Saturday, March 26, 2016

"All hell will break loose..."

We'll watch this movie in class Tuesday after break.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Samsø with COA

College of the Atlantic and  Samsø Energy Academy have joined forces to offer a 5-day workshop (May 30 - June 3, 2016) ( at the Samsø Energy Academy on Samsø Island, Denmark for government, education, and community leaders.  In this workshop participants will learn first-hand how the Samsø transformation created opportunities for both individuals and businesses.  We will explore how the successes of Samsø can be translated to a U.S. context given the social, economic and political differences.

In 2007 Samsø Island, Denmark became a carbon-negative island producing more renewable energy than they consume. This 10-year effort, led by Søren Hermansen, maximized community engagement and economic rejuvenation. Through the Island’s renewable energy efforts, Samsø was able to reinvent itself, bring jobs and energy tourism to the island, and become a world leader in community energy strategies.
In this workshop, participants will see first-hand how the transformation created opportunities for both individuals and businesses.  We will explore how the successes of Samsø can be translated to a U.S. context given the social, economic and political differences.

For more information and registration visit:

Science fair

A few of us, faculty and students, spent part or all of Saturday at the Maine Science Festival, which combines the state science fair with a few other events.

The science fair is of course for high schoolers, but on the Saturday there's a kind of open day when families bring all their kids. I made sure to have a variety of science and engineering demonstrations suitable for all age groups. This little boy and his dad are learning how to make the simple electric motor.

Admissions Department provided three student ambassadors. They had the hardest job, because they were scheduled all day. I just went from eight until eleven-fifteen or so, when I was relieved by Jim Killarney. He too should have been relieved later by Jennifer Clarke. Each of us bought our own "show-and-tell" materials.

As a result, we rotated the college's exhibit through our respective areas, covering three different topics in sequence, from physics and renewable energy, to paleoclimatology, to wildlife.

That should have kept the punters happy.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

GL 4003 term project assignment

You are required to produce a completed term project by the end of the semester. This could be a research experiment, an analysis (including a inferential statistical or dynamic systems modeling experiment or analysis), a research paper or poster, a new media presentation, or a secondary or tertiary climate science or policy paper or essay. You should discuss your project with the instructor. You may choose to work in groups.

This assignment is worth 30/100 points for the class.

GL 4003 second midterm

GL4003 Global Change
Second Midterm Exam
Professor Womersley
Due Thursday after Spring Break in class or by email

This is a take-home exam. Answer all questions, showing work where necessary to demonstrate skills or learning, diagrams if asked or if it helps. If you don’t know or can’t work out an answer, put down what you do know. You may research answers.  You may discuss them with the instructor. You may not confer with other students. Submit electronically, multiple files allowed including statistical files in JMP, Excel, or Smith’s.

Exam is 20% of grade for class, 10% given for each problem below

  1. Test the hypotheses that change in average annual temperature is a function of the phase of the El Nino/Southern Oscillation, the level of deposition of volcanic aerosols in the atmosphere, the amount of solar energy hitting the top of the atmosphere, and the combined effect of anthropogenic influences, following the method pioneered by Judith Lean and David Rind (2008). Report the results, with all statistical parameters explained. Provide a discussion of the meaning of the results.

  1. Using the model or estimator produced by the above method (i.e., using the full equation), and Microsoft Excel, compare the predicted time series to the actual (HadCRU 3) using a graph. How accurate is your model? To what use might it be put?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Test me out!

Students in GL 4003 and others interested in modeling: here's a new online dynamic system modeling program.

If anyone has time to test this out for me, that would be great.

Otherwise, I'll get to it shortly.


Friday, March 11, 2016

The Obama Doctrine

ISIS is not an existential threat to the United States,” he told me in one of these conversations. “Climate change is a potential existential threat to the entire world if we don’t do something about it.” Obama explained that climate change worries him in particular because “it is a political problem perfectly designed to repel government intervention. It involves every single country, and it is a comparatively slow-moving emergency, so there is always something seemingly more urgent on the agenda.”

President Obama, quoted by Jeffry Goldberg, in The Atlantic, today.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The old and the new

Not so old, though. Former SEM student Andrew ran into current SEM student John at the Building Energy trade show in Boston, MA.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Call for College Students to Help Shape Their States’ Clean Power Plans

(Posted by request)


Eban Goodstein, the director of the Bard College Center for Environmental Policy, distributed an invitation to college students and faculty across the United States to participate in “Power Dialog,” an exciting effort to mesh learning and civic engagement around the nation’s efforts to curtail power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, the main human-generated gas contributing to global warming.*

The focus is the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. DespiteSupreme Court transitions, legal challenges and the presidential race, the plan’s mix of regulation and regional flexibility is likely to persist well into the future. The academic effort, which is nonpartisan, centers on a nationwide series of meetings in state capitals April 4 in which students can offer their views to top state officials.

There’s a map here with locations. You can sign up here. But there’s plenty happening between now and then, including a series of online seminars. The next one, Wednesday, March 9, will be by Alex Barron of Smith College and formerly the Environmental Protection Agency. He’ll speak about “Job and Economic Impacts of the Clean Power Plan.”

The Bard website has much more information on the events, as well as background links and readings.

Here’s the note introducing the effort, which came from Goodstein and three prominent environmental leaders, Bill McKibben, Hunter Lovins and Gus Speth: READ MORE…

We've been learning a new skill, how to test hybrid car batteries. These are for our "new" fifteen year old Honda Insight, of which I've thus far failed to take a picture for the blog. It's in the college's shop, in any case, where my students and I are experimenting on it, trying to learn how the "Integrated Mechanical Assist" or IMA system works.

This is the crux of the experiment, whether or not the hybrid battery "sticks" each of which contains 6 "D"-sized cells, can be re-used. So far two of five are unservicable. We have a set of secondhand sticks coming, which will get the same treatment. The battery needs twenty good ones, which must all have a balanced charge before installation. the little blue electronic devices are "Imax B6" balance chargers, which you can get for a few bucks on the Internet. They're a "smart" charger, and can sense the number of cells in the battery and charge and discharge them appropriately. If we can get three or four amp-hours per discharge from a fully charged stick then it can likely be reused.

The Imax can also cycle through charge-discharge cycles, a process that can be used to "erase" memory problems to which rechargeable batteries are prone. Basically, if some component in the in-car charge/discharge system isn't allowing the battery to cycle properly, the battery develops a "memory" of this failed cycle, and even when the problem is corrected, may refuse to charge or discharge appropriately.

It took a few tries to make sure that the charge-discharge cycle with the Imax was a good-enough test of the battery health, without a clear idea of what we were doing to begin, but once we did three sticks and identified two good and one bad, the difference between good and bad in terms of amp-hour capacity was great enough to give us confidence in the process.

This is a good project because battery technology becomes ever-more relevant in renewable energy, not just in cars, but also for household purposes, with the advent of the Tesla PowerWall and with attacks on net-metering nationwide. If, as pundits like Amory Lovins expect, battery storage becomes the norm for American households, or even just the norm for those households with solar power systems, there will be numerous commercial opportunities opening up for those folks that understand the technology.

The current conservative attack on net metering, which has been at least temporarily successful in Nevada, among other places, is undermined by battery technology, especially Tesla's "PowerWall. If you can't get a decent trade for your surplus power from the grid operator, you may as well just save it up and use it yourself at night and when the weather is cloudy, and if the additional cost to do so is only about three or four thousand dollars, as seems likely based on Tesla's projections, then it's unlikely that this will make solar power uncompetitive with retail grid power anytime soon.