Home » Columns »Sustainable Planet » Currently Reading:

Weather, County Energy Strategy and Our “Blue Marble”

February 14, 2012 by Tony Noerpel filed under Columns, Sustainable Planet No Comments
noerpel150

“We conclude that extreme heat waves, such as that in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010, were “caused” by global warming, because their likelihood was negligible prior to the recent rapid global warming.” – NASA climate scientists James Hansen, Makiko Sato and Reto Ruedy [1]

“Watching the weather over the past two years has been like watching a famous baseball hitter on steroids.”– Meteorologist Jeff Masters.

Government budgets are tight. I understand that much. And some expenses must get cut from the county budget. I don’t envy our Board of Supervisors having to balance it. They will get an earful from irate citizens no matter what they do and I sympathize with them even as I empathize with citizen concerns about loss of services. But having stayed out of this process in the past, I find myself motivated to join the fray this year.

In 2005, I met with our then future State Senator Mark Herring and we discussed global warming and our pending energy crises. At the time oil was less than $40 a barrel and I told him that soon it would be over $100. To any skeptical thinker paying attention that was not a hard prediction to make. We are running out. But the anthropogenic global warming problem is much worse as it is an existential threat. Herring asked me what he was supposed to do, after all his business as a local government official was to decide whether or not to build an overpass or install a traffic light or determine the size of signs. I had no answer then but promised to work on it. I do now. If we understand and accept the reality of global warming and fossil fuels depletion, it clarifies many of our decisions even at the local level. Any action which consumes less energy will do. Any action which commits us to consuming more energy is a mistake.

Loudoun County currently has an outstanding energy manager in Najib Salehi and under his leadership and with the cooperation of both the Board of Supervisors and county staff; our county has saved millions of dollars adopting energy efficient and energy conserving strategies. Our county has been recognized nationally for its County Energy Strategy.

For me the most important aspect of this effort is that the whole county and its citizenry have come to embrace sounder energy use policy because of the example of the CES. I attended the County Chamber of Commerce awards ceremony last year honoring local businesses which have adopted green business practices. As a local business owner myself I have since been encouraging my general partner that we need to compete this year in the competition.

In 2005, anthropogenic global warming was already a dominant factor influencing our climate. When the category-three Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans on August 29th 2005, pushing massive flood waters into Lake Pontchartrain, breaching the levees and flooding the city, pundits attributed the disaster to global warming. While there is justification for this conclusion the explanation is based on statistics and the argument is both subtle and nuanced. Category three hurricanes have made landfall before the era of global warming. And the extent of the Katrina disaster and human trauma had more to do with oil and gas development off the coast of Louisiana (which carved up the wetlands with canals and caused subsidence of millions of acres) and more immediately with the incompetence of the Bush administration. But weather is becoming increasingly extreme. The more recent severe events, such as the 2010 Moscow drought and the 2011 Texas drought can be convincingly attributed to anthropogenic global warming without having to rely on subtle statistical arguments. Anthropogenic global warming caused these disasters.

The Moscow drought caused such a severe loss of crops in Russia that the country suspended grain exports. This caused a food shortage in the Middle East which most likely precipitated the “Arab Spring”. I’ve seen lots of photos of desiccated fields around the city taken that summer but the most visceral image has to be the plot of the July temperature anomalies in Moscow since 1950 shown in Figure 1. Note that while there had been one summer which was 5 degrees Fahrenheit colder than the mean there are seven summers which were 5 degrees warmer. This is evidence of a linear global warming effect, a linear shift of the probability density function. However in 2010 the temperature was 12 degrees warmer than the mean. There is almost no probability of such a warm summer occurring as indicated by the superimposed Gaussian distribution curve. Such an event is not only evidence of global warming but evidence that the warming is now non-linear. That the recent extreme heat events are caused by anthropogenic global warming is in fact the conclusion of a PNAS paper by Stefan Rahmstorf and Dim Coumou [2].

Figure 1 July Temperature Anomalies in Moscow since 1950 from National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Figure 2 plots the average temperature in the June-August period in Texas for every year since 1895 against the June through August total rainfall. Observe that every year, drought or not, falls on a curve or not far off this curve. Thus given one of these measures, we could predict the other with close approximation. Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon is the source of this figure [3]. Nielsen-Gammon explains, “The year 2011 continues the recent trend of being much warmer than the historical precipitation-temperature relationship would indicate, although with no previous points so dry it’s hard to say exactly what history would say about a summer such as this one. Except that this summer is way beyond the previous envelope of summer temperature and precipitation.” Again, the 2011 Texas drought suggests that the Earth climate may have changed state.

Figure 2 Texas summer temperature verse total rainfall since 1895 [3].

Figure 3 is a picture of our home planet taken by satellite on January 4, 2012. Isn’t it breath-taking? Meteorologist Jeff Masters explains:

“A new polar orbiting satellite has returned a stunning true-color image of the Earth taken on January 4, 2012. The Suomi NPP satellite, launched on October 28, 2011, is the first one designed to both take measurements to improve short-term weather forecasts, and collect data to increase understanding of long-term climate change. The VIIRS instrument on the satellite collected a series of true-color images of the Western Hemisphere on January 4 that were stitched together to create a new “Blue Marble” image of Earth, like the ones taken by the Apollo astronauts in the 1970s.

“The image is very interesting meteorologically, and extremely strange. It is obvious that it is a winter image, as revealed by the large area of stratocumulus clouds off the U.S. East Coast all the way to South Florida, caused by cold Canadian air blowing offshore. However, the U.S. and Canada are virtually snow-free and cloud-free, which is extremely rare for a January day. The lack of snow in the mountains of the Western U.S. is particularly unusual. I doubt one could find a January day this cloud-free with so little snow on the ground throughout the entire satellite record, going back to the early 1960s. NOAA’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service shows that only one state–Washington–had areas where precipitation accumulated more than 0.25″ on January 4, 2012, which is an extraordinary occurrence for a January day.”

On his blog “weather underground” Masters has described the 14 one-billion dollar plus weather events occurring in the United States during 2011. This, of course, is a record.

The take home points are that anthropogenic global warming is real and is now evident and is indeed responsible for the extreme weather events we have been experiencing. This conclusion is no longer ambiguous or subject to qualification. Further, the changes do not appear to reflect a simple linear warming with respect to the additional atmospheric carbon dioxide but suggest a non-linear state transition has taken place. Our climate is no longer the same as what it once was. There is also at least one degree Fahrenheit more warming in the pipe line even if we abandon our cars and stop heating our homes; so the weather will continue to deteriorate; another easy prediction to make.

It is more important than ever that the county take the lead in teaching us how to conserve energy, not simply because of the immediate savings we enjoy but because we simply have no choice.

In a future article, I will discuss the summer time melting of the arctic sea ice and the probable impact on the weather. In fact as I write the arctic sea around Svalbard Island is already melting two months early, promising another extremely warm summer and another raft of frightening weather events later this year. The exposure of the dark Arctic Ocean during the summer months to incoming short wave solar radiation is one big nonlinear amplifying feedback on the Earth climate resulting from our misbehavior. It is past time to stop dishonest, cowardly and foolish denial.

Figure 3. The new “Blue Marble” image of Earth on January 4, 2012, as seen by the VIIRS instrument on the new Suomi NPP satellite. Image credit: NASA. [4]

References

[1] James Hansen, Makiko Sato and Reto Ruedy, “Perceptions of Climate Change: The New Climate Dice”, http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2012/20120105_PerceptionsAndDice.pdf

[2] Stefan Rahmstorf and Dim Coumou and http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/10/18/1101766108.abstract

[3] John Nielsen-Gammon, http://blog.chron.com/climateabyss/2011/08/texas-drought-spot-the-outlier/

[4] http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/6760135001/in/photostream

Comment on this article


By commenting, you agree to abide by our Terms of Service.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Columns

Hundreds Will Join 20th Annual Butterfly Count August 6

spring garden butterfly

By Andrea Gaines How Is a Butterfly Like a Rainbow? Scientists recently discovered that some butterfly wings contain tiny structures called gyroids that diffract or break up light into the colors of the spectrum. You may also have seen this …

Your Retirement Plan B

Smith0035

Take the time to design an alternative retirement plan should retirement come earlier than expected. Imagine this. You’ve spend decades working, saving, and planning for your version of the ideal retirement. Your company was just acquired, and your boss is …

Learning Patience As a Camp Counselor

Lunde new

By Mary Rose Lunde They say that one of the biggest blessings is being a teacher. It is also one of the hardest. Explaining to nine-year-old kids how to build a fire is one of the most challenging things I’ve …

Remembering the Man Who Never Forgot

moore-sobelnewmug

By Samuel Moore-Sobel “God is God because He remembers.” The implication being that the defining element separating humans from God is the Divine’s inability to forget. Elie Wiesel was defined in part by his willingness to remember, along with his …

Just Like Nothing (Else) On Earth: Balch Library

Thomas Balch Library

By Tim Jon Solitude, peace, and quiet: Not exactly the first three adjectives I’d choose to describe the greater portion of downtown Leesburg, although its charms do shine through even on the busiest of weekday afternoons. The last morning I …

Superforecasting a Book Review

noerpel_new

The book “Superforecasting” by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner contains a nearly complete list of the attributes of superforecasting, as well as critical thinking. Tetlock’s research empirically confirms the aspects of critical thinking I’ve been discussing in this column. Their …

Pokémon GO: A Fun New Gaming App or an Accidental Treatment?

Michael_Pic

Penicillin was accidently discovered in 1928 when scientist Alexander Fleming returned to his lab from vacation to notice that a strange fungus growing on a culture had killed off the neighboring bacteria. After WWII, psychiatrist and researcher, Dr. John Cade, …

Student News

Congratulations, Class of 2016

6 Jul 2016

grads_woodgrove

Woodgrove High School’s Class Of 2016 Graduation – By Amanda Clark On June 16, Woodgrove’s Class of 2016 was the 5th graduating class to walk the stage and accept their diploma. The ceremony was filled with anticipation as the chorus, …

(Be the first to comment)

Buckland Earns Degree In Medicine

6 Jul 2016

buckland

Molly Buckland, D.O., graduated from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine with a degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine on May 28. While at WVSOM, Dr. Buckland received the Dr. Roland P. Sharp President’s Award and the James R. …

(Be the first to comment)

Adams Promoted To Lieutenant

6 Jul 2016

adamspromoted

Lt. James Adams, from Sterling and a Potomac Falls Halls Graduate, earned the promotion to the rank of Lieutenant. Adams is a Navy Week and Executive Outreach Planner for the Navy Office of Community Outreach in Millington, Tennessee. U.S. Navy …

(Be the first to comment)

Calendar

August 2016
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
August 1, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 2, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 3, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 4, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 5, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 6, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

OysterFest & Roussanne Release!

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

Doug Parks

August 7, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 8, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 9, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 10, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 11, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 12, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 13, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 14, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 15, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 16, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 17, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 18, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 19, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 20, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

The Lucketts Fair

Live Music: Stealing Dawn

August 21, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

The Lucketts Fair

August 22, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

AUDITIONS

August 23, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 24, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 25, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 26, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 27, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

The Fabulous Hubcaps

August 28, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 29, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 30, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

August 31, 2016

Hot & Cool featuring glass artists Dave & Dale Barnes and abstract painter Kay Layne

September 1, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 2, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 3, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

Dear Creek Live at North Gate Vineyard

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

Snaggy Mountain Boys

September 4, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

Current Print Issue:
Sign up for our email newsletter:

Recent Comments

Steady and NoBull

Lifestyle

Winchester Plans Patsy Cline Music Festival Labor Day Weekend

11 Aug 2016

Patsy Cline

The Patsy Cline Music Festival will be held Labor Day weekend in her hometown of Winchester, Va. in honor of the legendary singer’s birthday anniversary on September. 8. Celebrating Patsy Cline sponsors the celebration that begins with a block party from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in front of the Patsy Cline Historic House, 608 S. Kent St. Music will …

(Be the first to comment)

Vigil for Lost Promise to Remember Loved Ones Lost to Drugs

11 Aug 2016

sheriff

Residents and local leaders are encouraged to join the many families, friends and community groups to share the light of their loved ones lost to drugs. The Vigil for Lost Promise will be held Tuesday, August 16, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. The event will be held at the Drugs: Cost and Consequences Exhibit (DEA Museum), located at 750 Miller Dr. …

(Be the first to comment)

August Is National Peach Month: Eat a Peach in Salad

3 Aug 2016

peach

Are You Kidding? No. A nectarine and a peach are basically the same species. Nectarines are bald peaches, in effect. In early cultivation, nectarines occasionally appeared on peach trees, the result of a recessive allele, the fruit from which were then cultivated as nectarines. Peaches are also part of the rose family. No wonder why we like all three, so …

(Be the first to comment)

Editorial

Grief and Greed

blueridge2

By Matthew Parse What would drive a single individual to cause so much emotional stress and financial burden on hundreds, if not, thousands of families? What would drive the Town …

Op-ed

Opinion: Terrorism, Debt, and China: Oh My!

blueridge2.jpg

– By Nick Reid world can be a very dangerous place sometimes, especially for a nation state such as the United States. Although danger is always present, the number and …

Metro Money Mess Pushing West

blueridge2.jpg

– By Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33rd) A local paper recently quoted Loudoun Board Chair Phyllis Randall as saying that in her observation “some of the concerns raised by the people …

Dear Editor

Lessons from Short Hill

shorthillmeeting

It’s been a little over two weeks since the Commission Permit for the proposed AT&T facility on Short Hill was overruled by the Board of Supervisors. This is just about …

Thank You

speak

Dear Citizens of Purcellville: As your town council member it is my vision and priority that you feel welcome at your Town Hall and take part in shaping Purcellville’s future …

View From the Ridge

An Open Letter to the Citizens of Purcellville

blueridge2

Mark Your Calendar, They’ve Asked for Our Input So Let’s Give It To Them By Steady and Nobull The Purcellville Planning Commission has tentatively scheduled a series of public input …

Around Virginia

Land Trust Receives Large Donation

land trust

On August 22, The Land Trust of Virginia received a $10,000 gift from the Sharon D. Virts Foundation, based in Herndon. The presentation of this grant was part of the Foundation’s official launch event, held at Selma Plantation in Leesburg. Notable speakers included Sharon D. Virts, FCiFederal Founder and Chair, …

(Be the first to comment)

Farmers Urged To Be On The Lookout For Marijuana

marijuana

Farmers in Southwest Virginia are being urged to check their property for marijuana planted by trespassers. Within the past year, hundreds of marijuana plants have been discovered between rows of hay bales on farms in and around Pulaski County, according to the Claytor Lake Regional Drug Task Force. “Unfortunately this …

(Be the first to comment)

State Senators Investigate University of Virginia’s $2.3 Billion Operating Surplus

Uva-logo

Senators Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach), are calling for an investigation into disclosures that the University of Virginia has accumulated a $2.3 billion operating surplus, now titled a “Strategic Investment Fund,” that is significantly larger than the Commonwealth’s own cash reserves. Both senators agree that the …

(Be the first to comment)

Sports

Let’s Make Some Memories

3 Aug 2016

baseball

American Legion Baseball At Fireman’s Field, August 3 – 7 By Andrea Gaines American Legion Baseball is here at Fireman’s Field in a big way, featuring five consecutive blockbuster Mid-Atlantic Tournament games – August 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Our local Leesburg Post 34 Rangers had some nice wins …

(Be the first to comment)

Registration Open For Ida Lee’s Fall NFL Flag Football

7 Jul 2016

NFL_Flag_Football_at_IdaLee

Ida Lee’s Fall 2016 NFL Flag Football League will begin with player evaluations on Saturday and Sunday, July 30 and 31.  Players must be registered by Tuesday, July 26, to participate. This fall, Ida Lee’s Leesburg NFL Flag Football House League will have the following age groups:  6-7; 8-9; 10-11; …

(Be the first to comment)

Archives

  • +2016
  • +2015
  • +2014
  • +2013
  • +2012
  • +2011
  • +2010
  • +2009