December 07, 2005
Don't know why there's no sun up in the sky

The hurricane prognosticators are predicting a lot of stormy weather next year.

The predictions, made annually by a research team at Colorado State University, call for 17 named storms and nine hurricanes next season. Five of those hurricanes, the forecasters say, are likely to become major, reaching at least Category 3 status with winds of up to 130 mph.

The prediction is higher than any ever made in December by the team, and it's not just because a record 26 tropical systems formed this year, shattering the 1933 high by five.

"Every statistical predictor we have for next year is above average," said Philip Klotzbach, one of the Colorado State forecasters.

An average of 9.6 named storms form each year in the Atlantic basin.


The forecasting method, developed by atmospheric scientist William Gray, is by no means perfect. Last December, the forecast team predicted 11 named storms for this year.

"Nature, of course, can always fool you," said Jim Lawrence, an associate professor of geosciences at the University of Houston. "You have to go with statistics and probability, and it's not always going to be right. But overall, forecasting that far in advance, I think Bill Gray has actually been quite successful."

If there's an upside for next year, tropically speaking, it's that things probably cannot get much worse, forecasters said.

Well, that's good to know. Actually, I'm kind of rooting for their prediction to be accurate, as it would represent a 30%+ drop in hurricane activity from this year. I don't think I can bear the idea of 50% more storms. I mean, what happens when we run out of Greek letters to name them? What's next, Hebrew? Cyrillic? Kanji? High ASCII?

What's really scary to contemplate is that the last decade could have been much worse:

Between 1995 and 2003, 32 major hurricanes formed in the Atlantic but just three made landfall in the United States. During the highly active 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, seven of the 13 major storms that formed reached the United States.

SciGuy and Jeff Masters have more (here and here). Guess we'll be buying those storm shutters after all sigh.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 07, 2005 to Hurricane Katrina | TrackBack

Better start preparing for Hurricanes Dipthong (æ) and Enye (ñ)!

Posted by: Jim Dallas on December 8, 2005 11:06 AM

For the 80% who self-identify as Good Stewarts and Environmentalists...

Doing Something about Global Warming:
Natural Resources Defense Council

an archive of articles at:

While politicians debate action that might be taken several years from now, a leading US climate scientist has warned that the world has just one decade to get to grips with climate change.

Climate Change Explained
Dr James Hansen told a meeting of American Geophysical Union in San Francisco that just 1C more of warming would take the Earth into climate patterns it has not experienced for more than 500,000 years.

But determined action on energy efficiency to bring about reductions in greenhouse gas emission could lead to some stabilization, he said.

Posted by: Support Science to Reverse Global Warming, is still possible on December 8, 2005 2:48 PM

Again, for the 80% who call themselves Good Stewarts and Environmentalists


Wind power now CHEAPER for US retail consumers
by Jerome a Paris [Unsubscribe]
Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 07:40:15 AM CST
front paged on Booman Tribune

Via World Changing, this great tidbit noted by the Dept. of Energy's Green Power Network:

Green Pricing

November 2005 - Utility customers participating in green pricing programs that offer some form of protection from fossil-fuel price changes are finding that their green power premiums are shrinking or even turning negative. For example, as of November 1, Colorado customers participating in Xcel Energy's Windsource program are paying 0.66¢/kWh less for wind energy than for "regular" electricity because of an increase in the utility's energy cost adjustment (ECA). Since the ECA announcement, Xcel has sold out of its remaining available wind energy supply and has established a waiting list for new program signups.

(Go to original article for links to all the individual utilities and their programmes)

In Oklahoma, OG&E Electric Services customers purchasing the OG&E Wind Power product now pay 0.13¢/kWh less for wind energy than for traditional electricity and customers of Edmond Electric's pure&simple wind power program now pay 0.33¢/kWh less. Both utilities adjust their fuel charge monthly. Finally, in September, Austin Energy announced an increase in its fuel charge, which will bring the rate for its most recent GreenChoice product offering to near parity with the standard electric rate.

The great advantage of wind is that its cost of production is VERY predictable. You need to spend a significant chunk of money upfront, but after this, the production costs are very low and extremely predictable (technical maintenance, replacement of some part after a number of years, full stop).

You cost over the long term thus depends on the financing terms you can get to cover that initial investment and "spread" it over a number of years. Typically, it is possible today to get 15-year financing for that upfront investment.

With current prices for turbines and ancillary equipement (about $1m for 1MW as a rule of thumb, a bit more currently because of the ongoing boom in demand in the USA), and depending on the wind available at your site, your initial investment will cost about 3-4 c/kWh in debt repayment. Add to that approx. 0.5c/kWh in operatiing costs (increasing over the years to 1c/kWh), and you get power that will cost you 3.5-5c/kWhwith absolute certainty over the next 15 years, and much less after that (turbines are considered to have at least a 20-year life).

Coal-fired plants generate 2-3c/kWh power in today's conditions, but they are sensitive to coal prices (which doubled in the past year), and they could (and should) be hit by carbon taxes which will increase their price.

Natural gas-fired plants, the great new thing of the industry in the late 90s, used to have 3c/kWh costs as well, but that was predicated on 3$/mbtu gas. With natural gas currently at 14$/mbtu, and not currently expected to go below 7$/mbtu in the next 5 years, gas-fired plants are currently providing 6-8c/kWh power.

As I explained in an earlier diary, gas-fired plants usually being the marginal producers, they effectively set the level of wholesale prices for electricity, which have thus increased, slowly bringing retail prices up with them.

Until recently, the expectation of long term wholesale electricity prices arouns 3c/kWh made wind power uncompetitive, thus requiring a support mechanism, the PTC, to make it possible for investords and lenders to put long term money in that sector. And the 1.8c/kWh for 10 years provided by that taw mechanism have been enough (when available, which it was with irregularity in recent years) for the industry to be financed and to develop. Despite current high prices, banks are not yet willing to bet on such prices remaining high for 15 years, and thus still requite the support of the PTC to provide finance, and it would still kill the industry to do without it for now. (Disclaimer - yes, I work in banking and I finance wind farms, so this may sound self-interested, but (i) I don't work in the USA and (ii) it's still true). But eventually it may become unnecessary - basically as soon as utilities decide that they are willing to take that risk and sign fixed price purchase agreements with wind farms at high enough prices - like 5c/kWh - prices which, being fixed, will end up being very cheap for the utilities if the alternative is 8c/kWh gas-fired.

The gist of all this is that there is no rational reason today not to promote wind power today - it will be the most economic source of power in the long term - it already is in the short term.

And I have an additional bit of good news. The International Energy Agency, hardly a loony green outfit, has just published a new report (Variability of Wind Power and Other Renewables (pdf), which basically says that the impact of the intermittent nature of wind power on grids has been overestimated and can be managed reasonably well with well-known technical solutions.

That means that investing in wind power will NOT require additional investment in gas-fired or coal-fired standby capacity to cover times of low production - these can easily be managed by the grid.

As the issue of birds inevitable pops up each time I write about wind power, I will refer you to previous discussions of this topic:

Wind Power - Impacts on Wildlife and Government Responsibilities for Regulating Development and Protecting Wildlife (pdf) from the GAO.

This diary summarises a few scientific studies and quotes the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on the topic:
Wind power: birds, landscapes and availability (I)

Other discussions on birds, with various sources:
(see article for links)

The conclusion is that, while the wind farm in Altamont, Ca has killed a number of raptors, and care should be taken in all cases to site windfarms away from migratory pathes and other potentially hazardous locations for birds, the overall impact of wind farms on birds is extremely low.

Overall, wind power is cheap, reliable, and mostly harmless. These things cannot all be said of all the alternatives, so wind deserves to be promoted a lot more than it currently is - and it will actually be profitable!

Posted by: Support Science to Reverse Global Warming, hopefully still possible on December 11, 2005 9:47 AM