December film: Carbon Nation
When: Wednesday, December 12, 7 pm; Where: Peacock Theater
Carbon Nation, a peppy documentary directed by Peter Byck, is perfectly timed given the urgency of the climate crisis publicized in the recent IPCC report. It is addressed to Americans who already believe that we must make drastic changes in the way we live as a nation and as individuals. But even more, it is targeted to those who do not care or are antagonistic toward talk of global warming. That is why you will see spokespersons for large corporations, the military, and entrepreneurs stating that a low-carbon economy is good for business. Byck has gathered an astonishing and varied group of American citizens to educate us about solutions to the very-real crisis we are facing. It’s pragmatism is appealing across the political spectrum. It celebrates solutions, inspiration, and action.
LOW CARBON ACTIVISTS
The most enthusiastic and hopeful believer in a low-carbon economy and its positive impact on poor people is Van Jones, a civil rights activist who founded Green For All which brings new jobs in this burgeoning field to disadvantaged communities. A magic moment for him is watching trainees of Solar Richmond & Grid Alternatives installing solar panels in a California home.
Another activist is Bernie Karl, a geothermal pioneer in Alaska who has found a way to use 165 degree water to create geothermal power. He has come up with what many are calling a game-changing technology which can wean us from dependence on oil.
Dan Nolan, a former army colonel, shares the workings of the Green Hawks, people in the U.S. Department of Defense who are pushing the Pentagon’s move toward energy efficiency and sustainable power. There is a competition among base commanders around the US to become the first net-zero-energy base, to create all the energy they use, to use water in the most efficient manner, and to have bio-waste energy generators on base. Being off the grid makes the military more resistant to terrorism.
Cliff Etheredge, a rancher in West Texas, brags about the money he and others are making by leasing their land to wind companies. This project of green energy has brought new life back to a dying community.
Others featured in this engrossing documentary talk about:
- the benefits of white roofs (Dr. Arthur Rosenfeld),
- the search for a biofuel replacement for jet fuel (Richard Branson),
- the generation of energy at or near the site where energy is used (Amory Lovins),
- the fact that going green will save U.S. companies millions of dollars and create many new businesses (Thomas I. Friedman),
- the benefits of plug-in hybrid cars (R. James Woolsey),
- and the challenge of making energy efficiency in homes and offices universally accessible (James Rogers).
The consensus view of these movers and shakers in American society is that climate change can be dealt with before it is too late, but only if citizens, politicians, scientists, and businesses all work together on some of the solutions presented on Carbon Nation.
It is 84 minutes long. Sorry, no captions.
On Thursday, September 6, Sustainable Rossmoor (SR) members were joined by members of the Democrats of Rossmoor and others at a sign making party for the San Francisco area “Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice” Climate March held on Saturday, September 8, 2018.
A few folks brought their own supplies and snacks to share. Many others used 14 foam boards on sticks supplied by SR. Markers were loaned by Katha Hartley, Democrats of Rossmoor club President. The overflow crowd from Mulligan went out to the patio. People were industrious and artsy. Nine folks created signs to be donated to marchers going empty handed.
Sustainable Rossmoor members were among 30,000 at the march on Saturday, September 8, 2018.
The crowd went from Embarcadero Plaza to Civic Center, demanding racial and economic justice, an end to fossil fuel production, and a transition to 100% renewable energy.
These demands were given to Gov. Jerry Brown ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit on September 12 -14, 2018. The Summit is a meeting of public officials and corporate executives from around the world.
March organizers were from Rise for Climate, Justice and Jobs. Marchers urged support for community-led solutions, starting in places impacted the most by pollution and climate change. March contingents came from over 300 organizations representing environmental and climate justice organizations, communities of faith, immigrant justice organizations, Indigenous-led groups, labor organizations, youth, and many more.
According to the Mercury News, the Global Climate Action Summit “makes California a worldwide flag-bearer on the issue at a time when the federal government is in retreat. The event at Moscone Center, dubbed the “Global Climate Action Summit,” is something of a swan song for outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown. He leaves office in January, having led California to major gains in renewable energy and cuts in greenhouse gas emissions — all amid a backdrop of record drought, floods and massive wildfires that brought the issue into stark focus.”
Civil Disobedience, fighting for OUR Environment
When: August 8, 7:00 pm
Where: Peacock Hall
DISOBEDIENCE is a persuasive and handsomely produced documentary from the activist organization 350.org. Disobedience tells the David vs. Goliath tale of front line leaders battling for a livable world. Filmed in the Philippines, Turkey, Germany, Canada, Cambodia and the United States, it weaves together these riveting stories with insights from the most renowned voices on social justice and climate. Disobedience is personal, passionate and powerful — the stakes could not be higher, nor the mission more critical.
A panel discussion will follow this 41 minute film — See Discussants List Below
Residents who’ve been brave enough to step up and risk being arrested will share their stories. We’ll ask the questions: When is it justified? Does it help or hurt a cause? Does it have a lasting benefit?
The future of the planet is under attack. In just the past few years, we’ve witnessed unprecedented waves of brutal storms, massive oil spills engulfing our oceans and sea life, and the hottest temperatures ever recorded in human history. Climate change is real, and it’s up to the will of the people to reverse its adverse effects. This is the argument that drives the film.
The film begins with a critical eye on the actions undertaken at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Summit in Paris. While each world leader seemed satisfied by the outcomes of their conference, the film contends that their final agreement does little to change the tide of global warming in the years to come. Believing that the call for real and lasting change cannot be answered by often impotent politicians, the film showcases a diverse group of activists throughout the globe who have taken the fight into their own hands.
Lidy Nacpil, a spokesperson for the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, works to galvanize a citizen force against a proposed coal plant in Batangas. The plant would produce over 7 million metric tons of CO2 emissions every year, and therefore poses a severe environmental threat. The country knows from experience how the voice of its people can inspire wide sweeping change. In 1986, urgent protests led to the ousting of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. A growing community of like-minded citizens hope to spark the same level of passion and outcry against the region’s blossoming fossil fuel industries.
In Canada, a rapidly expanding pipeline is gradually polluting the purity of the ocean water and other natural resources. Area residents refuse to take a payout from big corporations in exchange for their complacency. They choose to fight.
In one profile after another, DISOBEDIENCE introduces us to inspiring groups of people who are advocating for a better way of life for their families, their communities and their planet. In the process, scientists and scholars educate viewers on the role of civil disobedience in affecting reform, the economic impact of environmental catastrophe, and the myriad of social issues which are worsening in the midst of climate change.
STEVE NADEL states that the essential message of non-violent civil disobedience is “It is time to end Business as Usual. When our institutions fail to protect or actively endanger our health, environment and climate we must step in to say the harm must end now.” Steve started his political organizing at the height of the Viet Nam war, and the first Earth Day in 1970. Later in the 1980’s, he took direct action at the Port Chicago Naval Weapons station to stop arms shipments to Central America. Recently, he helped organize a blockade by Sunflower Alliance at the Kinder Morgan rail lines in Richmond, when they attempted to sneak in fracked Baaken Crude to the Chevron refinery. Steve has testified multiple times at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District but also is ready to lead a protest at the Phillips 66 marine terminal in Rodeo to prevent expansion designed to accommodate Alberta tar sands.
July Film: To the Ends of the Earth
When: Wednesday, July 11, 7:00-8:30 pm Where: Peacock Hall
(2016), 82 minutes
Sustainable Rossmoor will show TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH — a new film about extreme oil extraction deep under the Arctic, from the Alberta tar sands, and from oil shale under at the Colorado River headwaters. This award-winning film is narrated by Emma Thompson and details the environmental problems resulting from the use of extreme oil extraction technologies. It also reveals the struggles of concerned citizens living at the destructive frontiers beyond traditional energy, and interviews those who fight for a different future with environmentally sensitive energy solutions.
In 2005, something unexpected happened, the growth of the traditional fossil fuel energy market stopped. The age of extreme energy was born. Unconventional energy extraction is defined by both the geology and the geography of a resource. All forms are technically difficult, energy intensive (requiring more energy to harvest than traditional methods), expensive, and pose serious environmental risks.
The film bears witness to humanity’s descent further down the “resource pyramid.” At the top of the pyramid, energy is easy to find and cheap, and it requires minimal labor and has the highest capital and energy return on investment (EROI), as in the case of Saudi oil. In the middle of the pyramid, resources are more difficult and costly to extract, as is the case for mining the Alberta tar sands or hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. “Drill, baby, drill” has become “mine, baby, mine,” “steam, baby, steam,” and “frack, baby, frack.” At the bottom of the pyramid, there are energy resources such as Utah’s and Colorado’s oil shale, the economic feasibility of which, despite billions in investments, remains uncertain. Extreme energy is much less profitable, and there are diminishing returns on investment.
After 10 years of rather intensive global development,
unconventional resources now comprise 42% of the planet’s energy mix.
In the words of interviewee and author Richard Heinberg, “Given that 95% of all economic transactions in our globalized economy bear the footprint of fossil fuels, does this spell the end of economic growth for our civilization?” We meet the people uniquely positioned to watch this global crossroads unfold, and who are fighting for something different.
The first site of extreme extraction revealed in the film is under the ice . . . at the ends of the earth – the Arctic Sea. The United States Geological Survey has given a 50% probability that there are 90 billion barrels of oil under the Arctic; that’s about 3 years of global energy consumption. With the decline in the price of oil, there has been a decrease in commercial interest, except for those nearby countries whose economies are heavily oil-dependent: Russia, Norway, and Canada. International companies including Chevron and Exxon-Mobile have multiple contracts in the Arctic with these countries.
In Arctic waters, oil exploration starts with seismic testing; large air guns send blasts aimed at the bottom of the ocean to determine the presence of oil. “Aside from nuclear explosions, these are the loudest man-made sounds. These shocks that happen every 12 seconds around the clock for months at a time, can be heard from 3,000 km away —basically over 1/2 of the Atlantic,” reports marine biologist Lindy Weilgart. She has been studying the effects of underwater sounds on whales, dolphins, narwalls, and other sea-life.
We meet the mayor of an Inuit village in Canada’s high Arctic (on Baffin Island) who is concerned that seismic testing for oil in the ocean is blowing out the eardrums of the seals and narwhals that the Inuit hunt to survive. There have been significant die-offs of these animals who are unable to find air holes in the ice or hunt for food when their own sonar systems are compromised. The Inuit people have taken the Canadian government to court for granting permits for seismic testing.
Next, the film tells the story of bitumen and the Albert tar sands oil industry. The Canadian film director, David Lavallee, has experienced first-hand the tragedies of Tar Sands mining. The production of oil there, consumes huge amounts of water and power – more than exists in Alberta. They must frack for natural gas and dam rivers in neighboring provinces for the resources needed to process the dirty tar sands, polluting the territories multi-fold and changing river life forever. It has halted economic growth in the provinces. A new nuclear power plant is planned in Saskatchewan to keep up the pace.
The Alberta Tar Sands are the major source of oil used in the US and is the second largest source of energy production worldwide. It is economically unsustainable.
We learn more about EROI, energy return on investment, by following the money and doing the math. The cost of energy investment to harvest oil more than doubled between 2005 to 2013 at the Tar Sands. This does not include the cost of water, or the dumping of tailings, the destruction of farmland, and so on.
We also learn that the world economy is built on investments dependent on expanding economies. As energy becomes more expensive, an economy built on fossil fuel energies will grind to a halt at some point. It cannot continue expanding. This will happen while there’s plenty of oil still in the ground, but much of the world’s earth, air, and water is fouled beyond repair. We learn about the concept of Degrowth — the slowing of the consumer society that will happen either by design or by disaster.
Burning oil shale, a rock that ignites, is an even more expensive source of energy. It is the resource that exists under the Grand Canyon and similar sites. It’s earned the label “extremely unconventional energy.” It has never shown a net profit.
As is true of every form of extreme extraction, environmental damage is necessary.
As of 2013, 15 million people in the United States lived within 1 mile of a frack well. The number has increased markedly since then. Many million children attend school near frack wells. Typically, after 2 years, the well’s natural gas (methane) production decreases and it is no longer profitable. New wells are then drilled. All wells invariably leak. The methane can be seen from outer space, with the US fracking operations being the worst. Fracking is also extremely thirsty for water, and highly polluting of it. First Nations have been joined by others to fight pipelines, water permits, and port expansions. Natural gas was once heralded as a cleaner source of energy than coal.
The greenhouse footprint of natural gas is two to three times worse the coal
due to methane release into the atmosphere.
Switching to 100% renewable energy will not be enough. For the world to become sustainable, we’ll need to consume less. The film clarifies the economic effects — not just of energy and its extraction, but of growth and also degrowth. We might want to consider slowing of the consumer society by design rather than by disaster.
Watch the 2 minute trailer: http://endsofearthfilm.com/
One of my main tasks as publicity chairman for Sustainable Rossmoor is to see to it that an Earth Matters column gets submitted twice a month. Several other club members have been helpful by submitting columns from time to time. But when no one sends me a column, I have to come up with something. I can assure you that writing about environmental issues isn’t a happy job. Most of the material I am able to find by research is bad news.
Almost every day, I read of another anti-science crony being appointed to an important position in the Environmental Protection Agency or some other federal government bureau. It is painful to read about the United States pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement and the concessions being given to the coal, gas and petroleum industries.
Most scientists are in agreement that the earth is unraveling due to human caused global warming. The current extinction rate of species is 1,000 times the historical level. Global wildlife populations have decreased nearly 60 percent since 1970. Coral reefs are dying and the oceans could be completely free of fish by 2048 due to climate disruption, overfishing, pollution and habitat loss. The great Pacific garbage patch is now several times as large as the state of California. Many fish mistake small bits of plastic for food with awful consequences.
In spite of what we are being told by the anti-scientists in Washington, D.C., climate change is proceeding dramatically and abruptly. Hurricane Harvey led to the single largest rain event in U.S. history, which was followed by Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever recorded. In Canada, rapidly melting permafrost is already releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This in turn causes warming, which increases the thaw further. Meanwhile, our forests are being cut down and/or burned. Anyone who has driven to Lake Tahoe has noticed the massive numbers of dead or dying trees. Some of this is caused by draught and much more by the bark beetles, which are pretty much out of control. Dying and burning trees, of course, release tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the cycle feeds on itself.
Now I read that the melting Arctic Sea ice is impacting the Atlantic Ocean water circulation system. Predicted sea level rise will cause devastation for the 145 million folks living on lands less than three feet above sea level. One author suggests that there will likely be 200 million climate refugees from sea level rise by 2050. Authorities are talking about possible sea level rise of 55 feet.
The Trump administration continues to work feverishly to scrub any mention of climate change from government websites. I tend to be a pretty optimistic person, but with regard to the future of the planet, I don’t see much to look forward to. We Depression babies and baby boomers have enjoyed a very good life. It is looking more and more like we have lived in the “best of times.” It may be all downhill from here on out.
Some experts are hinting that if humans continue adding carbon to the air and oceans, a global mass extinction event could be triggered by 2100. I hope they are wrong for the sake of our grandchildren and great grandchildren, but I sure wouldn’t bet any money on it.
This article first appeared in the April 4, 2018 edition of the Rossmoor News. Author Bob Hanson can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When: Wednesday April 11, 7:00-8:30 pm Title: The Nuclear Option by NOVA (2017)
Where: Peacock Hall
Five years after the earthquake and tsunami that triggered the unprecedented meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, scientists wonder: what’s next for Fukushima? What’s next for Japan? What’s next for a world that seems determined to jettison one of our most important carbon-free sources of energy? Despite the catastrophe, a new generation of nuclear power seems poised to emerge phoenix-like from the ashes. NOVA investigates how the realities of climate change, the inherent limitation of renewable energy resources, and the optimism and enthusiasm of a new generation of nuclear engineers is seeding a Renaissance in nuclear technology. What are the lessons from Fukushima and how might we be able to build a safe nuclear future? (One hour film with optional discussion after.)
Q&A Afterwards: Nuclear energy engineer, Vicki Swisher will be the film’s discussant. She has over 40 years experience in the commercial nuclear industry, and has worked in almost every area of nuclear development including design, construction, plant startup, licensing, and project management during her career. Vicki is a Rossmoor resident and a director in Fourth Mutual.
Recent SR opinion articles regarding concerns about utilizing the Nuclear Power option:
WHEN: Wednesday, March 14, 7:00-9:00 pm WHERE: Peacock Hall
There are two short documentaries co-featured for March, Presented by Sustainable Rossmoor and Cosponsored by Informed Rossmoor Voices. Both documentaries focus to varying degrees on the impacts on military preparedness and national security resulting from fossil fuel dependence and climate change driving rising waters. They highlight how our military is responding to climate change and is at the forefront of innovation and providing leadership to our government. These films have been screened at the White House, the Pentagon, the US War College, NATO Headquarters in Belgium, and are in the Annapolis Naval Academy curriculum. Our special invited discussant, U.S. Marine Major Jonathan Morgenstein (more information below), will be at the showing to respond to your questions. This event is free of charge and open to invited quests.
TIDEWATER won the 1st juried prize as the best environmental film at last year’s San Francisco Green Film Festival. It’s a personal story of a community accustomed to hardship and sacrifice through its military service. Hampton Roads, Virginia, a region relatively unknown nationwide, is especially vulnerable to sea level rise and its effects on military readiness and our overall national security. With 14 military installations spread across 17 local jurisdictions, it has our highest concentration of military assets in the country, where 1 in 6 residents are connected to the military. Their homes, schools, hospitals, and families are increasingly struggling to keep up with the effects of rising waters, and the military and all the surrounding municipalities are working toward solutions. They are coming together to create a new approach to building a resilient America, ready for the environmental realities of the 21st century. If Hampton Roads succeeds, it will strengthen national security, enhance economic prosperity, and create a powerful template for success — a model other regions can use to prepare for the inevitable.
The second film, THE BURDEN,
has been called the most effective communications tool ever made for shifting the debate on clean energy as one of urgent national security. It is the first documentary to tell the story of our dependence on fossil fuels as the greatest long-term national security threat confronting the U.S., and how the military is leading our transition away from oil. Renewables are redefining the meaning of energy independence. The troops are crying out to unleash us from the tether of fossil fuel. But is Congress listening?
Our special invited discussant, U.S. Marine Major Jonathan Morgenstein
will speak about the issues raised in these films and answer audience questions. He is a specialist in national security policy and conflict-resolution training and has focused on Security Sector Reform, Clean Energy, and Human Rights — particularly in the developing world including the Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America. He has appeared on ABC, Al Jazeera, BBC Arabic, CNN, MSNBC, and PBS. He has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Politico, The Hill, and other publications.
More about the film discussant:
Major Morgenstein has served over 25 years in the US Marine Reserves, including two tours in Iraq and one in Bosnia. He served as the senior policy adviser for Veterans, Intelligence, Foreign, Armed Services, Homeland Security and Foreign Policy for Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). He helped to establish the first Office of Global Strategic Engagement and also the Office of Rule of Law and International Humanitarian Policy. He served as a human rights advocate for Refugees International in Darfur, and as a High School Social Studies Teacher in both New Hampshire and San Francisco.
He is a member of Operation Free – a coalition of veterans and national security experts who believe oil dependence and climate change pose threats to our national security. They advocate for securing America with clean energy. http://operationfree.net/
Major Morgenstein is the founding President and CEO of Empowerment Solar. Over the past three years, his company has designed and installed distributed, commercial-scale solar electric systems for Palestinian businesses on the West Bank.
Major Morgenstein has been a fellow with the Truman National Security Project since 2006, and served from 2011-2014 as co-Director of Truman’s Middle East/North Africa Experts Group. The Truman National Security Project is a nationwide organization of frontline civilians, veterans, political professionals, and policy experts who conduct education and advocacy work on national security and foreign policy issues in the United States. It’s in this education and advocacy role that he comes to Rossmoor.
IMPORTANT facts FROM “THE BURDEN” FILM (based on 2014 data)
- The US consumes 1/5 of global oil.
- 1/5 of US Oil imports pass through the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Sea
- The price of gas might be $3.40/gal but the true cost is $7-8/gal if cost of US military protection of the world’s “life blood” were factored in.
- $85 billion is spent by the Pentagon annually to protect vulnerable chokepoints (narrow passes in water ways).
- For every $1 the price of a barrel of oil goes up, it costs the military $130 million.
- The Department of Defense consumes 20% of federal budget.
- “That fuel resupply mission [of oil] came to dominate everything we did.” (quote from the film).
- The military is the best source of first responders in the world to address global natural disasters: emergency & rescue to recovery every 2 weeks on average.
- Subsidies (in million dollars annually): $ 70 Fossil Fuels; $ 17 Ethanol; $12 Renewables
- “What’s holding us back is that so many of the conservatives, of which I am one, do not see our consumption of oil as a national security issue. If you’ve been in war in the Middle East, as I have, you might see that differently.” Mayor Greg Ballard, Indianapolis, Lt Col (Ret) from the US Marine Corps.
- Veterans in Congress: 65% in 1973 vs 19% in 2013
- “Change is coming. You can either anticipated manage it and shape it, or let it just control you.” Bob Ingles, (R) Congressman S Carolina (2005-2011) launched the Energy and Enterprise Initiative in 2012 — a nationwide public engagement campaign promoting conservative and free-enterprise solutions to energy and climate challenges.
This month’s featured film: ECO-COMEDY SHORTS
A special evening of light-hearted short films on a variety of environmental topics will be presented by Sustainable Rossmoor. Clever, amusing, and funny perspectives on promoting a healthy planet can sometimes give pause . . . and lead to reflection.
A panel of judges has selected from among dozens of nominations submitted by residents as well as culled from eco-comedy film festivals to create a delightful evening while taking a fresh look at a large variety of subjects. You might wonder, what could be amusing about global warming, climate change, solar energy, wind power, plastic, water pollution, air pollution, traffic, landfill, oil spills, concern for other species, food waste, overpopulation, or extreme weather. Come to the theater and find out; see if you agree that these environmental short films provoke thought . . . and chuckles!
A Big Thank You to THE JUDGES
Jo Alice Canterbury
Tod Elkins, Digital Editor
Vince Mayweather, A/V technician
And all the Rossmoor residents who sent in nominations
The Plastic Bag Problem
An Energy-Independent Future: A Presidential Perspective, Jon Stewart
Restaurant Scene: “Water Please”
The Climate Change Debate, John Oliver
PLASTIC, an Operetta
Alternative Energy, Jimmy Tingle
The Little Green Man Learns about TV
The Matt Damon Goes on Strike
Weather Girl Goes Rogue
Solar Panels, Tom Gleeson
NEWSROOM: EPA Interview
Skip Showers for Beef
Fighting Food Waste, Ed Begley Jr.
Wind Power’s Health Hazards, Steven Colbert
5-Day Weather Forecast
Who Are the Koch Brothers?
Al Franken & David Letterman
Mercedes AA Class
To make suggestions for the club’s next collection of eco-comedy short films, contact Carol Weed at email@example.com
Readers can actually estimate the impact of global warming on hurricanes for themselves. Here we use kitchen measure rather than metric.
In his New York Times editorial of Sept. 12, “Irma, and the Rise of Extreme Rain,” columnist David Leonhardt published a graph of global yearly average surface temperature from 1905 to today. These averages were taken from actual measurements around the world (some scientists, for example Dr. Charles Keeling at the Mauna Loa Observatory, actually spent a lifetime measuring temperature and other atmospheric and ocean data).
Converting Leonhardt’s graph data to Fahrenheit, the ocean surface temperature has increased just a little over 2-degF in the hundred years between 1917 and 2017. The graph is bumpy, but none of the bumps or dips are at all far off the line gradually moving upward.
Now as all of us who watched MSNBC or public television learned during this 2017 rather impressive hurricane season, the energy of a hurricane is gained by heat-transferred from the water over which it travels. This is a dynamic and complex phenomenon, but the weather folks, using super-computers, can model this process sufficiently to reasonably accurately predict the path, the strength and the behavior of a hurricane.
Yes, there were slight corrections that had to be made as the various hurricanes proceeded this August and September across the Gulf and Atlantic to landfall, but the predictions were startlingly accurate. Here we will not attempt anything that complicated. We will simply ask one question: For a 150-mile diameter hurricane, how much difference does an extra 2-degF make in its power?
A water heater measures heat in British Thermal Units (BTU). One Btu is the energy required to raise 1-pound of water 1-degF. If you have a gas water heater, you get your bill in dollars-per-therm, the cost of gas to produce 100,000 BTU. If you have an electric water heater, your bill is the cost of the number of kilowatt hours to do the same work. Here we only consider the extra energy 2-degF warmer water adds to the hurricane. So that comes to 2-BTU for every pound of water at the surface of the ocean.
When scientists make simplifying assumptions, they always simplify in the opposite direction of what they want to show. We know that the ocean also adds heat from below the surface layer, but that requires complicated heat transfer equations and we would need a powerful computer. So we will consider only the surface transfer of heat. Now a pound of water is, the world around, a pint of water. And the volume of a pint is 0.0167-cubic feet. Which tells us that if we consider the top 0.0167-ft (about 1-quarter-inch) of ocean water, 1-square-foot in area, as the source of heat energy for the hurricane – we can roughly estimate the average extra energy gained from every square foot of today’s 2-degF warmer water as 2-BTU extra energy per square foot of hurricane. For a small 150-mile diameter hurricane, that comes to around 500,000,000,000-BTU.
That is a big number, but energy can be expressed in all sorts of ways. If you look around on the Internet, you can find a conversion of energy in BTU to energy in kilotons of TNT explosion. I ran the conversion and came up with 126-kilotons. The Hiroshima bomb, called “Little Boy,” was estimated as 15-kilotons TNT. So the extra energy gain from 2-degF water warming a 150-mile hurricane is roughly the equivalent of eight atom bombs.
Of course, hurricanes do not stay in one place. They move across the water slowly. So if we stay with our simple model, every 150 miles a 150-mile diameter hurricane moves adds another extra eight atom bombs of destructive power.
This article first appeared in the October 11, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author Wayne Lanier can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.