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Cold Weather in Denver: Climate Change and Arctic Oscillation (8)

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 6:25 AM GMT on December 08, 2013

Cold Weather in Denver: Climate Change and Arctic Oscillation (8)

I’ve been living with this cold weather in Colorado this week. If you look around at the Wunderground personal weather station sites, we’ve seen a lot of about -10 F at nights. It’s been causing a lot of grief for homeless people, animals and pipes. There have been a few record lows set. The whole Arctic air mass is starting to move east, which means it will get a lot more press. According to Jeff Master’s blog 80% of the country will be below average.

I thought I had finished my series of blogs on the Arctic Oscillation a couple of weeks ago, but this cold air out break takes me back. It that series I wrote about cold air in the Arctic that is isolated because of barriers caused by streams of rapidly moving air that flows around polar latitudes. I described wobbles in the streams that caused cold air to move south and warm air to move north. Here is one of the figures that I used.

Figure 1: This figure is from the point of view of someone looking down from above at the North Pole (NP). This represents a weak, wavy, wobbly vortex displaced from the pole. The vortex encloses cold air, represented as blue. The line surrounding the cold air is the jet stream or the edge of the vortex. (definition of vortex)

Figure 1 shows an idealized schematic of the North Pole as viewed from above. This is the weak vortex case, when there is a large wobble. In this case, the point X is cold and the point Y is warm. In a case of a stronger, more circular vortex, then the case would be reversed, with point X warm and point Y cold.

Here is a figure from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), that I have marked up a bit. The colors are the temperatures at the 850 hecto-Pascal surface, which is about 1.5 kilometers above the surface. The 850 hecto-Pascal temperatures are a good indicator of where it is hot and cold at the surface.

Figure 2: This figure is from the point of view of someone looking down from above at the North Pole (NP). The contour lines on the figure are the height of the 500 hecto-Pascal surface, which is between 5 and 6 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. The colors are the temperatures at the 850 hecto-Pascal surface, which is about 1.5 kilometers above the surface. The 850 hecto-Pascal temperatures are a good indicator of where it is hot and cold at the surface. Figure from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF)

I drew a blue arrow showing that the cold air at the pole has wobbled off of the pole and it is pushed towards Colorado. To the west there is warm air, red arrow, pushing up towards Alaska. So while it has been cold in Colorado, it has been quite warm in much of Alaska. Though a less prominent signal, there has also been warm air moving up the East Coast of the U.S. The Alaska – Colorado contrast is a nice real-world example of what I showed in Figure 1. For completeness with my example, the big, black dashed line is the jet stream of air flowing around the pole.

There were several points in my series on the Arctic Oscillation. The first important point is that even in a world that is getting warmer, the polar latitudes become isolated as the Sun goes down for the winter and jet stream intensifies. In this isolation it gets cold, because there is no heating from the Sun and the polar latitudes have a barrier between themselves and the warmer lower latitudes. The second important point is this wobble, the pushing of air off of the pole in some direction. In this case the coldest air is over Greenland, Canada and the U.S. If there is sufficient wobble to push the air far to the south or if it gets pushed to some place it did not get pushed before, then it is even likely to have record cold. These points are all work together and are not correctly viewed as independent events. (I was recently annoyed by the parenthetical dismissal of global warming in this otherwise nice prediction of early strong lake effect snow in Michigan. The statement was essentially pockets of cold Arctic air should not exist.)

I will finish with the Arctic Oscillation. The Arctic Oscillation Index from the Climate Prediction Center is shown in Figure 3. The discussion in my Arctic Oscillation series focused on the positive and negative phases of the Arctic Oscillation Index. Much of the attention was on the eastern U.S. The negative phase was when it is likely to be very cold in the eastern U.S.

Figure 3: Arctic Oscillation Index for early August 2013 until December 7, 2013 from the Climate Prediction Center

In this measure of the Arctic Oscillation Index, the most recent times have been weakly positive, tending towards negative. (Perhaps suggesting movement of the cold air towards the U.S. east coast?) Perhaps more important Figures 2 and 3 together show that large undulations with warm air pushing far northward and cold air displaced off the pole can occur in other parts of the world when the index is weak. As pointed out many other times over the years of this blog, what goes on in the U.S. is not good instantaneous editorial content for climate change.


Previous entries:

Climate Change and the Arctic Oscillation 2

Climate Change and the Arctic Oscillation 1

Wobbles in the Barriers

Barriers in the Atmosphere


Definitions and Some Background

August Arctic Oscillation presentation

CPC Climate Glossary “The Arctic Oscillation is a pattern in which atmospheric pressure at polar and middle latitudes fluctuates between negative and positive phases.”

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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Well Edward Snowden was about to expose the truth about climate change.....Why do you think Gore was so interested in this???????????

'That's silly.

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 372. yoboi:

Well Edward Snowden was about to expose the truth about climate change.....Why do you think Gore was so interested in this???????????

Leftists don't like it when the truth comes out, Snowden is exposing all the Dem's dirty secrets.

State Surveillance Cannot Override Limits of Privacy

By The New Indian Express

Published: 14th December 2013 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 14th December 2013 01:24 AM

The jury may still be out on the extent to which state surveillance ought to be permitted in the name of national security, a debate that has kicked up following former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations about America’s rampant global snooping operations earlier this year. But the sense of excesses on the part of the Obama administration, given the mounting worldwide outrage, has found an echo within the US. On Monday, eight rival technology giants joined forces to call on Obama and the Congress to reform surveillance laws.

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http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/.premium-1.563 057

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Massive snowstorm shuts down Jerusalem; police to residents: Stay indoors
Tel Aviv's Ayalon Highway reopens after brief closure; man in Rishon Letzion dies after falling off roof while attempting to repair a leak; thousands in Jerusalem area still left without power; Israel opens Gaza crossing to allow entry of gas, water pumps.

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#372 - now that's inventive. Absurd and false, but inventive. Who did you borrow it from?
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Quoting 365. Birthmark:

Show me a single peer-reviewed science paper that said there would either be more hurricanes or stronger hurricanes (or both) by 2013. What's that, you can't? Well, I guess that makes your post just more propaganda designed to deceive.

If you have to resort to those types of deceptions, you've already lost. ;)

Actually, the only global warming "advocates" that I am aware of are the fossil fuel industries that eagerly await the day the Arctic Ocean becomes ice free so that they exploit the fossil fuels there. I was not even aware that they made hurricane predictions. ... Could it be that tramp96 is just misinformed?
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Today's selection of articles about science, climate change, energy and the environment.

Berliners Still Fighting to Pull the Plug on Coal-Fired Utility

What's the Best Bet When Weighing Cornucopians and Catastrophists?

*** Data to expose 'sleeping ice giant'

Plans for 5.4bn pound Argyll Array offshore wind farm near Tiree dropped

Tibetans displaced within region 'amid rampant mining'

'Illegal UK state aid' probe hits nuclear plans

* Climate change bodes ill for bats

* Hubble Space Telescope Sees Evidence of Water Vapor Venting Off Jupiter Moon

Noble Gas Molecule Discovered in Space

*** Snail Fever Expected to Decline in Africa Due to Climate Change

Environmental History Key to Future of England's Wildlife

Santa Ana Watershed Study Completed

Rapid Evolution of Novel Forms: Environmental Change Triggers Inborn Capacity for Adaptation

Study of Rodent Family Tree Puts Brakes On Commonly Held Understanding of Evolution

Scientists Map Food Security, Self-Provision of Major Cities

Grizzly bear comeback? Feds move to delist as a 'threatened' species

Mild 2013 cuts Arctic a break, warming woes remain

Energy Secretary Voices Concern Over Dated Oil Export Restrictions

!!! This Antarctic ice shelf will likely be the next to collapse

!!! Melting ice a 'sleeping giant' that will push sea levels higher, scientist says

*** Earth's greatest killer finally caught, thanks to geology gumshoes

*** Despite CFC ban, ozone hole won't heal until 2070, NASA finds

* Element essential for life discovered in remains of supernova
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Gavin Schmidt Talg at AGU:

Gavin Schmidt … Speaking up and speaking out

Bruce Lieberman — December 12, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA., DEC. 12, 2013 — Gavin Schmidt, the NASA scientist and climate science blogger at the website RealClimate, had the late Stephen Schneider behind his left shoulder for much of his talk at the AGU meeting today.
They were video clips from Schneider’s lectures over decades. The Stanford University climate scientist was a passionate advocate for sober and reasoned discourse on the globe’s changing climate, and he often spoke out against dishonesty in the public sphere — whether by opinion-makers, politicians, fossil fuel interests, or news personalities.
“I realized that everything I wanted to say was said 20, 25 years ago by Steve,” said Schmidt, a researcher at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.
During his talk, “What should a climate scientist advocate for?” Schmidt offered fellow scientists a framework for how to think about being more public — or public at all — as an advocate for science and, most of all, integrity.
He began with the story of Schneider taking a stand against a column by Eugene Guccione in 1971 that misrepresented climate science. In a letter to the Times, Schneider fact-checked the column and then ended with a personal argument that more research was needed in climate science. “That’s advocacy!” Schmidt said.
Schmidt went on to show a list of activities and asked audience members to raise their hands if they considered a given activity advocacy to avoid. Among them:
“Scientists should communicate more about what they do and find.”
“Funding for scientific research should be a higher priority.”
“People should understand the basics of the greenhouse effect.”
“Global warming should be in the high school science curriculum.”
“Geoengineering should be seriously considered.”
As fewer hands went up, Schmidt declared, “All of these statements are normative.” In other words, they are expressions of advocacy.
Whether or not scientists should speak out on policy matters related to their fields continues to be controversial. Just this year, UK climate scientist Tamsin Edwards wrote in the Guardian that climate scientists should not advocate at all, Schmidt said.
Why is that?
Part of the answer, Schmidt said, is that scientists fear that advocating for a policy — related to climate change, for example — is a threat to the public perception of their objectivity. The truth is, everyone comes to the table with their own perspectives, and scientific advocacy at its simplest is an argument for what we should do in the face of scientific facts, Schmidt said.
In today’s political and cultural climate, science gets politicized when scientific results appear to impact a vested political, ethical or moral interest, Schmidt said. (I would add to this short list: “economic.”)
In that respect, scientific results are regarded in the public realm only to the extent that they project onto some political, ethical, moral — and economic — question.
Another important dimension to today’s political climate is that politics often becomes what Schmidt called “scientized.”
“Politics gets ‘scientized’ when advocates appear to debate the science in order to avoid debating the values that underlie their positions,” Schmidt said. The subsequent discourse has nothing to do with real scientific debate, and “sciency-ness” is used to make a case, not find a truth.
There are both good and bad consequences to this, in Schmidt’s view. Among the consequences that some people might see as positive:
Scientific papers that project onto the perceived debate are easier to get into the high-profile academic journals Nature and Science.
Scientists can get more media interest in their work.
If a scientist fills a niche in the popular discourse, he or she can get invited to testify in Congress, write op-eds and be profiled in the media.
While some consequences may have their upsides for individual researchers, there are often clear negatives. These might include:
Scientific papers are frequently quoted out of context.
Political forums are generally not as civil as scientific ones.
Scientists who enter public debates are under much more public scrutiny.
Media reports, in Schmidt’s view, are generally not accurate. They pursue a “false balance” while striving for sensationalism and an over-interpretation of results.
Scientists can find themselves embroiled in debates over irrelevant issues.
Schmidt went on to review the changing media landscape — the well-documented decline of traditional media (foremost newspapers) and the rise of online sources of information both good and bad.
So, the question for science communicators is: “Why do it?”
Maybe, Schmidt said, it’s because you’re sick of Hollywood getting the science completely wrong (“The Day After Tomorrow“), maybe it’s that error-ridden op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, maybe it’s books like Michael Crichton’s State of Fear.
Scientists who choose to communicate widely cannot avoid advocacy, Schmidt said. “You can’t be a science communicator and pretend you have no values. What instead you need to do is accept them.” If scientists don’t, people will choose for them what values they hold, he said. “You’re much better off owning that, and telling people what you’re advocating for.”
Scientists must be careful, however, and follow a handful of rules of engagement that will protect their integrity as a scientist as well as their rights as a citizen. Responsible advocacy is characterized by a handful of principles, Schmidt said. The individual should:
communicate his/her values fairly and truthfully;
make the connections between his/her values and policy choices explicit;
make sure to distinguish his/her personal conclusions from the scientific consensus;
acknowledge that people with different values would have different policy choices; and
be aware of how his/her values might impact objectivity, and be vigilant.
Irresponsible advocacy, on the other hand, can be recognized through a handful of clues. Among these:
Individuals misrepresent and hide their values.
The basis of their policy choices is unclear.
There’s an untested presumption that the individual’s personal scientific conclusions are widely held.
Scientists should have the right to advocate for anything they want, as long as it’s absolutely clear that they speak for themselves. They also have the right not to advocate for anything at all.
Schmidt reiterated that scientists should be explicit about their values, and not assume that others hold them. They should examine how their values might be shaping their assumptions, and they should make it absolutely clear that they don’t speak for their agency or community unless it wants them to. Finally, Schmidt advised scientists to be good listeners.
During his talk, he flashed a great quote on the screen, which sums up much of the talk: “To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” — Aristotle
As he wrapped up, Schmidt offered some encouragement. More and more scientists are “sticking their heads above the parapet,” and the people taking potshots at them are not as numerous as scientists might think.
For scientists to sustain a credible and effective presence in the public sphere, they must, above all, be honest — to their science and to their values. The political discourse over climate change will continue for decades, and so scientists should be prepared for the long haul.
Schmidt ended his talk with another great quote, this one from the late climate scientist and Nobel Laureate Sherwood Rowland: “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?”
During a Q&A session after his talk, Schmidt offered a few more words of wisdom for researchers thinking about becoming more vocal about their science and their personal views. Among his more memorable remarks were:
“It’s important for people who know things not to give up the public sphere to people who don’t know things.”
“There are forums in which you can have a serious conversation, and there are forums in which it’s impossible. … Talking over each other …. solves no one’s purpose.”
When asked to appear on Fox News, Schmidt told the producers: “I’m not here to make good TV for you. I’m not interested in adding to the noise.”
When asked where to engage the public, Schmidt said: “You have to be tactical and find places where you can be heard. … avoid comment threads of most major newspapers.”
“You can create spaces online that are not noise-free and not discussion-free but are abuse-free. And I think we should create spaces like that.”
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David Appell reports from the AGU Conference:

James Hansen Calls for the Light That Only Science Can Provide

We are running out of time’ to prevent dangerous global warming, an icon of climate science tells his scientific brethren, while warning the fossil fuel industry that reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA., DEC. 11, 2013 — James Hansen spoke to a packed house on Wednesday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, a day after his scheduled talk was cancelled. He had inadvertently overscheduled, he said, and reassured the audience he was “healthy as a horse.”

“For the fossil fuel people in the audience,” he said, “I intend to be around for a long time.”

Perhaps no one in the world speaks with more authority about climate change than Hansen, recently retired as the Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies. There he discovered much of the science underpinning our modern understanding of man-made climate change, and it was there he fought back against the many forces that sought to blunt and deflect his message.

In a talk here titled “Minimizing the human-made influences of climate change,” Hansen repeated his message that the best the world can do now is to avoid creating dangerous levels of climate change.

That means, in Hansen’s view, keeping the planet’s polar ice sheets from melting, with their attendant changes in sea level that will mean a changing coastline for the next several centuries; avoiding mass extinctions such as those that have accompanied past episodes of climate change like the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM); and avoiding a world of weather extremes that would see enhanced frequencies of heat waves, drought, fires, heavy rain, floods, and stronger storms.

Hansen to fossil fuel interests in the audience: ‘I intend to be around for a long time.’

Carbon dioxide is the big issue in climate change, Hansen said, because it lasts for so long — the carbon cycle takes on order of 100,000 years to sequester our emissions into an earth-locked carbonate form. Past climates do not give any reassurance; the Pliocene of about 3 millions years ago was 3 to 4 degrees Celsius warmer than today, with sea levels 15 to 25 meters higher.

The pressure on nonhuman species is unprecedented, Hansen said. Plant and animal species are being constrained by losses of habitat at the same time climate change is forcing these habitats to shift, a combination that has no analog in Earth’s past.

Hansen emphasized the message of his recent paper in PLOS One: Society has already burned most of its allotted carbon, if temperatures are to remain near those where humanity has flourished during the last 10,000 years of the Holocene. In Hansen’s view, this means a necessarily quick phase-out of coal use over the next few decades, and that all unconventional fossil fuels, like shale oil and gas, should stay in the ground.

Hansen’s favored tool for meeting these objectives is a carbon tax-and-dividend, where an escalating price on carbon pollution lets the market decide how to reduce emissions in the cheapest way possible. If all the tax so collected were returned to U.S. citizens on an equal per capita basis, 60 percent of Americans would actually make money, said Hansen, collecting more than they pay. Economic studies estimate that U.S. carbon emissions could be reduced by 30 percent in just 10 years.

Moreover, a carbon tax is “the one viable international approach that only requires the major players” like China and the U.S., Hansen said, since carbon taxes imposed on imported goods at those borders would immediately incent smaller countries to impose an equivalent tax at their own borders.

Hansen stressed that the world cannot make meaningful carbon reductions without increasing its use of nuclear power. In some of the most intriguing minutes of his talk, Hansen played a four-minute video clip from the 1979 “No Nukes Concert” in New York City, where celebrity singers like Jackson Browne and Carly Simon, and later Ralph Nader, sang, drummed, and spoke against the use of nuclear power.

Yet, Hansen said, more people die of coal-related cardiac and respiratory illnesses in one day than have died in the entire history of the world’s use of nuclear power. “You could almost call the anti-nuclear movement a quasi-religion,” Hansen said.

Turning directly to his audience’s strength, Hansen said that “we need to shine the light of science” onto the options that society has chosen to follow, or is looking to follow from here. Renewable energies like solar power and wind power need to be part of the solution, he said, “but are not sufficient.”
Hansen concluded, “We’re running out of time.”

That is not a message that many people at this AGU meeting would doubt. But neither is it a message that many here would think is getting through. Governments, Hansen complained, are still serving the fossil fuel industries, talking out of both sides of their mouth, while the problem gets worse each and every year.
And until that changes, climate will not stop changing either.

David Appell

David Appell is a science writer living in Oregon and a regular contributor to The Yale Forum. (E-mail: david@yaleclimatemediaforum.org, Twitter: @davidappell)
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Quoting 352. Birthmark:

LOL. You'll believe anything...as long as it agrees with your prejudices. It's a luxury to be able to discard reality that way.

In the UK, nobody in his right mind reads The Express.
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Quoting 336. ScottLincoln:

A model is never a perfect representation of a real world system. Not groundbreaking.

Are you new to science?
Actually, it looks like they haven't been introduced yet.
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After reading these highly entertaining and amusing posts we can summarize the hypothesis as follows: over the past 50 years, a 0.5 degree Kelvin or 0.15% change from absolute zero in average atmospheric temperature is caused by a 50 PPM or 0.005% change in atmospheric composition. Some folks think it is proven beyond a doubt and others feel we are seeing patterns in noise. Yous pays your money and takes your choice.
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For clarity.

That's from "The Foundry", over a year ago.

President Obama's Taxpayer-Backed Green Energy Failures

Ashe Schow October 18, 2012

The future of liberty depends on reclaiming America's first principles.
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President Obama's Taxpayer-Backed Green Energy Failures

t is no secret that President Obama’s and green energy supporters’ (from both parties) foray into venture capitalism has not gone well. But the extent of its failure has been largely ignored by the press. Sure, single instances garner attention as they happen, but they ignore past failures in order to make it seem like a rare case.

The truth is that the problem is widespread. The government’s picking winners and losers in the energy market has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, and the rate of failure, cronyism, and corruption at the companies receiving the subsidies is substantial. The fact that some companies are not under financial duress does not make the policy a success. It simply means that our taxpayer dollars subsidized companies that would’ve found the financial support in the private market.

So far, 34 companies that were offered federal support from taxpayers are faltering — either having gone bankrupt or laying off workers or heading for bankruptcy. This list includes only those companies that received federal money from the Obama Administration’s Department of Energy and other agencies. The amount of money indicated does not reflect how much was actually received or spent but how much was offered. The amount also does not include other state, local, and federal tax credits and subsidies, which push the amount of money these companies have received from taxpayers even higher.

The complete list of faltering or bankrupt green-energy companies:

Evergreen Solar ($25 million)*
SpectraWatt ($500,000)*
Solyndra ($535 million)*
Beacon Power ($43 million)*
Nevada Geothermal ($98.5 million)
SunPower ($1.2 billion)
First Solar ($1.46 billion)
Babcock and Brown ($178 million)
EnerDel’s subsidiary Ener1 ($118.5 million)*
Amonix ($5.9 million)
Fisker Automotive ($529 million)
Abound Solar ($400 million)*
A123 Systems ($279 million)*
Willard and Kelsey Solar Group ($700,981)*
Johnson Controls ($299 million)
Brightsource ($1.6 billion)
ECOtality ($126.2 million)
Raser Technologies ($33 million)*
Energy Conversion Devices ($13.3 million)*
Mountain Plaza, Inc. ($2 million)*
Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company ($10 million)*
Range Fuels ($80 million)*
Thompson River Power ($6.5 million)*
Stirling Energy Systems ($7 million)*
Azure Dynamics ($5.4 million)*
GreenVolts ($500,000)
Vestas ($50 million)
LG Chem’s subsidiary Compact Power ($151 million)
Nordic Windpower ($16 million)*
Navistar ($39 million)
Satcon ($3 million)*
Konarka Technologies Inc. ($20 million)*
Mascoma Corp. ($100 million)

*Denotes companies that have filed for bankruptcy.

The problem begins with the issue of government picking winners and losers in the first place. Venture capitalist firms exist for this very reason, and they choose what to invest in by looking at companies’ business models and deciding if they are worthy. When the government plays venture capitalist, it tends to reward companies that are connected to the policymakers themselves or because it sounds nice to “invest” in green energy.

The 2009 stimulus set aside $80 billion to subsidize politically preferred energy projects. Since that time, 1,900 investigations have been opened to look into stimulus waste, fraud, and abuse (although not all are linked to the green-energy funds), and nearly 600 convictions have been made. Of that $80 billion in clean energy loans, grants, and tax credits, at least 10 percent has gone to companies that have since either gone bankrupt or are circling the drain.


Figures for four companies have been updated: Beacon Power received $43 million from the U.S. government, not $69 million as originally reported. Azure Dynamics received $5.4 million from the federal government, not $120 million as originally reported. Compact Power Inc. received $151 million as part of the stimulus, not $150 million as originally reported. Willard and Kelsey Solar Group received $700,981 in government funding, not $6 million as originally reported.

The following companies have been removed from the original list: AES’s subsidiary Eastern Energy, LSP Energy, Schneider Electric, and Uni-Solar did not receive government-backed loans, based on additional research. The National Renewable Energy Lab did received $200 million in stimulus funding, but it is a government laboratory.

Additional research provided by Michael Sandoval
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 324. tramp96:

Then you admit the models may be wrong?

A model is never a perfect representation of a real world system. Not groundbreaking.

Are you new to science?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

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Dr. Ricky Rood's Climate Change Blog

About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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