Saturday, July 5, 2008

Bertha Gradually Strengthens

Tropical Storm Bertha is moving more westward than originally forecast and gradually strengthening. Maximum sustained winds are now 50 mph, and little change in strength is expected today, but it is forecast to become a minimal hurricane as it moves north of the Lesser Antilles in a few days.

Tropical Storm Bertha track from IBISEYE.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

2008 Hurricane Season Sets Record:
Tropical Storm Bertha

How's that for a dramatic headline? The facts are somewhat less apocalyptic, but impressive anyway. Jeff Masters' Wunderblog notes that Bertha, which formed this morning near the Cape Verde islands at longitude 25W, is the first tropical storm in history to have developed so far east this early in the season. In fact, it's the easternmost storm to have formed in the entire month of July. Complete records covering the eastern Atlantic go only as far back as 1967 with the beginning of satellite coverage, however.

Bertha is currently a minimal tropical storm with maximum winds of 40 mph. Gradual strenthening is expected as it moves toward the west northwest during the next couple of days.

Image from Google Earth

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Energy Watch: Trimming the Hedges

Here's where we put the "capital" in CapitalClimate. Energy prices have been soaring well enough on their own lately (past $140 a barrel for oil), but what if tropical storm disruptions or an exceptionally cold winter put more upward pressure on prices? Despite all the complaining over heat and humidity around this time of year in the Nation's Capital region, the typical household in the area spends more on heating than cooling. The Big Boys can hedge by trading in the futures markets, but the prices there are heavily influenced by speculation.

Money Magazine's Jason Zweig, appearing recently on the Nightly Business Report, suggested a strategy that could be practical for the individual homeowner. His plan works like this: Take an amount roughly equal to your total seasonal heating bill and use it to buy shares in an exchange-traded fund (ETF) which is based on the cost of your heating fuel. (An ETF is like a mutual fund, but instead of being priced once a day at the close of the market, shares are traded continuously on a stock exchange.)

For natural gas, Zweig recommends the United States Natural Gas Fund (ticker symbol UNG), which began trading in 2007. A more recent market entrant is the U.S. Heating Oil Fund (UHN), which was launched a few months ago. Also launched recently is another hedge against growing household energy costs, the U.S. Gasoline Fund (UGA).

Expenses involved in this strategy include management fees of about 0.6-0.8% and commissions to buy and sell (now around $10 or less per transaction at many discount brokers). In the event of a gain, profits are subject to taxes at ordinary income rates for shares held less than a year and capital gains rates of 15% or less for longer holding periods. If the value goes down, you can use the money saved on your heating bill to hedge against future price increases. If you sell the shares at a loss, then the loss amount can offset gains from other investments or be deducted from other income up to $3000.

Image: 3-month chart of UNG from, via Fidelity Investments. Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"There Will Be Flood"

Tonight's Daily Show is a rerun of the June 18 episode, including the report, "There Will be Flood: The media attempts to show the Midwest flood's magnitude by breaking out the human dipsticks." The show will be repeated during the day on Tuesday.

Also included is "Wet Hot American Bummer", in which Jason Jones and Wyatt Cenac "report" from Quincy, Illinois.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Email-gate Update

Gristmill has an extensive interview today with former EPA associate deputy administrator Jason Burnett. The former official resigned over White House interference with EPA's draft response to the Supreme Court's ruling requiring regulation of CO2 emissions.

Meanwhile, Climate Progress reports that a Georgia judge has applied the Supreme Court ruling for the first time to prevent construction of a coal-fired power plant.

EPA Email-gate

For those who are bandwidth-challenged (Verizon, can you hear me now?) and for more detail, here is some additional information and analysis of the White House's pathetically juvenile response to the EPA's recommendation on CO2 regulation: For the You-Tubers, Jon Stewart presents the case below.

Seasonal Outlook

Latest seasonal forecast: Click here.

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