Last week was something of a trial: bits of my little farm were being washed out to sea, tracks were eroding, and our road was closed by slips and rockfalls. Just another in a sequence of extreme weather events that have got the locals in North Canterbury wondering about the weird weather being inflicted on them. In my Daily Blog post this week — You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet — I note that worse is on the way, and there’s little we can do beyond battening down the hatches.
Kathryn Ryan’s interview earlier this week with Michael Eckhart, Managing Director and Global Head of Environmental Finance and Sustainability at the giant investment bank Citigroup was arresting. He was in New Zealand as a keynote speaker at the Wind Energy Conference and Ryan asked him about a recent report from Citi, Energy Darwinism: The Evolution of the Energy Industry, which claimed the world is entering the age of renewable energy and explored the consequences for generators, utilities, consumers and fossil fuel exporters. There’s a good exposition of the report on this blog post.
Eckhart explained the three big costs in producing electricity – the fuel, paying off the loan for the plant, and operational maintenance. In the case of coal and natural gas generation all three costs are involved and there’s no way of knowing what the cost of the fuel will be in the future. With wind and other renewables “there is no fuel cost at all: none”. Once the loan for the plant is paid off there are no further costs other than operational.
Ryan asked why investment in renewables is dropping as the costs are coming down. Eckhart in reply spoke of an anomaly:
“We had a very successful industry emerging coming out of the United States, Europe … manufacturing these solar cells, these solar panels, and along came China, and China just produces things at a lower cost and China made a priority – this became a priority industry under the government of China … and they came out with panels costing half as much.”
This is just brilliant: click on the image to see an animation of atmospheric flows around the planet, coded by Cameron Beccario, using forecast data from NOAA ((Data updates every three hours)). It’s mesmerising and addictive, but educational and informative too. Click on the “earth” on the bottom left of the web page, and a menu pops up that allows you to choose different layers of the atmosphere (explained on the about page). Click on 250mb to see the jet streams that guide storm tracks. This is what they looked like over New Zealand yesterday (the brighter the colour, the faster the winds).
If you click and drag the globe, you can choose your viewpoint and zoom in or out. Here are the jet stream tracks above the northern hemisphere yesterday:
You can also play with different map projections – the row of letters in the menu – go backwards and forwards through forecasts, and click to hover above your location (the circle in brackets). Beccario was inspired by the hint.fm wind map of North America, and cut his teeth by coding a wind map for Tokyo. Wonderful stuff.
Something of a global warming (coverage) hiatus has hit Hot Topic in the last couple of days, courtesy of the rather dramatic gale that hit my part of New Zealand on Tuesday evening. We are all well, and suffered no damage to our house — but there’s a hell of a lot of tidying up to do to damaged trees and fences, and we are still without power and mobile phone coverage. With luck we’ll get reconnected in the next day or so. Normal bloggage will resume as soon as I finish chainsawing fallen branches and clearing debris.
In this week’s news-packed edition of The Climate Show we have an exclusive interview with Jim Salinger, probably New Zealand’s highest profile climate scientist, talking about extremes and the shape of things to come. John Cook discusses his new paper with Stephan Lewandowsky, Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation, which is already upsetting climate cranks around the world, plus we look at carbon bubbles, renewable energy beating coal on price, and a simply superb iPad app.