I had the opportunity to go camping near Rhinelander last weekend. My wife brought up Murphy’s Law – remarking as to how it has been so dry for much of the summer and then the weekend we decide to have a big family get-together including fishing and camping - it rains. At least it wasn’t a continuous rain. The highest amount was on Saturday afternoon. It rained from about 1:30 until 3:00 pm and there was a half inch. Amazingly, bythe next day, there was not much sign of the rain. The ground was so dry that it soaked up very quick. The upshot of the rain is that hopefully the water level will begin rising again – or at least stop dropping. Many people have noticed the lower lake levels in recent years. Reservoirs have been particularly hard hit, some of them drying up to just a trickle during the late summer of the last 2 years. The natural lake we were at has fallen between 2 and 2.5 feet since 2001 (the last year with above normal rainfall in most of northcentral Wisconsin). I doubt the lake levels will come up much until we have 3 or 4 years in a row of above normal rainfall.
So the weather was cool and we had off-and-on rain over the weekend. That is exactly what we can expect for the upcoming work week.
It looks like a good chance (at least 60%) of thunderstorms this afternoon, on Thursday, and again on Saturday. There is a slight chance of showers or thunderstorms on Tuesday and Sunday. Wednesday and Friday are currently looking like the best days with dry conditions and more sun than clouds. High temps could hit 80 today and then remain in the 70s from Tuesday through Sunday – so the cool weather pattern continues. July of 2009 will end being the coldest July we have experienced since the record cold of 1992. Is it so cool that some trees might already be turning color? At least one tree at Shirley Kohnen’s place has all red leaves. That being said, very few trees will display this type of early coloring. For the vast majority of the area, our best color is coming in late September and early October – like usual.
Last week I linked to an article about investment into algae-produced ethanol, and how one company was developing an efficient process for the purpose of creating a new source of liquid hydrocarbons for the plastic industry. A couple more articles extolling the virtues of algae-produced ethanol have come to my attention this week. This one describes a couple new business ventures and claims current algae ethanol techniques can achieve an EROI of 3 or 4 to 1. Grain based ethanol (using yeast) is barely 1.2 to 1 even under the most ideal conditions. Meaning we can barely get as much energy out of the process than we put into it. Petroleum has an EROI of at least 5 to 1. A new start-up claims an even bigger advance. Joule Biotechnologies claims it can make 20,000 gallons of ethanol per acre. They claim they could produce all the fuel needed for transportation in the U.S. in an area that size of the Texas panhandle. Joule will be building a test production plant next year. Then we will find out if it can really deliver. The one hitch in the Joule method (and many similar algae methods) is that it needs a concentrated source of carbon dioxide, which would most likely have to come from a coal or natural gas fired power plant. So as far as AGW goes, the algae ethanol is theoretically carbon neutral, until you factor in the source of the carbon dioxide. Also, using liquid hydrocarbons for fuel, no matter the source, still produces pollution.
Speaking of AGW, the American Meteorological Society recently issued a statement in support of geo-engineeringto save the planet from the theorized destructive warming that might happen over the next few decades. It is nice to see a statement in support of geo-engineering but we will have to wait a while to see if they make the correct move toward support of carbon capture and carbon removal. Most of the other proposed geo-engineering is dangerous. Fertilizing the oceans and putting reflective particulates in the air in or space could have serious side effects. What is needed is carbon removal. If AGW theorists are right, then it is the only sensible option. We should be creating/inventing methods of extracting CO2 from the air or have plants do it for us. Perhaps something like these cabon capturing molecules could lead the way. Storing the captured carbon dioxide gas underground could be effective according to recent research. But is it safe? Even better would be if plants could grow more, store the carbon, and then decompose underground. There is still plenty of room in Wisconsin for thicker forests and bigger trees.
Have a good Monday! Meteorologist Justin Loew
This post was written by jloew on July 27, 2009