First a little update on all the great electric vehicle (EV) news I reported on yesterday. Besides developing the Volt, GM is also working with utility companies to make sure people will be able to charge their hybrids on the grid. The Wired blog states (as I suggested yesterday) that GM has bet its future on the Volt. Even though it seems they are working feverishly on the Volt, it is still not projected to be on showroom floors until late 2010. That is a long time – they might be too late to be a dominant player in this developing market. All the buzz about EVs is bubbling over at plug-in 2008, a conference in San Jose occurring right now. Here is some more coverage of the conference. Some people are skeptical about GM’s efforts with hybrid vehicles because of the EV1 – a failed effort by GM from a few years back. I am not skeptical. The EV1 was ahead of its time. The battery technology was not good enough. Right now GM is in a life and death struggle for survival and if they don’t start producing more fuel efficient vehicles (up to the 100mpg that is possible with plug-ins) they will get crushed by the competition.
Something else I need to update you on is organic light emitting diodes (OLED – a potential successor to compact fluorescent lighting). A few days ago I linked to a story about Purdue University building cheaper OLEDs by using silicon instead of sapphire (see here). Now the University of Michigan and Princeton have developed a way to make OLEDs more efficient – producing up to 70 lumens per watt. Compact fluorescent lighting typically produces 90 lumens per watt but contains toxic chemicals and don’t last as long.
A lot of the discussion involving these new technologies and alternative energy revolve around global warming. Last week Al Gore stated the very future of humanity is in peril because of AGW. Despite all the predictions of nearly unavoidable environmental Armageddon, there has been some dissent and it seems to be growing a bit. Here is an opinion article that does a good job summarizing the basic criticisms – including that climate models have large errors and the temperature of the earth has not warmed since 1998. Something that was not mentioned is that the fossil fuel scenarios that are used in the models are mostly unrealistic. The amount of fossil fuel usage projected by the IPCC is overestimated. I could see this blow-back coming just based on the strident positions of AGW proponents over the last few years. They have been quite adamant that variations in the sun’s energy output has had absolutely no effect on the climate in the last century – which is ridiculous – as it is basic common sense – which is why we have now seen at least one group of researchers inject some sanity back into the discussion by claiming – yes – the sun does affect the earth’s climate, at least to some degree. Also, natural climate variability seems to be a lot larger than previously thought considering the discovery of ostracod fossils in Antarctica dating back only 14 million years. In order for these crustaceans to survive, the temperature in Antarctica would have had to be 30 degrees warmer than they are today.
If we are lucky and the temperature of the earth does not change all that much over the next couple decades, then maybe conservationists will start canceling their plans to move species to different parts of the world in order to protect them from AGW. Moving species to places where they are not adapted or evolved to fit in could be disastrous. The very slow pace of climate change – whether it gets warmer or colder – allows animals to adapt. Humans moving them from here to there to everywhere would be very risky and could create more problems than it solves.
Ok, enough about the far term, how about a little shorter term forecast? The CPC monthly outlooks (found here) indicate a chance of cooler than normal weather across the Ohio Valley region of the U.S. during the month of August. This chance includes far southern Wisconsin and is close enough to our area to at least consider that our cooler than normal trend will continue. We have not yet hit 90 officially in Wausau this year and the odds are going up that we might go without hitting 90 for the entire year. What about after August? If you click through the next several months on the CPC page you will see a high chance of warmer than normal weather for the Fall and Winter here in Northcentral Wisconsin. Since there is no El Nino right now in the Pacific, I am a bit skeptical of this forecast. Also, the 2, 3, 4 month outlooks from earlier this year were also showing warmer than normal temps and they did not materialize.
How about the even shorter term? Today is sunsational and temps will be in the upper 70s to low 80s. This temperature range will persist for the rest of this week into early next week making for a very comfortable stretch weather. The next chance of a hotter weather will be the mid to latter part of next week. It will be a bit humid on Friday with a chance of thunderstorms, then the humidity should go down again for the weekend.
To wrap up today’s blog, how about this unique photograph of colorful birds all sitting on the bird feeder. What you see are a gold finch, a purple finch, a rose-breasted grossbeak, and an indigo bunting. The picture was taken by Jeff Koch from the UP of Michigan.
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This post was written by jloew on July 23, 2008