Above, from KCRA Sacramento.

Science:

The drenching storms that hit California in recent weeks represented a long-sought opportunity for Helen Dahlke, a groundwater hydrologist at the University of California, Davis. Dahlke has been studying ways to recharge the state’s severely depleted groundwater by diverting swollen rivers into orchards and fields and letting the water seep deep into aquifers. But carrying out such plans requires heavy precipitation—which had been scarce.

This week, however, water managers began to turn theory into practice. In the Tulare Irrigation District, which supplies water to more than 200 farms south of Fresno, officials started diverting water from the San Joaquin River into 70 fields as well as specially constructed ponds. Each day, some 1.5 million cubic meters of water—roughly equivalent to 600 Olympic-size swimming pools—has been pouring onto the landscape. “We are in full [groundwater] recharge mode,” Aaron Fukuda, the district’s general manager, wrote in an email. Similar flooding is underway in the Madera Irrigation District north of Fresno.

Over the past decade, Dahlke’s experiments with submerging small plots have suggested intentional flooding can replenish aquifers without damaging either groundwater quality or crops. But she says bureaucratic hurdles and organizational inertia have blocked widespread use of the practice—despite state laws and policies designed to encourage it.

“My frustration is growing!” Dahlke says. “This always looks so easy when you write these scientific papers, and give presentations, but to really implement [flooding] on a widespread scale is very hard.” She and others hope this winter’s floods will encourage more of the state’s water managers to embrace the practice.

California’s farmers and others often extract far more water from aquifers than normally seeps in from the surface. The idea of using working farms to slow or reverse the trend was born in 2010, when independent hydrologist Philip Bachand and farmer Don Cameron flooded some of Cameron’s vineyards. The vines thrived, and the water replenished the aquifers beneath Cameron’s land.

Four years later, California adopted a landmark law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), that promotes the practice. It requires farmers to treat aquifers like bank accounts, clamping down on overdrafts but also allowing those who deposit water into them to make bigger withdrawals later.

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Electrek:

Wind and solar generated a record one-fifth (22%) of electricity in the European Union in 2022 – overtaking fossil gas (20%) for the first time, according to a new study published today.

Energy think tank Ember’s analysis, “European Electricity Review,” also reveals that coal power share increased by just 1.5 percentage points to generate 16% of EU electricity in 2022, with year-on-year falls in the last four months of 2022 as Europe prevented a threatened return to coal power in the wake of the 2022 energy crisis. 

Dave Jones, head of data insights at Ember, said:

Europe has avoided the worst of the energy crisis. 

The shocks of 2022 only caused a minor ripple in coal power and a huge wave of support for renewables. Any fears of a coal rebound are now dead.

Europe faced a triple crisis in the electricity sector in 2022, according to Ember. As Europe scrambled to cut ties with Russia, its largest fossil gas supplier, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it faced the lowest levels of hydro and nuclear in at least 20 years, and that created a deficit equal to 7% of Europe’s total electricity demand in 2022. 

But record wind and solar growth helped cushion the hydro and nuclear deficit. Solar rose the fastest, growing by a record 39 TWh (24%) in 2022 – almost twice its previous record – which helped to avoid €10 billion in gas costs. Twenty EU countries set new solar records in 2022.

Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe, said:

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Bloomberg:

Zelenskiy signed a decree imposing sanctions against Russia’s nuclear industry, including state company Rosatom, and said the penalties should bolster Ukraine’s calls for global curbs on the sector.

“Russia is the only country in the world that allows its military to shell nuclear power plants and use NPPs as a cover for shelling,” Zelenskiy said in his regular nightly address on Sunday. The sanctions that target 200 entities include assets freezes and restrictions on trade operations.

Separately, Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of Enerhodar, a city near the Russia-seized Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, said that abductions of plant workers who refuse to sign contracts with Rosatom have become more frequent recently.

Meteo Twitter buzzing for weeks about prospects for a sudden stratospheric warming event that could now be developing over the north pole region. These events are not rare, but do not happen every year, and they are often associated with extremes as the polar vortex can become weakened and lead to arctic outbursts.
These arctic intrusions have become more frequent in recent years, according to scientists I have interviewed (see bottom of page). Still somewhat unclear on the concept, but sharing here what I know.
Weather geeks weigh in.

UK Met Office:

What is a sudden stratospheric warming?

A sudden stratospheric warming refers to a rapid warming in the stratosphere between 10km to 50km above the Earth’s surface. In some years, the winds in the polar vortex can temporarily weaken or even reverse in direction – so instead of flowing west to east they flow east to west. Air descends into the vortex and warms rapidly as it is compressed.

In the most extreme sudden stratospheric warmings, the temperatures in the stratosphere can rise by up to 50 to 60 °C in just a few days – so the temperatures in the winter over the poles can go from around -50 °C to zero or maybe slightly above in a matter of days, even in the depths of winter when the Arctic is receiving no sunlight. Knock-on effects on the jet stream in the troposphere can follow a few weeks later and this can affect the weather we experience down on the ground.

Scientists can reliably predict individual sudden stratospheric warmings about 1-2 weeks in advance. This means there is time to see how they develop and how they may impact our weather in the future. A sudden stratospheric warming typically takes a few weeks to have maximum impact on our weather, but its influence can last for up to 2 months.

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Houston Chronicle:

Exxon Mobil: $55.7 billionShell: $42.3 billionChevron: $35.5 billionConocoPhillips: $18.7 billion. As expected, oil companies are reporting blockbuster profits for 2022.

But directing those profits in a way that shields consumers from chaotic price changes is unlikely, industry analysts said. Instead, consumers should brace for large fluctuations in energy prices for years to come.

“You’re going to get these wild swings over the next 15 years,” said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, chief energy officer at the University of Houston. “Find ways to protect yourself – don’t go buy an F-150 just because you see gas prices at $1 and then go buy a hybrid when it goes to $5.”

Already used to up and down cycles, the oil and gas industry has had a particularly volatile few years. As the industry was recovering from last decade’s shale bust it got hit by the pandemic downturn – two downturns that acounted for hundreds of bankruptcies and billions of dollars in losses. 

As fuel demand recovered coming out of the depths of the pandemic and oil prices rose, companies remained cautious about spending to ramp up production. Increased oil supply brings down prices – good news for consumers, but havoc for a company’s earnings – and investors, burned by overspending in previous years, have demanded disciplined spending and higher returns. 

“(Companies) are not necessarily investing massively into oil and gas future exploration and production,” Krishnamoorti said. “This very sharp volatility – rapid rises, rapid falls of price – is going to be dependent on the fact that this is an undercapitalized market at this point, and the risk associated with capitalization is very high.” 

Krishnamoorti said the companies that are spending on exploration and production are looking for short-term boosts in production such as adding on to existing projects, rather than making long-term capital investments. On top of that, some analysts say oil and gas companies are not investing enough to meaningfully pivot away from fossil fuels to cleaner forms of energy, which after initial development and building costs can be cheaper for consumers in the long run. 

5 year graph of US Natural gas prices below:

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Above, Our World in Data/Oxford University researcher Hannah Ritchie has a factually correct, but strategically flawed, response to newly re-instated-on-twitter climate denier and proud racist, Tony Heller.
Katharine Hayhoe has the corrective.

Even before the catastrophic and deranged take-over of Twitter by Elon Musk, we have been seeing a bit of a younger generation of climate denial grifters coming into their own, notably Alex Epstein, but also a growing franchise operation opposing clean energy development across the US and the world.
Amy Westervelt and others have noticed.

Amy Westervelt in Drilled:

Over the past month or so, thanks in large part to the work of reporter Michael Thomas, the Internet has rediscovered an effort that’s been underfoot for more than a decade: the coal-funded attack on clean energy. In a few viral Twitter threads, Thomas has focused on the work of two longtime anti-renewables campaigners, John Droz and Kevon Martis,who have spent the past 15 years or so fighting renewable energy projects at the local level (and convincing and training others to do the same). 

I first heard about Martis and Droz through Scott Peterson at Checks and Balances Project, back in 2018 when he was digging into the sudden, successful backlash against wind energy in Ohio and Michigan. They’re still going strong (Droz is now a member of the CO2 Coalition as well) and, according to Thomas, gaining steam. I suspect we’ll see a resurgence of anti-renewable activity as the fossil fuel industry looks to leverage the Inflation Reduction Act incentives for gas and dampen the benefit of the Act for renewables. So it’s a good time to look at where that work fits in the broader climate countermovement.

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KUT:

More than 40,000 Austin Energy customers were still without power Sunday morning. Six days after the storm, the city-owned utility had no estimate on when power would be completely restored.

The utility said trees weakened by the storm were impeding efforts. 

“While the weather continues to improve — which is very helpful — the trees are compromised,” Austin Energy General Manager Jackie Sargent said in a news conference with city officials Saturday. “They were stressed by the heavy loading of ice on them, so there is still the potential for tree branches to come down and for more debris to impede our outage restoration.”

The utility said it restored power to more than 34,000 customers overnight.

The city planned to hold a news conference Sunday at 3 p.m. KUT will air the news conference live on 90.5 FM and on this page. 

Pedernales Electric Cooperative said over 4,000 customers are still without power in Hays, Travis, Williamson, Blanco, Comal and Burnet counties; about half of those outages are in Hays.

More than 5,000 Oncor Electric customers are also still without power, affecting folks in Bastrop, Williamson, and Travis counties. About two-thirds of those outages are in Williamson.

Austin Resource Recovery is collecting trash, recycling and compost carts curbside. It said its regular curbside collection schedule will resume Monday, but Austinites can call 311 for curbside pickup of debris.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration Saturday for Travis, Hays and Williamson counties. State funding and resources will now be allocated to these Central Texas counties. Austin and Travis County issued disaster declarations Friday, while Hays and Williamson county issued them earlier in the week.

The Hill:

All of the nation’s coal-fired power plants but one are less cost-effective to operate than constructing new solar or wind facilities in the United States, according to a study published Monday by the firm Energy Innovation.

Analysts compared operating costs at the 210 coal plants in the continental U.S. in 2021 to the estimated costs of developing new solar and wind, both within about 28 miles of the plants and within the broader region.

They determined that 209 of the plants were costlier than either wind or solar would be. When adding energy community tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act, 199 of the plants were more expensive than solar plants within 28 miles would be, while 104 plants have cheaper wind-energy sources within 28 miles.

The single plant that is cost-competitive with wind and solar is Wyoming’s Dry Forks Station, which the analysis determined is one of the newest and cleanest in the U.S. coal fleet and is still only $0.32 per megawatt-hour cheaper than regional wind would be. If a similar plant were built now, capital costs would keep it from being competitive with renewable energy.

Overall, the median cost for coal-fired plants is $36 per megawatt-hour, compared to $24 per megawatt-hour for new solar.

Analysts also found that the savings from transitioning to locally produced solar energy could be used to add 137 gigawatts worth of batteries across all plants and at least 80 percent of the capacity at one in three existing coal plants. In other words, they wrote, “the economics of replacing coal with renewables are so favorable that they could fund a massive battery storage buildout to add reliability value along with emissions reductions.”

Coal is one of the biggest drivers of carbon emissions worldwide. In the U.S., its use has steeply declined since the 1960s, but at a year-to-year level, it increased 14.5 percent from the previous year in 2020, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. Over 90 percent of that coal was used for electricity generation.