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Quick Takes and Random Stuff Nov 9, 2023
Whales, water, waves and more
Visual of the week: Whales to the rescue
I should probably stop calling these graphs. Is this a graph or just a visual? Either way, this is fascinating, as it demonstrates how whales sequester carbon (12/15/2022). The short story is that whales come to the surface to go to the bathroom. This provides food for phytoplankton and creates growth in phytoplankton. This moves up the food chain to create food for whales. When the fish and whales die, carbon is sequestered on the floor of the ocean.
From a 2019 report on this topic:
The carbon capture potential of whales is truly startling. Whales accumulate carbon in their bodies during their long lives. When they die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean; each great whale sequesters 33 tons of CO2 on average, taking that carbon out of the atmosphere for centuries. A tree, meanwhile, absorbs only up to 48 pounds of CO2 a year.
This is where the whales come in. If whales were allowed to return to their pre-whaling number of 4 to 5 million—from slightly more than 1.3 million today—it could add significantly to the amount of phytoplankton in the oceans and to the carbon they capture each year. At a minimum, even a 1 percent increase in phytoplankton productivity thanks to whale activity would capture hundreds of millions of tons of additional CO2 a year, equivalent to the sudden appearance of 2 billion mature trees. Imagine the impact over the average lifespan of a whale, more than 60 years.
This is referred to as the whale pump, and increasing the whale population is one way to sequester some carbon. It won’t solve climate change alone, but it would be nice to hear more about ideas such as this, and it is the type of science that gives me some hope. My concern is that climate activists don’t support any sequestration of carbon because they want to get rid of fossil fuels no matter what.
Another offshore wind energy setback
The title says it all: Ørsted just axed plans for two New Jersey offshore wind farms – here’s why (11/1/2023)
In a major reversal, Ørsted says it’s killing the 1,100-megawatt (MW) Ocean Wind 1 and 1,148-MW Ocean Wind 2 projects, just as construction was about to start on Ocean Wind 1. Electrek only just reported on October 12 that Ørsted had put up a $100 million guarantee that it would have Ocean Wind 1 online by December 2025.
Now, to us mortals, $100 million is a lot of money, but to big companies, not so much. Still, Ørsted is losing that $100 million by butting a hold on this project. What are the reasons for the halt?
He went on to explain that a lack of installation vessels would mean a multi-year delay for Ocean Wind 1. That would mean the company would have to re-contract all its project scopes at “expectedly higher prices – that was the reason for the swing.”
We should keep in mind that green energy doesn’t exist all by itself. In fact, it is reliant on fossil fuels as well as the economy in general. I have a hard time believing that wind and solar are these no-brainer, cheap forms of energy. As they say, it’s complicated, and offshore wind seems to be the most complicated.
Increasing ocean wave energy
This graph comes from Increasing ocean wave energy observed in Earth’s seismic wavefield since the late 20th century (11/1/2023).
Earth’s seismic wavefield was revealed by the late 19th century to be incessantly excited at periods between ~8 and 30 s. It was well established by the 1960s that seafloor forces due to wind-driven ocean gravity waves are the principal source of seismic waves in this period range in the absence of earthquakes or other large transient events, and that this microseismic wavefield is primarily composed of seismic surface waves1. Mid-20th century studies established phenomenological understanding of the distinct ocean wave to solid Earth source coupling processes responsible for the primary (≈14–20 s) and secondary (≈6–12 s) microseism period bands.
Why is this increasing?
Increasing ocean basin surface wind speeds since the mid-20th century have been inferred from meteorologic, oceanographic, and satellite altimetry data. Relevant factors vary geographically over multi-decade timescales under the influence of troposphere and ocean warming16,17,18,19,20,21 with14 estimating that global wave power has on average increased by 1.087 × 103 kW m−1 y−1 and correlates strongly with sea surface temperature for 1948–2008. The microseism wavefield arises from geographically distributed forces applied to the seafloor by wind-driven ocean wave activity and is thus a proxy for the ocean wave state that complements surface and remote measurements6. This indicates that secular and other trends in ocean waves state are expected to be globally reflected in seismic data.
The drought is over, really?
I’ve run into two articles recently about the end of the drought in California (11/8/203) and Nevada (11/2/2023). This is true, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor as we see in the map. But notice that New Mexico and Arizona aren’t doing well, nor is Washington.
California also gets water from the Colorado River, so an update of Lake Mead water levels is in order.
Lake Mead has improved, but it is still at record lows. I’m not sure, folks, so get excited about being technically drought-free. My feeling is that people here think the problem is solved, have nothing to worry about, and go on using water. Maybe this message should be restrained a bit.
An EIA fail
I generally like what the EIA produces but Florida’s growing population is increasing its fuel consumption violates the data rules Ask, Compared to What? and Normalize properly; ask, "Per what?”
Florida is growing faster than the U.S. average (left panel), which is well done, but the right panel just has total miles traveled in million miles per day. Well, more people will increase the total miles driven. This is meaningless. First, it should be normalized as miles per capita, or miles per car in the state, or even miles per licensed driver. That should then be compared to the same metric in the U.S. We learn nothing from the right panel.
Expect more climate warming
From a November 2023 U.N. report:
Governments, in aggregate, still plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C. The persistence of the global production gap puts a well-managed and equitable energy transition at risk.
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The graph here says it all. The announced pledges, dotted line, still puts us above 2°C. I’d like to know how much warming we get from the red line (the plans & projections trend). I hope the whales can help (see above). This is our reality; adaptation has to be (a big) part of the plan.
The spinning CD
It is a little early for holiday music, but Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers just released a well-done remake of Reindeer Boogie.
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Disagreeing and using comments
I'd rather know the truth and understand the world than always be right. I'm not writing to upset or antagonize anyone on purpose, though I guess that could happen. I welcome dissent and disagreement in the comments. We all should be forced to articulate our viewpoints and change our minds when we need to, but we should also know that we can respectfully disagree and move on. So, if you think something said is wrong or misrepresented, then please share your viewpoint in the comments.