Sunday, October 21, 2018

Initiative I-1631: At Odds with Democratic Values

I-1631 not only has profound problems that makes it an ineffective approach for dealing with anthropogenic climate change, but it is at odds with the democratic values of our state and nation.  These problems are compounded by the fact that many I-1631 supporters have been willing to follow a disturbingly divisive and untruthful approach in their advocacy.

A Failure of the Democratic System

Our nation is a representative democracy, in which we elect representatives who are responsible for making policy.  If their efforts are unsatisfactory, they are voted out of office. When it comes to producing policy regarding climate change, from putting a price on carbon to making investments in climate resilience, the Washington State legislature and Governor have performed poorly.   Even with one party controlling the governorship and both houses of the legislature, little was accomplished during the past session or during previous ones of dual-party leadership. 

Two years ago, another carbon initiative (I-732)  proposed a straightforward revenue-neutral approach that returned all the carbon tax money to the people. It was fair to low-income folks and had the potential to spread around the nation.   I-732 failed mainly because a group of social action groups (The Alliance), some labor unions, Indian tribes, and a few environment groups (e.g., the Sierra Club) worked against it.  Why?  Because they disliked the revenue neutrality and wanted access to the carbon tax funds.  Concern about climate change was clearly not their priority.

This year, essentially the same group (social action groups, office-worker labor unions, and local Indian tribes) came up with I-1631, which puts a fee on carbon but would use the funds to support the goals of the I-1631 coalition (climate justice, clean up air and water, push clean energy, training of workers, public health).    But their initiative has a major problem:  it essentially takes representative government out of the picture and is a deviation from representative democracy without precedent in state history.

How?  By putting the control of vast sums of money from the carbon tax into the hands of a board of 15 individuals, with only one of them being elected (the commissioner of public lands).

We are talking about tens of billions of dollars and major policies that could substantially alter the business environment, health, and safety of all of our citizens.  Washington State has many boards, but none of them decide on spending priorities for billions of dollars.

So what I-1631 proposes is an unprecedented invasion into the prerogatives of our legislative system.
Making such policy decisions and deciding how to spend such vast sums is the job of our elected representatives and it is profoundly undemocratic and contrary to the core values of our State and nation to push the role on an unelected board. 

There is nothing wrong with an initiative that allows the people to vote on specific proposals--this represents direct democracy.  But 1631 is not like that--it dumps huge sums of cash into a pot that the unelected board can disperse as it sees fit.

Now some I-1631 supporters might object to the above, saying that the state legislature could intervene if it wished.   But is it likely to do so, when it has repeatedly failed to show any leadership in this area, with many prominent legislators energetic supporters of I-1631?  And the pressure to go along with pork distributed by the board will be overwhelming.

The Future I-1631 Board Room

But the undermining of our democratic traditions by the I-1631 crowd goes beyond this.

Why?  Because the undemocratic nature of I-1631 is reflected in the attitudes, actions, and words of many of its most vocal supporters, who have followed a divisive and untruthful approach that undermines the democratic process.

I-1631 advocates and official information have a persistent problem of not telling the truth.    For example, their ads talk about making the "State's Big Polluters Pay"!  That they "can afford to pay this fee without raising prices on you"!    So if you vote for I-1631 big polluters will cover all the costs! And you will get lots of benefits! (see part of their flyer that landed in my mailbox yesterday, if you don't believe me).

This claim is TOTAL NONSENSE.   Oil companies will pass on any carbon fee directly to the consumers. They have always done so in the past.  I asked an oil company representative about it...yep, you will get the bill.  So big "polluters" and oil companies won't pay for the I-1631 fee, the citizens of the state will.  The repeated claims by the I-1631 crowd is a total untruth....and they have to know it.

I-1631 brochures and web pages make grand claims of how they will clean up the air and water of our state.  But there is no plan in the initiative on how they will do it. And their primary member and contributor, the Nature Conservancy, claims I-1631 will take care of the unhealthy smoke (see below), but how it will do so is left to the imagination.  Forest scientists are very

explicit that to deal with the east-side forest fires: it will take a huge investment of hundreds of millions of dollars to thin the forests, remove debris, and bring back prescribed fires.    1631 only dedicates 30% of the funds to forest, air and water recovery, and public health.  Under 1631 the money needed to fix our explosive east-side forests  (again, hundreds of millions to billions of dollars) will never be available.  Their claim of solving the wildfire/smoke problem is a tall tale...and a dishonest one at that.

The great irony in all this is that the Yes on I-1631 crowd accuses the oil companies of lying (see below).  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.  They lie about lying.

But the dishonest ways of several I-1631 supporters and leadership are made worse by their toxic and divisive tactics.  For example, many are spewing really hateful stuff about Republicans--saying that they are selfish and don't care about global warming.  This is divisive and untrue...many Republicans

 want to deal with global warming and to make our State more resilient to climate change.

A good example is the youthful American Conservation Coalition led by 20-year old Benji Backer, a UW student.  Or major Republican leaders like Rob McKenna, Slade Gorton, and recent Republican gubernatorial candidate  Bill Bryant.  I gave a talk to the Rotary Club in Yakima on Global Warming--and they were nearly all Republicans.  They were worried about climate change and wanted to deal with the resulting water supply issues.

Denigrating individuals and groups with different opinions and name calling for those disagreeing with you is toxic for democracy.

Just as bad are the mean-spirited social media attacks by leaders of the Yes on I-1631 organization on anyone with a different viewpoint.  For example, Nick Abraham, paid head of communication of Yes on 1631, has been making nasty accusations against those who don't support I-1631.  Here his recent unpleasant tweet against moderate Republican Bill Bryant, an environmentalist who ran for Governor in 2016:
He has sent similar messages to others.    And "Izzy the Iguana", the Regional Field Director of Yes  on 1631 send me toxic messages, telling me I was a racist for writing a blog criticizing I-1631.

This kind of mean-spirited, ad hominem attacks have no place in the debate on policy in a democratic society. It says a lot about the values, or lack of values, of some of the I-1631 leadership. 

And it is even worse than that.  Some members of the I-1631 coalitions are trying harassment of those with different opinions.   I have experienced this myself.  Last month, Jesse Piedfort, the Director of the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club (which opposed I-732 by the way and a major member of the I-1631 coalition) made a formal public records request to the UW for all my emails dealing with carbon initiatives and all communications with oil companies.  He is going to be disappointed.  I have no email traffic with oil companies and have no relationship with them.  But such requests are chilling and a not-so-subtle form of harassment.

In many ways, the I-1631 crowd are following the playbook of the one individual they despise:  Donald Trump.  Lying and suggesting that opponents are evil and sub-human is his stock in trade.  Several I-1631 advocates are following his approach.

Democracy is a fragile thing and our most precious inheritance.  The I-1631 effort appears to think that their cause is so noble and right that they are willing to undermine basic democratic principles by giving huge powers to a board of unelected individuals and to demonize those who oppose them.

If you care about democratic values, you must vote no on this poorly written, ineffective initiative.   Either our elected representatives must step up to the plate and put together a real plan or an initiative that explicitly spells out policy and programs is needed.

Finally, so much of the impetus of the Yes on 1631 campaign, is that "we have to do something."   History teaches us that doing "something" ineffective and undemocratic is worse than doing nothing at all.  If I-1631 passes, truly useful approaches will be pushed aside and special interests will be enriched.

"We have to do something" logic often produces bad results.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Winter Transition is Imminent

It is like falling off a meteorological cliff.  And it happens every year.   The transition to winter weather in the Pacific.

It is a real meteorological curiosity.   Our Septembers are marvelous, and the first two weeks of October are often splendid, with low clouds in the morning and lots of sun in the afternoon.  The trees turn flaming colors and our sunsets are often magnificent.    A view above the fog yesterday, supplied by Greg Johnson of Skunk Bay Weather takes your breath away (below).  We are living in Paradise.

But then, generally in the third week of October, a meteorological switch is pulled and the weather changes.  The storm track, which had been happy to savage southern Alaska, moves southward into our region, shifted by the development of a broad area of low pressure over the Gulf of Alaska.   Rain and clouds move into the Pacific Northwest, 60s and 70s become fond memories, and Northwest residents hunker down for roughly four months of moisture and inadequate sun.

It is the price we pay for the bounty of water that gives us massive hydropower, great agricultural productivity, our fisheries, and more.  It is also protection from a major northward onslaught of Californians.

This morning is a typical mid-October day, with low clouds over the lower elevations but bright sunshine aloft (see the  9 AM visible satellite image Saturday morning).  If you want sun now, get above roughly 1500 ft or head eastward.  Sun should reach the lowlands later today.

Our nice fall weather will end later on Tuesday, as the circulation over the Pacific moves towards its winter arrangement.  One way to see this transition is from a very nice graphic found in the Seattle RainWatch website that shows the precipitation forecasts from the  NAEFS ensemble prediction system for Seattle.

Remember that an ensemble systems runs many forecasts, each slightly different, that helps one get a measure of the uncertainty of the forecast.  In this graphic, the median of all the forecasts (of 6-h precipitation) is shown by the horizontal red line and 50% of the forecasts are within the boxes.  The extremes are indicated by thus plus signs.

The message is stunningly clear.  Dry until Tuesday,  followed by two wet events, and then we settle into a period of light precipitation.   Very typical for this time of the year.
Looking at the NOAA/NWS GEFS ensemble, but this time viewing surface air temperature at Seattle, we can expect warming temperatures the next few days, including perhaps our last 70F day this year, followed by a decline into highs in the 50s (the black line is the average of the ensemble forecasts....a very good forecast in general).  Not much uncertainty for the first few days, but a lot at the end (the various forecasts in gray have differences).
Finally, let me show you how the atmospheric circulation will change by presenting the current and future winds near jet stream level--the 300 hPa pressure level or around 30,000 ft.  The colors indicate the wind speeds and the solid lines are the heights of the pressure surface (equivalent to pressures on a constant height surface).

Today at 2 PM, there is a low-amplitude ridge of high pressure over us and a weak jet stream is across southern Alaska and Canada.

But by Wednesday at 11 AM the situation is radically different.  A tough of low pressure has pushed south of the Aleutians and a MUCH strong jet stream has set up due west of us.   The meteorological hose will be directed right at us.   Be ready.


Seattle Times Recommends a No on I-1631: click here.

My next blog will be: Initiative I-1631:  At Odds with Democratic Values

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Beautiful weather produces noisy mornings!

Yesterday morning I received an email from blog reader Emily Vilbrant wondering about an increase of train noise during the morning hours.  Distant trains sounded unusually loud and clear.  Emily asked if I might have an explanation.

And I have been noticing something similar.  While walking my dog around 6:45 AM yesterday, the sound of distant traffic was unusually loud.  Even my little dog noticed.

Interestingly, it all makes perfect sense, and believe it or not, it has to do with the clear skies and beautiful weather we have been having.   Let me explain.

The sun was about to rise at 7:20 AM this morning.  Beautiful weather led to noise start of he day.  SpaceNeedle PanoCam

The last few days we have had a ridge of high pressure over our region (see upper level map at 5 AM Wednesday morning), which resulted in mainly clear skies, sinking air aloft, and weak offshore flow at low levels.

Clear skies allowed the surface to radiant infrared radiation to space, resulting in the surface cooling rapidly.  Our nights are getting much longer now, so there is plenty of time for the earth to cool.  The atmosphere above does not radiate as well, so it stayed relatively warm.  High pressure is associated with light winds, so there was little atmospheric turbulence mixing the warm air aloft down to the surface.

The result of the intense surface cooling was the development of a strong inversion yesterday morning (and many other mornings during the past week).....and remember that an inversion is when temperatures WARMS with height. 

I can prove this to you by showing you a temperature profile with height in north Seattle from a fancy piece of equipment located on the NOAA campus near Magnuson Park:  the radar-wind profiler.  The Y-axis is height in meters and the temperature (x axis) is in Celcius (C); temperature profiles are shown from 3 AM to 9 AM yesterday. 

Wow---a HUGE inversion. About 11C warm up in 400 meters (about 1300 ft).  We are talking about 20 F increase.   So while it was in the forties near the surface, the temperature was around 68F at 1300 ft.

Pretty amazing. Can you imagine going on a short hike yesterday morning?

But what does this have to do with sound?

Well, it turns out that inversions can bend or refract sounds down toward the surface.  Sounds that would normally radiate away above your are bent down to the surface (see schematic below).  This occurs because the speed of sound depends on temperature:  sound moves faster when it warms.

As a result of the bending of sound waves, you can hear sounds from further away more clearly when a low-level inversion is around.   That is the answer to Emily's question.

Since I am a professor, let me give you an assignment.  The inversion should still be around on Saturday morning, but perhaps not as strong.  Head outside either very late at night (college students) or get up early and head outside and LISTEN.  See if you can hear the effect.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Son of Blob is Back!

Yes, its back.

The Blob.   Or at least one of its offspring.

Remember, the BLOB is an area of anomalously warm water in the north Pacific.

If you dare to look, let me illustrate our scary situation.

Here is the sea surface temperature anomaly from normal for today.    A pool of warm water is found over the north Pacific and Gulf of Alaska, with some of it over 2C warmer than normal.  This is the signature of the "son of blob" (or "daughter of blob if you prefer")

Why such warm water?  Because there has been an amazingly persistent area of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska.   To illustrate, let me show you a map of the average anomaly from normal conditions of the heights of the 500 hPa pressure surface (around 18, 000 feet) for the past 30 days.(see below).  Wow.

A very highly amplitude pattern.  You see the bright reds over the Gulf of Alaska?....that means high heights (equivalent to high pressure) over that area.  There is also a deep trough over the Rockies...that is why they have been getting unusually cold temperatures to the east of us. And another ridge over the eastern U.S--explains the persistent warmth there.

The sea level pressure difference from normal shows anomalously high sea level pressure over just the area where the sea surface temperatures were warm....the Gulf of Alaska.
This is no coincidence!  As shown by my colleague and BLOB meister Dr.  Nick Bond and his co-authors, persistent high pressure is associated with lighter winds.  Such light winds result in less mixing in the upper layer of the ocean, so less cooler water from below is mixed to the surface.

The result?  A warm water anomaly and the rebirth of the BLOB.  How long will BLOB Jr. last?  At least as long as we have persistent high pressure over the north Pacific.  As this point, it looks like things are evolving to a pattern with less high pressure offshore, so the BLOB should weaken.
Unless is doesn't!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

If You Worry About Climate Change and Care About the Environment, Vote No on I-1631

If you care about the environment, if you worry about global warming, and if this summer's smoke is of concern, you should vote against Washington State Initiative 1631.

If you are like me, you are worried about the impacts of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere.  Our climate models are emphatic that rising levels of greenhouse gases will warm our planet substantially during this century.   Here in the Pacific Northwest, our snowpack will decline and sea level will rise on the southern portion of our Pacific coastal zone.

And if you are like me, you found summer smoke two years in a road disturbing and worry that it will become an annual affair.

And perhaps you worry about the state of our waterways, the pollution of our Sound, or the decline of our signature Orcas.  So do I.

You want to do something to address our environment challenges.  You want action now,  not later.  I do too.

But if you care for the environment and if you want to see our nation take real steps to address global warming, you should vote no on I-1631, the Washington State carbon fee initiative.   

As I will describe below, I-1631 is a flawed, ineffective, and highly partisan initiative that does little to deal with increasing greenhouse gases.  An initiative that will line the pockets of special interest groups, do economic damage to our poorest citizens, and stand in the way of far more effective approaches.  And its proponents have been less than honest about the nature of this ballot measure.
So why should you vote NO on this initiative?

1.  Reason One:   There is No Concrete Spending Plan for Billions of Dollars

The state's Office of Financial Management estimates that I-1631 will bring in 2.3 billion dollars during the first five years, and that this will rise to tens of billions of dollars over the next three decades.  But I-1631 has no explicit plan to deal with acute environmental challenges that require immediate investment if we are to be resilient to the future and current climate.  Some examples:

1.  Restore our east-side forests to a more natural state to prevent catastrophic fires.  Talk to the experts at the UW School of Environmental and Forest Science, the USFA Forest Service, or the Washington Department of Natural Resources (I have).  They know what needs to be done:  thin our overgrown east-side forests, pull out the slash and junk that has accumulated over nearly a century of fire suppression, and allow light, prescribed fires to clean out the remaining debris.  Restore the east-side forests to theier natural state.     To do so would cost hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, but it isn't being done because of a lack of funds and a lack of priority of our political leadership.

 This initiative should have explicitly directed hundreds of millions of dollars into fixing our east-side forests and reducing the big fires and smoke.  But it doesn't.   And a forest-restoration effort could employ thousands of Washington State citizens and help stabilize our forest industry.

2.  Rapidly Expand Rail Service in the Puget Sound Region.   The Puget Sound region desperately needs a massive increase in rail service, which could get folks out of their cars and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The small portion of the light rail system that is complete is packed much of the time.  But the current plans are for completion of the system in the early 2040s.  That is ridiculous, and the reason for the delay is lack of money.     Imagine if part of the carbon fee/tax was dedicated to light rail, with a commitment to speed up the system so that it is finished 10-15 years faster.   The project would be cheaper to build and there would be a large reduction of fossil fuel emission.  And a lot more construction jobs now.  But 1631 does nothing on this.

3.  Create the water storage system that will address the loss of mountain snowpack and greater evaporation from a warming climate.     I do regional climate simulations as part of my research.  Global warming will warm our region and substantially reduce our mountain snowpack. So there will be less snowmelt during summer and early fall to supply water for our farms and human consumption.  But our annual rainfall will be fine, and even increase.   The answer is clear:  we need to build more reservoir capacity around the state to capture the winter water.  And we need to improve our water delivery systems and encourage more efficient irrigation approaches (e.g., drip irrigation).    There is great interest among the agricultural interests in eastern Washington for such an improved system of water storage, including a proposed 4 billion dollar Yakima Basin Integrated Water Plan.   But the money is not there for it, and a carbon tax/fee could help supply it.  No mention of this in 1631.

4.   I-1631 provides no investments in scientific research for determining the impacts of climate change on our region  Research on the local implications of climate change and their impacts have been undermined by a lack of State support.  One needs the best estimates of the future to make good decisions on what to do to adapt and be resilient to climate change.  I-1631 ignores this critical requirement.  And more funding is needed to maintain the climate observations stations in our state.

I could give you more examples of acutely needed climate resilience and carbon-emission reducing projects that desperately need funding.   But you will not see any of them mentioned explicitly in I-1631.

Instead of explicitly dedicating carbon fee funding to important climate-related needs, I-1631 hands the responsibility of distributing the cash to a 15-member oversight board including five WA state department heads and 10 appointed (by the Governor) individuals. Only one (the Commissioner of Public Lands) is elected. And to add to the bureaucracy, there are three additional advisory boards.  These individuals are not accountable to anyone and they have no explicit plan to work with, other than seventy percent of the fee  must be used for the "clean air and clean energy investments" and twenty five percent for the "clean water and healthy forests".   The Sound Transit debacle shows the dangers of ineffective and wasteful spending by such public boards.

But it is worse than that.  Much worse.  The initiative hardwires money to certain special interest groups--the left-leaning supporters of the measure.  A minimum of ten percent of the money goes to Indian tribes, who are exempted from paying any carbon fee by the initiative.  Labor advocates got a fifty million dollar fund, replenished annually, for worker support programs.  And to provide funding to the social action groups pushing the initiative, 35% of the money goes to  "pollution and health action areas" of  minority and "vulnerable populations."  There is more, but you get the message. Clever as a fox.

I-1631 will be a trough of billions of dollars of cash for left-leaning social action and "progressive" groups, and dealing with climate change will be a secondary priority.   How can you know this for sure?  Easy.  The same groups that are pushing I-1631 opposed the revenue-neutral carbon tax initiative  (I-732) in 2016, which was much more aggressive in reducing carbon initiatives. Why did they oppose it?  Because their groups did not get the money.

I suspect that the vast majority of I-1631 supporters have not read the 38 pages of the initiative.  If they did, they would be aghast of what they found.

2.    Reason Two I-1631, is a highly partisan effort that will not serve as an example to the nation.

Washington State is a relatively green state, with much of our energy coming from hydropower.   We represent a very small portion of the U.S..  The only way we can have a significant impact on global warming is by passing measures that have a real chance of being adopted across the U.S.  I-732, the 2016 carbon tax initiative, was such a measure;  one that was revenue neutral (returned all the carbon tax to Washington citizens) and had bipartisan support.    Major national Republican leaders are now supporting a revenue neutral carbon tax, and a well-designed version in our state could be an example for the nation.

Unfortunately, I-1631 takes a completely partisan approach.  A group of left-leaning social action and environmental groups, big labor, and native American tribes wrote I-1631, without any moderate or conservative support.   I-1631 creates a carbon fee whose proceeds would be distributed by a committee appointed by our Democratic governor, with substantial portions of the money hardwired to left-leaning groups.

There is absolutely no chance that I-1631, with its "progressive" and "social action" agenda, can serve as a model to the nation, something made obvious by looking at a political map based on the last election (see below).  Most of the counties in the U.S. are red (voted for Trump), not blue.   The left-leaning, social action approach of  I-1631 will never have much impact on the greenhouse gas emissions of most of the U.S.

3.   I-1631's Carbon Fee is Too Small to Be Effective

The initial carbon fee of I-1631 is about half that I-732 would have initiated, and a number of analyses have shown that I-1631 would result in gas prices going up about 14 cents a gallon the first year.  This is too small to have a significant impact on fuel usage by consumers, since gas prices go up and down far more than that due to market volatility.   A revenue neutral carbon tax can increase the gas tax much more without consumer rebellion and damage to our economy.  Why?   Because consumers get all the funds back.

The bottom line of the above is that I-1631 will not only be ineffective in reducing carbon emissions over our state, but there is no explicit and coherent plan to direct the funds to acutely needed climate-related projects.

But there is something else.  The activists pushing I-1631 been extraordinarily deceptive in their claims and messaging.  And if they are deceptive about the initiative, can you trust them later to spend billions of dollars wisely?

I-1631 False Claim 1:  The Oil Companies Will Pay, So Energy Prices Won't Rise

The advocates of 1631 are making the claim that the oil companies will not pass on the carbon fee to consumer, so that prices of gasoline and heating fuels won't rise much, if at all.  Don't believe me?  It was on the front page of their web site (see below).  A total fiction.  The oil companies will pass on this fee to you, guaranteed (I checked some of their representatives to confirm this).

And their claims are doubly ridiculous:  the whole idea of a carbon fee is to substantially increase the price of gasoline or fuels, so that people move to more ecological alternatives.  If the price stays the same or nearly the same, people will not change their ways and emissions will not decline.

I-1631 False Claim 2:  I-1631 Makes the Big Polluters Pay!

Many of the advertisements and claims for 1631 state that the initiative will make "big polluters" pay.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  I-1631 specifically excludes many of the big carbon polluters (e.g., the Centralia coal power plant, pulp mills, the aviation industry, Boeing) and the oil companies will simply pass the carbon fee on to consumers. So big polluters won't pay, individuals and small businesses will.   Now that would not be so bad if the carbon tax/fee was returned directly to the individuals and businesses (like I-732 did), but it is a big problem in I-1631, which keeps all the money.

Importantly, I-1631 is a highly regressive fee, with the largest burden on the poorest people.  We already have a very regressive tax structure; I-1631 makes it much worse.

I-1631 False Claim 3:  I-1631 Will End the Summer Smoke Over Washington

A number of major 1631 supporters are claiming that 1631 will end or address the wildfire/smoke issue.  With no plan, it is hard to see how they can make this claim.   Hundreds of millions of dollars are needed to fix this problem, with a program directed by our best forest scientists.  I-1631 has no such plan and does not commit the large resources needed.

Are Oil Companies Evil?

Perhaps the biggest animating force of the I-1631 activists is their hate of "big oil", who they see as the puppetmaster of conservatives and the enemy of dealing with global warming.   They claim that big oil obfuscated the threat of global warming for years, preventing action.  And the funding of a big portion of the No on 1631 campaign by big oil is seen as confirmation of its evil intent.  Really, the I-1631 folks see oil companies as some kind of powerful amalgam of Darth Vader, the Devil, and perhaps Donald Trump.

I suspect the truth is more nuanced.  If Big Oil was covering up global warming,  they did a very bad job at it.  The impact of CO2 has been talked about since the 80s and the estimates of the impacts have not really changed in thirty years.  Global warming gets wide attention in the media, and if anything is hyped up and exaggerated. Greenhouse warming has been no secret.

And if oil companies were trying to suppress competitors, they have been ineffective.  The technologies of solar and wind energy have matured and spread widely.  Energy conserving technologies like LED bulbs have exploded. Hybrid and electric car technologies have flourished.  Most oil companies now publicly acknowledge the threat of anthropogenic global warming, and they did very little to block I-732--the environmental left did the heavy lifting to stop 732.
Typical Oil Company Executive?

Big oil has provided a high-quality product at a declining price (considering inflation) that is demanded by virtually everyone.  Yes, even environmental activists, who often are big travelers.  If their products were not demanded, they would go out of business, like others before them.

To paraphrase Shakespeare:  "the problem dear environmentalist is not in the oil companies, but in ourselves for demanding their product"

What should an environmentalist do?

If you care about global warming and the Washington State environment, one cannot support this poorly designed initiative that will do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, will not serve as example to the nation, and which has no real plan to spend huge sums of money.  Its passage will stand in the way of more effective approaches.

We need to vote NO and move to a better approach, such as:

1.  A bipartisan revenue-neutral carbon tax that will reduce our emissions and set the stage for a national carbon tax.  A substantial carbon tax will encourage individuals and industries to emit less and to move to renewable technologies.  It will encourage research and development of better energy technologies.

2.  Or a carbon fee that directs the money to explicit projects, like mass transit, fixing the forests, and ensuring sufficient water supplies in the future.

If you are uncertain about this initiative, please read through the text.


Debate on Tuesday at UW on I-1631:  All Welcome

Friday, October 12, 2018

Ridgezilla Returns is a back.  A huge persistent ridge of high pressure that won't go away.    You know its name:

And because of this monstrous high pressure, it won't rain at least for a week.  Our temperatures will be above normal.  Afternoons will have sun.  Absolutely perfect fall weather.

Let's me show you this unnatural creature through a series of upper-level (500 hPa pressure level, about 18,000 ft) maps.

The forecast map for 2 PM Saturday shows a huge ridge of high heights (or pressures) over the northeast Pacific.

 5 PM Monday?  Still there!
 8 AM Wednesday has the ridge in place, but displaced a bit to the east.   Still protecting us from the rain monster.

 And it moves back and strengths at 5 PM Friday.  Wow.

But what about the weather at the surface?   The best thing to look at are ensembles of many forecasts that can help us understand probabilities and uncertainties.  Looking at the 21 forecast National Weather Service GEFS precipitation ensemble at Sea-Tac, it is clear that they are insistent we will get nothing.

The temperature ensembles show a warming trend to near 70F on Wednesday and above-normal temperatures the rest of the period.
Folks...this one is pretty much in the bag... so get outside and enjoy it.  The only issue might be some morning clouds Saturday morning and later in the week.  But those will burn off by lunchtime.
Announcement:  Initiative 1631 Debate

There will be a debate at UW at 5 PM Tuesday afternoon about the carbon-fee initiative.  Located in room 301 Gowan Hall.   Everyone is invited.  More information below.

And if you want to prep yourself by reading the 38 pages of the initiative, a pdf of it is here.

Second Announcement:  Wonderful New Book on the 1962 Columbus Day Storm:  The Deadly Wind by John Dodge.  The biggest storm in NW history, well described by a veteran reporter.  More information here

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The U.S. GFS Beats the European Center Model on Hurricane Track--Again

Today, an extraordinarily intense Hurricane Michael hit the Gulf coast near Panama City, Florida, with devastating effects on some coastal towns, and plenty of damage inland.   The central pressure of Michael was roughly 919 hPa, making it one of the deepest (lowest pressure) hurricanes to strike the U.S. in a century.   To provide some perspective, a deep Pacific low hitting the Northwest coast might have a central pressure of 980 hPa, and our strongest storm in a century...the Columbus Day Storm of  1962...bottomed out at around 955 hPa.

But let's talk about the forecasts for Michael.     Number one, the track forecasts were stunningly good in the days before.  The graphic below shows you the forecasts by a number of numerical forecast models, all starting at 5 PM on Saturday.  Most of the models nailed the track.  The blue line is the current US global model (the GFS).   Of some worry, the proposed new global model (FV3, brown)....did not do as well.

But lets look at the track error a bit more quantitatively, by examining a graphic of the mean absolute  track error of various modeling systems for 12, 24, 48, and 72 h into the future (from the excellent website of Professor Brian Tang of  Univ. of AlbanY). AVNO is the current GFS model and ECMF is the famed European model.   Both are similar and quite good (less than 50 km error) at 12 hr, but by 72h, the European is MUCH worse (340 km error) compared to the spectacular GFS results (75 km error).

Interestingly, the European Center did much worse on Hurricane Rosa as well.

So my colleagues at the National Weather Service should be very pleased with the GFS track forecasts lately.   But there is a cloud on the horizon.   The new U.S. global model (FV-3) did worse on track, and as shown below it did much worse on intensity, measured by the central pressure of Michael.

This figure shows the forecasts of central pressure from various models (colored lines) for forecasts starting 5 PM Saturday versus the observed central pressure (black line).    The National Weather Service's flagship high resolution model (HWRF)--purple line-- did a decent job, but did not get the final intensification of the storm.    The current U.S. model (GFS, blue line) did almost as well.  But the new FV-3 model never really revved up the storm...a major deficiency.

 This is not the first time we have seen this behavior in FV-3 and it has gotten me worried.  Is there a problem with FV-3 that makes it unable to properly simulate hurricane intensification?   My colleagues at the NWS will have to examine this carefully.  FV-3 is young model and may need some work to be ready for the next hurricane season when it will be the operational model.