Hours, Days, or Weeks

June 29, 2017

Hours, days, or Weeks. That’s the timeline for the next big ice shelf collapse on the Antarctic peninsula, which has been widely predicted after a large and rapidly growing crack was discovered in the area. I spoke to Glaciologist Eric Rignot about it in December.

Meanwhile, I’ll be on standby to report if/when this drops.

USAToday:

One of the world’s biggest icebergs ever recorded is “hours, days, or weeks” away from breaking off an Antarctic ice shelf, scientists announced Wednesday.

“In another sign that the iceberg calving is imminent, the soon-to-be-iceberg part of Larsen C Ice Shelf has tripled in speed to more than 10 meters per day between June 24th and June 27th,” said Adrian Luckman of Project MIDAS, a British Antarctic research project that’s keeping watch on the ever-growing crack.

“The iceberg remains attached to the ice shelf, but its outer end is moving at the highest speed ever recorded on this ice shelf. We still can’t tell when calving will occur — it could be hours, days or weeks,” he added.

Once the iceberg breaks off, it “will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula,” he said.

After the berg breaks off, Larsen C will be less stable than it was prior to the rift, and the ice shelf could eventually follow the dramatic example of its neighbor Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002 following a similar rift-induced calving event.

After that break, the number of glaciers behind it accelerated and are still flowing faster than before.

Project MIDAS said there is no evidence to link the growth of this rift, and the eventual calving, to climate change.

However, it is widely accepted that warming ocean and atmospheric temperatures have been a factor in earlier disintegrations of ice shelves elsewhere on the Antarctic Peninsula, most notably Larsen A in 1995 and Larsen B in 2002.

Project Midas:

In another sign that the iceberg calving is imminent, the soon-to-be-iceberg part of Larsen C Ice Shelf has tripled in speed to more than ten meters per day between 24th and 27th June 2017. The iceberg remains attached to the ice shelf, but its outer end is moving at the highest speed ever recorded on this ice shelf. We still can’t tell when calving will occur – it could be hours, days or weeks – but this is a notable departure from previous observations.

Read the rest of this entry »

National security is one more reason for distributed, renewable energy.
And probably one more reason why the Trump administration is so against it.

Trump/Putin goal for US? The next Ukraine.

Wired:

Two days before Christmas in 2015, engineers at the Prykkarpatyaoblenergo regional energy company in Western Ukraine found themselves locked out of their PCs. More troubling still, their mouse cursors moved of their own accord. The workers watched as hackers methodically clicked on circuit breakers in their grid operation software, each time opening the breakers and cutting power to another swath of the region.

In the process of reporting our cover story on those blackouts— and the larger cyberwar affecting Ukraine—WIRED obtained a video that one of those engineers shot with his iPhone, recording a “phantom mouse” attack as it happened. The PC shown in the video was a test unit, not actually connected to Prykkarpatyaoblenergo’s grid equipment. But hackers used the same attack on every other networked computer connected to the company’s live electric-control systems, spurring six-hours of blackouts that extended to the Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk.

In WIRED’s investigation of that breach and another blackout that occurred in Ukraine a year later, we’ve tracked the evolution of those hackers: How they’ve graduated to using a digital weapon known as CrashOverride that can trigger Stuxnet-style automated attacks on infrastructure, and how those attacks may just be tests for future operations—perhaps against the United States. Read the full story here.

Cities to Save Climate?

June 27, 2017

solarpanels2

Can they?

AP – NOLA.com:

With the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, national policy on climate change will emerge from U.S. cities working to reduce emissions and become more resilient to rising sea levels, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieusaid at the annual U.S. Conferences of Mayors meeting in Miami Beach.

The conference supported the Paris agreement, and according to preliminary results released Saturday morning from an ongoing nationwide survey, the vast majority of U.S. mayors want to work together and with the private sector to respond to climate change.

“There’s near unanimity in this conference that climate change is real and that humans contribute to it. There may be a little bit of a disagreement about how actually to deal with it,” said Landrieu, who will replace Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett as conference president this weekend.

“If the federal government refuses to act or is just paralyzed, the cities themselves, through their mayors, are going to create a new national policy by the accumulation of our individual efforts,” he said.

A May survey of local sustainability efforts, conducted by the conference and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, initially only included 80 mayors who hold leadership positions within the conference. It was extended to all conference members and the mayors of about 1,400 cities with populations of 30,000 or more after President Donald Trump pulled the country out of the Paris agreement.

Don’t declare victory yet.

Greentechmedia:

The truth is that cities have done little to contribute to recent declines in carbon pollution. Renewable portfolio standards have spurred tons of new renewable generation, but states adopt those, not cities. Transportation-related CO2 is down in many cities, but that’s largely the result of improved national fuel-efficiency standards. And urban areas did nothing to create cheap natural gas, which, by displacing coal, has been the leading driver of reduced emissions.

A central issue is that cities seldom have jurisdictional authority over energy infrastructure. There are few municipally owned utilities — and most regulators are chosen at the state level. Even with respect to the critical issue of building codes, mandates are frequently determined by counties, states, and the International Code Council.

It turns out that when cities claim reductions in greenhouse gases, they’re usually taking credit for things they didn’t do.

Read the rest of this entry »

Much prefer to stay on the safe side of the camera, but completed this interview for RealNews Network a few weeks ago.

Deeply honored to follow and comment on sea level update by Eric Rignot, one of the pre-eminent glaciologists I have interviewed several times.

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 »