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Most everyone who uses natural gas in the U.S.A. is probably noticing or about to notice a shocking increase in cost. The story is that reserves are low and gas producers haven’t been able to drill because of Wall Street profit-taking, so supplies are short.
Well, I don’t believe it and here’s a why. For the past 20 years, winter temperatures in the Northeastern U.S. have been steadily rising due to climate change. I’ve seen the data and recorded some of my own. I’m an engineer and it’s been my habit for decades to keep daily records on gas and electricity consumption.
Where we used to have 12 to 18 inches of snow on the ground at times during winters here in West Virginia, now there’s just a light dusting or none at all. The trend became very obvious about six years ago with almost no snow on the ground for the past six years. The near constant grinding of snowplows is replaced with silence. In 2018 I bought a nice new snowthrower. It’s never been used even once. It’s been sitting in the basement for the past four years.
For the past several years, natural gas consumption in my home has been half what it’s been in the past. From the middle of January to the middle of February, our daily gas consumption for heating was usually 1,000 to 1,400 cubic feet per day. Today it’s 600 or less.
There shouldn’t be a shortage when consumption is half what it used to be. I think the natural gas providers are not happy with their reduced sales due to climate change and have raised prices to maintain profits.
For the past two months we’ve had one heat wave after another here in West Virginia. It’s been awful. High temperatures in the low 90s (Fahrenheit) with humidity giving a heat index around 100F. These conditions are 15 to 20 degrees above normal. Sometimes, it goes on for four or five days at a time without a single break. Then, there’s a one or two day break in the 80s, and then another heat wave. It’s now the middle of September, almost fall, and it continues. The forecast shows another heat wave next weekend, after the first day of fall.
An odd new thing I’ve never seen before that’s happening this summer is that forecast temperatures, both highs and lows, are consistently four or five degrees lower than the temperature actually reached. The forecast says 90, but it reaches 95. The forecast is 87, but it reaches 92. An error the other way around never happens.
As an engineer, I know that true errors are like noise and vary randomly to either side of the correct value. If the error is consistently to one side or the other, then there’s a systemic problem or calibration error.
Here’s the question. As an amateur meteorologist for over 50 years, this got me thinking. Long ago, before the powerful computer weather models of today, the historical average temperature was factored into a weather forecast. I don’t know if that’s still the case today. Might it be that I’m observing one of the effects of climate change? The climate is changing, today’s temperatures are above normal, and the historical weather data is biasing the forecast several degrees too low? Is that what’s going on?
I invite anyone who might know the answer to comment below. Thank you.
Some actual numbers. (Engineers like things quantified.)
Atmospheric CO2 was identified as a greenhouse gas over 100 years ago. We’ve been measuring it ever since. Technology has allowed us to measure atmospheric CO2 over ever longer time scales. Polar ice cores contain tiny air bubbles that allow us to measure atmospheric CO2 over much longer time periods. We have a clear picture of what the atmosphere has been like over the past several hundred thousand years, and longer. It’s been over 40 years since Hansen made his forecasts before Congress on what would happen in the future with respect to CO2 and climate change, and it’s all come true, and it continues to get worse. Atmospheric CO2 is now at the highest level it’s been for over a million years.
Yet, there are many people who believe that climate change is a hoax. A favorite meme that I see is that volcanoes put more CO2 into the atmosphere than humans. I was listening live when that rumor began.
In the early 90s, I enjoyed listening to Rush Limbaugh. I enjoyed his style of pretending to be highly educated and ridiculing politicians and social movements. I was listening on the day he began his long stretch of daily comments about the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, in the Philippines. He claimed that it put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than humans ever have. I hadn’t considered the numbers involved carefully before so this seemed possible to me. It didn’t occur to me that a famous personality with millions of listeners would just make something up and present it as fact.
Silly me. As an engineer, I decided to look into this Mt. Pinatubo thing and see what the numbers really were. If what Rush said was true, there’s nothing we can do about global warming. It’s a natural process and we have to deal with it.
What I found shocked me. Rush’s claim was so far beyond false, so ridiculous, there are no words for it. Not only do humans utterly overwhelm the output of Mt. Pinatubo, but we overwhelm all volcanic activity on the planet combined.
The problem here is comprehending the magnitudes of numbers. There are 8 BILLION people on the planet. Most people have trouble visualizing a thousand. Then imagine a thousand thousands. Most are completely lost at this point, and we’ve only reached one million. Now take the million and imagine a thousand of those, to get to one billion. Then times seven. The Bible said to be fruitful and multiply. Well, we did that. There are 480 million tons of human flesh walking around right now.
If we gave each person on Earth a 10 by 10 foot square of land, we’d occupy 25,200 square miles. Of course, I’ve lost everyone again because few can imagine a space that big. And, we need vastly more space than that in order to grow the food we eat, process our waste, obtain fresh water, and so forth.
Our impact on the planet is far greater than anything I had imagined. We are already using nearly all of the arable land on the planet to grow our food. Yes, we fly in planes and look out over vast spaces. There’s plenty of room. Actually, there isn’t because the majority of that space is not arable land. You can’t grow food in the Rocky Mountains, or Himalayas, or in the desert, Northern Canada, or Siberia.
There are vast regions of the Pacific Ocean that are fished out, stripped down to the bare seafloor, to satisfy our need for protein. Fishing fleets scrape the seafloor itself, leaving nothing but bare sand. When astronauts look down at night, whole regions of the Pacific Ocean are lit up by vast fishing fleets.
So, eight billion people, and half of them cook over open fires. Wood averages 50 percent carbon, by weight. So a pound of wood contains 1/2 pound of carbon. When you burn that pound of wood, each carbon atom combines with two oxygen atoms to form 1.7 pounds of CO2. Burning a pound of wood results in 1.7 pounds of CO2. With 3-1/2 billion people doing this, it adds up fast.
There are more than a billion cars (a thousand millions) driving around every day, burning gasoline. Everyone must eat. We humans slaughter 800 million chickens every day. Imagine the feed and farming required just to raise 800 million chickens every day. Farming burns fuel. Fishing fleets, and a billion cars, and trucks, trains, airplanes, ships, and power generation all burn fuel. Everyone living in northern climates must heat their homes in winter by burning large amounts of some kind of fuel.
Here are the numbers. Total volcanic activity, including undersea volcanoes produces 200 million tons of CO2, annually. Human activity produces 24 billion tons of CO2, annually. It’s not even close. We humans generate 120 times as much CO2 as all the volcanic activity in the world combined. In just two weeks, we generate, as much CO2 from burning wood for cooking, as the sum of all volcanic activity in a year.
To say that one volcano in the Philippines generated more CO2 than humans have ever produced?? Wow. In one fell swoop, I saw Rush Limbaugh for what he was.
Yet Rush’s little prank caught on. Ridiculous as it is, Rush’s Pinatubo Meme is still quoted 25 years on.
The big news right now is the record low temperatures in the Mid- and Upper-Midwest. The Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana are experiencing extreme low temperatures and high winds, bringing the chill down to dangerous levels of -40 to -60 degrees Fahrenheit. These conditions are expected to set numerous all-time record lows.
I blogged about this a month ago, on December 28th. It was expected. The only question a month ago was how far south it would go.
You might ask, who am I? I’ve been an amateur meteo guy for over 50 years, I’m an engineer, and from 1998 to 2005 I did marine weather forecasting — guiding yachts at sea, talking them through dangerous weather conditions using marine SSB radio. So, I have some experience with these things and know my way around a 500 millibar chart.
With this polar outbreak, as expected, climate change deniers, including Donald Trump, jumped on this phenomenon with foolish comments like “we need more global warming.”
The key question that a smart person would ask is how did I know a month ago that this was going to happen? I knew because I observed two masses of very warm air in equatorial regions rise to the stratosphere and move north. I knew that those warm air masses would disrupt the circulation around the pole (the so-called Polar Vortex), destabilize it, and push a large mass of extremely cold air out of the polar region and south over Canada to the USA.
What I didn’t know was how far south it would reach. But, about a week ago, it looked like a pair of north-south ridges were forming that would squeeze the cold air mass and vigorously squirt it south, well into the USA. Then, I knew the cold blast would be severe. This squirting effect also meant high winds and severe wind chill — what I call a Blue Screamer. That’s what we’re going to get tomorrow (Wednesday) and into Thursday.
The bottom line here is that the cause of this outbreak is warm air that came from the tropics. Global warming doesn’t mean a perceived increase in warmth. Not yet, anyway. Raising the average global temperature by one degree doesn’t result in feeling warmer all the time. It results in more violent and severe weather, both cold and hot. The amplitudes increase. Temperature swings get wider. The winds become more violent. We’ll set both high and low temperature records as this proceeds.
The workings of Earth’s atmosphere are extremely complex. I know it may seem contradictory, but the next two days will bring us record-breaking cold and high winds — as a direct result of global warming.