Hurricanes are relatively rare events, in that you only get about 90 of them globally each year, and only a dozen or so of those will be in the Atlantic. Thus there has been some fuzziness about whether we have a long enough data set to talk about increasing strength of storms.
New study from Aslak Grinsted, who I’ve interviewed several times in Greenland, uses a novel approach. Yes, hurricanes are getting more destructive.

I had brought this topic up with Jim Kossin of NOAA (who was not involved in the current study) when I interviewed him a few months ago. I asked him if we had a long enough data set for a signal to rise above the tropical storm noise.
In a word, yes. See above.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Science:

We present an approach to normalize hurricane damage, where damage is framed in terms of an equivalent area of total destruction. This has some advantages over customary normalization schemes, and we demonstrate that our record has reduced variance and correlates marginally better with wind speeds and pressure. That is, it allows us to better address climatic trends. We find that hurricanes are indeed becoming more damaging. The frequency of the very most damaging hurricanes has increased at a rate of 330% per century.

A new study by researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Aslak Grinsted, Peter Ditlevsen and Jens Hesselbjerg shows that hurricanes have become more destructive since 1900, and the worst of them are more than three times as frequent now than 100 years ago. A new way of calculating the destruction, compensating for the societal change in wealth, unequivocally shows a climatic increase in the frequency of the most destructive hurricanes that routinely raise havoc on the North American southern and east coasts. The study is now published in PNAS.

In order to compare hurricanes and follow their development over time, the traditional way of calculating hurricane damage was to survey the subsequent cost of the damage done by each storm. In other words, what would a hurricane from the 1950s cost if it made landfall today? Using this method, a typical finding is that the majority of the rising tendency in damage can be attributed to the fact that there are more of people with greater wealth, and there is quite simply more costly infrastructure to suffer damage. But evidence of a climatic change in destructive force by hurricanes has been obscured by statistical uncertainty.

Aslak Grinsted has calculated the historical figures in a new way. Instead of comparing single hurricanes and the damage they would cause today, he and his colleagues have assessed how big an area could be viewed as an “area of total destruction,” meaning how large an area a storm would have to destroy completely in order to account for the financial loss. Simultaneously, this makes comparison between rural areas and more densely populated areas like cities easier, as the unit of calculation is now the same: the size of the “area of total destruction.”In previous studies, it proved difficult to isolate the climate signal. The climate signal should be understood as the effect climate change has on hurricane size, strength and destructive force. It was hidden behind variations due to the uneven concentration of wealth, and it was statistically uncertain whether there was any tendency in the destruction. But with the new method, this doubt has been cleared. The weather has, indeed, become more dangerous on the south and east coasts of the U.S. Furthermore, the result obtained by the research team is more congruent with the climate models used to predict and understand the development in extreme weather. It fits with the physics, quite simply, that global warming has the effect that there is an increase in the force released in the most extreme hurricanes.

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Climate-Gate at 10

November 11, 2019

10 Years ago, emails hacked from a climate research center, were selectively edited and released strategically to a credulous, ignorant and click-seeking media.

Sound familiar?  I think it was the opening shot in the global fossil oligarchy’s war on democracy.


The email that appeared on Phil Jones’s computer screen in November 2009 was succinct. “Just a quick note to encourage you to shoot yourself in the head,” it said. “Don’t waste any more time. Do it today. It is truly the greatest contribution to mankind that you will ever make.”

Nor was it very different from the other emails that were arriving in Jones’s inbox. Others described the climate scientist as the scum of the earth. Some authors promised to kill him themselves. Most of the messages were riddled with obscenities. All made troubling reading.

As to the cause of this outpouring of hatred, that was straightforward. Jones headed the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, from which a tranche of emails had just been hacked and made public. These, it was claimed, showed that he and fellow researchers were faking the evidence that suggested our planet was heating up dangerously.

The affair was dubbed Climategate by those who deny the existence of global warming and it remains one of modern society’s most troubling affairs. Many observers believe it helped delay measures that might have slowed climate change and given humanity more time to cut atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, its key cause.

Climategate marks its 10th anniversary this month – an opportune moment to reflect on just how serious was its impact on society, and to look at the effect it had on those who were trying to stop Earth from being ravaged by rising seas, spreading deserts, disappearing coral reefs and suffocating heat.

At the time, climate-change deniers were desperate to find ways to undermine the idea that global warming was real, and as Jones’s unit had provided key data that supported this notion – by showing how land temperatures on Earth had been rising sharply in recent decades – his work was considered fair game. So they responded gleefully by ransacking his hacked emails for signs he may have been fiddling results and asserted, in blogs, they had found telltale signs.

These claims were then picked up by media outlets hostile to global warming. “Scientist in climate cover-up told to quit” ran one headline. “Scientists broke law by hiding climate data”, claimed another.

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CBS News:

Climate change could punch a hole through the financial system by making 30-year home mortgages — the lifeblood of the American housing market — effectively unobtainable in entire regions across parts of the U.S.

That’s what the future could look like without policy to address climate change, according to the latest research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The bank is considering these and other risks on Friday in an unprecedented conference on the economics of climate change.

For the financial sector, adapting to climate change isn’t just an issue of improving their market share. “It is a function of where there will be a market at all,” wrote Jesse Keenan, a scholar who studies climate adaptation, in the Fed’s introduction.

The housing market doesn’t yet factor in the risk of climate change, which is already affecting many areas of the U.S., including flood-prone coastal communities, agricultural regions and parts of the country vulnerable to wildfires. In California, for instance, 50,000 homeowners can’t get property or casualty insurance because of the increased risk to their homes.

Yet for now, no mortgage lender, portfolio manager or buyer of mortgages takes into account climate-induced floods, except to determine if a house sits in a 100-year floodplain at the time the mortgage is issued, said Michael Berman, a former official with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and former chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Once lenders and housing investors do start pricing in such risks, “There may be a threat to the availability of the 30-year mortgage in various vulnerable and highly exposed areas,” Berman wrote in a recent San Francisco Fed report. He predicts lenders could “blue-line” entire regions where flood risks are high — a reference to redlining, the practice of refusing mortgages to minorities.

The result: Entire neighborhoods would empty out, leaving cities unable to shore up their crumbling roads and bridges just as severe weather events become more extreme and more frequent. Home values would fall, potentially depleting the budgets of counties and states.

For most people, being unable to get a mortgage in a given neighborhood would rule it out as a place to live. But population flight is a best-case scenario when it comes to the financial system.

If banks don’t recognize the danger of flood risk and keep lending only to have flooded homeowners default on their mortgages, the events could lead to a cascade of negative events akin to the housing collapse in 2008, which set off the worst recession in 70 years.

“Nobody denies that [climate change] is happening, that it’s real, that it is going to have a material effect. But by and large, there is such an inertia in our financial system that this isn’t even on the radar of people,” said Rachel Cleetus, policy director for the climate and energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “The market is short-sighted. You have a three- to five-year horizon.”


Some banks are cutting their own climate-change exposure by selling riskier disaster-area mortgages to taxpayer-supported entities.

That puts the health of the mortgage market at risk, a potential repeat of the financial conditions at the root of the banking crisis a decade ago, a research paper published in September argues.


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Like a number of other mainstream companies, Volvo wants to tap into Americans overwhelming desire to move beyond fossil fuels.

Some of my favorites:

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Who will pay for her therapy when she finds out?

PV Magazine:

Lazards has released their two levelized cost of hardware reports – 2019 Levelized Cost of Energy (pdf) and the 2019 Lazards Levelized Cost Storage (pdf) analysis. At a high level, both solar power and energy storage have shown continued price declines, but the numbers are of course much more complex.

Solar power’s utility scale price declines have slowed over time. The report suggests an unsubsidized utility scale solar power plant is going to generate electricity at a cost between 3.6 and 4.4¢/kWh. This price has fallen 89% over the past ten years, an average of 20% decline per year over the period. Over  5 years, that decline fell to 13%, and over the last year that price decline was 4-10%.

When adding in the 30% Investment Tax Credit for the US market, utility scale projects fall an additional 0.1-0.2¢/kWh.

Energy storage has also seen across the technology spectrum price delines, with lithium ion outpacing other sources of storage. However, the technology is still expensive with its use cases dictating when it can be used in a financially viable manner. The energy storage report’s financial modeling shows Levelized Project Internal Rates of Return (IRR) ranging from 35% for a standalone 100 MW / 100 MWh facility in the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) region, down to a 7.7% IRR for a 100 MW solar + 50 MW / 200 MWh storage sized facility in the Texas ERCOT region.


In the midst of otherwise depressing developments in the progress of climate change, one bit of good news shines through: The economics of renewable energy have been improving fast — especially those of onshore wind and utility-scale solar power. A new analysis of the levelized cost of energy from Lazard, the company I work for, shows that over the past year the cost of generating energy from wind projects fell by 4% and large solar projects by 7%.

The levelized cost of any particular energy technology is the break-even price that companies investing in that technology need in order to see a competitive rate of return. In the case of both utility-scale solar and onshore wind power, this rate has dropped to about $40 per megawatt hour — which is lower than the cost of building new power plants that burn natural gas or coal. It’s even close to being competitive with the marginal costs of running the coal and nuclear plants we already have.

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