Thursday, January 30, 2014

Argo for Bio -- for Global Change

Ignore the Grauniad's annoying (and long tradition of) spelling errors and concentrate on the science innovation here. This project is going to be crucial to managing climate impacts in the future.

I'll be asking you to tell me why in class.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Stories from the Great Depression and the CCC

For Economics of Resource Conservation and Sustainability, tonight:

Figueres: A Cool Green Trillion, subtle call for divestment

The UN's climate boss has called for a massive retooling of the planet's human energy system, essentially a divestment program.

"The biggest investors – pension funds, insurance companies, foundations and investment managers – control about $76tn in assets, according to OECD figures.

But by Figueres's estimate, those institutional investors were committing less than 2% of the funds under their control to clean energy infrastructure – compared to 10% or 15% that was still going into coal and oil.

"Last year, we had $300bn, and in the same year we had double that amount invested in exploration and mining in fossil fuels. So you can see that the ratio is not where it needs to be. We need to be at the opposite ratio."
Now, we sit back and wait for the anti-UN, anti-science fireworks from the dirty energy lobby.

Unfortunately for said lobby, and fortunately for our small planet, institutional investors, especially the big public employee pension funds, are relatively immune to right-wing fuming. It's the one area of high finance where public opinion and the public trust really counts.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Restoring and testing another Jimmy Carter solar panel

(Pictures taken by PS 3003 and SEM student Sierra F.)

Students in PS 3003 Sustainable Energy dismantled, cleaned, and reassembled a sad dusty dirty Jimmy Carter solar panel from our collection in storage. They then estimated the energy conversion efficiency, using a pyranometer to measure the energy hitting the panel, and measuring the temperature rise in a known volume of water in the panel using basic principles, a stopwatch, and a "laser" thermometer.

This was the first exercise in this semester's class.

Activity goals: Familiarity with hand tools, safety precautions,  sensors and instruments, experimental design, mensuration, problem solving, working in groups, and, last but not least, solar design and fabrication and maintenance of basic solar thermal equipment.

Hands-on, minds-on. It's just how we roll.

Results: The panels were 27% and 21% efficient. Last time we did this we had 10% and 24%. The main variable affecting the efficiency is the air sealing in the casement.

Koppen-Geiger climate classifications for Global Change

The maps are accessible here:

The Wikipedia page here explains the classification system

Note the color coding is different between the two sources.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Polar Express?

You can see the polar vortex, the circular air flow north and west of the Great Lakes. This is supposed to bring very cold air to the football game in Green Bay today. But they're not unused to that kind of thing there.

A long time ago I experienced something like this, and wrote about it on this blog post here.

This wouldn't be that cold if it made it all the way to Maine. But it is an interesting weather phenomenon, a good warm-up for Global Change.

Animation of Jet Stream Analyses