October 31, 2018

The Olympics Protect Puget Sound From Westerly Atmospheric Rivers/ Initiative 1631 Reminder

The Olympics Mountains play a critical role in the meteorology of the Puget Sound region and this week it is shielding us from most of the moisture associated with a series of modest atmospheric rivers.

But our friends on the western sides of the Olympics and Cascades will not be as lucky with substantial rain expected.

During the past several days, the winds aloft have been westerly (from the west), so we have been in the rainshadow of the Olympics, even though a strong, moist flow has approached the region.

During the past 72 hrs, while Tacoma to Everett has only gotten around .10 inches, locations on the western slopes of the Cascades have "enjoyed"  2-4 inches of rain, with 1-2 inches on the western side of the coastal mountains.

But this is just a "warm up" for  this week.  Early Friday morning a modest atmospheric river comes in from the southwest (the figure shows the forecast moisture in a vertical column).

Another on Saturday from a more westerly direction:

 And even more on Monday.

The predicted total for the next 7 days, shown below, is impressive, with 5-10 inches in and to the immediate of the mountain crests.  But if you look very closely, there is far less downstream of the Olympics--that is the rainshadow.

If you really want to impress your friends, tell them that some of the moisture hitting us Saturday will be streaming across the entire north Pacific, as shown by the following plot of moisture at roughly 5000 ft above sea level for Saturday at 6 PM.

Initiative 1631:  Bad for the environment and for Washington State

I-1631 is poorly written, will do little to reduce greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, gives control of billions of dollars to an unelected board, is regressive, so it hurts low-income folks the most, has no concrete plan for spending vast sums of money, is highly partisan, and is odds with our basic democratic principles.  I have written three blogs describing its problems:




The pro-side has been highly deceptive, saying things that are demonstrably not true.  Their mailers are telling folks that big polluters and oil companies will pay:  this is a total falsehood.  Everyone will pay.

Avista Utilities, which covers the eastern third of Washington State, yesterday released the numbers of how utility costs would increase under 1631 (see below).  Roughly $ 400. per year in the fifteenth year.  Amazingly, the Yes campaign denies this.

If you want to find out how much 1631 will cost you, check out this handy app.  For most working adults, the 1631 fee will run between 150 and 300 dollars the first year (depending on your transportation choices, living arrangements, etc.).

The Yes side suggests that the initiative will have a significant impact on greenhouse warming.  Simply not true.   Let's assume that the initiative produces the promised reductions in emissions (down by 20 million metric tons in 2035 and by at least 50 million metric tons by 2050).  If one plugs this into a climate model, one gets a global cooling of about .0001 degree C.   Washington represents a very, very small part of global emissions and we are already quite green.

Today, the Yes on 1631 side has gone even further in its false stories.   They accused the No folks of adding names to their endorsement list without permission.   This has gotten a lot of press....but is inconsistent with the facts. The No side has SIGNED endorsement sheets from everyone noted as endorsing (and these signed endorsement sheets were shared with the Seattle Times).

And with all the tall tales provided by the YES on 1631 side, their advertisements accuse the No side of lying.

Truth and ethics matter.  It is ironic that the Yes side is following the approaches of the President they despise,  with false stories, inaccurate information, wild claims, and name calling become stock and trade of the Yes on 1631 side.

There is a religious fervor by some 1631 supporters to do something RIGHT NOW or the world will end.   The truth is the best science does NOT suggest a sudden tipping point, and doing something of little value is both wasteful and prevents more effective actions.  American's has rushed into "doing something" without a real plan and it has gotten us into trouble before (e.g., Iraq, Vietnam).  1631 would be a similar error, but for our state.

Global warming is too serious and the impact on our state too significant to throw away our ability to do something meaningful.   1631 is hyperpartisan, hardwired to a support a certain agenda, and will not work in a meaningful way to reduce our fires, prepare the region for climate change, or reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.


  1. Thank you for your commentary from a perspective of the best available science. As a regular reader of this blog, but not a scientist, hearing our governor suggest "remember the smoke" in his pro-I-1631 ad struck me as a scare tactic not based on science. Your many other examples validate why this initiative is seriously flawed.

  2. The biggest opponents of 1631 are the biggest oil companies and their biggest customers. But if the pro-1631 side is being disingenuous that this initiative would "make the polluter pay," then why are the oil companies spending so much money to defeat the initiative? Are they just stepping up to help the little guys who will bear the brunt of a regressive scheme? Usually industries spend big money to stop initiatives that cost them money. I know you're more of an expert on atmospheric science than politics, but since you're weighing in on politics, maybe you could help shed some light on this inconsistency.

  3. What I do not understand is why the Tribal nations get 10%? The Seattle Times noted some will need to relocate eventually due to rising ocean levels, but surely that would be a single cost covered by the committee. In 15 years, the 10% is going to be a pretty huge number. What have the Tribes committed to given this largesse?? Thx.

  4. What I do not understand (from a practical viewpoint) is why the Tribes get 10%?? The Seattle TImes noted in an article that some Tribes may need to relocate due to rising ocean levels. This, however, would surely be a one-time expense covered by committee decision. In the very near term, 10% is going to be very large number. Have the Tribes committed to a plan on how this will be spent, or is it simply a windfall for them and their support?? Thx.

  5. Cliff, I hope you are proven wrong on this one and honest enough to admit it if it becomes obvious.

    If it wasn't such a warning shot against the Oil Companies then why are they spending so much on fighting it?

  6. I also saw that misleading ad about "smoke" (blowing smoke), which was appalling and wrongful.

    No truly-worthwhile public business should be "managed" by some ambiguous committee peopled by political appointees, persons unaccountable to us. That's the bottom line.

  7. Noticing today over at KOMO that Scott Sistek is claiming, in bold headline - "Despite recent soggy weather, it's driest start to a year in a decade"

    We are currently at 24.23" for the calendar year, vs. 25.57" normal -- 95%. That is about as statistically close to normal as one can get in weather stats.

    But that is just the beginning: as Scott would know as a meteorologist - precip stats are kept on a "water year" basis, which begin and end on Oct. 1, of every year. For the 2018 water year - which ended a month ago - we finished at 39.31" vs. 37.49" avg, or 105% of normal. For the 2019 water year (which actually did just start), we are at 3.78", vs. 3.48" avg, 109% avg.

    But not good enough for Scott. No, he has to painfully dissect the numbers and dates to figure out some way to show that this is the "driest start to a year in a decade".

    Which - if you really want the truth - underscores just how wet the last decade has been. That through the first 9 months of the calendar year (which somehow KOMO reports is the "start to a year"), this is the first in ten we aren't above normal in precip - and we missed it by a whopping 5%.

    This stuff would be laughable if it wasn't printed in a way that scares people. It doesn't even qualify as fake news -- this is "opposite" news: by implying conditions that are about as close to the opposite of what have actually happened as you can get. Why would anyone - who knows the truth - print a headline like this?

  8. Concerning I-1631, the only GHG reduction scheme having any chance of success is to make all carbon fuels just as scarce and expensive today as they will be in a hundred years time.

    It is impossible for emerging technologies to drive fossil fuels from the energy marketplace in the relatively short span of time climate activists are now calling for. If the climate activist's GHG reduction targets and schedules are to be met, then direct and highly-aggressive government intervention in the energy marketplace is necessary.

    To get the job done quickly and effectively, the government’s market intervention plan must include two major elements: a stiff non-neutral tax on all carbon fuels; and eventually, rolled out in a phased timetable, a strictly-enforced program of fossil energy rationing which directly controls how much carbon fuel can be produced and consumed.

    Here in America, even a Congress controlled by Democrats will never impose these kinds of measures against carbon fuels. The political blow-back would be severe.

    But another approach is available, one which relies on the Executive Branch to use the full authority of the Clean Air Act to get the necessary reductions done on an aggressive timetable; and more importantly, to take the political heat for having done so.

    These are the major points concerning how this approach would operate:

    1: Acting under his or her national security authorities, the president issues an executive order declaring a carbon pollution emergency.
    2: The president's executive order supplies a legal basis for the EPA to publish a Section 108 Endangerment Finding for carbon which complements the Section 202 endangerment finding previously published in 2009.
    3: A National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for carbon pollution is established.
    4: The NAAQS in turn becomes the tie-in mechanism to any carbon reduction agreements the US Government may become a party to, either formally or informally.
    5: Because CO2 is a well-mixed gas on a worldwide scale, the legal approach being employed explicitly recognizes that only through international cooperation can the NAAQS target be achieved.
    6: An EPA-managed, state-enforced regulatory framework for carbon pollution is established under Clean Air Act sections 108, 111, and 202.
    7: In the near term, the EPA’s carbon reduction framework raises the price of all fossil fuels, doing so both directly and indirectly. Over a phased timetable, the framework eventually gains direct control over the supply, availability, and distribution of all fossil fuels.
    8: A key feature of the EPA's regulatory framework is a system of carbon pollution fines which is the functional equivalent of a legislated tax on carbon.
    9: The carbon pollution fines are set by the EPA and are administered by the individual states, with the states receiving the greatest percentage by far of carbon fine revenues.

    As long as the EPA's anti-carbon regulatory framework is applied with equal weight to all of America's GHG emission sources -- not just to selected targets within the energy sector as the Clean Power Plan attempted to do, and as I-1631 now attempts to do -- then the inevitable lawsuits brought against the EPA's new plan aren't likely to succeed.

    The basic legal foundation for taking this kind of approach is already in place and is already tested. What is lacking is a president who has the political will to employ the existing legal tools in a highly coordinated and effective way.

    Sooner or later, a climate conscious presidential candidate will again be elected as Chief Executive. When that day comes, climate change activists should be standing ready to put enormous pressure on the new president to match the action with the rhetoric.

    DISCLOSURE: I post occasionally as "Beta Blocker" on Judith Curry's blog and on the Watt's Up With That blog.

  9. I like our Governer and believe he is a passionate and caring person who desires a viable solution to combat the negative effects of climate change.

    However, 1631 ain't it. I agree with Cliff that this is a regressive tax that will be passed on to the folks who can least afford it.

    Yes, consumers always pay for a Corporation's cost of doing business.

    Ironically, those who can afford to pay the added cost of consumer products, such as Jet Fuel, are the folks who most likely contribute a far greater share of carbon dumping into the atmosphere then the Average Joe or Josephine.

    And for what?

    For an opulent consumer lifestyle that only consumes our planet for the worth of a few trinkets?

    Here we may want to look at accountability and responsibility in our personal lives on how we may reduce our actual individual carbon footprint.

    I know you got money to spend and a flight to Tahiti sounds pretty good, even to me right now.

    But I'm staying and working to reduce my carbon footprint and you can too. By installing solar panels on our homes, installing excess solar on your vacation home and feeding it back to the grid, buying development land and conserving it, or foregoing lavish jet fueled commercial ventures and vacations.

    You may have less money to spend on trinkets but your money will be used in a way that builds and sustains community.

    Life on this planet is a wonder born from creation. Lets cherish and protect it for the sake of life itself.

    Chris H.
    Heli-free North Cascades

  10. Snarles...there is no inconsistency. First not all the oil companies are opposing 1631---a very big one, Shell, is not. Second, they don't like their product being taxed and they feel that they will bear too much of the burden, since 1631 has so many exemptions for many of the major greenhouse gas emitters. In any case, one does not make policy because you don't like oil companies...you make policy to deal with global warming in a maximal way. 1631 will be extraordinarily ineffective...cliff

  11. Kenna.... If I am proved wrong, I will be glad to admit it. My goal is to find an effective approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to get us ready for impacts. Let me make a prediction: 1631 will fail and the vote will not even be close. That the group that pushed 1631 not only created a turkey, but stopped I-732 two years ago...cliff

  12. Cliff - Very dissapointed in your anti I-1631 advocacy. Perfection should not be the enemy of good. This country (the world) is behind the eight ball and doing nothing is no longer an option. We must move forward even if the bill is flawed. Lets take a step and learn. If it doesn't work perfectly.. OK we can learn and then change. But being passive and taking no action is becoming more and more morally indefensible. Lets take a step and learn.

    For your readers I post this NY Times article in defense of I-1631 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/opinion/climate-change-carbon-price.html.

    Also Bill Gates endorsement: https://twitter.com/BillGates/status/1058728756393713665

    To the readers of this Blog...don't let perfect be the enemy of good. You know in your heard that action must be taken even if not the absolute most perfect action. We must begin to address climate change.

  13. Having recently seen BP Cherry Point how would they be affected by 1631 or are they one of the for the moment exempted industries.

  14. In regards to the accusations of false endorsements from local businesses in the anti-campaign, is it not possible that a mistake could be made or a signature could be forged? Not that it has bearing on the merits of the proposed initiative, but it seems either side could be lying or an error could have been made, and so deciding the lying lands on the business owners rather than saying it's a toss up seems like a value judgement.

  15. Cliff Mass must have a place of honor in the fossil fuel hall of fame. He claims to be concerned about climate change and that, of course, he's not a climate denier, but then he makes his inevitable and always consistent point 1) this impact is exaggerated; 2) smoke used to be worse; 3) this scheme won't work; 4) ocean acidification is a hoax made up by the oyster growers; 5) the impacts of climate change haven't really started yet, but someday, decades from now, the impacts will be serious.

    Nobody is a better spokesperson for the status quo, for continued and unabated use of fossil fuels and sitting on our hands until it is too late. The oil companies must love him.

    I helped write I-1631. Cliff's criticisms are simply incorrect. It imposes a fee on carbon emissions-- similar to Initiative 732 that Cliff seemed to believe would work well to reduce carbon emissions. I-1631 raises considerable revenue that will be invested in projects that reduce carbon emissions like renewable energy, energy efficiency, low carbon transportation, etc, or in projects that improve the resilience of our forests and Puget Sound and other rivers, lakes and streams to the impacts of climate change.

    The Public Oversight Board, which will administer the investment program is accountable like every other board or commission is state government. Members are appointed by the Governor and can be fired by the Governor. The Board will build its budget like every other state agency, working through a process with the Office of Financial Management and the Governor's Office. The legislature, and only the legislature, will make the final decision about the Board's budget -- how much will be spent and on what.

    Nothing will stop Cliff from spewing the oil company party line, but we can all ignore him.

    Its time for Washington to do its part to reduce carbon emissions. Let's think about our kids and their kids and generations to follow on this one.

  16. Jay,
    One knows someone has a weak argument when they start with name calling ("place of honor in fossil fuel hall of fame" and more). You mischaracterize my viewpoint. I think GW is a very serious threat...that is why I oppose 1631: too weak and ineffective. I never said ocean acidification is a hoax. But the use of it by the oyster folks was completely wrong (read my blogs on it). And modeling supports everything I say about GW impacts: most are in the future. I would be happy to debate you on the science. I think you are wrong about how 1631 monies will be spent...it will end up with a lot of small projects rather than dealing with key issues (like investing hundreds of millions of dollars during the next few years thinning our east-side forests). And the oversight board is unlike any other state board in the scale of the funds and their freedom to set the agenda. And the governor himself has stated he does not think the legislature will provide meaningful guidance about climate spending under 1631. To end, I am not a spokesman for the status quo as you suggest, but someone pushing a FAR more aggressive vision of what we need to do to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Perhaps one day you will appreciate and stop the name calling...cliff

  17. Name calling? No, name calling! If I were to sink to name calling I would have used terms like "quisling" or "collaborator". But name calling isn't very effective. What I am doing with my comment is calling you out for your support of the status quo. Calling you out for your tacit support of continued use of fossil fuels. Calling you out for being the most effective voice in the area for the unabated emissions of greenhouse gases. And I'm calling you out not because I think you are capable of change -- your Trumpian ego will never allow that. But my hope is that your followers -- at least some of them -- will realize just how damaging your rhetoric is to making progress on climate change.

  18. Jay....I am really glad you are not into name calling. I guess quisling and collaborator are positives in your mind. You are completely offbase in saying I am supporting the status quo. I want far more effective action than 1631---don't you see that is my point. Bigger carbon tax. Hundreds of millions of dollars directed at the real climate resilient problems. 1631 is the status quo...small carbon tax and lots of small, ineffective projects? Even if you don't agree with me, can you at least accept that I has a different viewpoint than yours that does not deserve your name calling and put downs. Quite honestly, I have generally found that when folks call names, their arguments are weak. 1631 is going to lose tomorrow in a very big way. And hopefully, we can come up with a better bipartisan plan for moving forward on climate issues...cliff

  19. Cliff,

    Will you write a blog demanding an $80/ton carbon tax (with inflation), using utility company carbon cost abatement curves? I-732 would have been even more ineffective, because the cost is was too low. At least with I-1631, revenue will be invested in solutions.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

Is Global Warming Causing Aircraft Turbulence to Increase?

 After the turbulence encounter by a Singapore Airlines aircraft,  there has been a slew of articles claiming that severe turbulence inciden...