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

The Holocene Climate

noerpel_new

(Public Input Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, 7 March, 2017) Figure 1 shows the climate variation over the last million years. The low points on the curve correspond to ice ages when glaciers up to a mile thick covered New …

Choosing To Forgive

moore-sobelnewmug

By Samuel Moore-Sobel “Truly forgiving is the ability to say, ‘Thank you for giving me that experience.’” James Arthur Ray vaulted into fame on the Oprah Winfrey Show back in the mid-2000’s. Stunned hearing these words while watching The Rise and …

Five Key Retirement Questions

Smith0035

Beyond asking yourself where you see yourself and even what your lifelong goal are, effective retirement and longevity planning begs some very big questions. Review the points below and consider how housing, transportation and health considerations all play a role …

Work Woes

drmikenewpic

By Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D. Dr. Mike, I’m a manager at a large tech company and my boss has directed me to fire someone on my team, but as a Christian, I just can’t do it. It’s true that the employee …

Joy or Suffering

Lunde new

By Mary Rose Lunde No one likes to suffer. When given the chance, many people would choose to laugh rather than cry, to sit in silence with their friends rather than talk through their feelings, because not even their friends …

Wage Radio

wage

I will always remember – very fondly – the first time I ever set foot on the property at 711 Wage Drive Southwest in Leesburg, Virginia. It was a warm, sunny July morning in 1997, and I’d driven all the …

Speaking Truth to Power

noerpel_new

“With public sentiment nothing can fail. Without it nothing can succeed.” Abraham Lincoln On Thursday evening, February 23, I requested the Board of Supervisors pass a proclamation resolving to support the March for Science on Earth Day, April 22 [1]. …

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

March 2017
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
February 27, 2017 February 28, 2017 March 1, 2017 March 2, 2017 March 3, 2017

LAST HAM STANDING COMEDY IMPROV

LAST HAM STANDING COMEDY IMPROV
March 4, 2017

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event
March 5, 2017
March 6, 2017 March 7, 2017 March 8, 2017 March 9, 2017 March 10, 2017 March 11, 2017 March 12, 2017
March 13, 2017 March 14, 2017 March 15, 2017 March 16, 2017 March 17, 2017 March 18, 2017

Wine & Chili Weekend

Wine & Chili Weekend
March 19, 2017

Joshua Carr River Safety Foundation Rummage Sale

Joshua Carr River Safety Foundation Rummage Sale
March 20, 2017 March 21, 2017 March 22, 2017 March 23, 2017 March 24, 2017

March Fourth Friday

March Fourth Friday
March 25, 2017 March 26, 2017

Spring Brunch

Spring Brunch

Spring Brunch

Spring Brunch
March 27, 2017 March 28, 2017 March 29, 2017 March 30, 2017 March 31, 2017 April 1, 2017

”Homage to Mother Earth”

”Homage to Mother Earth”

Nebbiolo Vertical Tasting

Nebbiolo Vertical Tasting

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event
April 2, 2017

”Homage to Mother Earth”

”Homage to Mother Earth”

GALLERY COFFEEHOUSE: Readers Theater, “One Slight Hitch”

GALLERY COFFEEHOUSE: Readers Theater, “One Slight Hitch”
Current Print Issue:
Sign up for our email newsletter:

Recent Comments

  • David on Protecting Free Speech: Constitutionally protected speech is exactly what it sounds like, protected. We all have the legal right to utter nonsensical and...
  • Martha on Protecting Free Speech: Free speech is not a cherished right at the not-quite accredited Patrick Henry College, a religious school that Del. LaRock...
  • Martha Polkey on First Look at Envision Loudoun Results: It remains to be seen whether the direction citizens have provided to the Envision process is actually incorporated into the...
  • David on Protecting Free Speech: Mr. LaRock, I assume that the only reason you weren’t at every School Board meeting in 2005 passionately defending the...
  • LongTimePville on Purcellville Emergency Meeting Postponed to March 10: I bet Kelli Grim flip flops on her conflicts of interest and transparency campaign she ran on and does not...

Steady and NoBull

Lifestyle

Loudoun Workforce Resource Center Presents STEM Career Fair March 28

16 Mar 2017

Illustration of STEM education word typography design in orange theme with icon ornament elements

Anyone interested in a career in the rapidly growing field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is encouraged to attend an upcoming STEM Career Fair in Loudoun. The Loudoun Workforce Resource Center, in partnership with Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC)’s Loudoun campus and NOVA SySTEMic Solutions, is holding a STEM Career Fair Tuesday, March 28, from 1:00 to 4:00 …

(Be the first to comment)

Keep Loudoun Beautiful—Greater Lovettsville Area Volunteers Needed

16 Mar 2017

Lovettsville Boat Launch 7-26-09

The Keep Loudoun Beautiful spring clean-up takes place the entire month of April and greater Lovettsville needs volunteers. Bags, vests, gloves and grabbers are available at the Lovettsville Community Center during normal business hours, Monday-Friday. This is a great group or individual activity that can be scheduled around your availability. E-mail Lovettsville Area Leader, Laura Lieberman, for details and to …

(Be the first to comment)

National Awkward Moments Day

8 Mar 2017

awkward

?Laughing at Yourself Is the Best Medicine No one knows who invented National Awkward Moments Day, Saturday, March 18. That’s no surprise, since it probably came about as the result of one stunningly awkward moment that the owner of that moment was hoping to forget. We surveyed our readers and friends to ask them about their most awkward moments, sharing …

(Be the first to comment)

Around Virginia

Protecting Free Speech

Dave_larock

By Dave LaRock (R-33) As elected officials and members of the legislature, our most fundamental responsibility is to protect God-given constitutionally protected rights. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the government, including governmental public colleges and universities, from infringing on free speech and the free exercise of …

(3 comments)

Walbridge To Run for State Delegate in the 33rd District

Tia walbridge

Tia Walbridge announces her run for the District 33 seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Walbridge is a wife and mother of two daughters and an active member of the Round Hill community. “Like many people in our district, my family has found its prosperity in a Virginia-based small …

(Be the first to comment)

Office Building on Capitol Square To Be Named After Civil Rights Pioneer Barbara Johns

image002

Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that the newly renovated state building located at 202 N. 9th Street on Capitol Square in Richmond (currently known as the 9th Street Office Building) will bear the name of civil rights pioneer Barbara Johns. The building, which reopened last year, houses the Virginia Attorney General’s …

(Be the first to comment)

Sports

Vikings Runner-Up at the State Championship 

8 Mar 2017

vikings

The Loudoun Valley Vikings are the boy’s runner-up at the VHSL 4A State Indoor Track and Field Championships at Roanoke College.  During the 2015-2016 school year, the Loudoun County School Board approved Indoor Track and Field as a Tier 2 (self-funded) sport.  The seven boys competing scored 48 points, second …

(Be the first to comment)

WLVBC U14 Boys Finish 3rd at VA Beach Event

23 Feb 2017

WLVBC300

The Western Loudoun Volleyball Club’s U14 Boys Team garnered 3rd place in their first travel tournament of 2017, the Virginia Beach Invitational. This event was held Feb. 18-19 and featured more than 24 teams from the U14 to U18 age group. The team was second on their net on day …

(Be the first to comment)

Archives

  • +2017
  • +2016
  • +2015
  • +2014
  • +2013
  • +2012
  • +2011
  • +2010
  • +2009