What electric power record did we set in July?

The eia article The United States set record for daily natural gas power burn in late July by David Manowitz (8/26/2020) explains:

In the United States, natural gas consumed by electric power plants (power burn) set a daily record high of 47.2 billion cubic feet (Bcf) on Monday, July 27, according to S&P Global Platts estimates. Consequently, on the same day, natural gas-fired generation in the Lower 48 states also reached an all-time high of 316 gigawatts (GW) in the late afternoon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Hourly Electric Grid Monitor.

Before July 27, 2020, the record for U.S. natural gas power burn to generate electricity stood at 45.4 Bcf, and it was set on August 6, 2019. Natural gas power burn exceeded 45.4 Bcf per day on seven days in July 2020 and one day in August.

What else was used to generate electricity on July 27?

Of the electricity generated on July 27 in the Lower 48 states, natural gas held the largest share at 45%, followed by coal with a 24% share. Remaining shares included nuclear at 17%, renewable energy at 12%, and other sources at 3%.

There is other information, another graph, and links to data sources (check out the Hourly Electric Grid Monitor).

How did CEOs do in 2019?

The EPI article CEO compensation surged 14% in 2019 to $21.3 million – CEOs now earn 320 times as much as a typical worker by Lawrence Mishel and Jori Kandra (8/18/2020) provides a detailed analysis of CEO pay. There are 6 charts/tables in the article with data as well as 9 key findings such as:

Over the last three decades, compensation grew far faster for CEOs than it did for other very highly paid workers (the top 0.1%, or those earning more than 99.9% of wage earners).

Even though CEO compensation grew much faster than the earnings of the top 0.1% of wage earners, that doesn’t mean the top 0.1% did not fare well. Quite the contrary. The inflation-adjusted annual earnings of the top 0.1% grew 337% from 1978 to 2018. CEO compensation, however, grew three times as fast!

Over the last three decades, CEO compensation increased more relative to the pay of other very-high-wage earners than did the wages of college graduates relative to the wages of high school graduates.

How hot was July 2020?

From NOAA’s Global Climate Report – July 2020:

The July 2020 global land and ocean surface temperature of 0.92°C (1.66°F) above the 20th century average tied with 2016 as the second highest July global temperature since records began in 1880. This value was only 0.01°C (0.02°F) shy of tying the record warm July of 2019.

The Northern Hemisphere land and ocean surface temperature was the highest in the 141-year record at 1.18°C (2.12°F) above average.

Regionally, the Caribbean region had its warmest July on record, with a temperature departure of 1.24°C (2.23°F) above average. This was 0.09°C (0.16°F) above the previous record set in 2016.

The summary includes links to the data.

How much has the Grand Plateau Glacier Changed?


NASA’s earth observatory post Grand Plateau Glacier provides a pair of aerial images of the glacier, copied here, from 1984 and 2019, both from Sept of the given year.

In the images, a moraine near the coastline acts like a dam, trapping meltwater and forming a proglacial lake. Also note the end moraine visible poking above the surface of the lake in the 2019 image. This mound was left behind by a lobe of the glacier front that appears in the 1984 image.

Over the past 35 years, the entire flow of the glacier system changed. In the 1984 image, many of the glacier’s branches flow toward the lake to the southwest; by 2019, retreat caused some branches to change course and flow toward the northwest. Notice the change in direction of the thin brown lines tracing the flow of the glacier’s branches. These are medial moraines: rocky debris from the sides of glaciers (lateral moraines) that have merged, causing the debris to be carried down the center of the combined glacier.

Retreat is not the only change; Grand Plateau is also visibly narrowing and thinning.

Larger images are available covering more area on the page. There is also an option to view the images together with a slider going over the image to change the year and, of course, more information about the changes in the glacier.

There is a link to other glacial image pairs on the Misc Materials page.

How much utility-scale battery storage do we have?

The eia reports on battery storage capacity in their post Utility-scale battery storage capacity continues its upward tend in 2018 by Alex Mey, Vikram Linga, & Patricia Hutchins  (8/10/2020). Their main chart is copied here.

By the end of 2018, the United States had 125 operational battery storage systems, providing a total of 869 MW of installed power capacity and 1,236 MWh of energy capacity.

These systems have a wide variety of applications, including integrating renewables into the grid, peak shavingfrequency regulation, and providing backup power.

There are two other graphs in the post including which regions have the most storage capacity (can you guess before you look?). There are also links to data.

What are the best news sources?

The PEW article Americans Who Mainly Get Their News on Social Media Are Less Engaged, Less Knowledgeable by Amy Mitchell, Mark Jurkowitz, J. Baxter Oliphant and Elisa Shearer (7/30/2020) answers the question with the graph copied here.

As of late last year, 18% of U.S. adults say they turn most to social media for political and election news. That’s lower than the share who use news websites and apps (25%), but about on par with the percent who say their primary pathway is cable television (16%) or local television (16%), and higher than the shares who turn to three other pathways mentioned in the survey (network TV, radio and print).

One specific set of nine questions focused on foundational political knowledge, such as the federal budget deficit and which party supports certain policy positions. Researchers created an index of high, middle or low political knowledge based on how many of these nine questions respondents got right (high knowledge answered eight to nine questions correctly, middle got six or seven right and low got five or fewer right; see here for more details of the political knowledge index). While at least four-in-ten individuals who turn mainly to news websites and apps (45%), radio (42%) and print (41%) for news fall into the high political knowledge category, the same is true of just 17% of those who turn most to social media. Only those in the local TV group scored lower, with 10% in the high political knowledge category.

Even as Americans who primarily turn to social media for political news are less aware and knowledgeable about a wide range of events and issues in the news, they are more likely than other Americans to have heard about a number of false or unproven claims.

This is an extensive article with numerous charts and  graphs. There is also a detailed methodology section.

How cold is Lake Superior at a depth of 135ft?

The great lakes observing system has a Great Lakes Buoy Portal that provides access to data from great lakes buoys. The link first takes one to a map where buoys can  be selected. For example, buoy 45028 is near Duluth, MN. The interactive graph on the page is copied here. There are other data sets which include, wind speed, wind gust, wind direction, wave height, air temp, solar radiation, along with water temp at various depths. The data download button on the page allows users to select data over various time periods. GPS coordinates of the buoy are also given. There is a lot of data here waiting to be used in a classroom.

How much has sea level changed?

NASA’s Vital Signs of the Planet Sea Level Sea Level page provides data on sea level. For example, since 1993 sea level has increased  by about 94mm, but this is an average. In their Sea Level 101, Part Two: All Sea Level is `Local’ by Alan Buis (7/14/2020) they provide the map copied here. There is noticeable variation in sea level change around the globe. They note:

“Relative sea level” refers to the height of the ocean relative to land along a coastline. Common causes of relative sea level change include:

    • Changes due to heating of the ocean, and changes in ocean circulation

    • Changes in the volume of water in the ocean due to the melting of land ice in glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets, as well as changes in the global water cycle

    • Vertical land motion (up or down movements of the land itself at a coastline, such as sinking caused by the compaction of sediments, or the rise and fall of land masses driven by the movement of continental or oceanic tectonic plates)

    • Normal, short-term, frequent variations in sea level that have always existed, such as those associated with tides, storm surges, and ocean waves (swell and wind waves). These variations can be on the order of meters or more (discussed in more detail in our previous blog post).

There are other graphics in the post including an animation of Greenland ice loss with a scatter plot.

What impacts earth’s climate?

The article in Quanta Magazine How Earth’s Climate Changes Naturally (and Why Things are Different Now)  by Howard Lee (7/21/2020) provides a summary of 10 different causes that impact earth’s climate and how they compare with modern climate change. On example is plate tectonics as see in the graphic copied here. Another is Orbital Wobbles:

Magnitude: Approximately 6 degrees Celsius in the last 100,000-year cycle; varies through geological time

Time frame: Regular, overlapping cycles of 23,000, 41,000, 100,000, 405,000 and 2,400,000 years

Earth’s orbit wobbles as the sun, the moon and other planets change their relative positions. These cyclical wobbles, called Milankovitch cycles, cause the amount of sunlight to vary at middle latitudes by up to 25% and cause the climate to oscillate. These cycles have operated throughout time, yielding the alternating layers of sediment you see in cliffs and road cuts.

This is a good article for quantitative literacy with the comparisons of magnitudes and time frames of different effects on the climate. To be clear

However, the weathering thermostat takes hundreds of thousands of years to react to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Earth’s oceans can act somewhat faster to absorb and remove excess carbon, but even that takes millennia and can be overwhelmed, leading to ocean acidification. Each year, the burning of fossil fuels emits about 100 times more carbon dioxide than volcanoes emit — too much too fast for oceans and weathering to neutralize it, which is why our climate is warming and our oceans are acidifying.