Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


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Discovery Launches With Kibo and Toilet Pump

There is more good news for NASA: the planned Discovery launch went well just a couple of hours ago. From the Space.com article:

The shuttle’s trip to the space station should take two days. Once there, Discovery’s crew will unload and install the $1 billion lab and hand-deliver a specially made pump for the outpost’s finicky toilet.

About five pieces of debris — what appeared to be thin pieces of insulating foam — broke off the fuel tank during liftoff, but the losses did not occur during the crucial first two minutes and should be of no concern, said NASA’s space operations chief, Bill Gerstenmaier. This was the first tank to have all safety changes prompted by the 2003 Columbia disaster built in from the start.

Three spacewalks are planned during Discovery’s 14-day flight: to install Kibo, replace an empty nitrogen-gas tank and try out various cleaning methods on a clogged solar-wing rotating joint.


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Carbon Trust Selected to Implement Colorado’s Voluntary Carbon Fund

Gov. Ritter’s Energy Office selected The Climate Trust to implement the Colorado Carbon Fund. The Colorado Carbon Fund was designed to provide high quality, verifiable carbon offsets for consumers concerned about climate change.

Consumers can mitigate their own carbon emissions by helping to fund offset projects, which, according to The Climate Trust and the Governor’s Energy Office, quantifiably reduce greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. One aspect of this program I particularly like: the Colorado Carbon Fund will only spend funds on greenhouse gas reduction projects that are developed in Colorado. That keeps those projects local, which is admirable. There are other projects that develop projects nationally and internationally, The Climate Trust being one of them.

From the GEO’s press release:

Tom Plant, GEO Director. “Carbon offsets are a part of a three step process for consumers to engage in a sustainable energy lifestyle. First is measurement of emissions; second is reduction of emissions through efficiency and renewable energy; third is offset of the remaining emissions through the Colorado Carbon Fund. Taken as a package, the Colorado Carbon Fund’s voluntary carbon offsets will help us to meet our greenhouse gas emissions goals from the state’s Climate Action Plan.”

The Climate Trust will work with GEO staff over the next several months to develop the framework for the Colorado Carbon Fund including defining funding opportunities for in-state offset projects, developing web-based carbon footprint calculators, and creating the offset tracking and retirement system. The official launch of the Colorado Carbon Fund is anticipated for late summer 2008.

Here is something from the press release that’s confusing:

Colorado residents who offset over 50% of their vehicle’s emissions will qualify to purchase a “Carbon Neutral Colorado” license plate through legislation recently passed by the Colorado General Assembly.

How ironic is that? I fail to see how this “reward” encourages positive behavior. It makes it seem like the Fund is only a feel-good measure, which I don’t necessarily think it is. Overall all though, a good plan is being set up here.


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Clean Energy Fund Grants

A short while back, Gov. Ritter’s Energy Office announced the recipients of the second round of “New Energy Economic Development (NEED)” grants. 13 entities were awarded $656,000 in funding. The group includes some pretty interesting projects and ideas. I’ve commented on some of them. The list:

• Bardwell Consulting of Denver received $25,000.00 for its OptiMiser program, which is a PC-based program that creates and evaluates a full range of near-optimal solutions for energy retrofits. The NEED grant will be used to complete and launch the distributable version of OptiMiser.

• Black Hawk Transportation Authority received $50,000.00 for a biodiesel processing facility that will process used cooking oil from area restaurants into biodiesel, and blend the produced fuel for B5-B20. The biodiesel will power the Black Hawk and Central City Tramway buses and municipal fleets.

• City and County of Denver received $60,000.00 to support the launch of Denver’s new green business program that will engage and educate businesses in energy efficiency and sustainable practices while providing a framework for regional action.

• Community Energy Systems of Crestone, received $24,170.00 for biomass thermal heating systems for the Homelake Veterans’ Home.

• Coolerado of Arvada, received $25,000 to build a solar powered, mobile, five-ton air conditioning system.

I’m not sure how a five-ton mobile solar powered air conditioning system is going to be used, but I do find the concept intriguing.

• Czero, Inc. of Fort Collins, received $67,500.00. They will partner with the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory and the College of Business at Colorado State University to develop a low cost hydraulic hybrid retrofit kit.

I like this one because it’s a small (seemingly) business partnering with an educational facility. More of this, please.

• Denver Zoological Foundation received $100,000.00 to incorporate a biomass gasification system in Asian Tropics, its next major exhibit showcasing Asian elephants and other wildlife native to Southeast Asia.

This makes so much sense. Think of all the biomass generated by zoos across the country for umpteen years. Finding a way to use it all as an energy source reflects forward thinking by zoo officials. Kudos to them.

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First 2008 Atlantic Tropical Storm Forms

Tropical Storm Arthur has formed. For the past week, water temperatures south of Cuba’s southern coast and west of it’s eastern coast has averaged over 28C, warm enough to support the heat energy required by tropical storms. The Bay of Campeche is warmer still: over 29C. All that was needed was more favorable upper air conditions. Those conditions have at least temporarily come together.

Arthur basically made landfall right after designation on the east coast of Belize. The associated low pressure system is forecasted to move across the Yucatan peninsula and reemerge over water (southern Gulf) Sunday or Monday. If it does, it has the chance to restrengthen to weak tropical storm force before making second landfall somewhere over Mexico’s coast.

More information can be found at the Tropical Prediction Center.


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Ideologues Get It Wrong Again

I found the following on the tubes. It’s about Ben Stein’s piece that mocks science:

Ben Stein Assails the Intelligentsia

Ben Stein’s new documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” is a riveting expos of the intolerant academic community that systematically declares war on anyone or any institution that dares to question liberal Darwinian orthodoxy. “Correct speak” and “correct think” are de rigueur among scholars, who are expected to tow the line that “evolution” and “natural selection” are the be all and end all when it comes to deciphering the origins of mankind.

Obviously, the writer supported the movie. Take a close look at the kind of language used to drum up support for Stein’s “documentary”.

“Assails the Intelligentsia”. My goodness. I wasn’t aware there was a group of intelligent people that needed assailing. This single headline is a good example of a giant problem I have with people like the author: they have effectively convinced a significant portion of the American public that being intelligent is somehow bad. What possible purpose could be expressed for a requirement that smart people need to feel bad about themselves and their work? Is it jealousy from folks who were lazy when they were supposed to be learning? I’m not sure. By the way, I recognize and agree that our current education system doesn’t propel every student to their maximum capabilities. But in the age of conservatives screaming for more personal responsibility, I find it discouraging that too many tend to practice just the opposite. How many externalities can they point their fingers at while professing their perceived victim-hood?

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Green Roofs

The May 2008 Scientific American had a “Working Knowledge” feature (in the back) that focused on green roofs. It gave a brief overview of materials commonly used and why they’re used. They included a graph that caught my eye (nice job, that’s what they’re supposed to do). It presented the square footage of green roofs completed in U.S. cities in 2006. The numbers:

Kansas City, MO: 178,000 sq. ft.

Dulles, VA: 230,000 sq ft.

Wildwood Crest, N.J.: 240,000 sq. ft.

Washington, D.C.: 302,000 sq. ft.

Chicago, IL: 359,000 sq. ft.

That’s 1.3 million sq. ft. of roof area that will reduce heat islands and require less energy to cool the buildings in the summer. An additional tidbit: at least 20% of any new roof on medium and large buildings must be cultivated in Tokyo, Japan. That would be nice.


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More Climate Change Information

Canadian scientists joined a military expedition to the Arctic. What the scientists found is quite disturbing.

Scientists travelling with the troops found major new fractures during an assessment of the state of giant ice shelves in Canada’s far north.

The team found a network of cracks that stretched for more than 10 miles (16km) on Ward Hunt, the area’s largest shelf.

There is a satellite image at the link provided above. 10 mile cracks in sea ice is not indicative of a stable system. Unstable systems don’t move gradually from one state to another. Typically, changes are quick. Don’t be surprised if the break up occurs with minimal signals: the notice has already been given.

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Shuttle to the ISS and Phoenix on Mars

The Space Shuttle is scheduled to blast off this Saturday for another construction mission to the International Space Station. Discovery’s mission is the second of three to deliver elements of Japan’s massive Kibo lab. The STS-124 astronauts are planning on three spacewalks: attach the 37-foot main segment of Kibo, relocate the module’s attic-like storage compartment, and perform station maintenance. Also on the docket: parts to repair a currently non-functional pump on for the service module toilet. Hope that goes well!

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NASA’s Phoenix lander is prepping to move it’s 8-foot robotic arm around in preparation for digging activities near its landing site.

Photographs sent back from the lander show that it’s in a good location to search for water ice under the top layers of Martian soil.

I’m still stoked from watching the landing this weekend. A significant stride in Martian exploration and solar system knowledge can take place with Phoenix.


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Climate Change News & Information 5/28/08

Climate change has been documented on continental scales, according to a new study published in a recent issue of Nature.

In the study in this week’s journal Nature, Rosenzweig and her colleagues compiled data on about 28,800 plant and animal systems and 829 physical systems, all of which showed documented changes over the past few decades.

The study found that 95% of the observed physical changes, and 90% of the biological changes, are consistent with warming temperatures.

But what would a climate change article be without a ridiculous quote by a denyer in the blind pursuit of a “he-said she-said” story? Never fear, USA Today proudly demonstrates its lack of journalistic integrity:

Michaels says that there has been no warming since 1997 and that a recent study, also published in Nature, found that global warming isn’t likely to get started again for at least another 10 years.

That would be Pat Michaels, who works at the Cato Institute, a right-wing “think-tank”. Cato’s funding is similar to other ideological propaganda outfits like Heartland and Independence: plenty of Big Energy money goes in, climate change opinions come out. Rosenzweig and her colleagues worked on over 29,000 systems to come to their conclusion. What kind of dataset can the Cato folks point to to back up their claim? Good luck finding it. What is the real story on warming trends? See the next piece of information below.

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Random Stories 5/27/08

Out here in the Western U.S., we know that forest fires are a critical issue. Forest health is an issue that should receive serious attention by those we send to represent us in D.C. As usual with Republicans in charge, the publics’ best interests aren’t being considered. Here is the Bush administration’s plan to deal with forest fires: slash forest fire prevention budgets, then propose that the shortfalls in budgets be made up by selling off the timber that would have otherwise had to have been protected from fire. Ingenious, no?

But the proposal slashes the agency’s preparedness funding by $77 million, including a $13 million reduction in money to remove dead trees and overgrown brush that act as kindling for fires in 155 national forests.

Republicans are out to prove to the American public that government can’t work. That’s why you shouldn’t vote for them. Would you go to a doctor who wanted to prove to you that medicine didn’t work? The Bushies are out to pad the pockets of their corporate cronies. Affected citizens are getting the shaft.

Meanwhile, climate change continues to impact these areas that were mismanaged by forest policies for a century. A drier climate will not make the Forest Service’s future tasks any easier.

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Now, some economic news.

Last week, a barrel of oil cost $135, setting record after record. Following suit, gas prices continue to rise. The national average? $3.90 today. That’s putting some hurt on consumers.

The Federal Reserve last week lowered their 2008 economic forecast, then raised their projections for inflation and unemployment. Which should worry all of us because the most widely accepted values of both inflation and unemployment miss significant portions of our economy. If those commonly accepted values are increasing, the values that more closely match reality are also rising, and likely doing so more quickly.

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Dick Wadhams and Bob “Sweatshop” Schaffer are in the news trying to make something out of nothing. They’re pushing the meme in the corporate media that Mark Udall really does live in Boulder, gosh darn it! Why would they be wasting their time on this? Aside from the fact that they have nothing of substance to offer Colorado voters this fall, they’re trying to magically legitimize Dick’s favorite name for Mark: “Boulder liberal”. Mark Udall moved to Eldorado Springs over five years ago. Dick’s latest plug: showing Udall’s mailing and physical address zip codes, the former is in Boulder, the latter is in Eldorado Springs, according to the Assessor’s office.

Stygius at S2 shared a good zip code that’s much more relevant to the issues:

96950. That’s the zip code for the Mariana Islands, where Bob Schaffer helped out labor bosses and Jack Abramoff’s agenda. Human rights, labor rights, the child sex trade and forced abortions: issues Bob Schaffer and Dick Wadhams want to distract our attention from by repeatedly calling Mark Udall names. It’s one reason why Bob Schaffer will lose this election.

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