Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Mess in California

The power outage in California is making a mess of some people's lives.

  • a woman had to spend the night in her wheelchair because her special air mattress with circulating air to avoid pressure wounds deflated. She thought the outage wasn't going to happen to the next day.
  • a man with COPD who relies on an oxygen generator was feeling congested and short of breath.
  • a paraplegic with a bone disease that requires a powered wheelchair, and a pump to keep blood circulating in his legs, said he won't be able to withstand a few hours without power. “I can’t be moving around too much because my wheelchair will die within a couple hours.”
This seems especially believable:
Napa resident Gina Biter-Mundt said that’s a common problem among people who have health issues — they lack the mobility or the money to prepare appropriately, even if they are well informed.
But the article does say "there had been no reports of individuals in immediate danger due to the outages."

Cost estimates range from $65 M to $2.5 B, though some economists say it's not calculable. PG&E has no plans to reimburse anyone.

To the extent climate change is involved in this -- deeper drought perhaps, hotter temperatures and hotter win -- this might open some eyes. Perhaps Hurricane Katrina did as well, and maybe Hurricane Maria and this year's Hurricane Humberto in the Bermudas and 40 inches of rain dumped onto Houston -- twice in three years. This is an interesting thought:
“It’s not worth the risk to them,” Alan Scheller-Wolf said about PG&E’s decision to preemptively shut off power. He said the utility “might be signaling to the powers that be that the business environment of providing power to people is fundamentally changing and they need help adjusting to it.”

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

CA Blackout: "Another version of the problem"

An article in Slate by April Glaser, a Californian, gives a good picture of the blackout situation in California and failures of the power company, PG&E.
It’s true that the lights can go off at any time due to a storm. This happens to all of us at some point in our lives. But this feels different. It usually happens because of a natural disaster, like a snow or thunderstorm. This is primarily an unnatural disaster, a disaster of neglected maintenance of power lines owned by PG&E. It feels like the company doesn’t want to be blamed for another tragedy, so it’s just shutting the whole thing down. It also feels like the company doesn’t realize that real people are trying to live here—that this is not a solution, but another version of the problem.

California Shutting off Power!

If it comes to a dystopia this will seem one early step down the road. Power companies in California are shutting off power to 800,000 people in 31 counties because of the potential for wildfires in the current windy, dry conditions.

That's difficult to believe, but it started today at midnight -- about 513,000 customers without power in 22 counties. A second phase starts at noon today for another 234,000 customers, and the remainder later. Officials don't know how long it will last -- it could be several days, as they inspect every inch centimeter of their power lines .

There have actually been two previous shutoffs this year, one iSeptember and last weekend, but on a much smaller scale (just three counties). I haven't read about what the impacts might have happened for those.

But this seems kind of crazy. Just imagine: no hot showers. No hot food. Everything in your refrigerator could spoil. No easy way to charge your cell phone (you can always do it in your car, assuming you have one). No use of medical equipment like CPAP machines and ventilators. No Internet, unless perhaps if cell towers are still working. Street lights? Presumably hospitals already have generators, but what about grocery stores and gas stations? How many businesses will this close temporarily? It could well have an effect on California's GDP. Schools are closed in the Bay area.

I realize big wildfires are dangerous (especially when power companies aren't properly trimming the conditions around their lines), with winds tonight in the Bay Area expected at up to 65 mph. but cutting power like this seems almost as dangerous.

Anyone in California affected by this? (DiC?) Does it seem as difficult, even scary, as it looks to me?

PS: And there's this:
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. diverted more than $100 million in gas safety and operations money collected from customers over a 15-year period and spent it for other purposes, including profit for stockholders and bonuses for executives, according to a pair of state-ordered reports released Thursday.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Friday, October 04, 2019

Greta for Peace Prize, and More Record Warmth

(I'll probably add to this post as the day goes by.)
If you're looking for the latest PDO data (Pacific Decadal Oscillation), it moved here.
Some European (and British!) bookies are putting Greta Thunberg as the favorite to win this year's Nobel Peace Prize. The winner will be announced early next Friday. Announcements start on Monday, with the Physics prize announced on Tuesday.
Of the 607 Nobel prizes awarded for science, only 20 have gone to women, says today's Nature Briefing (email).

I know of at least two thefts: Rosalind Franklin for the discovery of the structure of DNA, and Jocelyn Bell for the discovery of pulsars. Bell is still alive -- at least half this year's prize should be hers. But, sadly, won't be.
Probably you know by now, but both UAH and RSS calculated the lower troposphere to have the warmest September in their records, which start in 1979. Roy Spencer did some analysis and says it was Mother Nature, not an instrument problem. So did Carl Mears of RSS. RSS also found the troposphere as a whole to be the warmest September. Here are RSS's September anomalies for the total troposphere:

The Copernicus Climate Service in the EU finds that September was the warmest September for surface temperatures, too, 1.02°C above the 1981-2010 baseline. Since the world had already warmed by the time of this baseline, global warming is now moving past 1.0°C.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Dave Werth

David F. Werth ObituaryI have been avoiding some text messages on my phone for over nine months.

They were from Dave Werth, who lived here in Salem. He commented here on this blog, and elsewhere, as "Riverrat."

He liked to travel down rivers on inflatable rafts -- hence his nickname. Dave got in touch because he read my blog, and after I moved to Salem, where he lived, we had beers several times, and once went to Portland together to see James Hansen speak.

He was a software programmer for Garvin, who makes GPS devices. Later he invited me on a rafting trip down the Snake River, but I couldn't make -slash- was afraid I couldn't make it.

We didn't know each other well. My fault mostly. I do not make new friends easily, a bane of mine, a painful difficulty.

The last time I saw him, sometime in spring 2018, we met at a McMenamins -- a pub -- in suburban Salem. We commiserated about our various ailments -- being two lonely single guys in our 50s -- and he told me he had cancer, and it was consuming his insides, and it was pretty serious. Sadly, I'm not really sure I knew him well enough to understand its full extent.

And then, just before Christmas last year, December 18th, I was in my bathroom trimming my pathetic little beard to go somewhere and I received this text message:
(1/3) David, we haven't been in contact much lately but I want to let you know they found a big cancerous tumor in my liver and it's not likely I'll survive much past Christmas. But we had a few interesting times together like the Hansen lecture and I felt like I owe you something before I just disappeared. Thanks for some good memories, Dave Werth.
I called him immediately. I didn't know what to say. He was surprisingly forthright about it all. We talked, about the few times we had together, and also about global warming, something we had often talked about, because we knew each other through my blog. I remember us agreeing that global warming had turned a corner due to Hurricanes Garvey in Houston and Maria in Puerto Rico the previous year.

We only talked for a few minutes. Our friendship wasn't deep. Perhaps that was my failing. What do you say in such a situation? I said I was thankful I knew him and I had fond memories and I regretted I wasn't able to raft with him down the Snake River.

Then it seemed his illness lingered and he was going to live past Christmas. A few days later he send a group text:
(1/2) Folks, turns out things are not quite as dire as I was making out earlier today and I'm not going to die tonight or not likely in the next several days.

(2/2) I'm making this generic message so I can copy and paste and save some energy.
He was so open and direct.... He lived until the new year. Dave died on January 12th in the presence of both of his sisters. I think, from what I can tell, that that was a happy situation for him.

I didn't know him well enough to go to his funeral, I thought, but now I think I did and I made a mistake by not going and I'm kicking myself. Knowing me, I will kick forever.

I haven't been able to fully look at Dave's text messages until today -- I've been carrying them on my phone since December.

But today I was able. Again I didn't know him well. But Dave was special because he was astonishingly willing and able to look his death straight in the face and accept it. I didn't know a lot about him, but wish I did. He had a lot of dignity and bravery in his final weeks. He didn't have a wife or kids but he had his sisters and he had courage. He really impressed me. He moved me. No one else in that situation has ever done exactly the same.

And I've been thinking about it, and about him, ever since, with his text messages on my phone. Until today. Today I was able to read them. Today I was finally able to write this.

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Greta Thunberg Helpline

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Fox News Apologizes

Ken Rice (@theresphysics)
Fox News apologises to Greta Thunberg for pundit's 'disgraceful' remark…

The Acceleration

Or, "the surge."


Monday, September 23, 2019

"How Dare You."

Maybe she tried just a little too hard to appear angry here, or maybe the rest of us aren't angry enough. I honestly don't know.

Economics as if People Mattered

“What is the meaning of democracy, freedom, human dignity, standard of living, self-realization, fulfillment? Is it a matter of goods, or of people? Of course it is a matter of people. But people can be themselves only in small comprehensible groups. Therefore we must learn to think in terms of an articulated structure that can cope with a multiplicity of small scale units. If economic thinking cannot grasp this it is useless. If it cannot get beyond its vast abstractions, the national income, the rate of growth, capital/output ratio, input-output analysis, labour mobility, capital accumulation; if it cannot get beyond all this and make contact with the human realities of poverty, frustration, alienation, despair, breakdown, crime, escapism, stress, congestion, ugliness, and spiritual death, then let us scrap economics and start afresh.

“Are there not indeed enough ‘signs of the times’ to indicate that a new start is needed?”

-- E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (1973)
I read this book ages ago, but picked it up recently for a second go at it. It's a bit dated in that some of the defining issues of that age were pollution and nuclear weapons and overpopulation (all still problems, just submersed in lieu of larger problems), but its underlying philosophy is still relevant, and even more relevant.

Here are a few more quotes from Small is Beautiful.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Heartland Institute's Boycotted "Debate"

Tomorrow the Heartland Institute is having a "debate" in Times Square, NY at 7 pm EDT, 4 pm PDT: "Realists vs. Alarmists."

It will be livestreamed on Youtube.

It looks like no real scientists have agreed to participate.

The "debate" is the same day the Climate Summit begins at the UN begins. HI writes:
The Heartland Institute will host a debate on what is happening to our climate and what we can do about it. That's a debate long-delayed, but never more important than now.

We've cordially invited some of the country's most-prominent advocates for taking immediate action on climate change: Kevin Trenberth, Michael Mann, Don Wuebbles, Katharine Hayhoe, Brenda Ekwurzel, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They blame human activity for global warming,  insist it will be catastrophic to life on Earth, and demand big changes to the way Americans live, work, eat, travel, and build.
Despite listing all these scientists in order to project the appearance of a two-sided debate, none of these invitations have been excepted, as far as I know. Mann said on Twitter that the rejected them, and Alan Robock, though not on the list above, was asked and said no on Twitter and on a geoengineering list I read, writing "I also don't debate gravity." (Here's the emailed invitation the Heartland Institute sent him.) Mann also wrote that Hayhoe and Ekwurzel turned them down.

[Brenda Ekwurzel is senior climate scientist and the director of climate science for the Climate & Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.]

For the deniers: Patrick Michaels, David Legates, and Willie Soon. Ho hum.

I certainly hope the boycott holds until tomorrow night. They deserve it.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Date of the Arctic Sea Ice Extent's Annual Minimum

Here's a plot of the date of the annual Arctic sea ice extent minimum, using NSIDC's data:

There does seem to be a tendency toward later dates as the years go by.

[Numerology alert] If you buy the trendline and its R2, the trend is +2 hr 16 min per year, for a total of 3.8 days later in 40 years.