Thursday, August 7, 2008

Olympic Pollution Update: Beijing Shell Game

Update: Added articles from IEEE Spectrum, Olympics smog blog link, and today's Doonesbury.

A dispatch from the WaPo Foreign Service in today's carbon-based edition (A18, if you're keeping score at home) notes that In Cleanup Effort, Beijing Moved Factories to Clog Air Elsewhere.

Climate Progress points out that a cover package of four articles, a news item, "Will Beijing's Dirty Air Hurt Performance?", and an editorial (free access with registration) in last week's Science magazine on "China's Environmental Challenges", like most general media coverage, completely neglects the longer-term problem of greenhouse gas emissions and their effect on climate.

By contrast, however, IEEE Spectrum featured "China Doubles Wind Watts" in May:
Its fleet of wind turbines more than doubled in generating capacity in 2007, surging by over 3 gigawatts, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. That's less power capacity than China's coal sector adds per week, but it's enough to make China the third-fastest-growing wind market worldwide (behind the United States and Spain) and propel it to fifth place in the Global Wind Energy Council's annual capacity rankings (ahead of even wind-energy pioneer Denmark).
The June issue contained the article, "How to Build a Green City", about the plans for the development of Dongtan, "the world’s first eco-city" on an island off Shanghai.

A recent story by BBC News Magazine, "The filthy air conundrum", examines the tradeoffs between short-term pollution fixes and long-term solutions. It also contrasts the Beijing situation with the London Great Smog of 1952, which is estimated to have killed 4000 people. (A tip of the Rabett ears to the sly perfesser for pointing out the analogy to the late 19th century London pollution depicted in Monet's paintings. Now how about a listing in your blog roll, since the other Capital guys have virtually abandoned climate coverage for 24x7 local weather?)

Here's an interesting link from the smogo-blogosphere: The HoChro's Sports Update blog has a special archive section just for Olympics smog. Maybe it's to make Houston's oppressive heat and humidity seem more bearable?

Finally, check out Doonesbury's Daily Dose:

Upper image: Christies Images/Corbis via New Scientist magazine

Vote Early and Often: Hurricane Forecast Revised

Update: Added link to actual NOAA forecast text.

Paraphrasing the old political adage, the tropical prognosticators are upping the ante on the outlook for the remainder of this hurricane season. NOAA's prediction, which was announced this morning, has raised the probability of an above-average season from 65% to 85%. The range of named storms has been bumped up by to two, to 14-18, and the number of hurricanes has been pegged at 7-10.

This update follows by a few days the revisions of the Klotzbach/Gray group at land-locked Colorado State. They're on the high end of the NOAA range, calling for 17 named storms vs. 15 in the previous forecast made in June. The other seasonal parameters include (previous forecast in parentheses): hurricanes 9 (8), intense hurricanes 5 (4), named storm days 90 (80).

At Weather Underground, Dr. Jeff Masters has posted Part I of his August hurricane outlook, covering Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs). He sees continued above-average SSTs. On Friday, he's planning to cover wind shear, steering currents, and dust levels.

Image of revised hurricane season forecast from NOAA.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Trimming the Hedges: Natural Gas Down Sharply

Natural gas is down nearly 40% from its peak. Is now the time to buy ahead of the winter's heating bills? CNBC interviews a commodities investor today.

Image: U.S. Natural Gas Fund price over the last year, from, via Fidelity Investments

Thomas Friedman: Geo-Greenism Giveaway
The World Is Hot, Flat, and Crowded

New York Times columnist and book-writing machine Thomas Friedman has written a new book, to be published Sept. 8, focusing on the twin energy and climate crises and their interrelationships. Friedman has sometimes been criticized in the past for being too enthusiastic a cheerleader for globalization, overgeneralizing, extrapolating and exaggerating trends in such books as "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" and, most recently, "The World Is Flat". However, he is certainly an entertaining writer on crucially important topics. His previous books have been very popular; "The World Is Flat" was a #1 bestseller, and he has won three Pulitzer prizes and a National Book Award. (See for links to reviews of "The World Is Flat".)

The new book, called "Hot, Flat, and Crowded", is subtitled "Why We Need a Green Revolution - And How it Can Renew America". According to the promotional material,
Friedman proposes that an ambitious national strategy—which he calls "Geo-Greenism"—is not only what we need to save the planet from overheating; it is what we need to make America healthier, richer, more innovative, more productive, and more secure.
Of particular interest to meteorologists and climatologists interested in bringing the real science to a clearly confused public is this question raised in the discussion guide available on the author's web site:
In chapter five, Friedman describes the controversy that ensued when meteorologist Heidi Cullen tried to educate her audience about global warming. What is the best way to inform those who tune out such messages, which they believe are tantamount to “politicizing the weather”?
It remains to be seen, of course, whether Friedman "gets it" on the climate issue, but preliminary indications sound like the author is promoting the thesis long supported by this Climate Capitalist: "It's the economy, stupid." No matter what the wingnuts, ideologues, and crackpots want to believe about the Big Climate conspiracy, global warming is ultimately an economic issue. The global marketplace, if it's allowed to function without the current bias toward outmoded CO2-generating technologies, will determine that the cost of inaction is much more than the cost of attacking the problem. If you don't believe that, how's your GM stock doing lately? Here's a clue, if you don't watch such things: GM recently hit a 50-year (not a typo) low.

As a promotion for Friedman's new book, the publisher is offering free downloads of the audiobook of "The World Is Flat" and a preview of "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" in exchange for signing up for their email newsletter. The offer is good only through next Monday, August 11.

Today's Friedman column, Learning to Speak Climate, is a dispatch from the front, so to speak; it's an account and interpretation of his viewing of glaciers in Greenland. The previous one was about a visit to an ice research center above the Arctic Circle.

Friedman earlier this year discussed climate change with the founders of Google. Last year, he was the keynote speaker at the MIT celebration of the publication of all MIT courses online through OpenCourseware. The introduction to the MIT lecture alludes to the 2003 Yale Commencement address which the Climate Capitalist attended. At the 2007 Aspen Ideas Festival, Friedman delivered the presentation "Green is the New Red, White, and Blue" (Part I, Part II, and Part III).

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sydney Snow Update

Despite, shall we say, the flurry of activity in the blogospheric echo-chamber over some snow pellets late in the month in Sydney, Australia, the July climate summary has been issued by the Bureau of Meteorology. It points out that
The average maximum temperature at Observatory Hill of 17.2 °C was 0.9°C above the historic July average. This is now the 10th consecutive July with above average maximum temperatures at Observatory Hill. Sydney's nights were cool during July, the average minimum temperature at Observatory Hill was 8.3°C which is 0.3°C above the historic July average.

Olympic Pollution Update

Today's WaPo sports section has a report from the scene on Beijing air quality and its effects on the athletes. Sally Jenkins draws some deeper connections from the pollution issue.

Last night's PBS NewsHour had an extensive report (audio, podcast, and video available online) on the causes and effects of the situation.

Edouard Makes Landfall on Texas Coast

Edouard made landfall as a strong tropical storm on the Texas coast this morning. At 7 am Central, the center of the storm was between High Island and Sabine Pass. Maximum winds were 65 mph, and tropical storm force winds extended up to 70 miles from the center. Gradual weakening is likely today as the storm moves further inland.

Strengthened Edouard Headed Toward Tuesday Landfall

Tropical Storm Edouard strengthened Monday evening, with maximum winds of 60 mph. It continues heading a little north of west toward a landfall Tuesday. Huricane local statements are being issued by the Lake Charles, New Orleans, and Houston National Weather Service offices.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Edouard Continues Westward
Oil Prices Not Impacted

Update: At 4 pm Central, Edouard is becoming better organized, but maximum winds are still at 45 mph. The current westerly track at 7 mph is expected to turn more to the west northwest tonight. The storm is forecast to be near hurricane force by landfall in the middle of the day on Tuesday.

As of 1 pm Central, the outer rainbands of Edouard were reaching the Louisiana coast. The Tropical Storm Warning and Hurricane Watch remain in effect. Maximum winds continue at 45 mph.

Meanwhile, despite financial media assumptions to the contrary, Edouard's expected path through the oil rig region of the Gulf has NOT had a positive effect on oil prices. In fact, shortly before noon, prices had dropped as much as $5 to briefly under $120 a barrel in New York commodity trading. Natural gas prices also plunged sharply, as much as 7%. Shipping and some drilling and refining activities were reported affected, however.

Image from NBC WeatherPlus

Tropical Storm Edouard Weakens Slightly

At 10 am Central Time, the Tropical Storm Warning in effect from the mouth of the Mississippi was extended westward to Port O'Connor, Texas. A Hurricane Watch remains in effect westward from Intracoastal City, LA to Port O'Connor.

The circulation of Tropical Storm Edouard was disrupted somewhat overnight by wind shear. It became better organized this morning, although its maximum winds lowered to 45 mph. Some strengthening is still likely before landfall. The forward speed has picked up to 8 mph, moving westward toward the Texas coast.

Images: Top, infrared satellite from HAMweather; bottom, official forecast track from National Hurricane Center.

Oil Prices Already Blamed on Tropical Storm Edouard

In a report early Monday, Bloomberg was already blaming a 1% rise in oil prices on Tropical Storm Edouard in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Tropical Storm Edouard Born: Fifth of the Season

Update: As of 11 pm, the Tropical Storm Watch was replaced by a Hurricane Watch from Intracoastal City, LA to Port O'Connor, Texas. The Tropical Storm Warning was extended westward to Cameron, LA. Maximum winds are up to 50 mph.

Almost immediately after aircraft reconnaissance determined that an area of storminess in the northern Gulf of Mexico had become a depression, the storm was upgraded to Tropical Storm Edouard. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the Louisiana coast from the mouth of the Mississippi westward to Intracoastal City, and a Tropical Storm Watch is in effect west of there to Port O'Connor Texas.

The storm, with maximum winds of 45 mph, is moving west at 6 mph. Some additional strengthening is likely in the next 24 hours, and the storm may be near hurricane force by landfall.

Wondering about the name "Edouard"? (Yeah, we had to check the spelling, too.) See what "Unconfirmed Sources" have to say.

Seasonal Outlook

Latest seasonal forecast: Click here.

Latest 3-month temperature outlook from Climate Prediction Center/NWS/NOAA.