Future Urban Climates

❝ By the 2080s, the climate of North American urban areas will feel substantially different, and, in many cases, completely unlike contemporary climates found anywhere in the western hemisphere north of the equator. If emissions continue unabated throughout the 21st century,the climate of North American urban areas will become, on average, most like the contemporary climate of locations about 500 miles away and mainly to the south…

❝ Scientists analyzed 540 urban areas that encompassed approximately 250 million inhabitants in the United States and Canada. For each urban area, they mapped the similarity between that city’s future climate expected by the 2080s and contemporary climate in the western hemisphere north of the equator using 12 measures of climate, including minimum and maximum temperature and precipitation during the four seasons.

Check out the examples nearest you. Gives you some idea what awaits not-so-future generations

Say Goodbye to Thermal Coal


Click to enlargeEdward Burtynsky

❝ ,,,Just one year ago, in his 2018 State of the Union address, the president claimed that his administration “ended the war on beautiful, clean coal.”

If the war on coal is over, peace for coal is a curious-looking thing.

❝ 2018 was a particularly bleak year for the industry. Coal capacity retirements actually doubled in 2018 compared to 2017, and coal production was largely flat. Recent projections from the Energy Information Administration don’t show the conclusive end of the coal industry any time soon, but they do show that coal may have reached a point of no return, despite all the rollbacks of environmental regulations that the Trump administration has proposed or enacted…

❝ In President Trump’s State of the Union speech, this year, he didn’t mention coal once…

Metallurgical coal is still needed. Specific chemical requirements in legacy steel-making processes continue. Thermal coal? Natural gas is going to take care of that easy-peasy.

World’s #1 wind-power producer budgeting almost $15 billion for US construction the next 4 years

❝ …The world’s largest wind-power producer, Iberdrola SA, has brushed off Big Oil’s embrace of renewable energy as “more noise” than action.

Major oil and gas firms have been venturing into renewable power under pressure from climate-change policy, collectively spending around 1 percent of their 2018 budgets on clean energy…

❝ However, Iberdrola Chief Executive Ignacio Galan, who has led the Spanish utility for 17 years, shrugged when asked in a Reuters interview if Big Oil represented a competitive threat.

“It’s good that they have moved in this direction but they make more noise than the reality,” he said on Thursday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland…

❝ He said U.S. states were more influential than Washington in terms of energy investment, and that several were looking to develop America’s first offshore wind farms, from Massachusetts down to North Carolina and New York across to California.

“The states are more and more committed to moving to renewables and the same is true of the cities and towns,” he said, adding that falling generation costs of renewable energy was a big driver of the U.S. adoption of wind and solar power.

Woo-hoo. I knew they were taking on the first big US wind-power project off Martha’s Vineyard. Hadn’t realized the size of their immediate follow-on commitment. [Davos has been really interesting this year and the coverage from Bloomberg TV has been stellar.]

The fossil fuel era is coming to an end and…

❝ “Coal is dead.”

These are not the words of a Greenpeace activist or left-wing politician, but of Jim Barry, the global head of the infrastructure investment group at Blackrock — the world’s largest asset manager. Barry made this statement in 2017, but the writing has been on the wall for longer than that.

❝ Banks know it, which is why they are increasingly unwilling to underwrite new coal mines and power plants. Unions and coal workers know it, which is why they are demanding a just transition and new employment opportunities in the clean economy. Even large diversified mining companies are getting out of the business of coal.

The only ones who seem to have remained in denial are President Donald Trump and non-diversified mining companies like Westmoreland Coal. The Denver-based firm made a bad bet in 2013 when it purchased five coal mines in Alberta. Now it wants Canadian taxpayers to pay for its mistake.

This is becoming a battleground, many ways and means, many reasons. Workers who need retraining and creepy investors trying to get out of foolish contracts do not have common cause.

Massachusetts offshore wind auction draws global competitors, big money


David L. Ryan/GLOBE Staff/File

❝ The blockbuster auction for offshore wind leases that wrapped up Friday should leave few doubts: The industry has finally arrived in New England.

Three developers backed by major European energy companies paid a record $405 million to gain access to 390,000 acres of federal waters nearly 20 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. These firms will each pay $135 million to the federal government for the rights to build massive windmills in their respective slices of the ocean…

❝ The victors: Equinor, a Norwegian company formerly known as Statoil until this past spring; Mayflower Wind, a joint venture owned by Shell and EDP Renewables; and Vineyard Wind, a venture controlled by Spain’s Iberdrola and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.

RTFA. Maybe someone will read it to the fake president.

The trouble with Gribbles

The tiny gribble — less than an inch long — lives in coastal marine environments and feasts upon wood. It gobbles up sticks and logs that wash into the sea from river estuaries, performing an important ecological function. But it also can be a damaging nuisance, eating the wood from boats and piers, causing considerable damage.

Unlike other wood-eating creatures, such as termites, that require thousands of microbes for digestion, the gribble’s gut needs no such help. Its digestive system is sterile, meaning it’s free of the complex microbial communities that inhabit other intestines, including ours.

Scientists say that understanding how the gribble breaks down wood could help them develop better methods for turning timber into fuel. Currently, wood that is burned to generate energy must first be broken down in costly and energy-intensive processes. Gribbles may hold the key to a cheaper and energy-efficient means of unlocking the energy in wood.

For that reason, Simon McQueen-Mason and his research team have been trying to figure out how the gribble breaks through lignin, the tough coating surrounding the sugar polymers that compose wood — long a mystery.

RTFA. Not too complex and although the process might seem to be uneconomic, once folks can lay out the requisite steps – including what can be substituted from the human-made catalogue – doors can be opened to a number of environmental solutions.

Geothermal Mud Pot Began Moving Across California About 3 Years Ago

When it comes to matters of geology and rumbling earth in California, the San Andreas Fault is usually the star of the show. But this time around, the area near the infamous fault has caught people’s attention due to a mysterious pot of bubbling mud.

Refusing to stay in place, a roiling mass of carbon dioxide and slurry-like soil is migrating across the state at a pace of 20 feet a year. So far, it’s carved a 24,000-square-foot basin out of the earth, and it’s set to continue its crusade until whatever’s driving it dies out. Scientists currently have no real idea why it’s moving or if it can be stopped.

Interesting stuff. RTFA and see what little scientists have so far figured out. Mostly, just keeping track of the “feature” on the map of Southern California.

China preparing launch of artificial moons – replacing streetlights, no electric connection required!


Andy Wong/AP Photo

China is planning to launch its own ‘artificial moon’ by 2020 to replace streetlamps and lower electricity costs in urban areas…

Chengdu, a city in southwestern Sichuan province, is developing “illumination satellites” which will shine in tandem with the real moon but are eight times brighter…

By reflecting light from the sun, the satellites could replace streetlamps in urban areas, saving an estimated 1.2bn yuan ($170 million) a year in electricity costs for Chengdu, if the man-made moons illuminate an area of 50 square kilometres.

I worked on reflectorized mylar used in early satellites for radio reflectivity…cripes, back in the early 1960s. Yup, and some of the stuff found its way into my apartment as hip, mirrored decorations. Cheap as all getout to produce.

An insider’s perspective on Fukushima — and everything after

❝ The meltdown of the reactors at Fukushima Daichi has changed how many people view the risks of nuclear power, causing countries around the world to revise their plans for further construction and revisit the safety regulations for existing plants. The disaster also gave the world a first-hand view of the challenges of managing accidents in the absence of a functional infrastructure and the costs when those accidents occur in a densely populated, fully developed nation.

❝ Earlier this week, New York’s Japan Society hosted a man with a unique perspective on all of this. Naomi Hirose was an executive at Tokyo Electric Power Company when the meltdown occurred, and he became its CEO while he was struggling to get the recovery under control. Ars attended Hirose’s presentation and had the opportunity to interview him. Because the two discussions partly overlapped, we’ll include information from both below.

NAOMI HIROSE:

❝ “We learned that safety culture is very important. We saw that we were probably a little arrogant. We spent a huge amount of money to improve the safety of that plant before the accident. We thought that this was enough. We learned that you never think this is enough. We have to learn many things from all over the world. 9/11 could be some lessons for nuclear power stations—it’s not just nuclear accidents in other countries, everything could be a lesson.”

I spent a fair piece of my early days in metals testing laboratories. Mostly non-ferrous metals — including zirconium which was used at the time in heat exchangers of nuclear power plants. I had an ongoing interest in nuclear generated power for decades and, frankly, though it’s still a viable option with appropriate regulations, testing and management, the whole process is now simply too expensive to be considered rationally…especially when compared to renewable sources whether they be solar, wind or wave power, geothermal.

Dropping a wrench into Earth’s engine

❝ Researchers at CU Boulder report that they may have solved a geophysical mystery, pinning down the likely cause of a phenomenon that resembles a wrench in the engine of the planet.

…the team explored the physics of “stagnant slabs.” These geophysical oddities form when huge chunks of Earth’s oceanic plates are forced deep underground at the edges of certain continental plates. The chunks sink down into the planet’s interior for hundreds of miles until they suddenly—and for reasons scientists can’t explain—stop like a stalled car.

❝ CU Boulder’s Wei Mao and Shijie Zhong, however, may have found the reason for that halt. Using computer simulations, the researchers examined a series of stagnant slabs in the Pacific Ocean near Japan and the Philippines. They discovered that these cold rocks seem to be sliding on a thin layer of weak material lying at the boundary of the planet’s upper and lower mantle—roughly 660 kilometers, or 410 miles, below the surface.

And the stoppage is likely temporary

RTFA. Helluva movie plot – unless we suffer a blowout.