Saturday, May 02, 2015

In Hot Water

Global heating on its own is causing significant damage and is predicted to do more.  But its greatest current role is as another destructive factor added to others.  Over time, for example, it contributes to the ongoing crash of species, last week predicted to add extinction for one-sixth of those existing now, if present greenhouse gases pollution continues at current growth rates.

But right now we're seeing it and feeling it in California as a strong contributing factor to our drought, and now to the record-breaking temperatures along our shores. Weather Underground's Dr. Jeff Masters: "Ocean temperatures off the coast of California were at record or near-record levels for this time of year on April 29, 2015. Ocean temperatures off the coast of Los Angeles and San Diego were more than 4°C (7.2°F) above average, an astonishingly high anomaly." (See illustration above.)

These temperatures result from an atmospheric trend now 3 years old and a decades-long natural oceanic pattern--and global heating.  It's global heating that has shoved these temperatures into the extreme range.

Hot Pacific waters off our shores does not bode at all well for fish and other marine species.  Farther from shore there's more going on, as something called the Madden Julian Oscillation broke its records for intensity, leading to 3 strong cyclones in the western Pacific in March.   Before that, in February other factors combined for other record-breaking effects that started this heating of our coastal waters and the death of sea life dependent on smaller creatures who thrive in cold water.  This included a sea lion die-off.

The hot Pacific waters are leading several forecast models to predict the likelihood of a strong El Nino emerging this summer.  That's more bad news for ocean life.  It's potentially good news for California as it increases the chances of a wet winter.  But factoring in global heating gives us two general principles: whatever happens is more likely to be unprecedented in some ways, and in some ways more extreme.  So it may be that the rains don't come ashore in the volume expected, or that they sit on one part of the state causing havoc.

To actually break the drought they would have to be close to three times normal winter rainfall, though where the precip goes and when makes that a suggestive if perhaps not totally relevant estimate.  On the other hand, if we do get two or three times the normal rain, that itself is likely to cause havoc with flooding, mudslides, erosion, and other effects we're even less prepared for.

While some experts are betting on this super El Nino, Dr. Masters is holding back for the moment.  It may be June before there's something like consensus.  But even then it's a matter of getting ready for the unknown.  Because global heating screws with everything.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Holy Grail of Sun Power

Elon Musk of Tesla, with headquarters on his native planet of Vulcan, has announced what every techie outfit craves and hires p.r. people to crow they've got: a potential "game-changer."

No, not the electric car.  Old news.  Not even Space-X.  The announcement today concerned the alternative energy holy grail: a battery capable of storing solar energy.  And he's got a fleet of them.

And Tesla isn't the only company going in this direction.  When energy storage via battery gets cheap, big and reliable enough, it becomes the missing link in clean energy, further enabling everybody--from individuals to individual households on up--to liberate themselves from dirty grids and fossil fuel billionaires--and even future clean energy megacompanies and billionaires.

The Best of What's Still Around

A third outstanding performance from a Sting birthday concert involves somebody I'd never heard sing before, though I'd certainly heard of her--her public image was, well, public and highly theatrical.  But Lady Gaga can sing--this is a great version of "King of Pain."  The band is really great too.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

President Obama Unleashed

President Obama names his choice as the worst President of his lifetime, gives his rhymes-with-bucket list,  responds to people who say he is arrogant ("Some people are really dumb") and says what he really thinks about climate crisis deniers.