Friday, May 25, 2018

Climate Change Is Putting Extra Pressure on New England's Forests

Add warming temperatures to the pile of problems.


Forests in the northeastern U.S. are lush and diverse. Towering oaks in southern Connecticut give way to majestic sugar maples in Maine.  D’Amato: “On a personal level, I certainly care a lot about the forest. It’s, from an aesthetic and spiritual perspective, something I gain a lot of strength and peace from.”  Tony D’Amato, director of the forestry program at the University of Vermont, says forests in the region provide beauty and support the economy. But they’re under pressure from many threats, such as deforestation for development, logging, non-native species, over-browsing by deer, and forest diseases.  D’Amato: “As you start to make a list of all the things that are threatening our forests, it’s hard not to get a little bit concerned.”  Climate change will only add more stress. For example, seeds from some trees need snow to germinate. But as the region gets warmer and wetter, there may be less snowpack. That also leaves young tree roots vulnerable to freezing.  D’Amato: “Climate change in its own right is quite daunting, but when you put it on top of everything else that’s affecting our forests, it’s really a challenging long-term dilemma that many managers and conservation groups have to deal with.”
Forests in the northeastern U.S. are lush and diverse.  Towering oaks in southern Connecticut give way to majestic sugar maples in Maine.
...
Tony D’Amato, director of the forestry program at the University of Vermont, says forests in the region provide beauty and support the economy.  But they’re under pressure from many threats, such as deforestation for development, logging, non-native species, over-browsing by deer, and forest diseases.

D’Amato:  “As you start to make a list of all the things that are threatening our forests, it’s hard not to get a little bit concerned.”

Climate change will only add more stress.  For example, seeds from some trees need snow to germinate.  But as the region gets warmer and wetter, there may be less snowpack.  That also leaves young tree roots vulnerable to freezing.

D’Amato:  “Climate change in its own right is quite daunting, but when you put it on top of everything else that’s affecting our forests, it’s really a challenging long-term dilemma that many managers and conservation groups have to deal with.”

Read original at Climate Change Is Putting Extra Pressure on New England's Forests

New Theory Finds 'Traffic Jams' in Jet Stream Cause Abnormal Weather Patterns

Study explains blocking phenomenon that has baffled forecasters.


A study published May 24 in Science offers an explanation for a mysterious and sometimes deadly weather pattern in which the jet stream, the global air currents that circle the Earth, stalls out over a region.  Much like highways, the jet stream has a capacity, researchers said, and when it's exceeded, blockages form that are remarkably similar to traffic jams -- and climate forecasters can use the same math to model them both.

The deadly 2003 European heat wave, California's 2014 drought, and the swing of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 that surprised forecasters -- all of these were caused by a weather phenomenon known as "blocking," in which the jet stream meanders, stopping weather systems from moving eastward.  Scientists have known about it for decades, almost as long as they've known about the jet stream -- first discovered by pioneering University of Chicago meteorologist Carl-Gustaf Rossby, in fact -- but no one had a good explanation for why it happens.

"Blocking is notoriously difficult to forecast, in large part because there was no compelling theory about when it forms and why," said study coauthor Noboru Nakamura, a professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences.

Nakamura and then-graduate student Clare S.Y. Huang were studying the jet stream, trying to determine a clear set of measurements for blocking in order to better analyze the phenomenon.  One of their new metrics was a term that measured the jet stream's meander.  Looking over the math, Nakamura realized that the equation was nearly identical to one devised decades ago by transportation engineers trying to describe traffic jams.

"It turns out the jet stream has a capacity for 'weather traffic,' just as highway has traffic capacity, and when it is exceeded, blocking manifests as congestion," said Huang.

Much like car traffic, movement slows when multiple highways converge and the speed of the jet stream is reduced due to topography such as mountains or coasts.

The result is a simple theory that not only reproduces blocking, but predicts it, said Nakamura, who called making the cross-disciplinary connection "one of the most unexpected, but enlightening moments in my research career -- truly a gift from God."

The explanation may not immediately improve short-term weather forecasting, the researchers said, but it will certainly help predict long-term patterns, including which areas may see more drought or floods.

Their initial results suggest that while climate change probably increases blocking by running the jet stream closer to its capacity, there will be regional differences:  for example, the Pacific Ocean may actually see a decrease in blocking over the decades.

"It's very difficult to forecast anything until you understand why it's happening, so this mechanistic model should be extremely helpful," Nakamura said.

 Read more at New Theory Finds 'Traffic Jams' in Jet Stream Cause Abnormal Weather Patterns

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Thursday 24

Global surface temperature relative to 1880-1920 based on GISTEMP analysis (mostly NOAA data sources, as described by Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo, 2010: Global surface temperature change. Rev. Geophys., 48, RG4004.  We suggest in an upcoming paper that the temperature in 1940-45 is exaggerated because of data inhomogeneity in WW II. Linear-fit to temperature since 1970 yields present temperature of 1.06°C, which is perhaps our best estimate of warming since the preindustrial period.

In Landmark Day, East Coast States Secure 1.2 GW of Offshore Wind for US

Block Island Wind Farm (Image credit: Deepwater Wind | Twitter)
Massachusetts and Rhode Island today selected two offshore wind projects for development, securing a total of 1.2 GW of offshore generating capacity along the East Coast.

“With today’s landmark decisions, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are ready to pioneer large-scale offshore wind development that will light the way for our industry and nation,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said in a statement.  “With world-class wind resources, infrastructure and offshore energy expertise, the U.S. is primed to scale up this industry and lead it.  Becoming a world leader for offshore wind will open tremendous new opportunities for U.S. workers, factories, and ships throughout our coastal states.”

Vineyard Wind won a competitive bid in Massachusetts with a 800-MW offshore wind proposal that includes a generator lead line.

Massachusetts law requires the state’s electric distribution companies to obtain 1.6 GW of offshore wind energy by 2027.  A request for proposals from the state called for long-term contracts for offshore wind generation and associated renewable energy credits totaling 400 MW, but bidders were able to submit proposals for up to about 800 MW.  Bids were evaluated and selected by the state’s distribution companies and the Department of Energy Resources.

“Vineyard Wind is proud to be selected to lead the new Massachusetts offshore wind industry into the future,” Lars Thaaning Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind, said.

Thaaning said Vineyard Wind is grateful for the time and commitment shown by many stakeholders, including Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton and Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judith Judson.

“We look forward to working with the Commonwealth, the communities of the Cape, Islands, and South Coast, and all stakeholders in together fully realizing the enormous opportunity of offshore wind,” he said.

Vineyard Wind is a joint venture of Avangrid Renewables, a subsidiary of AVANGRID Inc., which is majority owned by Iberdrola S.A. and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.

Deepwater Wind was named the winning bidder in a competitive offshore wind procurement process between Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  The company was selected to construct the 400-MW Revolution Wind project, which includes pairing the project with the Northfield Mountain pumped hydroelectric station operated by FirstLight Power Resources.

Deepwater Wind began commercial operations of the first U.S. offshore wind farm — Block Island — in December 2016.  Deepwater in 2013 won two leases as part of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s auction of the Rhode Island/Massachusetts wind energy area, which covers about 165,000 acres.

"Rhode Island pioneered American offshore wind energy, and it's only fitting that the Ocean State continues to be the vanguard of this growing industry," Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski, said.

The Orsted and Eversource joint venture, Bay State Wind, was not selected in the Massachusetts competitive bidding process.

Read more at In Landmark Day, East Coast States Secure 1.2 GW of Offshore Wind for US

US Launches Nuclear Initiative to Cut Carbon with Canada, Japan, UK

While the Trump administration generally avoids discussion of climate change, it is participating in a coalition to promote “clean, reliable” nuclear power.


A nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France (Photo Credit: Stefan Kühn) Click to Enlarge.
The US, Canada and Japan are to create a coalition aimed at promoting nuclear power as a carbon-free energy source around the world.

The UK is also taking part, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) confirmed to Climate Home News on Wednesday.

The Nuclear Innovation:  Clean Energy (Nice) partnership will be launched on Thursday at a ministerial summit being held in Copenhagen and Malmö.

In a blog post on his department’s website, US deputy energy secretary Dan Brouillette called for countries to work together for a “Nice Future”.

“If the world is serious about reducing emissions and growing economies, then the ministerial must consider all options when it comes to carbon-free power, including clean, reliable nuclear energy,” he said.

Read more at US Launches Nuclear Initiative to Cut Carbon with Canada, Japan, UK

EV Revolution Could Wipe Out $21 Trillion in Oil Revenue

Oil Storage (Credit: oilprice.com) Click to Enlarge.
Hardly a day goes by without a research company releasing yet another report forecasting the future of electric vehicles and all related industries, oil included.  Some of these are skeptical, but most predict a bright future for electric cars.  The latest is no exception: a UK-based company, Aurora Energy Research, has projected that the adoption of electric cars could wipe out as much as US$21 trillion in revenues for the oil, gas, and coal industry by 2040.

In oil, Aurora Energy Research predicts that revenues could fall from US$1.5 trillion in 2016 to US$1.1 trillion in 2040 on the back of fast EV adoption combined with major improvements in energy efficiencies.  Meanwhile, oil prices could plummet to as little as US$32 a barrel.

This is what could happen under a “Burnout” scenario developed by the research firm that envisages fast growth in EV adoption and equally fast growth in electricity demand on the back of digital tech use driven by the expansion of the Internet of Things.

Read more at EV Revolution Could Wipe Out $21 Trillion in Oil Revenue

Global Warming Made Hurricane Harvey More Destructive

Hot oceans fueled Hurricane Harvey, generating more intense rainfall.


The NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP satellite captures an infrared image of Hurricane Harvey just prior to making landfall on August 25, 2017 along the Texas coast. (Photograph Credit: Handout/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Last summer, the United states was pummeled with three severe hurricanes in rapid succession.  It was a truly awesome display of the power of weather and the country is still reeling from the effects.  In the climate community, there has been years of research into the effect that human-caused global warming has on these storms – both their frequency and their power. 

The prevailing view is that in a warming world, there will likely be fewer such storms, but the storms that form will be more severe.  Some research, however, concludes that there will be both more storms and more severe ones.  More generally, because there is more heat, there is more activity, which can be manifested in several ways.

Regardless, there is very little doubt that a warmer planet can create more powerful storms.  The reason is that hurricanes feed off of warmer ocean water.  In order to form these storms, oceans have to be above about 26°C (about 80°F).  With waters that hot, and with strong winds, there is a rapid evaporation of moisture from the ocean.  The resulting water vapor enters into the storm, providing the energy to power the storm as the water vapor condenses and falls out of the storm as rain.

Read more at Global Warming Made Hurricane Harvey More Destructive