environment,energy,greenhouse,gas,carbon,dioxide,global,nuclear energy,clean energy,emissions,global climate change,environmental impacts, Nuclear Energy Can Save US: 2009

Nuclear Energy Can Save US--America�s 100 nukes equal four million barrels of oil per day.

Billions of lives and civilization itself may be at risk from the Global Warming & End of Cheap Oil, Crisis. Rising sea levels and rising oil prices could be the end of civilization as we know it. The problem is so huge that the most powerful answer, many nuclear plants, must be deployed. Currently, America‘s 100 nukes deliver the energy of four million barrels of oil per day. Wind and solar cannot do the job, and may delay the real answer too long. Still, all kinds of clean energy, plus conservation, plus reducing deforestation, will be needed to help the poor half of the world, and for civilization to survive through this century.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Arctic Ice Cap Melt Season Is On.

Unfortunately for the polar bears, winter Arctic Ice Cap data in my May 23, 2009 post may have been exaggerated. More reliable looking (carefully specified), data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Boulder, Colorado shows that April 1, and May 1, 2009, ice cap coverage was only about 700,000 to 800,000 square-km (300,000 square-miles) more than the same dates in 2007 (lowest year of ice cap coverage). This is much less than(up only 6%, not 15%--this may just be an aberration of ocean currents, rather than evidence of lower solar energy) the 2,000,000 square-kilometers reported by some Canadian source. The Center says that the melt season is gaining steam. See http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/. I will watch NSIDC closely next winter.
If a slightly cooler Sun does not really mitigate global warming from fossil fuels, then we still have to develop massive supplies of pollution-free energy, primarily from nuclear and wind farm plants. America’s 100, one-gig nukes, deliver energy equal to four million barrels of oil per day. Since the world currently uses 80 MBPD, oil energy is equal to 2000, one-gig nukes. Since oil energy is about 40% of world energy, world energy is equivalent to 5000, one-gig nukes. It is likely that with 300-400 each in China and India, 1000 or more will be built this century, but that will not be enough.
Many believe that wind turbines will be the best solution. It would work, but only if huge numbers of large turbines are built, and there may be a limiting factor. The Altamount Pass, CA, wind farm (frequently cited), has 5400 turbines. Many of these must be small, since the total rated energy only equals 62% of a one-gig nuke. Furthermore, the rated energy is only delivered for some percentage of any day due to wind variation (25% is often stated as the norm). Suppose that the pass has steadier wind, and delivers 33% of the time. 33% of 62% is about 20% of a one-gig nuke. It would take five times 5400, or 27,000, wind turbines with the same array of sizes as the Altamount Pass, wind farm to equal a one-gig nuke.
There are some serious problems with wind turbines; the blades kill many raptors and bats (a very useful species). However, I think that the Achilles Heel for wind energy may be cement for the concrete footings for the towers. Nukes also need lots of concrete (75,000 tons/plant), but my gut feeling is that a wind farm equal to a one-gig nuke would take 5, 10, or even more times this much. For 2500-kw turbines: 2500 into one million kw (one-gig nuke) equals 400 towers. With 33% wind, 1200 towers (three times 400) are needed. 1200 into 75,000 tons, allows only 65 tons per footing. To me, this seems incredibly light. Larger, 3600-kw towers are planned for New Jersey, in shallow water, off-shore for good wind. Underwater footings to support 30-foot diameter masts would have to be buried in the seafloor. Each might well take dozens and dozens of times more than 65 tons of concrete. (Does anyone have any data on this subject?) Furthermore, even now, with only a few thousands of towers constructed worldwide each year, production of cement, an energy-intensive industry, produces 4% of world CO2. Cement production for massive tower deployment may cause so much concurrent CO2, that the benefit of CO2 saved during years of operation, will be nowhere near what the industry hopes.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hints of a Cooler Earth from the Winter Just Passed

A report from an unknown (to me) Canadian source says that the Arctic Ice Cap expanded by 2 million square kilometers (700,000 square-miles) more in this winter than in the average of the last three winters. What impact this will have on the Arctic summer, minimum area of the ice cap, is not known (but we will know in a few short months). In the summer of 2007, the ice reached the lowest coverage ever recorded.

Per the National Geographic, the ice area at the end of summer for the last 28 years has been as follows (in million square-mile): 1980=3.01 / 1985=2.66 / 1990=2.39 / 1995=2.36 / 2000=2.43 / 2005=2.16 / 2007=1.67 / 2008 /1.81. In the 28 years, the end of summer ice has decreased by 40 %. This seems to show, without any doubt, that the Earth has been warming up. The culprit is most likely to be the CO2 from burning of fossil fuels.

A new situation may be developing; that is, a cooler planet because of reduced solar heat. A theory, new to me, was discussed in my last post. This theory supposes that since there was a significant world cooling, the Little Ice Age 300 years ago (1615—1705), coincident with the Maunder Minimum period of very low sunspot activity, the current low incidence of sunspots may predict a new ice age. It is hard to imagine how sunspot activity could effect Earth weather, and many scientists scoff.

Now, I have theory. I have not seen it anywhere, but it could easily be circulating. Per Spaceweather.com, of March 17, 2009 (it can be checked on their archive), Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) from the Sun are more scarce than sunspots. “When the sun is active, we see several such CMEs on a daily basis. Now, the rate is one per month. That’s very little solar activity.” CMEs were only discovered about 1972, using a cronograph on the OSO 7, Orbiting Space Observatory. Each CME involves
billions of tons of ejected material. Maybe the low sunspot activity 300 years ago, was only a visible marker that the sun was experiencing a period of very low CMEs, as it is now. A cooler Earth could be at hand.

PS: Check Twitter/ArcticSurvey. A British team (two men, one woman) attempted a 1000-km, three-month trek from Canada to the North Pole. They had to be airlifted out May 14, after 2.5 months, 460 KM. They must have met much more severe weather than expected. One phrase was, "Temperature is up to -25C so we will..."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Coming, Little Ice Age May Be Perceived

Over the last decade, I have become convinced (as most people are), that the Earth's atmosphere is warming dangerously; almost certainly from fossil fuel burning. Since last fall ('08) though, a theory, new to me, has been circulating. This theory says that a low incidence of sunspots on Sol's disc, means that the sun is cooling slightly. If true, lower sun temperatures could easily trump anything that we humans could do. The theory says that low sunspot activity 300 years ago was the actual cause of the "Little Ice Age" which occurred at that time.
Sunspot activity itself can be checked easily on spaceweather.com, which reports day by day on visible spots (as well as a daily archive back to 2000, auroras, meteor showers, passing asteroids, etc.), with each new spot identified by number. Normally sunspots average about 120 per year, with peak years of 450 or so, and minimum years of few spots, in an 11-year cycle. The last two years have been at the minimum point of the cycle, with only 30 spots in 2008; and only four spots in November, through January ('09). January's spots, #1010 & #1011, were very weak. This is not proof yet of anything, but if a correlation can be found with colder weather it will make for an interesting hobby for years. Several avenues are possible
The Weather Channel, TWC-TV; periodically reports running totals of record high, and record low, temperatures, as they occur randomly across America. For the eight years, through 2008, they report that record High/Low readings were 266,000 to 133,000 (by chance, 2.0 to 1). To me, this is proof positive of global warming. America, a large country in middle latitudes, should be a fair sample of the entire world. Depending on how they keep reporting this data, either as a new running total for 2009, or just as updates on the 8-year score; catching their figure every few months, or every quarter could show if a trend (2.0 to 1, ratio decreases over time),toward dropping world temperatures develops. This would be a clear sign that the Ice Age is coming. Accurate data will be supplied eventually by NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), but their site only shows data (slow temperature rise) through 2005; it will be more fun to guess before real data appears.
Many scientists say that the sunspot theory is not correct. However, if the sunspots stay rare, and world temperatures drop for years, it will become time for concern; there is no assurance that a drop will not exceed 2-degrees C, as in the Maunder Minimum, "Little Ice Age", 300 hundred years ago. Worry, worry.
CORRECTION: I believe there is an error in my logic above. With 6% of world population, we have 25% of the world's economy. 25% of CO2 over only 1.5% of the Earth's surface may cause the most intense fossil heating in the world (not a fair sample area). The US may be the last place where slight solar cooling would overcome fossil heating. Any warning of an Ice Age, must be from NOAA world temperatures (http://wps.prenhall.com/wps/media/objects/2513/2574258/pdfs/E17.9.pdf), (great data; check it out), but they will take several years to catch up with the current era of minimum sunspot activity.