Florida shivers; Hot Arctic-Cold Continents pattern is back

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:36 PM GMT on December 14, 2010

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Cold air sweeping southwards behind the fierce snowstorm that roared through the Upper Midwest over the weekend is bringing record low temperatures over much of the Southeast this morning. However, preliminary indications are that Central Florida's orange groves fared better than expected, and there were no reports of widespread damage to the orange crop. Record lows this morning included 32°F at West Palm Beach, 50°F in Key West, and 20°F in Jacksonville. Cold air flowing over the relatively warm waters of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are creating heavy lake-effect snows, with 5 – 9 inches of new snow expected near Cleveland, OH today, and 2 – 5 inches near Syracuse, NY.

Hot Arctic-Cold Continents
I'm in San Francisco this week for the world's largest gathering of Earth scientists, the annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference. Over 15,000 scientists have descended upon the city, and there are a ridiculous number of fascinating talks on every conceivable aspect of Earth science, including, of course, climate change. One talk I attended yesterday was called, "Hot Arctic-Cold Continents: Hemispheric Impacts of Arctic Change.” The talk was given by Dr. Jim Overland of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, one of the world's experts on Arctic weather and climate (I spent many long months flying in the Arctic with him during the three Arctic field programs I participated in during the late 1980s.) Dr. Overland discussed the remarkable winter of 2009 – 2010, which brought record snowstorms to Europe and the U.S. East Coast, along with the coldest temperatures in 25 years, but also brought the warmest winter on record to Canada and much of the Arctic. He demonstrated that the Arctic is normally dominated by low pressure in winter, and a “Polar Vortex” of counter-clockwise circulating winds develops surrounding the North Pole. However, during the winter of 2009-2010, high pressure replaced low pressure over the Arctic, and the Polar Vortex weakened and even reversed at times, with a clockwise flow of air replacing the usual counter-clockwise flow of air around the pole. This unusual flow pattern allowed cold air to spill southwards and be replaced by warm air moving poleward. This pattern is kind of like leaving the refrigerator door ajar--the refrigerator warms up, but all of the cold air spills out into the house.


Figure 1. Conceptual diagram of how Arctic sea ice loss affects winter weather, from NOAA's Future of Arctic Sea Ice and Global Impacts web page.

The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)
This is all part of a natural climate pattern known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which took on its most extreme configuration in 145 years of record keeping during the winter of 2009 – 2010. The NAO is a climate pattern in the North Atlantic Ocean of fluctuations in the difference of sea-level pressure between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High. It is one of oldest known climate oscillations--seafaring Scandinavians described the pattern several centuries ago. Through east-west oscillation motions of the Icelandic Low and the Azores High, the NAO controls the strength and direction of westerly winds and storm tracks across the North Atlantic. A large difference in the pressure between Iceland and the Azores (positive NAO) leads to increased westerly winds and mild and wet winters in Europe. Positive NAO conditions also cause the Icelandic Low to draw a stronger south-westerly flow of air over eastern North America, preventing Arctic air from plunging southward. In contrast, if the difference in sea-level pressure between Iceland and the Azores is small (negative NAO), westerly winds are suppressed, allowing Arctic air to spill southwards into eastern North America more readily. Negative NAO winters tend to bring cold winters to Europe and the U.S. East Coast, but leads to very warm conditions in the Arctic, since all the cold air spilling out of the Arctic gets replaced by warm air flowing poleward.

The winter of 2009 - 2010 had the most extreme negative NAO since record keeping began in 1865. This "Hot Arctic-Cold Continents pattern", resulting in a reversal of Polar Vortex and high pressure replacing low pressure over the Arctic, had occurred previously in only four winters during the past 160 years—1969, 1963, 1936, and 1881. Dr. Overland called the winter of 2009 – 2010 at least as surprising at the record 2007 loss of Arctic sea ice. He suspected that Arctic sea ice loss was a likely culprit for the event, since Francis et al. (2009) found that during 1979 - 2006, years that had unusually low summertime Arctic sea ice had a 10 - 20% reduction in the temperature difference between the Equator and North Pole. This resulted in a weaker jet stream with slower winds that lasted a full six months, through fall and winter. The weaker jet caused a weaker Aleutian Low and Icelandic Low during the winter, resulting in a more negative North Atlantic Oscillation, allowing cold air to spill out of the Arctic and into Europe and the Eastern U.S. Dr. Overland also stressed that natural chaos in the weather/climate system also played a role, as well as the El Niño/La Niña cycle and natural oscillations in stratospheric winds. Not every year that we see extremely high levels of Arctic sea ice loss will have a strongly negative NAO winter. For example, the record Arctic sea ice loss year of 2007 saw only a modest perturbation to the Arctic Vortex and the NAO during the winter of 2007 – 2008.

However, the strongly negative NAO is back again this winter. High pressure has replaced low pressure over the North Pole, and according to NOAA, the NAO index during November 2010 was the second lowest since 1950. This strongly negative NAO has continued into December, and we are on course to have a top-five most extreme December NAO. Cold air is once again spilling southwards into the Eastern U.S. And Europe, bringing record cold and fierce snowstorms. At the same time, warm air is flowing into the Arctic to replace the cold air spilling south--temperatures averaged more than 10°C (18°F) above average over much of Greenland so far this month. The latest 2-week forecast from the GFS model predicts that the Hot Arctic-Cold Continents pattern will continue for the next two weeks. However, the coldest air has sloshed over into Europe and Asia, and North America will see relatively seasonable temperatures the next two weeks.

For more information
The NOAA web page, Future of Arctic Sea Ice and Global Impacts has a nice summary of the “Hot Arctic-Cold Continents” winter pattern.

NOAA's Arctic Report Card is also a good source of information.

Francis, J. A., W. Chan, D. J. Leathers, J. R. Miller, and D. E. Veron, 2009: Winter northern hemisphere weather patterns remember summer Arctic sea-ice extent. Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L07503, doi:10.1029/2009GL037274.

Honda, M., J. Inoue, and S. Yamane, 2009: Influence of low Arctic sea-ice minima on anomalously cold Eurasian winters. Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L08707, doi:10.1029/2008GL037079.

Overland, J. E., and M. Wang, 2010: Large-scale atmospheric circulation changes associated with the recent loss of Arctic sea ice. Tellus, 62A, 1.9.

Petoukhov, V., and V. Semenov, 2010: A link between reduced Barents-Kara sea ice and cold winter extremes over northern continents. J. Geophys. Res.-Atmos., ISSN 0148-0227.

Seager, R., Y. Kushnir, J. Nakamura, M. Ting, and N. Naik (2010), Northern Hemisphere winter snow anomalies: ENSO, NAO and the winter of 2009/10, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L14703, doi:10.1029/2010GL043830.

Jeff Masters

Peeking Christmas Lights in Snowy Shrub (UnobtrusiveTroll10)
At my house. Their little heat has created a tiny viewing hole.
Peeking Christmas Lights in Snowy Shrub
Berry Cold Strawberries (lshunter)
Astin Farms in Plant City, FL waters their strawberry crop to prevent damage from frost as temperatures drop into the 20s overnight on December 14, 2010. More cold temperatures expected tonight.
Berry Cold Strawberries

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31 F
Clear
Windchill: 25 F
Humidity: 46%
Dew Point: 12 F

some places around Orlando have already dipped into the upper 20's per the NWS.
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16 degrees and a dewpoint of 3 right now in Greensboro, NC
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Quoting KerryInNOLA:
You know every time I read these kind of condescending statements, I and many others are less and less inclined to believe you. Professional help is suggested for your fixation.


+100

Watup Kerry!!
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Barely hunt and peck, eh? lol Profound posts, friend.

An offering:




Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
186. MTWX
Quoting MTWX:
OUr high and low temps for tomorrow are the same!!! 40 degrees Columbus, MS

Got to be some sort of a record if the temperature doesn't change over the course of 24 hours, I mean how often does that happen??
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185. MTWX
OUr high and low temps for tomorrow are the same!!! 40 degrees Columbus, MS
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PCola -
I'm freezing - granted I am in TN right now..... but Florida is freezing too!!
You wished for cold & snow - now what ya' gonna do? LOL
11° here now... not liking this one bit!
Night all!

Quoting PensacolaDoug:
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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
Yes I did. Just melting the glaciers and ice sheets would raise sea level 260 feet. However, if we trigger an Eocene type thermal pulse, when temperatures averaged over 70F at the poles the oceans would warm up and continue to expand even after the ice had melted.

The reason is that water expands as it heats up. The mid and bottom layers of the ocean are very cold and the average of all the water in the oceans from top to bottom is about 3C. If the oceans were 70F all the way down the oceans would rise about 250 feet.

However this would be a very slow process. It would take thousands of years for the oceans to get that warm all the way down.



Thermal Expansion, steric effect, etc.: Do you know by how much?

Surprisingly small.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting bappit:

Evidence to support such an overreaching statement? Okay, seems mighty overreaching to me. Shooting yourself in the foot I think.

Lots of evidence. Rather than repost it here for the hundredth time, though, I'll suggest that anyone who wants a primer in climate science either go back through many of the older posts, or--better yet--use Google to poke around the web. You'll be impressed with the things you can learn if you venture outside of WattsUpWithThat...
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Great tune, Oss!
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
Quoting BahaHurican:
OSSGSS,

What was the result of this year's bloggers' forecast competition? I figure by now we aren't still much likely to see another TC in the basin for the season....



You tell me :) Click the handle and make it known, I see no clear winner, does anyone?

Out >>>>>

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They just want to show you how you should live for you don't know any better. Not me folks, they are exposed and guilty of lies. Is what they tell you the cure or a disease :P

Don't get me wrong, we can all do better for our planet, we just need it to be an honest effort that we can actually buy into, just sayin, it ain't so far ......

That's very difficult to interpret for those who have consumed that of which now controls them !!!!

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Quoting RipplinH2O:
Great typing all! I'm out for tonight but will be back tomorrow morning. To the long time lurkers who chimed in, stay in. I lurked for 4 years. All data, including educated and uneducated opinion is good for this discussion. The results of the AGW debate will affect us all in some way. Art and science will decide it. One without the other never leads anywhere. If you think you have science, present it with all your art. If you have science but lack the art, find someone with art. If you have art without acience, at least be entertaining. If you lack both, absorb and make your own decision. Night all...



+10. Good night.

At least the name-calling and rudeness has been kept to a minimum. Kudos to all for that.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
OSSGSS,

What was the result of this year's bloggers' forecast competition? I figure by now we aren't still much likely to see another TC in the basin for the season....

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Perhaps the Neo-ecocon can help us understand his mentor? :) Trending and all, maybe?

Just sayin,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Acceleration, so fast, and how many times do you hear, here the word "ever" stated on this blog. What exactly does that mean. IE, hottest Summer in Russia in 1,000 years (data please) and when referencing GISS data,,,,, how many stations have existed in Africa and above 80N for any real period of time or even now? Look it up for yourselves......It's politics folks. They want your money, just like the greedy oil folks. No different, just different names :)

What does this guy say after being busted?

Q&A: Professor Phil Jones

Did ya forget what these folks were exposed FOR ? Take another look........... you decide the guilt, the white wash has already happened, but their words still exist. Like this~~~ makes me warm and fuzzy,,,, NOT!

http://www.examiner.com/climate-change-in-national/climategate-climate-center-s-server-hacked-revea ling-documents-and-emails

From Kevin Trenberth (failure of computer models):

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.

From Michael Mann (truth doesn't matter):


Perhaps we'll do a simple update to the Yamal post, e.g. linking Keith/s new page--Gavin t? As to the issues of robustness, particularly w.r.t. inclusion of the Yamal series, we actually emphasized that (including the Osborn and Briffa '06 sensitivity test) in our original post! As we all know, this isn't about truth at all, its about plausibly deniable accusations.

From Tom Wigley (data modification):

Phil, Here are some speculations on correcting SSTs to partly explain the 1940s warming blip. If you look at the attached plot you will see that the land also shows the 1940s blip (as I’m sure you know). So, if we could reduce the ocean blip by, say, 0.15 degC, then this would be significant for the global mean — but we’d still have to explain the land blip. I’ve chosen 0.15 here deliberately. This still leaves an ocean blip, and i think one needs to have some form of ocean blip to explain the land blip (via either some common forcing, or ocean forcing land, or vice versa, or all of these). When you look at other blips, the land blips are 1.5 to 2 times (roughly) the ocean blips — higher sensitivity plus thermal inertia effects. My 0.15 adjustment leaves things consistent with this, so you can see where I am coming from. Removing ENSO does not affect this. It would be good to remove at least part of the 1940s blip, but we are still left with “why the blip”. Let me go further. If you look at NH vs SH and the aerosol effect (qualitatively or with MAGICC) then with a reduced ocean blip we get continuous warming in the SH, and a cooling in the NH — just as one would expect with mainly NH aerosols. The other interesting thing is (as Foukal et al. note — from MAGICC) that the 1910-40 warming cannot be solar. The Sun can get at most 10% of this with Wang et al solar, less with Foukal solar. So this may well be NADW, as Sarah and I noted in 1987 (and also Schlesinger later). A reduced SST blip in the 1940s makes the 1910-40 warming larger than the SH (which it currently is not) — but not really enough. So … why was the SH so cold around 1910? Another SST problem? (SH/NH data also attached.) This stuff is in a report I am writing for EPRI, so I’d appreciate any comments you (and Ben) might have. Tom.
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Statement as of 7:15 PM EST on December 14, 2010


... Record low maximum temperature set at Norfolk VA...

A record low maximum temperature of 28 degrees was set at Norfolk VA
today. This breaks the old record of 29 degree set in 1904.
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Quoting McBill:


But temperatures did return to pre-1998 levels in 1999 - just check your own graphs. The temps in 1998 were a spike, not a step.

By your definition, 1998 is indeed an outlier.



You must have missed my original post. It's on the last blog.

A min temp that is at the level of the prior max is not "going back down" to pre-1998 levels. Have to compare peaks with peaks and troughs with troughs.

Whether you want to call 1998 an outlier or not isn't really relevant, imo. The step pattern remains.

There was a step up in temperature in 1998. Looks like a pattern to me.

I was writing an explanation, but decided to show the step pattern graphically for those that are having trouble seeing it.

Orange line is the average for pre-1998 and 1998 forward.



There are peaks and troughs and that pattern changed, with the old max levels becoming the new min levels, basically. Don't know how else to illustrate it.

Just an obs based on the data.
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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
It's been hotter in the past like during the Eocene thermal pulse. Also the sea level was 500 feet higher in the Eocene with every scrap of ice melted and the oceans' thermal expansion.

Does recreating those conditions, which would require 2 billion people to leave their flooded homes, lose most of our best agricultural land (and have a climate inimical to agriculture in our current breadbaskets) sound like a good idea?

More than 100 million people in the USA live in places that would be submerged if Eocene conditions were replicated.

How much are you willing to have your taxes (and descendants) go up to pay to relocate them?
ERm... did u type 500 ft???? ... 'cause that would mean the ENTIRE Bahamas would be at least 200 feet underwater... NOT a good idea, since we don't even have many BUILDINGS that are 200 feet above sea level, and none of them are on Como Hill, which is the "Mountain" of the Bahamas...

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Quoting EnergyMoron:
Can we agree on the 75% I listed?

I am sorry this exploded on the other 25% (yes, I was negative about it in the original post).

Can we please agree on the 75%?

I am happy with the efficiency stuff I did.
I am happy with public transport (and my hybrids also)
I am happy with my solar panels (modulo the problem with net metering)

Can we agree here please? Pretty please? Good night (well, I will read, but be silent)

You raise good concerns about how the metering is handled. I don't have any info on this and haven't had to deal with it. Glad you brought it up.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6158
Quoting bappit:

Evidence to support such an overreaching statement? Okay, seems mighty overreaching to me. Shooting yourself in the foot I think.
inclined to share this inclination as well... eh, he's no politician at least :)

go for it Nea!
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Going down tonight in the FL Keys ....

Water temp - Long Key C-Man

Link

So far temps don't look like record setting in the middle to lower Keys but we shall see. Florida Bay may save us one last time.
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Quoting RipplinH2O:
Nea, does the good Al, or does the good Al not have a huge carbon footprint? I'll yield to your knowledge of his green installs. If not for them, he would have the carbon footprint of Guatemala AND San Salvador...good on him. He testified before Congress on his profit set up. Oh, and by the way, umbrella sales are at an all time low so nobody is profiting from rain...except the gortex people maybe but I'm not sure they intentionally profitted from the umbrella people. Having typed all this, all I said was you might want to find another poster child other than him. He is, by any measure, a poor example. Any other analogies you want to front the good Al with?

I don't give a flip about Al Gore. This is worse than talking about global warming.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6158
Great typing all! I'm out for tonight but will be back tomorrow morning. To the long time lurkers who chimed in, stay in. I lurked for 4 years. All data, including educated and uneducated opinion is good for this discussion. The results of the AGW debate will affect us all in some way. Art and science will decide it. One without the other never leads anywhere. If you think you have science, present it with all your art. If you have science but lack the art, find someone with art. If you have art without acience, at least be entertaining. If you lack both, absorb and make your own decision. Night all...
Member Since: July 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 491
158. kwma
great posting Dr Masters, thank you.
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Quoting KrippleCreekFerry:
I am a longtime lurker and rarely say anything since joining. But I agree. I wish all the Scrooges would give this gloomy and boring GW talk a rest. Merry Christmas!



I'll jump in and give you "A Merry Christmas" back at ya.

Sometimes music helps soothe the blog's soul.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
Quoting Neapolitan:

With the exception of catastrophic and cataclysmic events such as large asteroid strikes and the like, the planet has never experienced such a rapid and drastic temperature change.

Evidence to support such an overreaching statement? Okay, seems mighty overreaching to me. Shooting yourself in the foot I think.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6158
@150. "Which type of panels are you using? What kind of mount, fixed or tracking? What's their efficiency rating? What size panels? And how many? Are you using some type of power optimizer/management system like National Semiconductor's SolarMagic device? At what latitude are you? Are there trees around you? How many days of sunshine does your location receive?" Nea, your questions almost mirror the questions to you about global temp measurement device placement. Does your same response reply (and I'm paraphrasing): Which type of panels are you using? What kind of mount, fixed or tracking? What's their efficiency rating? What size panels? And how many? Are you using some type of power optimizer/management system like National Semiconductor's SolarMagic device? At what latitude are you? Are there trees around you? How many days of sunshine does your location receive?
Member Since: July 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 491
Quoting Dakster:
15,000 scientists in one spot - that has got to be awesome.

Hasn't the Earth at one point in its history been hotter than it is right now? When? and What was going on then?

This is another wierd year for Florida. I can remember two years in a row with frost in Miami-Dade... The Hot Artic - Cold Continent makes sense to me, but WHY is it happening and WHY is it happening now? (I know that is the million dollar question that we are debating)

Was that back in 77 - 79 period? There's likely some verifiable correlation between the la nina, the NAO being negative, and these double-whammy cold winters in our area...
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Quoting EnergyMoron:
Thanks for the clarification



Section 1252: "Each electric utility subject to subparagraph (A) shall
provide each customer requesting a time-based rate with a
time-based meter capable of enabling the utility and customer
to offer and receive such rate, respectively.


This was mandated by the feds. Bipartisan ripoff.

The section you quote is the reason why solar folks are getting ripped off... there is, as you point out, a failure by our government to define what is meant by net metering.

I'm still not following you. If a customer wants to connect to the grid while generating his own electricity--that is, if that customer wants to do net metering--EPA 2005 dictates that the utility has to supply a two-way billing meter. That doesn't seem like an extraordinary burden. The only thing I've found usurious about most net metering programs is that the rate the utility pays the customer is almost always substantially less than the rate the customer pay to the utility.
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Quoting Seastep:


It was a step/jump and now the new "normal" if you will. I focus on it because it shows an apparent pattern that I believe will hold.
THAT's what i've been waiting for Seastep, and now i am done with you. I knew that you had chosen to do things the way you have because you already believe you have the answer. that is not science, and that is not statistics. that is one person designing information to suit their own needs.

thank you for finally fessing up.
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Quoting EnergyMoron:


I am actually a scientist, thus a believer, in the IPCC stated error bars for the record.

It does irk me that my solar panels are going to be less than promised (and not only me but a whole lot of folks).

Which type of panels are you using? What kind of mount, fixed or tracking? What's their efficiency rating? What size panels? And how many? Are you using some type of power optimizer/management system like National Semiconductor's SolarMagic device? At what latitude are you? Are there trees around you? How many days of sunshine does your location receive?

I ask all this as I do occasional IT and web work for a client involved in energy management services, and I've learned a lot about the whole process, so I'm strictly curious about the PV solution you've selected.
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Anyway, so this wx pattern the good Doc is describing is supposed to result in yet another opportunity for AK to brag that their winters are warmer than FL, right??? lol..... I can see the new ads now...

"You want to avoid all the cold and snow and ice you'll meet on your trip south to Florida? Why not take a trip to the "new" winter spot for snowbirds.... Fly North to Alaska.... and for parents.... that much closer to the North Pole at Christmas...."


LOL
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EM, on my original booger eating moron accusation scale (yesterday?, the day before), you get an A...opinion presentation without name calling or a closed mind. I vote Al and Nea pay you back just out of principle...
Member Since: July 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 491
Can we agree on the 75% I listed?

I am sorry this exploded on the other 25% (yes, I was negative about it in the original post).

Can we please agree on the 75%?

I am happy with the efficiency stuff I did.
I am happy with public transport (and my hybrids also)
I am happy with my solar panels (modulo the problem with net metering)

Can we agree here please? Pretty please? Good night (well, I will read, but be silent)
Member Since: December 8, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
Whoa.... 45 in Hollywood.... and I was getting set to whinge about the current 63.... lol

BRrrrr.... is it cold enough for u out there??? A good night to all, and I'm going to meet my blanket, my pIjamas, and maybe even a hot water bottle or so... lol

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Thanks for the clarification

Quoting McBill:


If you're talking about the following, it looks like the law requires utilities to offer smart meters to its customers.

"(11) NET METERING.—Each electric utility shall make available upon request net metering service to any electric consumer that the electric utility serves. For purposes of this paragraph, the term ‘net metering service’ means service to an electric consumer under which electric energy generated by that electric consumer from an eligible on-site generating facility and delivered to the local distribution facilities may be used to offset electric energy provided by the electric utility to the electric consumer during the applicable billing period."





Section 1252: "Each electric utility subject to subparagraph (A) shall
provide each customer requesting a time-based rate with a
time-based meter capable of enabling the utility and customer
to offer and receive such rate, respectively.


This was mandated by the feds. Bipartisan ripoff.

The section you quote is the reason why solar folks are getting ripped off... there is, as you point out, a failure by our government to define what is meant by net metering.
Member Since: December 8, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 3

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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