Thursday, August 05, 2010

Weather or Not

How hot is it, still? Weather Underground forecast map for Aug. 5 high temps.
Update: Because of continuing extreme heat in Russia that is destroying wheat crops, Russian President Medvedev said: "What is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, for we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past."

"The year 2010 is now tied with 2007 as the year with the most national extreme heat records--fifteen," Jeff Masters wrote the other day in his Weather Underground column. But then..."Seventy four extreme hottest temperature records have been set in the past ten years (33% of all countries.) For comparison, 14 countries set extreme coldest temperature records over the past ten years (6% of all countries.")

The New York Times reviews two new books on the Climate Crisis: one dealing with the politics of it in Washington, the other on what people can expect in the near future because of it. No surprises on future weather to devoted readers of this site, but perhaps Heidi Cullen's writing (as well as her highly presentable self) will get a wider hearing.

Meanwhile two interesting pieces of research, even considering the likely biases of the organizations issuing them:

First, an Australian study finding that real forests soak up more CO2 than do timber plantations, and for the same reasons that these forests are generally healthier and better for the overall environment: they are more complex and full of varied life than monoculture tree farms.

Second, a North Carolina study that shows that solar power can produce electricity cheaper than nuclear power. Though government incentives are in the mix, it is chiefly attributed to a marked decline in the costs of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems seen over the past decade. At the very least this challenges the growing assumption that only more nuclear power plants can scale up enough carbon-neutral energy generation to make a difference. Personally, I believe that even wind power technologies could turn out to be transitional. If some sort of civilization makes it through the next century, its future is in a combination of large scale (perhaps space based) and very small scale solar power technologies.

Updates on solar at Climate Progress: A major California solar power project has won state approval, and " Researchers from Stanford University in the US claim to have found a new solar energy conversion process that could be twice as efficient as current methods. The process, called photon enhanced thermionic emission or PETE, improves the conversion of solar energy to electricity by harvesting the waste heat generated by the process."

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