Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It appears we can still have bad winters, right Texas?

The “historic” winter storm that is now heading East and then out of the country has had some significant effects, beyond just forcing folk like us out to shovel our driveways clear. Utilities in Texas were forced to impose rolling blackouts because of the shut-down of some of its generating power. This affected as many as 1 million homes. The problem was caused, in part, by broken and frozen pipes which shut off cooling water, and thus operation, at one coal-fired and one natural gas-fired electricity generating plant in the state. (SInce it "never gets that cold" in the state, the pipes were routed outside and installed without adequate insulation for the current weather, apparently.) At the same time, however, the exceptionally cold weather was causing a reduced flow of natural gas from local sources, so that backup power could not be brought on line.
Dewhurst said he was told that water pipes at two plants, one of which is Oak Grove , forced them to cut electricity production. Natural gas power plants that should have provided back up had difficulty starting due to low pressure in the supply lines, also caused by the cold weather.
(The other plant was Sand Hill).

While the system could normally buy enough compensating power from adjacent states, the large size of the storm system means that the power from those states was already being used, and even though spot prices rocketed (from $50 to $3,000 per megawatthour it was not enough to meet demand, and thus the power companies first imposed load shedding requirements, and then started the rolling blackouts. They have, at least for now, served their purpose, and ERCOT is reported as having ended them, at least for today. There remains a “strong possibility” that they will be re-imposed on Thursday.

Oh, and a minor comment, I was complaining to the Engineer (who is in Mass) about our weather and he laughed. He lives on the main street in Somerville, and they have had so much snow already that he doesn’t know where there is room to put what fell today, and which he has to move to get to his car. So far they have had, apparently, twice the amount of snow they get in a normal winter.

Climate scientists appear to have become so fixated on the likelihood of a continuing warming trend, and all the possible disasters that this might bring, that they leave Governments unprepared for any possible alternatives. Thus grit supplies were not increased this winter in either the UK or USA, dam levels were kept full in Australia, so that when a flood came there was nowhere to put the water, except down river – thus negating one of the very reasons the dams were put there in the first place. If it is not now apparent that colder weather can be at least as damaging as warmer, if not worse, then observational science, which used to have a considerable worth, has now yielded place to science by computer model, where the old GIGO rubric has been forgotten.

And if this post seems more like a rant, perhaps it is to do with the 3 hours it took to dig out my drive today, and the aches and pains that this has left in the aging corpus.


  1. We sometimes forget there's more to climate change than global warming. Maybe the storm was an example of the increased variability climate scientists talk of and, of course, maybe it wasn't. But it could be a great chance for a satisfied gaze out the window at the excavated drive and to warm the aches, whisky in hand, in front of the fire. Internal warming - I'm all for it.

  2. Grin - a cup of hot chocolate when I came in, but two days later driving out of the only drive on the street with dry asphalt instead of packed snow is some recompense.

    And as you say, standing glass in hand in the evening, looking out over the expanse . . .we use a tile stove that is more efficient, so I have foregone the open fire, but it is satisfying.

  3. porsena: yours is the usual Climate Orthodoxy mantra: whatever happens it's caused by CO2, more rain, less rain, more snow, less snow, more heat, less heat, all of it is used to claim Global Warming is happening.

    Those of us that studied the tiniest bit of Climate know that a storm like this could never brew up as a consequence of global warming. By the contrary, they are a signature of speeding up circulation.