200,000 EVs produced by the end of 2018 — with 88,000 coming out of Tesla’s factories in the first half of the year. If present trends hold, it appears that Tesla will hit between 60,000 and 75,000 EVs during Q3, with still more on the way during Q4.

(Tesla crushes Q2 production during big Model 3 surge. Image source: Inside EVs.)

Such high rates of production from Tesla’s multiple vehicle lines are now likely to enable Tesla to begin leveraging economies of scale to increase cash influx. Setting up Tesla’s planned profitability during the second half of the year. Meanwhile, Tesla revenues continue to rapidly grow. All good news.

I’ve said it before here, but I’ll say it again. Tesla’s success is critical to the clean energy revolution. It is the only major all-clean energy automaker in the West. One that is leveraging a combination of 100 percent renewable energy technologies — solar, batteries, and EVs — to rapidly and competitively move into markets traditionally dominated by fossil fuel based industries. And it is this kind of direct replacement of fossil fuels with renewables that will enable rapid global carbon emissions reduction and movement away from a future blighted by catastrophic climate change.

(Tesla team celebrates its achievement of 5,000 Model 3s produced within one week. Image source: Tesla.)

 

Full Tesla press release follows:

PALO ALTO, Calif., July 02, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — In the last seven days of Q2, Tesla produced 5,031 Model 3 and 1,913 Model S and X vehicles.

Q2 production totaled 53,339 vehicles, a 55% increase from Q1, making it the most productive quarter in Tesla history by far. For the first time, Model 3 production (28,578) exceeded combined Model S and X production (24,761), and we produced almost three times the amount of Model 3s than we did in Q1. Our Model 3 weekly production rate also more than doubled during the quarter, and we did so without compromising quality.

GA4, our new General Assembly line for Model 3, was responsible for roughly 20% of Model 3s produced last week, with quality from that line being as good as our regular GA3 line. We expect that GA3 alone can reach a production rate of 5,000 Model 3s per week soon, but GA4 helped to get us there faster and will also help to exceed that rate.

Tesla expects to increase production to 6,000 Model 3s per week by late next month. We also reaffirm our guidance for positive GAAP net income and cash flow in Q3 and Q4, despite negative pressures from a weaker USD and likely higher tariffs for vehicles imported into China as well as components procured from China.

Q2 deliveries totaled 40,740 vehicles, of which 18,440 were Model 3, 10,930 were Model S, and 11,370 were Model X. Model S and X deliveries are in line with our guidance provided on May 3. As we previously noted, we are in the process of changing the quarterly production pattern of those vehicles for the various worldwide regions to ensure a more linear flow of deliveries through the quarter. Both orders and deliveries for Model S and X were higher in Q2 than a year ago. Our overall target for 100,000 Model S and Model X deliveries in 2018 is unchanged.

11,166 Model 3 vehicles and 3,892 Model S and X vehicles were in transit to customers at the end of Q2, and will be delivered in early Q3. The high number of customer vehicles in transit for Model 3 was primarily due to a significant increase in production towards the end of the quarter.

The remaining net Model 3 reservations count at the end of Q2 still stood at roughly 420,000 even though we have now delivered 28,386 Model 3 vehicles to date. When we start to provide customers an opportunity to see and test drive the car at their local store, we expect that our orders will grow faster than our production rate. Model 3 Dual Motor All Wheel Drive and Model 3 Dual Motor All Wheel Drive Performance cars will also be available in our stores shortly.

The last 12 months were some of the most difficult in Tesla’s history, and we are incredibly proud of the whole Tesla team for achieving the 5,000 unit Model 3 production rate. It was not easy, but it was definitely worth it.

**********************

Our delivery count should be viewed as slightly conservative, as we only count a car as delivered if it is transferred to the customer and all paperwork is correct. Final numbers could vary by up to 0.5%. Tesla vehicle deliveries represent only one measure of the company’s financial performance and should not be relied on as an indicator of quarterly financial results, which depend on a variety of factors, including the cost of sales, foreign exchange movements and mix of directly leased vehicles.

Forward-Looking Statements
Certain statements herein, including statements regarding future production and delivery of Model S, Model X and Model 3, expected cash flow and net income results, and growth in demand for our vehicles, are “forward-looking statements” that are subject to risks and uncertainties. These forward-looking statements are based on management’s current expectations. Various important factors could cause actual results to differ materially, including the risks identified in our SEC filings. Tesla disclaims any obligation to update this information.

 

 

Western Heat Predicted to Move East

The extreme heat that is helping to fan severe western wildfires from California to Alaska is predicted to move eastward over the coming days. This shift is expected to set off high temperatures in the 90s and 100s from the Gulf Coast all the way to the Great Lakes and into the Northeast. Heat Index values, meanwhile, are predicted to spike into the 100s and 110s from the Mississippi Valley north and eastward.

(Much warmer than normal temperatures spread from west to east across the U.S.)

These much warmer than normal temperatures and potentially dangerous heat index values occur in a context of larger national and global warming. May of 2018 was the hottest on record according to NOAA. The U.S. presently sits between two warmer to much warmer than normal ocean zones. And overall global temperatures have been rising since the 1900s, with a more rapid up-ramp occurring since the late 1990s.

For the Central and Eastern U.S., warmer than normal oceans are also spiking atmospheric moisture levels through increased rates of evaporation. These higher moisture levels will be contributing to predicted heat indexes where large regions are expected to experience temperatures that feel like the 100s or 110s (see image below).

(Heat index values are predicted to rise to between 40 and 45 C for large parts of the Central and Eastern U.S. The 44 C predicted heat index for parts of Western New York on July 1 corresponds to a 111 F ‘feels like’ condition for this Northeastern region. Such high heat index values present a heightened risk of heat injury due to long term exposure. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Combined high heat and humidity increase the risk of heat injury due to exposure. And rising heat indexes and wet bulb temperatures are just one of the many potentially harmful aspects of human caused climate change.

From Inverse:

In the future, parts of the world will become so hot and humid that healthy adults sitting in the shade will die within a matter of hours. It’s hard to imagine, and yet that’s where Earth’s climate is headed, perhaps sooner than expected.

But while many recent studies have rightly focused on physical human limits under high wet bulb temperature risks for parts of South Asia and the Middle East, the Central to Eastern U.S. is also a region of concern. Climate risks to this region of the U.S. are due to both high predicted temperatures and high moisture levels from increasingly warm Gulf and Atlantic Ocean surfaces. The result is that heat capable of resulting in rapid heat injury or even loss of life, with wet bulb temperatures above 35 C, is possible by mid-to-late Century under high fossil fuel burning scenarios.

(At 10 C global warming, large regions of the world are regularly predicted to experience temperatures above 35 C Wet Bulb readings — or a level at which the human body is not naturally capable of cooling itself. Of course, such dangerous Wet Bulb readings are possible under still lower levels of global warming. Note that the Central to Eastern U.S. is one of the indicated hot spots from this recent paper.)

Though the Eastern U.S. is not yet facing extreme wet bulb readings of this kind, temperatures and humidity levels are presently on the rise. So the predicted heat wave is still expected to pack a punch. And perhaps a bit more than we’re used to.

We’re looking at a predicted extended period of significant above normal temperatures and high humidity over the coming days. So the public should stay tuned to local media for heat advisories issued by the National Weather Service (see heat safety tips here) and do what they can to keep cool by drinking water frequently and by spending less time exposed to blazing temperatures and sweltering humidity.

Pawnee Fire Forces Another State of Emergency for Northern California

Human-forced climate change is driving severe events that local communities are having difficulty recovering from. The primary reason is that the tempo of these events is so high that it allows little time for recovery.

(Another series of intense wildfires, another state of emergency for California.)

This weekend, a large complex of fires erupted in the Lake County region of Northern California. By today, the fires had expanded to cover over 10,500 acres. The rapidly expanding fire has already destroyed more than 22 buildings while forcing 3,000 to flee. Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown had declared a state of emergency.

Hot and dry conditions fanned the blazes on Tuesday, increasing concerns that the fires would continue to rapidly spread. Temperatures in Fresno are expected to hit 100 degrees (F) today with readings in Redding likely to hit near the century mark. Meanwhile, a large zone from Death Valley to Vegas to Phoenix is predicted to see temperatures hit 108 to 114 (F) or above.

(Very hot conditions across California are presently elevating fire risk. Already, large blazes have burned numerous buildings and forced hundreds to flee. Image source: National Weather Service.)

These hot, windy conditions will continue to elevate fire hazards across the west — which is bad news for communities beleaguered by the ongoing spate.

During recent years, big swings between heavy precipitation events and hot, dry conditions have fueled larger, more intense wildfires across the U.S. West and particularly in Northern California. Human caused climate change drives these events by adding moisture to the atmosphere which favors heavier storms and by forcing temperatures higher. The result is that vegetation grows and blooms more rapidly during the wetter than normal periods and dries out faster during the hotter than normal periods — generating more dry fuel for wildfires.

 

 

 

How Arctic Sea Ice Loss Could Make the Hot Pacific Blob Permanent 

From the North Pacific to the tropics, loss of sea ice will result in a vastly heated Pacific Ocean in which events like the recent Hot Blob become far more common. Those were the conclusions of a new model study conducted by Wang, Deser, Sun and Tomas and recently published in Geophysical Research Letters.

(Understanding how sea ice loss in the Arctic can result in large-scale Pacific warming.)

An ocean heating event called the Blob resulted in mass loss of sea life during the period of 2013-2014. It was associated with a towering high pressure ridge in which the upper level winds ran far to the north and into the Arctic. Beneath the ridge, temperatures both at the land and ocean surface grew to be much warmer than normal.

Though viewed as a fluke by some, many began to draw connections between the powerful ridge feature, the related Pacific warming, and sea ice loss in the Arctic. Now, a new scientific study using climate models has produced some rather telling findings. First, the study found that Arctic sea ice loss results in large scale Pacific Ocean warming within just 10-20 years of widespread Arctic Ocean ice reductions. Second, the study models indicated that warming occurred first and strongest in the North Pacific, but then rapidly translated toward the Equator.

(Sea surface temperatures across the North Pacific were much warmer than normal during the hot Blob event of 2013-2014. A new model study finds that sea ice loss will make such extreme events common.)

The reason for this change in planetary and Pacific Ocean energy balance is scientifically described as a teleconnection. In very basic terms, loss of sea ice at the Arctic Ocean surface produces changes in local wind patterns that ripple through the global atmosphere. After a rather short period of time, wind patterns in the upper levels of the atmosphere and at the surface in the Pacific Ocean become involved.

Winds are often the vehicle by which energy is transferred throughout the atmosphere and at the surface. So a change in winds, from the top of the atmosphere to the bottom, can swiftly translate to a change in surface temperatures.

(A new model study shows radical changes in Pacific sea surface temperatures in response to Arctic Ocean sea ice loss.)

Looking at the study, it appears more likely now that the Northern Pacific Hot Blob of 2013-2014 was not a fluke, but instead an early knock-on effect of Arctic sea ice loss. A kind of event that will tend to become commonplace as the Arctic Ocean ice continues to melt. And that eventually, sooner rather than later, the heat build-up in the North Pacific will translate south to the Equator. First warming the Eastern Pacific in a more persistent El Nino type pattern and then spreading west (see image above).

As with the Blob, everything from the health of sea life to the intensity of extreme weather would be substantially impacted by such large scale changes. In other words, it looks like large scale losses of Arctic sea ice are enough to affect a broad and disruptive change in the global climate regime.

Southeast Texas Hammered by 15+ Inches of Rain

It doesn’t take a hurricane or tropical storm to dump massive amounts of rain on southeast Texas these days. Just a wave of tropical moisture from an ocean warmed by human-caused climate change.

(Not a hurricane, but southeast Texas may see 20 inches or more of rain this week.)

Over the past few days, a massive surge of moisture has flowed off the warmer than normal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This moisture has interacted with a trough dipping down over the Central U.S. to produce prodigious amounts of rainfall. And ever since late Sunday powerful thunderstorms have been firing across the Texas coast.

As of this morning, according to reports from The National Weather Service, between 5 and 15 inches of rainfall had inundated a vast swath stretching from the Texas-Mexico border northward to a Houston area still recovering from Hurricane Harvey’s historic floods. These heavy rains, producing amounts typically seen from a substantial tropical cyclone, have generated major flooding and flash flood warnings across the region. As the waters rise, residents have become justifiably concerned about personal safety and damage to property.

NOAA forecasts indicate that storms expected to continue firing through Thursday, with between 2 and 7 inches of additional rainfall possible. It is worth noting that atmospheric moisture levels over the region are very high. So predicted rainfall totals may be exceeded.

(As of 7 AM, more than 15 inches of rain had fallen over parts of southeast Texas in association with a persistent upper level low and related severe thunderstorms. Heavy rains have continued to fall throughout the day and aren’t expected to abate until at least Thursday. Image source: The National Weather Service.)

During recent years, increased global temperatures have generated more extreme rainfall events for places like southeastern Texas. Warmer ocean surfaces — like those in the heating Gulf of Mexico — evaporate more moisture into the atmosphere. And this moisture generates more fuel for storms — greatly increasing the peak rainfall potential of the most intense storms.

Last year, southeast Texas faced inundation from a number of severe events. A sequence that was capped off by the record-shattering Hurricane Harvey — which tied Katrina as the costliest U.S. storm on record and dumped more than 60 inches of rainfall over parts of the state. Though the present storm event is not likely to reach Harvey levels of extremity, it is a stark reminder that we have entered a new climate and extreme weather regime. One that will continue to worsen so long as we keep burning fossil fuels and forcing global temperatures to rise.

NASA: May Was 4th Hottest on Record

According to reports from NASA GISS, May of 2018 was the 4th hottest in the 138 year global temperature record. This new warmth came as the Equatorial Pacific began to retreat from a cooling La Nina state — which, all things being equal, would have resulted in somewhat cooler than average global temperatures.

(Analysis of global temperature trends based on recent NASA and NOAA reports.)

But all things are not equal. Greenhouse gasses in the range of 410 ppm CO2 and 493 ppm CO2e have created a historically unprecedented heat forcing within the Earth’s atmosphere. As a result, recent global temperatures have consistently exceeded 1 C above 1880s levels and have hit as high as 1.5 C above 1880s levels on a monthly basis and 1.2 C above those levels on an annual basis.

For this May, temperatures were about 0.82 C above NASA’s 20th Century baseline or about 1.04 C above 1880s levels. This was the fourth hottest May in the global climate record despite La Nina influences continuing to maintain hold over the global climate system.

(NASA global anomalies map shows distribution of warmer than normal [yellow to red] and cooler than normal [blue to purple] temperatures across the globe. Note that warmer than normal conditions dominated.)

Overall, the greatest above average temperatures were experienced in the regions of Scandinavia and Antarctica — from an anomaly perspective. Meanwhile, significant trough zones generated counter-trend cool temperatures near Eastern Canada, over the North Atlantic south of Greenland, and across Central Siberia. As we moved into June, some of these zones have shifted or moderated, with cooler air tending to shift closer to eastern Europe in Asia and toward the North Atlantic cool water zone (due to melting Greenland ice) from Eastern Canada.

Looking ahead, NOAA is forecasting a 65 percent chance for a return to El Nino conditions in the Equatorial Pacific by winter of 2018-2019. With atmospheric CO2 hitting near 410 ppm and overall greenhouse gas levels hitting near 493 ppm CO2e, this switch to the warm side of natural variability will again bring with it the risk of record hot global temperatures, should the NOAA forecast bear out. Though we should be clear that El Nino is merely a short term aspect of natural variability that is riding over the long term warming trend generated by human produced greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning.

 

When Fear of Migrants Translates to Putting Children in Cages

The United States has long provided a haven for those seeking safety and asylum. The Statue of Liberty reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me…”

(Why opening our hearts to migrants is so crucial for our future. If YouTube is showing a server error, you can follow the link here.)

We have, for two centuries, served as a much-needed charitable example to other nations. Through great famines and wars we have kept our doors and borders open. But ever since Trump’s election, he has done everything in his power to stomp out our nation’s beacon of liberty, to wall America off from those seeking aid in a troubled world.

In the present day, the hopeful light of liberty is needed far more than ever. Across our globe, the storms and droughts of climate change are worsening. Such natural disasters now result in more people losing access to shelter and livelihoods than conflict and war. With glaciers melting as temperatures increase, an additional 140 million to 2 billion people could be displaced by rising seas through 2100.

2 billion people is fully one in every five human beings expected to be living by 2100. What this means is that the threat of displacement from climate change related factors is not at all remote. It is not something down the road, or across the street, or even sitting on our porch. It is in our house. It is very likely to affect both you and me.

(Climate change worsened storms, droughts and other disasters now result in more people being displaced each year than conflict and violence. However, rising ocean levels are now also likely to displace hundreds of millions of people through the 21st Century. Image source: Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.)

In facing this problem we can react in a number of ways running the gamut from harmful to helpful. Some, like those republicans supporting a Trump Administration now holding children in cages at the border, will try to exploit growing fears of poverty or deeper-seated racism by scape-goating immigrants in an effort to enforce harmful political agendas (border wall, travel ban etc). Others will react with denial, turning their faces from a difficult reality and hiding behind an illusion of safety. But the benevolent will seek to respond with charity, to stand by our values, to provide aid and safe passage for migrants.

It is this final choice that will be essential if global civilization is to maintain a peaceful, benevolent stability through the climate-spurred difficulties of the coming decades. For we will all have to face them. Doing it with compassion is a far better, just, and far more resilient way.

Arctic Sea Ice at 4th Lowest Extent on Record

Warmer than normal conditions, abnormal wide areas of open water, large wildfires burning near Arctic Ocean shores, and Arctic sea ice extents at 4th lowest on record. That’s the present reality of a human-warmed Arctic environment.

(An assessment of present Arctic conditions)

With Arctic temperatures hovering around 1.6 degrees Celsius above average and focusing on a rather hot zone near Central Siberia, Arctic sea ice on the Siberian side is experiencing widespread melt ponding. In addition, a large area of open water is expanding through the Laptev Sea due to warm southerly winds and much warmer than normal temperatures.

Overall, temperatures in this Central Siberian zone will range as high as 25 degrees Celsius (45 F) above average today. With some areas hitting has high as 85-90 (F). Near these much warmer than normal temperatures, a series of large wildfires are burning. Fires so far north are historically rare. But they have become more common as the Earth has warmed due to fossil fuel burning.

(Arctic temperatures are well above average for this time of year. These much warmer than normal temperatures are contributing to a number of impacts, including lower than normal sea ice extent.)

Present sea ice decline rates now put Arctic Ocean ice extent at 4th lowest on record. And the present trajectory for Arctic sea ice appears to be aiming toward approximately 4 million square kilometers come melt season end. However, with human-forced warming now resulting in ever-increasing global temperatures, downside risks remain. Particularly with so much heat moving about in the Arctic.

Accelerating Sea Level Rise is Being Driven by Rapidly Increasing Melt From Greenland and Antarctica

From 1993 to the present day, global sea level rise has accelerated by 50 percent. And the primary cause, according to recent research, is that land glaciers such as the massive ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are melting far faster than they have in the past.

(Assessment of factors involved in the presently increasing rate of global sea level rise.)

Antarctica, in particular, is melting much more rapidly — with melt rates tripling in just the last ten years.

The primary factors contributing to global sea level rise include thermally expanding oceans and the melting of ice on land. During the decade of 1993 to 2004, the World Meteorological Organization notes that oceans rose by 2.7 mm per year. During this time, land ice sheets amounted to 47 percent of that rise — or about 1.35 mm. The same report found that from 2004 to 2015, oceans rose by around 3.5 mm per year and that land ice contribution had risen to 55 percent (1.93 mm per year). Looking at sea level measurements from AVISO, we find that from March of 2008 to March of 2018, the average rate of sea level rise accelerated further to 4.3 mm per year.

The net takeaway is that the rate of global ocean rise has increased by more than 50 percent since the early 1990s and that this acceleration has been driven by increasing melt from large land glaciers like those in Greenland and Antarctica.

(Sea level rise contributors as reported by the World Meteorological Organization in its 2017 report on the state of the global climate.)

Over the coming years and decades, this rate of rise is likely to continue to accelerate — surpassing 5 mm per year sometime rather soon, and likely exceeding the 1 cm per year mark by the 2040s through the 2060s. Melt rates will likely increase substantially as we approach the 1.5 C and 2.0 C warming marks. However, the net heat pressure from fossil fuel emitted greenhouse gasses will also drive sea level rise rates. As a result, it is imperative that we work to cut fossil fuel emissions more rapidly and that we pursue a swift as possible transition to clean energy.

Will Tesla Shorts Be Milked For Billions in Clean Energy Investment Money?

Tesla short sellers have been on a rampage ever since the start of Model 3 production back in July. And to support their position, they’ve penned thousands of Tesla attack articles on blog sites like Seeking Alpha. As a result of this negative media campaign, short interest in Tesla has risen to 12 billion during recent months.

(Tesla shorts are starting to feel the squeeze. But it could get a lot worse real fast if Tesla keeps achieving goals.)

But if shorts get hit with a margin call when Tesla stocks are rising, they’ll end up losing money to the all-clean-energy automaker. If Tesla succeeds, it could ultimately mean that shorts are milked for billions of dollars that will in turn go to building more gigafactories, more electrical vehicles, more solar panels, more batteries.

It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Back in 2012 when Tesla was ramping up production of the Model S, shorts had a field day. They said that Tesla should have never left behind the Roadster, that Telsa would never produce more than 20,000 Model S’s, that EVs were unprofitable and a failed business model. But as Tesla achieved profitability during 2013, it was the shorts that met with failure. And so as Tesla stock rapidly climbed, short positions were called and Tesla got a big infusion of investment capital.

Short interest remained strong for Tesla during 2013 through 2016. Though it took a bit of a back seat for the Model X ramp. But by 2017 the shorts were back in force. They claimed that the Model 3 ramp would fail, that Tesla would go bankrupt by May, that Tesla’s cash burn was insurmountable, that the Model 3 was unprofitable. Tall anti-clean-energy tales that we’ve all heard versions of before.

(Tesla shorts feeling the squeeze. Image source: Tesla Market Summary.)

And recently as Tesla Model 3 production has raged forward — and is likely to hit near 30,000 during Q2 — the shorts have begun to show a bit of strain. During the past few weeks, Tesla stock has risen from around 280 to around 340. And shorts have lost more than 2 billion dollars in value during the same period. Though just 3 percent of short shares have returned during that time, shorts are starting to feel a bit of a squeeze.

But this small squeeze is likely just a prelude to what will happen when Tesla Model 3 production ramps above 5,000 per week and if Tesla manages to achieve profitability in Q3 and Q4. If Tesla meets those two goals then it will end up milking shorts for billions of clean energy investment dollars. And if/when that happens we can thank the shorts for their unwitting clean energy investment dollars and for helping to fight human-caused climate change.

Stronger, Slower Hurricanes Spell Big Trouble in a Warming World

Recent research by Stephan Rahmstorf and others shows that hurricanes are growing stronger due to human-caused climate change. Unfortunately, this is not the only destruction-enhancing impact. Due to changes in atmospheric circulation, the forward speed of hurricanes is also slowing down. Which makes their destructive effects last longer over a given region.

(Stronger, slower hurricanes means longer-lasting destructive impacts.)

According to new research published by Nature and written by James Kossin, the forward speed of hurricanes in the tropics is slowing down. This slow-down is driven by a weakening of tropical atmospheric circulation. Such weakening has been identified by climate studies for decades and is associated with a warming climate.

As the Earth warms, the Hadley Cell expands and slows, the poles warm faster than the lower latitudes generating more blocking patterns in the middle latitudes, and the Walker Cell also slows down. The net effect is that steering currents for hurricanes are weaker, which reduces their forward speed.

(Observed reduction in hurricane forward motion since 1950. Image source: A global slow-down in tropical cyclone translation speed.)

Reduced forward speed means that hurricane impacts such as strong winds and heavy rain persist for longer periods over a given area. Such longer persistence produces more damage and higher rainfall totals.

Since storms are already increasing in intensity due to warming ocean surfaces, rainfall rates and wind speeds are on the rise. However, these much more powerful storms are becoming brutally slow. The net effect is a pretty terrible combination for cities and regions facing the climate change enhanced storms of today and tomorrow.

(Not a fluke event. The catastrophic flooding produced by Hurricane Harvey is much more likely to occur in a warming world as storms intensify and persist for longer periods over a given region. Image source: The National Weather Service.)

With the world having already warmed by about 1.1 C above 1880s averages, and with the oceans continuing to gain a tremendous amount of heat, we have already seen substantial changes to hurricane severity. However, if fossil fuel burning continues, that severity — both in terms of storm strength and persistence, is likely to continue to increase along with their related catastrophic effects.

Mapping Climate Change Impacts to the World Ocean

The world ocean supports 2.5 trillion dollars in economic activity annually and generates food for more than 1 billion people. Stable coastlines provide homes and livelihoods to hundreds of millions even as coastal ecosystems are among the most vibrant and productive on Planet Earth. But ocean health and all that relies on it is under serious threat from human-caused climate change.

(Resource Watch provides a graphical survey of various climate-ocean indicators)

A new series of maps produced by Resource Watch gives an analysis of present and future ocean health. And if fossil fuel burning continues, the prognosis isn’t good (follow this link and/or watch the above video to see more).

Present impacts to ocean ecology are already measurable in key regions such as the North Atlantic. There, ocean health is in decline from climate-change-related algae blooms, fishery losses, and expanding oxygen-deprived regions. Near the North Atlantic, the Baltic Sea hosts a large oxygen-poor dead zone and its deeper waters seep with hydrogen sulfide gas. Ocean life in the region has taken a serious blow with diverse species from puffins to lobsters to fish all feeling the heat.

(Coral bleaching predicted for the Pacific and Indian Oceans by 2050. Regions in bright yellow are expected to experience bleaching once every year under present fossil fuel burning scenarios. Image source: Resource Watch.)

With warming just at about 1 C above 1880s values, climate change related impacts to oceans are mild compared to what they will be if human civilization keeps burning fossil fuels. More severe impacts come with rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels creating a grim future for corals in rather short order.

By 2030, according to WRI data, equatorial corals are expected to face bleaching every other year under present fossil fuel burning scenarios. By 2050, many equatorial and near equatorial regions will see bleaching every year. At that time, it is possible that 80-90 percent or more of present corals will have been lost.

(Hampton Roads faces large-scale inundation with 2 meters of sea level rise. Image source: Resource Watch.)

A third major impact to the global ocean system comes from melting glaciers and thermal expansion in the form of sea level rise. With both Greenland and Antarctica experiencing increasing melt rates, it’s possible that oceans could rise by 2 meters or more by mid-to-late Century. And higher levels of fossil fuel burning lead to faster rates of ocean rise.

The above map is an example of which areas are likely to face inundation across the Hampton Roads region (take a look at this link to view the interactive map) under 2 meters of sea level rise.

In total, human caused climate change impacts the oceans through four major mechanims: warming temperature, loss of ocean oxygen, acidification, and sea level rise. The maps by Resource Watch provide a broad summary of such key impacts. However, there are still quite a few avenues by which climate monitoring for the world ocean can be improved and expanded.

Climate Change Indicated in Forced Migration of 1.7 Million from Mekong Delta

Global sea level rise caused by fossil fuel burning is an issue that is creating worsening impacts to cities, nations, and civilization itself. And according to recent reports out of Vietnam, 1.7 million people have migrated from the low-lying Mekong Delta region over the past decade. Primary causes included climate change and poverty.

(Sea level rise now threatens all low-lying regions with increased flooding, loss of crops, and, in some cases, forced migration. Recent reports indicate that hundreds of thousands have already left the Mekong delta as a result.)

Rising oceans have forced Vietnam to erect a system of dykes of up to 4 meters in height in an increasingly complex system of coastal defense barriers. These barriers have saved lands from inundation as the ocean off the low-lying Mekong Delta continues to rise year-after-year. However, the dykes have not prevented salt water from moving further and further up the Mekong River. And during recent years, this salt water has inundated soils used for rice production.

Such salt water inundation has wiped out crops for many farmers. For example, in the Soc Trang region, the farmers of Thang Dong saw their crops completely wiped out during 2013 as salt water seeped into the soil and killed off food-producing plants. In low-lying near coastal regions, the story has been much the same for Mekong farmers. And with less reliable crops come increasing poverty.

(Salt water increases in soils as seas rise. The Mekong Delta is just one of many low-lying regions under threat by human caused climate change and its related sea level rise. Image source: Vietnam Times.)

When crop production is no longer tenable due to climate change impacts, many farming families have been forced to move on. A majority cite poverty as the root cause. But 14.5 percent are more aware — noting that climate change was what ultimately forced them to leave.

The Delta regions of the world are among the most agriculturally productive on Earth. But, as with Mekong, all such regions face ocean flooding and salt water invasion. As a result, a key aspect of global food production is under threat. A factor that has recently weighed in high average global food prices and an increase in the number of under-nourished people by 38 million last year.

 

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