September was the most beautiful month of the year – weatherwise. Nearly every day had high temps in the 70s with partly or mostly sunny skies. It was beautiful but the downside was that it was also the record driest September in Wausau – exacerbating the drought. In October the weather turned cool and wet. Many days were cloudy and did not give usgood light for enjoying the Fall colors. It was one of the coolest and wettest Octobers on record.
In Marshfield it WAS the wettest October on record. Then came November. It is hard to say that the weather was beautiful (not like “September beautiful”) but it was pretty darn good for this late in the year. It might end up being the second warmest November on record (I’ll have final November numbers next week Tuesday). Unfortunately it was much drier than normal. That meant no snow for winter enthusiasts and deer hunters. Because of the mild temps, today was the first day of snowmaking activity on Rib Mountain. Now that the overnight low temperatures are colder, Granite Peak expects to have a couple slopes open not this weekend but next weekend. So how is our drought situation? The US Drought Monitor indicates the drought in Wisconsin has improved slightly since last week’s report.
It won’t get much better over the next couple of weeks because no major precipitation is in the works. In other parts of the country, it is nice to see a slight improvement in California as well. The one state that has seen an increase in drought conditions is Arizona. Thankfully, there is a moderate El Nino. This should enhance the chances of above normal rain and snow in Arizona this winter.
Alternative Energy News:
I have been following the development of osmotic power plants for the last year or so and one is fianlly being tested in Norway. This type of powerplant uses osmotic pressure – like that found between salt water and fresh water – to generate electricity. At maximum theoretical development, this type of power plant could deliver 10% of the world’s electricity needs. The drawback – environmental contamination – and not the type you are used to hearing about. The central piece of an osmotic power plant is a membrane through which ions can pass. This membrane is expensive and could be easily clogged by dirt, silt, mud, algae, bacteria, and whatnot. If it needs to be replaced of constantly cleaned, then the profitability of this type of power plant goes down dramatically.
Another industry that shows some promise is cellulosic ethanol, but some people think that start-ups promising to deliver ethanol for less than a dollar a gallon are not dealing in reality. The company producing the most cellulosic ethanol in the largest volumes (POET) has calculated the entire cost of their operation and claims it costs $2.35per gallon. They hope to bring the cost below $2 per gallon soon. It would take some major improvement in efficiency in order bring the cost down to $1 a gallon.
Speaking of price, the average price of installing solar panels in southern California is $8 per watt. Pretty pricey. Now customers in San Diego are banding together to get volume pricing on installations. This has brought the average cost in one community down to about $5.29 per watt – a nice improvement. If this can be duplicated in other parts of the country then maybe more people will adopt solar for the future.
A solar airplane is being tested and prepped for a non-stop flight around the world! That would be a great accomplishment but I doubt there would be many commercial applications. The airplane travels way to slow and can carry only minute amounts of cargo. We will probably have to wait for more dramatic improvement in batteries and solar cells before widespread use of electric airplanes is commonplace.
In wind energy, a new study of vertical wind turbines shows that certain geometrical arrangements can enhance the power production of a group of turbines. It works on the same principle on which schools of fish enhance their group motion. The normal wind turbines we see are horizontal turbines. These are normally more efficient. Vertical turbines arranged close to each other – such as described in the article - could deliver more power per unit area. Considering how expensive land is, this could make some sense in the future.
And how about a little visual treat on this Black Friday. Here is an image of islands disrupting a layer of clouds. If you have ever doubted that the atmosphere moves in fluid motion (like water), this should dispel those doubts.
Have a nice Friday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.
This post was written by jloew on November 27, 2009