ThinkProgress:

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has emerged as one of Congress’ most devastating questioners of the myriad climate science deniers who fill President Donald Trump’s cabinet.

And it’s largely because the comedian turned Senator combines two abilities rarely seen together — actual knowledge of climate science and genuine communications chops. Franken knows how to tell a good story, and as the best science communicators will tell you, the best messaging requires storytelling.

Just last week Franken dismantled Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in one hearing, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry in another. And by dismantled, I mean his doggedness drove Zinke to spout nonsense answers that a top climatologist called “stupid and ignorant,” while it drove Perry to simply lose his cool — a take-down that has since gone viral.

For most people, the words “climate change” conjure an image of melting glaciers, or the lonely polar bear on an ice flow. Due to lazy, inconsistent, and scarce reporting from the media, it’s easy for most folks to believe that climate change is a problem for another place, another time.

I recently completed a summary video for the 5 year “Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost” update of the Arctic Council – and the primary message I heard from scientists over two years of interviews, was that, although the Arctic is indeed changing more rapidly than just about anywhere on earth – what happens there does not stay there.

Now a teachable moment in my own neighborhood. In the past week here in central Michigan, we’ve experienced a “500 year” rain event, that looks an awful lot like the last “500 year” event, which happened only 30 years ago. And that’s with in increasing number of ever-more-severe smaller events in between.

Large precipitation events are one of the most basic, first-order-physics predictions of climate science, and some of the earliest and best measured changes that we see.

precip_heavy

Top of page, I took the opportunity to practice up with the small drone I’m taking to Greenland next month, to document the flooding we’ve seen in the last few days.
Much thanks to those who pitched in and helped us purchase this equipment – I promise to put it to good use.

Popular Science:

According to a recent Yale survey, 7 in 10 Americans believe global warming is real and ­happening. And 6 in 10 believe it is affecting U.S. weather. But only 1 in 3 say they’ve personally felt its effects. That disconnect stuck with Heidi Cullen. “You’re never going to think of it as an issue that’s urgent unless you recognize the fact that you’re already being impacted,” says Cullen, chief scientist for the nonprofit Climate Central. Now in its ninth year, Climate Central is part research hub and part journalism outfit—an unusual hybrid that tries to connect climate change to people’s lives.

The organization’s latest project, World Weather ­Attribution, identifies direct links between extreme weather events and global warming. Cullen and her team created the program after realizing that while the tools for attributing such events have evolved, the results were coming out too late to influence the conversation. ­Cullen also worried that media covering extreme weather operated off outdated information: They would say you couldn’t tie any specific event to climate change. “Now the techniques exist,” Cullen says. So she set out to provide objective answers, swiftly. Researchers from Climate Central and other institutions around the world combine information from climate models, on-the-ground observations, and a range of peer-reviewed research to supply evidence for their reports. Recently, her team determined that global warming made 2017’s exceptionally warm February in the U.S. at least three times more likely.

If you have not seen,  and you need yet another reminder about rapid polar change, the Arctic video is below. Read the rest of this entry »

Nuscale_Modular_Reactor_XL_410_282_c1

One of the crunch points in utility generation right now, is that wind energy, and increasingly, solar energy, have become so cheap, that in the scheme of energy markets, they become the first choice for powering the massive grid system operators that distribute electricity in various regions of the US.
This is a problem for nuclear generators, in that, to be economic, or even safe, they need to run full-out, all the time.
But the variable power from wind and sun can easily flood the grid with more energy than is needed, and the resulting jam-up is a problem.  Natural gas turbines are a better fit for “load following” generation, with quick start-up and shut-down, they can be quickly ramped to fill in the gaps when wind turbines or solar farms change their output.
Now a new company has developed a nuclear design based on small modules, that can be switched on or off, to more efficiently follow the demand.

It is, so far, a paper design, that could not be deployed before 2026. No word here on possible impacts for proliferation, and waste management.
Also, there is the Trump effect. The new administration is so focused on backtracking into the fossil fueled past, that even the nuclear designs like this that “conservatives” say they favor, are not being supported.

GreenTechMedia:

As the wind gusts across the rural plains of Idaho rise and fall, a new type of nuclear plant could react in kind, generating more and less power in tandem with the wind farm.

That’s the vision laid out in a new paper from nuclear startup NuScale Power using computer models for a planned nuclear farm built near the Horse Butte Wind Project in Idaho.

The company, founded a decade ago, recently looked at how its modular nuclear reactors could follow clean energy, lowering and raising electricity output, if needed.

The surge of wind and solar in grids around the country is creating more variability in generation. As a result, power companies are starting to look at how traditional baseload energy sources like coal and nuclear can be more flexible, and lower their energy generation to avoid wasting power or overloading the grid.

In Germany, France, and Canada, some nuclear plants are already doing this, but it’s more out of necessity than design. Because NuScale’s reactors are much smaller than traditional nuclear reactors, the design can enable a power company to switch off individual modules, enabling load following (adjusting power output) in a more efficient way.

“We concluded that yes, we can load follow and we should be able to do it better and more responsibly than large nuclear plants,” said Daniel Ingersoll, NuScale Power’s director of research collaborations and lead author on the paper.

“Baseload plants are being forced into situations where they need to load-follow, and that’s not really operating those plants in their best form,” Ingersoll explained.

The findings are important because they provide a new way for nuclear energy to adapt and be more flexible as the grid mix changes. Some U.S. nuclear plants are getting shut down early, removing large sources of carbon-free baseload energy from the grid, and a handful of new nuclear plants are in danger of not getting built. It’s now cheaper to build natural gas and renewables in most states. Read the rest of this entry »

As goes Turkey, so goes Texas?
Placating the Taliban faction, Turkish authorities pull back from teaching science.

More proof that science is to dictators like sunshine is to vampires.

Great civilizations don’t have to stay great. Incredibly, there is a process in which humans back away from knowledge, toward ignorance, hatred, and superstition.

I used to marvel that, in places like Pol Pot’s Cambodia, teachers, scientists, scholars, the educated class, were specifically targeted for prison and death. That’s not an isolated example.
I don’t wonder about it so much any more – we can see the same dynamic at play all around us.  In the 90s, Newt Gingrich’s Republican congress zeroed out the Office of Technology Assessment. Too many inconvenient facts.
Now Republicans are gutting science in government agencies, going after the Center for Disease Control, degrading science education all over the country, attacking teachers and schools.

Islam’s retreat from science has lessons for the West, if it’s not already too late.

Guardian:

Evolution will no longer be taught in Turkish schools, a senior education official has said, in a move likely to raise the ire of the country’s secular opposition.

Alpaslan Durmuş, who chairs the board of education, said evolution was debatable, controversial and too complicated for students.

“We believe that these subjects are beyond their [students] comprehension,” said Durmuş in a video published on the education ministry’s website.

Durmuş said a chapter on evolution was being removed from ninth grade biology course books, and the subject postponed to the undergraduate period. Another change to the curriculum may reduce the amount of time that students spend studying the legacy of secularism.

Critics of the government believe public life is being increasingly stripped of the secular traditions instilled by the nation’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The secular opposition has long argued that the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is pursuing a covert Islamist agenda contrary to the republic’s founding values. Education is a particularly contentious avenue, because of its potential in shaping future generations. Small-scale protests by parents in local schools have opposed the way religion is taught.

There is little acceptance of evolution as a concept among mainstream Muslim clerics in the Middle East, who believe it contradicts the story of creation in scripture, in which God breathed life into the first man, Adam, after shaping him from clay. Still, evolution is briefly taught in many high school biology courses in the region.

The final changes to the curriculum are likely to be announced next week after the Muslim Eid or Bayram festival at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The draft changes had been put forth for public consultation at the beginning of the year.

Nature:

State and local legislatures in the United States are experimenting with new ways to target the topics taught in science classes, and it seems to be paying dividends. Florida’s legislature approved a bill on 5 May that would enable residents to challenge what educators teach students. And two other states have already approved non-binding legislation this year urging teachers to embrace ‘academic freedom’ and present the full spectrum of views on evolution and climate change. This would give educators license to treat evolution and intelligent design as equally valid theories, or to present climate change as scientifically contentious. Read the rest of this entry »

I’d go to this church for the music, and the food..

You’ll want to review this when Trump finally does shoot someone on 5th Avenue, and  Fox & Friends give a glowing recap.