Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #281

The Week That Was: August 19, 2017 Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Quote of the Week. Physics has a history of synthesizing many phenomena into a few theories – Richard Feynman

Number of the Week: $4 Trillion

Blackwaters: Blackwater rivers and bogs belie the claims that ocean carbonization, foolishly called “ocean acidification”, will eliminate life. Blackwater rivers are common to the Amazon and the Southeast US, and found in Europe, Africa, Australia, Indonesia, and elsewhere. A blackwater river is a slow-moving current running through forested or highly vegetated swamps or wetlands. Decaying vegetation, particularly leaves, release tannins into the water, making a comparatively transparent, acidic water into one darkly stained, resembling tea or black coffee.

Blackwater rivers are somewhat similar to clearwater rivers in that they do have low levels of sediment. However, clearwater rivers have a pH of about 7 or slightly less. The pH of blackwater rivers can range from 6 to below 4. Microscopic life varies somewhat between the types of rivers. Blackwater supports rotifers, a common prey to many aquatic animals; but but fewer types of crustaceans and mites, another common prey to many aquatic animals.

At 685 square miles (1775 square km), the Okefenokee Swamp is the largest blackwater swamp in the US. Generally, a swamp supports forests while a marsh supports only grasses. Located in southern Georgia and extending into Florida, in 1937, the a major portion of the Okefenokee was sold to the US government and declared a national wildlife refuge. There are no unique, endangered species found there, but the richness of the ecosystem justified such a designation. Near universities and with easy access, the Okefenokee is one on the most intensely studied. The swamp receives an average of 50 to 60 inches (125 to 150 cm) of rain per year. Other inflow of water is considered insignificant. The swamp provides the headwaters for the slow-moving Suwannee and St. Mary’s rivers.

At an elevation of about 120 feet (37 m), the swamp is an inundated peak bog. Core studies show that the peat began forming about 6500 years ago and plant communities were much the same as today. The base of the swamp is sand, left over past warm periods, when sea levels were much higher. Below that is marine clays, which slowly seeped below the sand, forming an impervious layer. The pH averages about 3.6, averaging from 3.2 to 4.2. It is truly acidic.

Yet, the swamp has a great diversity of life. Many forms are common to the area, few are specialized for blackwater. Of particular note are the amphibians and fish that lay their eggs in the acidic waters. There are 21 species of frogs and toads and 16 species of salamanders thriving in the acidic swamp. The larger ones eat the abundant crayfish, frogs, snakes, fish, etc., a diet similar to that of wading birds. Crayfish, are freshwater crustaceans, similar to lobster.

There are 39 species of fish in these waters, including Chain Pickerel, often considered a northern fish. A large variety of sunfish is found, including bass, that migrate to less acidic waters in the rivers when the pH drops too low.

On a day in mid-August at the Okefenokee, the air temperature ranged from the mid-70s to the mid-90s. The surface water temperature was in the mid-80s. Other than birds and some frogs, few animals could be seen. Many birds fly north for the summer, others pass through in the spring and fall The alligators were in deep water. Even the herons and egrets seemed to move slowly, having adjusted to the heat.

After several years of low rainfall, the pH measured 3.4 earlier this year. Then, heavy spring and summer rains raised the water levels by about 2 feet, raising the pH to about 3.6. The increased water level flooded some alligator nests, destroying the egg clutches they contained. Alligators build nests in decaying vegetation, which provides the heat needed to incubate the eggs. As with many other forms of life in the blackwater, they are plentiful, but are most easily observed in the spring and fall. Those politicians who raise fears of “ocean acidification” would benefit from a trip to a blackwater swamp. See link under Acidic Waters.


Antarctic Ice Melt: A study published by the Geological Society of London draws into question any claims that carbon dioxide (CO2) is primarily responsible for melting the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is the major focus of NASA, NOAA, and others supporting claims by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the world will experience an increase in sea level rise far beyond the six to seven inches (18 cm) per century calculated from tidal gages.

As discussed in prior TWTWs, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet overlies the West Antarctic Rift System about which we have only limited and sporadic knowledge of volcanic activity and its extent. The area is covered by ice. As stated in the abstract of the paper: enhanced knowledge of this area is needed to better understand “how volcanism and rifting may have influenced ice-sheet growth and decay over previous glacial cycles, and in light of concerns over whether enhanced geothermal heat fluxes and subglacial melting may contribute to instability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.”

The researchers: “use ice-sheet bed-elevation data to locate individual conical edifices protruding upwards into the ice across West Antarctica, and we propose that these edifices represent subglacial volcanoes. We used aeromagnetic, aerogravity, satellite imagery and databases of confirmed volcanoes to support this interpretation. The overall result presented here constitutes a first inventory of West Antarctica’s subglacial volcanism. We identified 138 volcanoes, 91 of which have not previously been identified, and which are widely distributed throughout the deep basins of West Antarctica, but are especially concentrated and orientated along the >3000 km central axis of the West Antarctic Rift System.

If the techniques of the researchers, and their assumptions, prove correct, then they found 91 previously unknown volcanoes, bringing the total to 138 identified volcanoes under the ice sheet. The new 91 glaciers range in height from 340 feet to 13,000 feet (100 to 3850 meters). The peaks are concentrated in the West Antarctic Rift System, spanning 2200 miles (3,500 kilometers) from Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf to the Antarctic Peninsula.

The geothermal activity from the Antarctic fault / rift system may explain most if not all of the sea level rise attributed to melting of the Antarctic glaciers. It is important to note that the far larger East Antarctica is gaining snow and ice. The articles on this important finding range from moderate to silly. For example, Phys.org stated:

“Their results do not indicate whether the volcanoes are active, but should inform ongoing research into seismic monitoring in the area. Volcanic activity may increase if Antarctica’s ice thins, which is likely in a warming climate, scientists say.”

While the headline in the Washington Post stated: “Another climate-change nightmare: 91 new volcanoes beneath Antarctica’s ice.” Why is geophysical activity a climate-change nightmare?

It is doubtful that those in NASA, NOAA, etc. who are promoting the idea of increasing sea level rise will state: Most if not all sea level rise attributed to Antarctica comes from geothermal activity, not increasing CO2. See links under: Changing Earth and Communicating Better to the Public – Exaggerate, or be Vague?


Bigger Wind? U.S. Department of Energy released a new report prepared by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) which states:

“Bigger turbines are enhancing wind project performance. The average generating capacity of newly installed wind turbines in the United States in 2016 was 2.15 MW, up 11% from the average over the previous 5 years. The average rotor diameter in 2016 was 108 meters, a 13% increase over the previous 5-year average, while the average hub height in 2016 was 83 meters, up 1% over the previous 5-year average. Moreover, turbines originally designed for lower wind speeds are now regularly deployed in higher wind speed sites, boosting project performance. Increased rotor diameters, in particular, have begun to dramatically increase wind project capacity factors. For example, the average 2016 capacity factor among projects built in 2014 and 2015 was 42.6%, compared to an average of 32.1% among projects built from 2004 to 2011 and 25.4% among projects built from 1998 to 2001.”

No doubt, many wind promoters greet this news with pride. However, one must remember that wind turbines are reaching their theoretical limits in efficiency. In 1919, physicist Albert Betz established a hypothetical limit to the energy that a wind machine can extract – only about 59% of the kinetic energy of the wind passing through it.

Further in his 2015 book, “Energy: A Textbook”, physicist Howard Hayden calculated that the torque, force, generated by a large turning turbine is similar to a school bus turning at the end of a plank the length of a football field. Thus, the base must be very strong and thick. The base may contain more than 550 tons of concrete and 45 tons of reinforcing steel.

Additionally, when the blades pass the shaft, they set up low frequency soundwaves. Low frequency sound travels great distances and can be very disturbing to a small percentage of people, affecting their sense of balance.

No doubt, larger on-shore wind turbines will face increasing opposition. Off-shore wind power has yet to be demonstrated as effective for replacing fossil fuels. What will such wind turbines do with plans by architects to incorporate wind turbines in high-rise building? See links under Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Solar and Wind.


Perplexed Insurer: Munich RE is the world’s largest re-insurance company, essentially an insurer of insurance companies. According to reports the company is perplexed about the relatively few natural disasters thus far in 2017. Could it be a benefit of global warming? See links under Changing Weather.


Winner of the April Fools Award! The winner of SEPP’s annual April Fools award, a lump of coal, was announced on August 13 at the annual meeting of the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. The unsuccessful nominees included Donald Trump for anti-science; RI Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, whose motto is — Censor the Skeptics; NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose motto is — Sue the Skeptics; Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, Drive Skeptic Out – Get them fired; and California Governor Jerry Brown, Ignore the Skeptics – Build Solar Power from panels which produce 60% of capacity about 20% of the time on cloudless Summer days in southern California. Less the rest of the time.

But the clear winner was former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres who stated: “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.” (Investors Business Daily, February 10, 2015)

As spoken during the presentation: translated the above statement means: “We will destroy the economic system that raised billions of people out of dire poverty, and allows them to live healthier, longer lives. We will force them to return to a hand to mouth existence of squalor and disease.”

As Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Ms. Figueres claims responsibility for the signing of the Paris Agreement. But who knows what it is?

Is it binding or non-binding? If it is binding on the US, then submit it to the Senate for approval by 2/3 of the Senate as required by the Constitution. Let them decide.

To avoid the US Constitution, the Agreement was changed at the last second to give it the appearance of an executive agreement. Avoiding the Constitution is not American Law.

This last-second change demonstrates that the UNFCCC and the UN-IPCC which provides the semi-science supporting it, are little more than Smoke and Mirrors – providing only an illusion of responsibility.

Flushed with great success, in April, Ms. Figueres became head of Mission 2020, stating it needs One Trillion Dollars a year to prevent dangerous global warming. How much is One Trillion? That is more than the average annual deficit of 8 years of the Obama Administration.

Ms. Figueres well earned her lump of coal! See link under Defending the Orthodoxy.


Number of the Week: $4 Trillion. Using several sources, Roger Andrews of Energy Matters estimates that world-wide, governments and companies have spent $4 Trillion on renewable energy sources. Three trillion for direct outlay on generating facilities, and $1 Trillion for upgrades required by renewables. The exact numbers are contestable. But, determining if it is a successful “investment” is not – are the expenditures producing a positive return? See link under Challenging the Orthodoxy.



1. EPA Resignation Facts

The rest of the story behind those loud civil-servant protests.

Editorial, WSJ, Aug 7, 2017


The editorial states:

“The media and federal unions are making a cause celebre out of federal scientists who have resigned and then denounced Trump Administration policies on the way out. We’re all for shrinking the government workforce, but the political melodrama could use a few leavening facts.

“The latest splash is from Elizabeth Southerland, until recently the director of science and technology in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water. Ms. Southerland ended a 30-year EPA career last week with an internal memo decrying Donald Trump’s ‘draconian’ budget cuts, and his ‘industry deregulation.’ She said her ‘civic duty’ required that she warn that ‘our children and grandchildren’ face ‘increased public health and safety risks and a degraded environment.’

“This follows the much-publicized April departure of Michael Cox, who quit the EPA in Washington state after 25 years, complaining in a letter to Administrator Scott Pruitt about ‘indefensible budget cuts’ and efforts to ‘dismantle EPA and its staff as quickly as possible.’

“Both EPA employees are of retirement age, and they are right to bow out if they can’t in good faith work for Mr. Pruitt. Their letters nonetheless reveal an entrenched and liberal federal bureaucracy. Though career civil servants who are supposed to serve political appointees of any party, they have clearly become progressive ideological partisans.

“Their exits also explain why so much of the EPA workforce is misrepresenting or missing the point of Mr. Pruitt’s policy changes. Ms. Southerland raps the Administrator’s call to rebalance power between the feds and states, as she claims the EPA ‘has always followed a cooperative federalism approach.’

“Really? During the combined presidencies of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the EPA imposed five federal air-quality implementation plans on states. Barack Obama’s EPA imposed 56.

“The Obama EPA also stripped states of their statutory development authority, whether with its pre-emptive veto of Alaska’s Pebble Mine, or its Waters of the United States rule that gave the feds de facto sway over tens of millions of acres of private land. EPA employees embraced these new powers, but they violate the Constitution and hurt the environment.

After citing the Gold King Mine disaster in Colorado and Flint Michigan lead disaster, where the EPA failed to alert the public, and failures of Fish and Wildlife Service, the editorial continues:

“Mr. Trump has proposed a 30% cut in EPA funding, but Congress won’t cut anything close. Mr. Pruitt’s decision to refocus on core jobs like Superfund cleanups means a shift in EPA spending in any event. The goal should be an EPA that is more efficient and effective—rather than one measured by employee numbers.

“Ms. Southerland’s exit may also free up some dollars. Federal records show she earned $249,000 last year in combined salary and bonus—$1,000 less than a Supreme Court Justice and about $200,000 more than the average taxpayer. She’ll receive an annual lifetime pension worth about 75% of the average of the last three years of her career. With that sinecure, she should forgive taxpayers for thinking a little fiscal discipline at EPA might be in order.”


2. Studies Are Usually Bunk, Study Shows

If a conclusion sounds wrong to you, you’re probably not a hung-over grad student.

By Andy Kessler, WSJ, Aug 13, 2017


The op-ed comments on a “best seller”, “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell, the author of “The Tipping Point.” The op-ed cites earlier comments by Andrew Ferguson then states:

“Many of the studies quoted in newspaper articles and pop-psychology books are one-offs anyway. In August 2015, the Center for Open Science published a study in which 270 researchers spent four years trying to reproduce 100 leading psychology experiments. They successfully replicated only 39. Yes, I see the irony of a study debunking a study, but add to this a Nature survey of 1,576 scientists published last year. ‘More than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments,’ the survey report concludes. ‘And more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments.’

“Bunk medical studies are worrisome, but who really cares about pop behavioral science? It’s easy to write this off as trivial, except millions take these studies and their conclusions seriously. The 2008 book ‘Nudge,’ from academics Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, called for ‘libertarian paternalism’ to push people in the right direction. But who decides what’s the right direction? Turns out the answer is Mr. Sunstein. He was hired by the Obama administration in 2009 to run the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Call it psychobabble authoritarianism.

“In his best seller ‘Blink,’ Mr. Gladwell finds studies suggesting we are all unconsciously biased sexists, racists, genderists, ableists, and a litany of other ‘ists’—victimhood’s origin story. Newer research has deflated this theory, but the serious conclusions, and boring training seminars they inevitably lead to, remain. In her first debate against Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton channeled her inner Malcolm Gladwell and declared: ‘Implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police.’ Everyone? Speak for yourself. It’s as if she called an entire slice of society deplorable.

“Psych labs are being replaced. In the past decade, companies have built vast platforms to probe, test and study humans every time they search, like or snap. Google runs what are called Split A/B tests, dividing users into groups and testing usability and other features to see what works best. In 2014, Facebook caused a bit of a stir after altering 689,000 users’ newsfeeds to see if the company could manipulate their emotions. It could. Good or bad, this is the future of studies.

“The world is not binary, but conclusions drawn from studies always are. These studies show whatever someone wants them to. So stay skeptical and remember: Correlation doesn’t equal causation. If only I could find a study that shows this.”



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