Monday, July 27, 2009

Blame it on the rat:--the original Pacific invasive species

When humans populated the Pacific Islands, they brought immense ecological change—perhaps approached only by the change caused by their traveling companions—rats.

(Image: A Pacific rat, Rattus exulans, in a New Zealand government photo.)

The body of scientific evidence has grown dramatically to indicate that the impact of the secretive rodents has been significantly underestimated. But that's changing.

Polynesians carried four animals with them to most of the island they occupied: dogs, pigs, chickens and rats. Not every island had all four, but most did. (Australian researcher Atholl Anderson discusses it here.)

“Ecological, paleoecological and archaeological studies have documented the direct and indirect impacts of rodents on native plants and animals, and implicated them in transforming many island environments,” wrote Donald Drake and Terry Hunt, both of the University of Hawai'i, in a 2008 article, “Invasive rodents on islands: integrating historical and contemporary ecology.”

The thing about rats, of course, is that they'll eat most anything. Among plants, they'll munch on seeds, seedlings and fruit. They'll eat ground and tree snails. And native birds and their eggs. And all kinds of other things.

They reproduce quickly and compete aggressively.

In a 2008 paper, Hawai'i researcher Steve Athens gave an overview in his article, “Rattus exulans and the catastrophic disappearance of Hawai'i's native lowland forest.”

The rats expanded far faster than humans did, and research now shows they were changing the character of the Islands well ahead of human movements in many areas.

“Rats radiated ahead of human colonizers on O'ahu, eating their way through the vegetation, perhaps before the colonizers had encountered much of the pristine lowand forest into which the rats had radiated,” Athens wrote.

In many areas, by the time humans began moving into new areas, the rats had already significantly altered the ecosystems—including the killing off of some species of native birds.

Scientists have come to this conclusion slowly and deliberately. A quarter of a century ago, the changed landscape was blamed largely on human-caused fire and agricultural clearing of the Polynesian era, and then the multiple land use impacts that followed European arrivals.

But increasingly, these conclusions didn't answer several questions. Notably, why were there such dramatic changes, even in places neither the early Hawaiians nor the later Europeans used much—like upland forested areas.

Research at 'Ewa on O'ahu showed that the native forest disappeared before humans showed in any numbers, and notably, before the charcoal evidence of widespread fire.

Two of the most common plants of early Hawai'i, based on pollen found in old sediment, were the loulu or Pritchardia palm, and the kanaloa, a legume of which now only one individual survives in the wild—on a sea stack off Kaho'olawe.

With the Kanaloa nearly extinct and the Pritchardia now rare, what happened?

And isn't it intriguing that two places with dense stands of Pritchardia—Nihoa Island west of Kaua'i and Huelo Island off Moloka'i—are both rat-free?

For Athens, the answer to the mystery is almost certainly rats—in this case the Polynesian or Pacific rat, Rattus exulans.

And of course, what rats did in Hawai'i, they've also done elsewhere. Hunt found that in archaeological digs on Rapa Nui or Easter Island, every seed of the extinct Rapa Nui palm is rat-eaten.

New Zealand researcher George Gibbs blames rats for “the end of an 80-million year experiment," in this paper.

He refers to the long isolation of New Zealand, and the development of its unique environment free of terrestrial mammals.

“The arrival of Polyesians in the 13th (century) heralded the end of this era, with the introduction of kiore (Rattus exulans, or Pacific rat), which had far-reaching effects on plant regeneration, survival of small ground vertebrates, larger invertebrates, and seabird breeding colonies,” Gibbs wrote.

“One could argue that rats are the original invasive species,” wrote Drake and Hunt.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Whale Fall: energizing life on the seafloor

When big creatures like whales die, they create diverse and dense congregations of seafloor life.

To figure out just how dense and diverse, a team of researchers sank a dead 30-ton grey whale and followed the progress of its decomposition over several years.

(Image: A live gray whale, sounding. Credit: NOAA.)

The whale was dropped to water a mile deep. The researchers visited the whale remains repeatedly over 6 to 7 years, using a remotely operated undersea vehicle.

They reported the results under the title “Biogeochemistry of a deep-sea whale fall: sulfate
reduction, sulfide efflux and methanogenesis,” in the Marine Ecology Progress Journal (Vol. 382: 1–21, 2009; doi: 10.3354/meps07972).

The authors include University of Hawai'i Department of Oceanography scientists Craig R. Smith, Angelo Bernardino and Angelos Hannides, along with Tina Treude, Frank Wenzhofer, Erin Carney, Martin Kruger and Antje Boetius of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology.

The term “whale fall” is used for whales that die and rain down on the ocean floor. The team identified four stages of decomposition.

The first is one where swimming scavengers feed on soft tissue. The creatures include sharks, hagfishes and amphipods, which are shrimp-like crustaceans.

The second phase is called the enrichment-opportunistic phase, in which a comparatively few species feed on what's left of the scattered remains after the flesh-eaters have taken their portion.

Third, microbes attack the organic compounds in bones, producing hydrogen sulfide, which in turn feeds another group of deep sea life forms. This is the stage that the paper studies most closely.

Finally, in what the paper calls the reef stage, the cluster of bones becomes habitat, a place for a range of deep sea animals to hide.

The appearance of a whale carcass creates a center of fertility on the ocean floor. It prompts the arrival of a range of species, creates habitat for things like mats of bacteria, and increases the nutrient levels in the seafloor sediment immediately around the carcass.

Some of the life forms are the same ones that are found at sulfur-rich hot water vents on the ocean floor.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

From Blue Planet: A TV show on cutting your own home energy use

Just how difficult is it to cut your home energy bills?

Not that hard, unless you don't know where to start.

The Blue Planet Foundation hopes to bring folks a little understanding with the sponsorship of a new television show, to be aired this fall on KGMB9.

The show is Hawaii Home Energy Makeover. Blue Planet is seeking applicants to fill two spots on the show. Interested? Click here for information.

The program is looking for two different kinds of homes.

The first will be one with high energy costs in which little has been done toward energy efficiency. The goal is to cut that home's power bill in half, using insulation, more efficient lighting, a solar water heater and Energy Star appliances.

The second home, selected to show more advanced techniques, will be one that has already done the basics. The goal here, to include a photovoltaic system, will be to make it a zero net energy home. Through efficiency and solar generation, it will produce as much energy as it uses.

“Simple home upgrades and lifestyle changes can translate into significant energy savings. Blue Planet would like to show you just how easy it is to save money while doing your part for Hawaii’s clean energy future,” said Blue Planet executive director Jeff Mikulina.

Hawai‘i Home Energy Makeover will feature local contractors, local vendors and local products, and aims to provide a roadmap for how to cut energy costs.

“Cutting your power bill in half or even eliminating it entirely isn’t as far-fetched as it seems. We want to take you inside some local homes and walk you through the process,” Mikulina said.

If you apply and are not selected for the show, you can participate in a contest. Those not selected will be provided with home energy monitors that will help track their electrical use. They can then apply energy efficiency techniques themselves. The home that cuts its power bill the most, percentage-wise, wins.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Hawai'i's other whales, the beaked variety

Most folks who think of whales and Hawai'i imagine that the seasonal humpbacks are the whole story.

But although the humpbacks are the most visible, with their dramatic flipper and tail flaps, and athletic leaps, they are hardly alone out there in the cetacean crowd.

(Image: An adult Cuvier's beaked whale. Credit: Robin Baird, Cascadia Research Collective.)

And while humpbacks are seasonal, other whales are full-time residents.

The beaked whales, for example, are smaller, but faithful residents, cruising the Islands' waters year-round.

Robin Baird's Cascadia Research Collective has been conducting research for a number of years on the beaked whales, notably Cuvier's and Blainville's beaked whales. The three whales they've seen the most are Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris), Blainville's beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris) and Longman's beaked whale (Indopacetus pacificus).

Twenty-one of the 86 recognized species of cetaceans are beaked whales.

For those interested in being able to recognize these whales, and to learn about their behavior, and their responses to Navy sonar deployment, Baird has established a website with photographs and links to many of the group's research papers.

For more information, including crittercam video, see another Cascadia page .

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The towering risk of making this place like every other place

Bringing new things to an old place is a two-edged sword.

We have a paradoxical love for places that are different, yet we desperately work to make them like someplace else.

It was ever so.

(Image: 'Ohi'a rust on rose apple, Syzygium jambos. Credit: Forest and Kim Starr.)

Among the newest threats to the differentness of Hawai'i is the 'ohi'a rust , eucalyptus rust or guava rust, Puccinia psidii. The fungal disease, first noticed in an O'ahu plant nursery in 2005, hits many members of the myrtle family, which includes eucalyptus, guava, ohia, mountain apple, rose apples and many more. There are more than 200 species of myrtle in Hawai'i, some native, some introduced.

The host plants of this particular rust variety are fairly limited, but scientists fear its relatives could attack other myrtles.

One fear is that Hawai'i's rainforests could be destroyed if we import a form that targets the myrtle 'ohi'a, which is arguably the mother of the Hawaiian forest. With the rainforest goes the watershed.

Those concerned with Hawai'i's plant life are urging the state Department of Agriculture to quickly adopt a permanent rule banning the importing of myrtle family members, for fear they will bring in new and even more aggressive forms of the rust. (A temporary ban was allowed to expire last year.)

While some argue such a strict quarantine is uncalled for, noted Hawaiian botanist Lloyd Loope said that a stringent quarantine may be the only protection Hawai'i has.

“If we lose 'ohi'a, we lose our forest,” he said. For more, see the Hawai'i Ecosystems at Risk (HEAR) website on the rust.

Today, we import large amounts of plant material from Mainland nurseries. With the living plants come other living things, including plant diseases and various pests. Many other pests simply ride along in container shipments of other products--from household goods to supermarket vegetables.

Let's list a few:

The coqui frog, which now interrupts the once-peaceful nights in many Island communities.

The two-spotted leafhopper, a sucking insect with 400 or so host plant species, including ornamentals, native rare plants and food plants.

The erythrina gall wasp, which has destroyed much of the streetscape of wiliwili trees.

I've just read Ursula Meier's book, “Dr. William Hillebrand: His Life & Letters,” a fascinating, if poorly edited, Bishop Museum Press book about Hawai'i's first great Western botanist.

Hillebrand, the physician to Hawaiian royalty in the mid to late 1800s, had two great avocations: One was collecting and documenting Hawai'i's amazing native flora; the other was bringing in new species.

He brought in poincianas and monkeypods, cinnamon and its cousin camphor, mandarin oranges and Java plums, plumerias and ironwoods. And lots more.

His goal, to shade the public areas, provide taste treats, and spruce up the bare dusty streets of Honolulu.

But Hillebrand was hardly the first plant importer. Other westerners, notably Don Francisco de Paula Marin, brought many species. Marin's grape orchard gave Vineyard Street in Honolulu its name.

And the first humans to inhabit these islands, the Polynesians, also brought more than two dozen species, among them the kukui, sugar cane, banana and taro.

But the worm comes with the apple. Being able to import species we like comes with the likelihood that we bring in species we hate. Centipedes, mosquitoes, ants, stinging wasps and all kinds unwelcome imports have also joined the Hawaiian biota.

So far, only one variety of the 'ohi'a rust is here. To put this in the calmest terms possible, it seems reasonable to take action to prevent the importing of varieties that will cause more severe problems.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

R.I.P Hurricane Carlos

It's over for Hurricane Carlos.

The storm system that threatened to be the first named storm of the season to enter the Central Pacific, and which captivated the community with its bipolar ways (see previous posts on, has died.

(Image: That's what's left of Carlos in the middle of the image, a clump of moisture, drifting along on the easterly winds down in that global band of rainy weather known as the Intertropical Convergence Zone, ITCZ. Credit: NOAA.)

The National Weather Service rang its death knell with these words:

“The system has degenerated into a remnant low and this is the last advisory on Carlos.”

Carlos still exists as a barely recognizable anomaly in the Intertropical Convergence Zone, and soon it won't even be that, the service said.

“The remnant of Carlos should continue moving westward with the low-level easerlies until completely losing its identity within the next day or two.”

Former Tropical Storm Dolores, which is following Carlos on a much more northerly path, is also collapsing, having been downgraded to a tropical depression with 30 mile-an-hour winds.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Shrinking violets: cyclones Carlos and Dolores

Former Hurricane Carlos is now crashing so fast that it may no longer be a tropical cyclone by the time it passes into Central Pacific waters tomorrow.

The storm, which has bulked up to hurricane size several times in its complex history, is moving westward well south of the Island. It has dropped from hurricane, through tropical storm, and was termed a tropical depression at this writing.

(Image: The two weak systems, Carlos to the south and Dolores to the north, move toward dissipation. Credit: NOAA.)

National Weather Service forecasters expect it to decline from its current 30 mile per hour wind speed to 25 tomorrow. At that point it will be termed a remnant low. It is forecast to dissipate entirely by Sunday or so.

Tropical Storm Dolores continues to move northwestward well to the northeast of Carlos. This system, which attained tropical storm strength Wednesday, was weakening overnight.

Dolores has winds in the 40 mile-per-hour range, but is moving into colder water that is less able to support a tropical system. It could dissipate by Monday, well before it enters the Central Pacific.

At this point, it looks like neither will enter Hawaiian waters with enough oomph to be a tropical cyclone.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

UH research: feedbacks to lead to unpredicted warming?

A massive pulse of carbon dioxide entered the world's atmosphere 55 million years ago, in association with a significant rise in global temperature.

But it seems to have gotten a lot hotter than it should have.

(Image: The scientific drilling ship JOIDES Resolution, seen off Diamond Head, conducted ancient sediment samples during the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, which provided the ship picture. In the inset are some of the deep sea sediment cores collected. The dark red/brown color is a clay section amid lighter calcium carbonate deposits. The clay layer represents the beginning of a period of global warming and ocean acidification 55 million years ago. Inset credit: J.C. Zachos).

University of Hawai'i researchers who studied the ancient climate event say there are major puzzles about how the atmosphere responded to the input of carbon—puzzles that may be important in the Earth's current human-caused pulse of carbon dioxide.

One issue is understanding feedback mechanisms. You can calculate how much warmer the atmosphere ought to get by adding carbon dioxide to it. But back in the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), 55 million years ago, the temperature got significantly warmer than the amount of new carbon dioxide justified.

Something else must have come into play.

If you're in a soapbox cart, and you release the brake, you slowly start rolling forward. But if your friends see you release the brake, they step up to give you a shove, and you end up going faster. The response of the friends acts as a feedback mechanism—increasing the impact of simply releasing the brake.

What was the feedback mechanism during the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum? During that period temperatures rose 5 to 9 degrees Celsius. But there wasn't enough carbon dioxide to justify that much temperature rise, said Richard Zeebe, the University of Hawai'i oceanographer who led a team that looked into the question.

Their study is published in the journal Nature Geosciences. (Zeebe, R. E., Zachos, J. C., and Dickens, G. R. Carbon dioxide forcing alone insufficient to explain Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum warming. Nature Geoscience, Advance Online Publication, July 13, 2009.)

The team collected deep sea sediment cores that date back to the Palaeocene-Eocene period.
The implication for modern humans is whether, if we keep dumping carbon dioxide into the air, some feedback mechanism will kick in, causing rapid climate warming—and associated issues with sea level, rainfall, storms and so forth.

The initial source of the Palaeocene-Eocene carbon isn't entirely clear. It came from some natural carbon reservoir, but “the source remains an open issue,” Zeebe's paper says.

Other researchers have recreated what temperatures globally were doing that period, and they report the 5 to 9 degree Celsius increase. That's 9 to 16 degrees Fahrenheit—a lot.

“If the temperature reconstructions are correct, then feedbacks and/or forcings other than atmospheric CO2 caused a major portion of the PETM warming. The origin of this extra warming is unknown at present,” the Zeebe paper says.

One possibility is that the warming caused the release of other greenhouse gases, which in turn prompted more warming.

Clearly, things were different on the planet 55 million years ago, but the possibility of a big, unexpected hike in temperatures is something we need to know about.

“This gap needs to be filled to confidently predict future climate change,” the authors write.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Carlos running south, Dolores now a tropical storm

Hurricane Carlos weakened again overnight, its forward movement has slowed, and the storm is now forecast to pass well south of the Big Island Monday, July 20.

Based on the latest predictions from the National Weather Service, the storm should remain far enough south that even its outermost winds should miss the Islands.

(Image: Three-day forecasts illustrated the expected paths of both Hurricane Carlos and Tropical Storm Dolores. Credit: NOAA.)

But Carlos has been intriguingly difficult to predict, and the weather service recognized that in its morning statement.

“The intensity forecast is highly uncertain, particularly in the short term... While the upper-level environment and ocean conditions appear favorable for at least maintaining the current intensity, current satellite trends suggest otherwise,” the service said.

What that means is that on paper, when meteorologists look at water temperatures and winds, the storm pencils out to remain a hurricane. But when forecasters peer down on it from satellite imagery, they see the storm appearing to break up. Its distinct eye—a key feature of strong hurricanes—has disappeared.

At this writing, with wind speeds in the 85-mile-per-hour range, Carlos remains a category 1 hurricane. But the latest forecast suggests that it could slip back into tropical storm strength tomorrow, Thursday.

It should pass into Central Pacific waters—crossing the 140 degree west longitude line—late Friday night or early Saturday. Its path, as currently forecast, would take its center on a westward course between 300 and 400 miles south of South Point.

Meanwhile, the storm following Carlos has been upgraded to a tropical storm, and has been given a name, Tropical Storm Dolores.

Dolores is veering north, which will take it into cooler waters well before it approaches Hawai'i. That suggests it could weaken and perhaps dissipate long before causing the Islands any difficulty.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hurricane Carlos kicks it up to 100 mph winds

Hurricane Carlos strengthened further during midday Tuesday, July 14.

Sustained winds were near 100 miles an hour.

(Image: The forecast five-day track of Hurricane Carlos, issued at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Credit: NOAA.)

The storm is expected to pass into the Central Pacific about midday Friday, at which point the National Weather Service forecast office in Honolulu will begin posting updates on its progress.

Forecasts now suggest that the hurricane will encounter contrary winds aloft, which will weaken it in the coming days. However, it is now expected to maintain hurricane force winds into the weekend.

The current path appears to be keeping it well south of the Islands.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Mercurial Carlos a hurricane once more

The ever mercurial Carlos, predicted yesterday to remain a tropical storm, has regained hurricane strength and some models suggest it could become a major hurricane, with winds upward of 90 miles an hour.

Carlos continues to spin on a path that is keeping it well to the south of the Islands, but it has started veering slightly north.

(Image: This 3-D image of Hurricane Carlos was created July 12 from data collected by the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission. Thunderstorm tops in the image are shown reaching 9.3 miles into the atmosphere on the east side of Carlos. Credit: NASA/SSAI, Hal Pierce.)

If it were to take a course that could impact the Hawaiian Islands, that would probably happen early to midweek next week. That now seems unlikely, but Carlos has been full of surprises.

It started picking up windspeed shortly after dawn yesterday, and quickly built back from tropical storm to hurricane strength. The National Weather Service is now predicting it will gain more strength in the next couple of days and remain a hurricane at least through the weekend.

“None of the intensity guidance calls for Carlos to peak at higher than about 85 knots,” or a little more than 90 miles an hour, the service said in an advisory.

With its increase in windspeed, the hurricane's forward progress has slowed somewhat. It is now slated to pass into Hawaiian waters, the Central Pacific, on Friday.

Meanwhile, there are now two weak features following Carlos out of the Eastern Pacific.

The area that earlier was referred to simply as an area of thunderstorms is now being called a tropical low, but it is as mysterious in its behavior as Carlos has been. The weather service reported this feature, now at 13 degrees north and 113 degrees west, “continues to baffle observers with low level swirls growing and dissipating at random within a broad trough with abundant cloudiness blocking satellite view.”

They continue to feel it could intensify into a cyclone.

A still weaker feature, a tropical wave, is found at 4 degrees north and 96 degrees west. Its challenge is to survive contrary winds aloft until it gets into conditions that would allow it to strengthen into something more.

With all this activity in the Eastern Pacific, there still has been no tropical storm this season in the Central Pacific. The average in an El Nino year is in the neighborhood of 4.5 named storms.

Carlos, whatever it looks like when it crosses 140 degrees west longitude, is still on course to be the first of the season.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Carlos now unlikely to regain hurricane status; younger sister continues to lurk

The former Hurricane Carlos remains a tropical storm and is now expected to stay one for the near future.

The cyclone, which is now expected to cross from Eastern Pacific to Central Pacific waters Thursday night, has had an up and down forecast, but National Weather Service forecasters say that through the end of the week, the chances are it won't get back to hurricane strength.

(Image: The anticipated track of Carlos at left, showing its relationship to Hawai'i, with the unnamed incipient cyclone to its right. Credit: NOAA.)

Thus, Tropical Storm Carlos, now with winds at around 50 miles an hour, could get up to 60 or a little more by Wednesday, but is expected to taper weaker by the weekend.

The National Weather Service runs a series of computer models that look at storm futures in different ways. Most agree with the weakening scenario and some suggest Carlos could dissipate altogether by the weekend. But there's one that argues it could still make it back to hurricane strength as it passes into Hawaiian waters.

The current course of the storm could keep it far south of the Hawaiian Islands.

Meanwhile, the unnamed system of thunderstorms that's halfway between Carlos and the coast, and heading west, continues to look like it will develop into a cyclone. If it does get to tropical storm or hurricane strength before it passes 140 degrees west longitude, its name will be Dolores.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hurricane Carlos becomes tropical storm, to regain hurricane status by Tuesday

Hurricane Carlos, as hurricanes do, is behaving unpredictably.

The storm is still a few days from Central Pacific waters, and in recent hours has weakened. Weather forecasters aren't sure why.

(Image: Carlos is the cyclone spinning on the left, while an unnamed area of thunderstorms to the right has a 30 to 50 percent chance of turning into a cyclone by Tuesday, forecasters say. Credit: NOAA.)

It has actually dropped to tropical storm force, (it's being called Tropical Storm Carlos again) but meteorologists are forecasting it to strengthen to hurricane force again by Tuesday, and then begin another weakening phase.

Meanwhile, the hurricane continues to move toward Hawai'i at a rate that carries it 240 miles a day. At this writing its center is a little more than 2,000 miles from the Big Island, and well south. At 11 a.m. Hawaiian time, it was 10.3 degrees north latitude and 121.3 west longitude. It is heading west at 9 knots. That's a little slower than yesterday.

The 11 a.m. Carlos advisory is here:

In their official estimates, National Weather Service officials admit to being a little puzzled by the appearent pulsing behavior of the hurricane's strength: weak-strong-weak-strong.

“It still is a bit of a mystery why the cyclone weakened as much as it has today,” the service said. Computer models indicate that it should bulk up again, in part because of warmer water where it's traveling.

“There does exist a two to three day window for Carlos to restrengthen as it traverses over warm waters and through an environment of low vertical shear and moist unstable air,” the experts say.

After that—by Friday or Saturday of this week, it is forecast to sail into cooler waters again, as well as facing a region with contrary upper winds that could weaken the storm.

There are lots of options for this storm: It could dissipate entirely, it could gain strength and keep going, it could keep its westerly course and pass well away from the Islands, it could dissipate but bring the Islands lots of rain in a little more than a week. Shucks, it could spin around and head back for Mexico. It's happened before.

Meanwhile, for those of us fascinated by weather, a correspondent alerted us that there's another feature right behind Carlos.

About halfway between Carlos and the Central American coast is a very large area of rain and thunderstorms. The weather service is predicting there's a 30 to 50 percent chance of this system turning into a cyclone within two days.

“Conditions appear favorable for the gradual development of this system,” forecasters say.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Saturday, July 11, 2009

TropStorm Carlos to reach hurricane strength today

The cyclone whirling toward Hawaiian waters gained strength overnight and is expected to reach hurricane force within hours.

It is still some 2,400 miles and 9 or 10 days away from the Islands, presuming it maintains strength and its current course.

Tropical depression 4E has been renamed Tropical Storm Carlos, and should be Hurricane Carlos before the end of the day.

(Image: Satellite photo of Tropical Storm Carlos Saturday morning. It was expected to get more organized and reach hurricane strength by late in the day. Credit: NOAA.)

You're not reading about this storm in local media, and not nearing about it from Civil Defense for good reason. Routes and strengths of tropical cyclones are so dramatically variable that it's virtually impossible to accurately predict their action over more than half a week.

But there are a few factors that justify attention to Carlos. Here's the official National Weather Service forecast Saturday morning, July 11, 2009.

One: This year we are now officially in an El Nino condition. Hawai'i residents heard about it this week in print and electronic media. Readers of this column heard about it more than a month ago. Hurricane frequency and strenth is statistically greater in El Nino years than not.

Two: Carlos will be the first hurricane of the season to enter the Central Pacific. It is currently moving east to west and is forecast to cross 140 degrees west latitude from the Eastern to Central Pacific on Thursday morning.

Three: It is close enough to the equator at 10.4 degrees north latitude that it is in waters warm enough to support hurricane development.

The National Weather Service says the storm is on the verge of switching to hurricane strength, and may be forming an eye—one of the features of a hurricane.

At this time, there do not appear to be strong contrary winds aloft that could shear the storm apart, causing it to weaken. However, as Carlos travels slightly north of west, it is moving into somewhat cooler water.

In the words of the weather service, cool water is a “less favorable environment.” That means it could weaken somewhat toward the end of the week.

Carlos is now forecast to reach wind speeds in the neighborhood of 100 miles an hour. It is moving to the west-northwest at 11 miles an hour or a little faster.

What should a Hawai'i resident do about this? It's certainly not a time to panic. As we suggested yesterday, it's not a bad time to check on whether your family disaster kit is up to date, or to put one together if you don't have one.

And it's a weekend. For folks not working, it wouldn't be inappropriate to walk around your house or apartment and do some due diligence—the kind we all ought to do in any hurricane season.

Is there stuff stacked on your lanai that ought to be put away? Are there tree limbs that have grown close enough to the house to cause damage in a big wind. Now's the time to deal with them.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Check disaster kits: hurricane in Central Pacific by Thursday

It's a good time to check your hurricane kit, as the first hurricane of the 2009 season threatens to move into Central Pacific waters.

The storm called 4E is still a tropical depression, but the National Weather Service is forecasting it will strengthen to tropical storm windspeeds over the weekend, and then to hurricane intensity early next week. It will be given a name when it reaches tropical storm strength.

(Image: Initial forecast for the expected hurricane that's now Tropical Depression 4E. Credit: NOAA.)

Based on today's estimates, it could pass the 140-degree-west longitude Wednesday night or Thursday morning. Here is the 8 a.m. Friday public advisory on the storm.

A lot of storm activity starts and ends in the Eastern Pacific—that area from the coast of Central America to 140. But when storms cross 140 and continue westward, they slip within a thousand miles of the Big Island and become a concern to Hawai'i.

The vast majority of storms in the Pacific never bother Hawai'i. But 4E is worth paying attention to for a couple of reasons.

It remains at a fairly low latitude, in warm water near the equator. Big cyclones tend to lose power when they move north into cold water.

Also, the National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center says that contrary winds aloft, which could shear apart a rotating storm, are not strong enough to do so right now.

“The depression is at low latitudes...and is forecast to remain embedded within an environment of light shear and warm (sea surface temperatures) the cyclone should gradually intensify and become a hurricane...

“Most of the available guidance brings the depression to hurricane status beyond 3 days. However...given the current structure and favorable environment...this could happen earlier,” said the hurricane center's discussion on 4E today” (July 10, 2009).

At this point it's way early to be worrying about this storm. If it were to maintain strength and take a course that could impact the Islands, that's probably in the neighborhood of 10 days off.

But for folks who haven't heeded the National Weather Service's notice that hurricane season has begun, it's probably a good time to go to the phone book. Most telephone directories have in their front pages a disaster preparedness guide prepared by Hawai'i Civil Defense.

In there, find information on evacuation, if that's appropriate for your location, as well as a list of items every family should have available—the Family Disaster Kit.

The kit should be a standard year-round part of every home, since it is critical to families' ability to safely survive the critical two or three days after a disaster and before emergency services can get to most folks. That disaster doesn't need to be a hurricane—it can also be wildlfire, tsunami, flood, a public health emergency or terrorism activity.

More on this if this storm develops into something more threatening to Hawai'i.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Waxman-Markey: Addressing unavoidable biological impacts of climate change

Some of the impacts of climate change are already with us, and others will be upon us before even a global climate change initiative can begin ratcheting down greenhouse gases.

The Waxman-Markey energy bill makes a number of proposals for how to deal with unavoidable impacts.

This is the eighth RaisingIslands post on the details of the big energy bill, which is now under consideration in the U.S. Senate. The House version of the bill, which passed narrowly last month, is alternatively called Waxman-Markey, HR2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, or ACES.

Its final major sections deal with adaptation to the impacts of climate change. It commits that the United States will “use all practicable means and measures to protect, restore, and conserve natural resources to enable them to become more resilient, adapt to, and withstand the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.”

It calls for the development of a Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, which may involve the protection and restoration of ecosystems, and may include such devices as wildlife “corridors” to let impacted species move unimpeded from climate-degraded habitats to ones where they can survive.

States would develop their own adaptation strategies as well. Coastal states like Hawai'i will have special responsibilities to look at ways to deal with eroding shorelines, the impacts of ocean acidification, habitat loss, algal blooms and a range of other impacts.

The states would fund these programs through emission allowances provided by the federal government. (See previous posts on Waxman-Markey for more on emission allowances.)

The bill recognizes threats to natural resources, but also sees the potential of international problems as a result of climate change.

“Global climate change is a potentially significant national and global security threat multiplier and is likely to exacerbate competition and conflict over agricultural, vegetative, marine, and water resources and to result in increased displacement of people, poverty, and hunger within developing countries,” the bill says.

Waxman-Markey commits the United States to provides assistance to the most seriously impacted developing countries.

This is the final post in a review of Waxman-Markey. RaisingIslands next will post an even more concise single-article review of the key features of the legislation.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Waxman-Markey: Cap and Trade--love it or hate it?

You've heard about cap-and-trade. We're going to briefly review how it works under the House's Waxman-Markey clean energy bill.

This is the seventh in's review of the massive clean energy bill in Congress, which is alternatively called Waxman-Markey, HR2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, or ACES. The bill is now being considered by the Senate.

Cap and trade: The term means there's a cap on the amount of greenhouse gas that can be produced, and that industry will be able to trade credits. If I can't get under the cap this year, but you've gone far below your cap, then I can buy credits from you to avoid penalties.

It's a tried and true system, along the lines of this: I don't have enough sugar to make cookies, so I go next door and borrow a cup from a neighbor, who has plenty.

But in the case of Waxman-Markey, it's not sugar I'm borrowing or lending, buying or selling—it's emission allowances. That's the legal right to release carbon dioxide or equivalent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

Over the years, the number of the emission allowances would decline—in concert with the nation's commitment to reduce the production of these gases.

And every quarter, the government would sell a limited number of emission allowances at auction, from its “strategic reserve” of allowances. If you couldn't borrow or buy from someone else, you'd have to buy them from the government. (If you have extra allowances, you don't have to sell them. You can hold them for use later.)

There would be a market established for the sale and purchase of emission allowances, so you wouldn't have to shop around for them.

As the number of allowances declines, industries that don't reduce their emissions would have to pay more to buy allowances. That's the incentive to find ways to cut CO2 production. A company whose emissions exceed its emission allowances would be in violation of the Clean Air Act, and subject to penalties.

The money from the sale of emissions allowances would go to fund the various other programs of ACES. Some could be turned over to taxpayers.

There are a lot of confusing terms in all this. Here are a few.

An Emission Allowance is measured in tons of carbon. One allowance is a permit to release one ton of carbon.

A Carbon Credit is a kind of reverse allowance. You get a carbon credit, for example, if you've planted enough forest land to sequester one ton of carbon. You could then sell that credit to someone who needs an allowance.

There are different kinds of carbon credits—Carbon Offset Credits, Carbon Reduction Credits, even Certified Emissions Reductions. They are created in different ways, but the result is that you can sell them to people who can't avoid releasing greenhouse gases.

In other matters in Waxman-Markey, there are provisions to create green jobs, including training programs to bring workers up to speed. There are provisions to help low-income residents deal with the costs of the energy program, including tax credits and monthly energy cost refunds.

The bill includes measures to bring clean energy technology to third-world nations, helping them gain benefits from U.S. technological advances.

In our next and final segment reviewing the bill's details, we'll look at what the Waxman-Markey bill proposes to help the nation adapt to those impacts of climate change that it will not be able to avoid.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Waxman-Markey: cutting emissions by 83% by 2050

Climate is a driving force in the energy efficiency and renewable effort, and climate makes up the heart of Waxman-Markey.

The key title in the bill, Reducing Global Warming Pollution, has the alternate title, the Safe Climate Act.

This is the sixth in RaisingIslands' series on what's in the legislation, which is alternatively called Waxman-Markey, HR2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, or ACES. The bill is now being considered by the Senate.

For those folks who still don't grasp the global climate threat, the Safe Climate Act will be a bucket of ice water in the face. Its language is unequivocal:

“Global warming poses a significant threat to the national security, economy, public health and welfare, and environment of the United States, as well as of other nations.

“ Reviews of scientific studies, including by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrate that global warming is the result of the combined anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from numerous sources of all types and sizes. Each increment of emission, when combined with other emissions, causes or contributes materially to the acceleration and extent of global warming and its adverse effects for the lifetime of such gas in the atmosphere. Accordingly, controlling emissions in small as well as large amounts is essential to prevent, slow the pace of, reduce the threats from, and mitigate global warming and its adverse effects.”

That language unfortunately glosses over the fact that the science suggests human-caused factors are a major cause of climate change, but that the current science doesn't argue it's the only cause.

The bill calls for an aggressive program to cut the production of greenhouse gases, using the year 2005 as the baseline. It wants to cut emissions to 97 percent of 2005 by 2012, 58 percent in 2030 and 17 percent in 2050.

To ensure progress, the act would establish a strict monitoring system, overseen by The National Academy of Sciences.

There are many greenhouse gases, and the bill establishes a scale, using carbon dioxide equivalence to measure and compare them. With Methane, for instance, a far more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, one ton of it is counted as 25 tons of carbon dioxide.

The federal government will establish a greenhouse gas registry to track the production of these gases in the U.S. That, of course, is key to the management of the greenhouse gas production—knowing who's producing it, in what amounts, and where.

The government will create things called emission allowances. They would be regulated under the Clean Air Act by the Environmental Protection Agency. This is perhaps the most controversial piece of Waxman-Markey, and we'll deal with it in the next post.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Waxman-Markey: New energy research centers across the country

We clearly don't have all the answers in energy and efficiency, and the House's version of the Waxman-Markey bill addresses that with a dramatic boost for research and outreach.

This is the fifth in RaisingIslands' series on what's in the legislation, which is alternatively called Waxman-Markey, HR2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, or ACES. The bill is now being considered by the Senate.

The bill calls for the establishment across the United States of eight Energy Innovation Hubs, each with a specific research focus, whether that be solar, wind, battery or another clean energy technology.

The goal, the bill says, is “ensuring that the United States maintains a technological lead in the development and commercial application of state-of-the-art energy technologies. '

Additionally, the bill calls for the establishment across the country of ten regional Centers for Energy and Environmental Knowledge, each of which would work on industrial research and assessment, clean energy applications and development of techniques to build the most energy efficient buildings possible.

The bill puts a lot of emphasis on getting energy efficiency into the nation's building codes—so that homes, offices, and other structures aren't energy hogs to the degree they now are. Within five or six years, it wants new buildings to use half or less power than new ones now do. It also promotes retrofits to make existing buildings far more efficient.

Green building has been a cachet of sorts—something organizations did because they cared, or wanted to appear to care, about the environment. Under Waxman-Markey, green building becomes the standard.

Here's an acronym to remember: REEP, for Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance. Here's another: GREEN, for Green Resources for Energy Efficient Neighborhoods.

There's a carrot (some might call it a stick): a state gets a greater share of energy money from the feds the faster it moves toward more energy efficient buildings—or a smaller share otherwise.

The centers will be charged with involving in the research private business and private capital, of encouraging the work of known energy innovators, and of leveraging the work of private and public research centers.

Waxman-Markey calls for new research to make gas turbines—a power plant used by many utilities—far more efficient than they are. The bill calls for finding ways to get more power out of existing hydroelectric facilities.

Nuclear energy is considered clean energy under the bill, which would provide grants, loans, bonds and other support to nuclear as well as other advanced energy options. There would be a huge amount of cash available as loan money for the development of clean energy.

Waxman-Markey encourages competition for grants to advance clean energy. It sets aside $20 million for a Clean Technology Business Competition Grant Program.

But it's not all high technology. Waxman-Markey also calls for tree planting, noting that shade can reduce cooling needs, that trees capture particulate pollution, and they suck carbon dioxide. Not only that, they make economic sense:

“...In over a dozen test cities across the United States, increasing urban tree cover has generated between two and five dollars in savings for every dollar invested in such tree planting,” the bill says.

Since much of the nation's water is pumped with electric pumps, there's a water efficiency program called WaterSense.

The bill contains all kinds of measures to improve the energy efficiency of the nation's transportation infrastructure, including things as simple as walkways and bikeways, increasing public transit ridership, and making decisions about the most energy efficient means of freight transport.

The nation's industry would need to get more energy efficient under Waxman-Markey, reusing waste heat, for instance, and installing the most efficient motors.

The human side isn't missing. The bill would fund behavioral research—to identify ways to convince people to make the efficiency changes that are needed.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Waxman-Markey: electric cars, smart grids, rising I.Q.

The Waxman-Markey energy bill would put the power of the federal government behind electric vehicles, in part by requiring utilities to begin planning how to recharge them.

Hawai'i is already making some moves on the electric vehicle front, including discussions with Project Better Place, which envisions a major move with plenty of recharging stations powered by renewable energy.

The bill, as passed by the U.S. House, concludes that electric cars are coming, and it requires utilities to make plans for such things as home charging, fast charging, electric filling stations and so forth.

New power facilities must be able to handle all the different models of electric cars.

This is the fourth in RaisingIslands' series on what's in the legislation, which is alternatively called Waxman-Markey, HR2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, or ACES. The bill is now being considered by the Senate.

One neat feature, which requires a smart grid, is for every charging station to recognize your car. This way, you'd be properly billed wherever you fill up. And you'd be credited any time the utility needed to borrow some power from your battery bank.

The bill envisions federal financial help for the establishment of pilot or demonstration grids as well as aid for electric vehicle manufacturers.

In other transportation arenas, the bill would require an “open fuel standard,” which says that when car companies build liquid fuel cars, they make sure they can use a range of liquid fuels—including gasoline, but also methanol and ethanol.

There's the famous “cash for clunkers” program, which would let auto buyers get a credit on a new fuel efficient car if they turn in an old inefficient car for disposal. Vouchers for the trade-in would be worth $3,500, or up to $4,500 if the new car is dramatically more fuel efficient than the one being junked.

It would have states establish offices to manage emissions allowances. The offices go by the acronym SEED, for State Energy and Environmental Development Accounts.

To support state energy programs, the bill calls for the federal government to issue emission allowances to states, based on population and energy use. The money would be used to support efficiency and renewable energy programs.


The nation's utility grids would get lots smarter under Waxman-Markey. Most folks think of the power grid as a one-way thing. The utility makes electricity over there, ships it one-way over wires, and you use it over here.

The term “Smart Grid” is evolving, but in essence, it means that both information and power move across the grid.

Power can go both ways—you can produce and ship it to neighbors, or you can use it, seamlessly. Meanwhile, the utility can readily determine who's using power when, and may even be able to manage systems in homes. As an example, in a crisis, instead of having to crash the system in case of a spike in load, the utility could quickly turn off all the water heaters, creating an immediate drop in load.

Waxman-Markey not only supports smart grids, but supports the development of products that are “smart appliances” and can talk to the grid. There would be rebates and other incentives to move these products into American homes.

An intelligent grid, in theory, is one capable of handling a range of kinds of energy generations, including intermittent sources like wind and solar photovoltaic. Waxman-Markey strongly supports those kinds of renewable energy developments.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Waxman-Markey on coal: Hawai'i utilities will need to find ways to geologically sequester coal-fired emissions

Much of the criticism of the Waxman-Markey climate bill surrounds its approach to coal.

Coal is hard to ignore in this country. We as a nation have a lot of it, and we produce a lot of our cheap power from it. It's also very dirty from a carbon perspective.

This is the third in RaisingIslands' series on the legislation, which is alternatively called Waxman-Markey, HR2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, or ACES.

Why do we care about coal in Hawai'i? Because it's in our mix of fuels to produce electricity. Both HECO in Honolulu and HELCO on the Big Island use coal for a portion of the generation capacity.

One approach to fossil fuels from a climate change perspective is to find a way to lock up the carbon dioxide emissions before they get into the atmosphere: carbon sequestration.

The essence of the carbon sequestration argument in the Waxman-Markey energy bill is that you can continue to make electricity with fossil fuels (mainly oil and coal) as long as you can figure a way to sequester the carbon dioxide they produce.

Subtitle B of Waxman-Market is Carbon Capture and Sequestration. It orders federal officials to develop a sequestration strategy, and it favors geologic sequestration. That means pumping the emissions underground, where they will be prevented from leaking into the atmosphere.

There would be lots of studies, and pilot projects, lots of grants and contracts. Some of this work would be paid for through assessments paid by utilities that burn fossil fuels. The ACES bills would run like this:

Fuel type Rate of assessment

per kilowatt hour

Coal ........................................................................ $0.00043

Natural Gas .......................................................... $0.00022

Oil .......................................................................... $0.00032.

Utilities bill consumers in the range of $.10 to (last year on Kauai) $.50 per kilowatt/hour. This could add a buck or two to an average family's monthly utility bill. The rates would be reduced if the federal agency generates more than than $1.1 billion annually.

Utilities will be expected to start putting geologic sequestration systems into place within a couple of years, and will get credits for doing so. The better the system works, the more credits.

In general, coal plants will be required to cut their CO2 emissions in half or better by 2020.

All in all, that doesn't seem like a very aggressive standard for the dirtiest of fuels, from a carbon perspective. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says: “Coal is the most carbon intensive of the major fossil fuels.”

And coal is a huge player. More than 92 percent of the coal in this country is used to make electricity. And half the electricity in the U.S. is made from coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

For the amount of energy it produces, coal creates 1.7 times more carbon than natural gas and 1.25 more than oil. If you can cut emissions in half, then it's a little better than natural gas, which is still a carbon dioxide-producing fossil fuel.

On coal, Waxman-Markey is in that tender political middle ground. Its strongest opponents on the right say it's way too aggressive and will destroy the economy. Its staunchest opponents on the left argue it's too weak—that it doesn't do nearly enough to clean up our coal emissions dilemma.

All in all, from our view, Waxman-Markey on coal isn't a very aggressive standard. But supporters will argue that it's a step in the right direction and better than no standard at all.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Waxman-Markey renewable standards: Hawai'i's way ahead of them

The first title of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, is about efficiency, as it should be. Also about developing renewable energy.

Unfortunately, ACES, as it's being called, doesn't require much efficiency or much renewable energy. Indeed, Hawai'i's electric utilities have already been beyond the proposed initial standards for years.

This post is part of our continuing series on the ACES legislation.

The bill's goal, as stated on its opening page, is; “To create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution and transition to a clean energy economy.”

And as folks who install expensive solar photovoltaic systems know, the first thing you do before spending the cash is to get a handle on your demand. That's because watts you save through efficiency and conservation are far cheaper—often free—than the $5 to $10 you're spending per watt on a solar array.

Waxman-Markey ostensibly pushes utilities to do both: improve the performance of their existing systems and develop new renewable energy production. It's called the Combined Efficiency and Renewable Electricity Standard (CERES).

Any utility that sells more than 4 million megawatt hours during a year needs to comply with a strict step-up in its performance. It can apply either savings or renewable energy production toward a reduction of its overall energy oproduction.

Kaua'i's electric utility, the Kaua'i Island Utility Cooperative, does not sell enough power to meet the minimum sales standard, and thus is not regulated under the CERES language. Hawaiian Electric easily surpasses the minimum, and would be regulated.

But what does that regulation mean? Waxman-Markey was so diluted in late negotiations in the House of Representatives, that both KIUC and HECO easily already meet the standard through 2015. Both are already in excess of 10 percent renewable, and the CERES standards don't get past 9.5 percent until 2016.

Those standards eventually get up to 20 percent by 2020.

Well, shucks.

Hawai'i's Clean Energy Initiative commits to 70 percent efficiency and renwables by 2030—or 350 percent of the proposed federal standard. HECO has signed the HCEI pact.

Kauai Island Utility Co-op, which is not yet a signatory, has committed on its own to achieve 50 percent of its power from renewables by 2023. That's 250 percent of the Waxman-Markey standard.

John D. Wilson, Research Director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, summarized his reaction, at the blog, this way: “The American Clean Energy and Security Act has many good provisions... But the CERES is a flawed compromise that urgently requires review and repair.”

Of course, the kneejerk opponents of climate legislation are raising CERES up as some kind of monster. Here's what Ben Lieberman, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, had to say:

“The Waxman-Markey proposal requires that more electricity come from so-called renewable sources, chiefly wind energy but also others like biomass and solar. This renewable electricity standard (previous bills called it a renewable portfolio standard) is nothing more than a mandate for higher electricity bills.”

Well, of course, no. The efficiency side of the standard—reducing use through conservation and efficiency—is actually cheaper than burning oil and coal. And some of the renewables might be more expensive, but others would be cheaper. Particularly if oil goes back up to where it was last summer.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Waxman-Markey: a coursebook in modern energy issues

The intensely controversial federal climate bill, aka Waxman-Markey, which just passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is moving to the Senate, is a coursebook on energy issues.

A long coursebook. It has 1,092 pages. If you want it, it's here.

RaisingIslands downloaded the whole thing, and is diving in. Haven't read the actual text yet—more on that in later posts—but just the table of contents hits all the hot topics.

Keep in mind that this document is still dynamic. It will change with further legislative action. President Obama is pushing for its passage, but it's not clear whether it will make it through the Senate and in what form.

In the version we're reviewing, it covers electric cars, smart grids, performance standards for coal-fired power plants, carbon sequestration, whole sections on energy efficiency, and green jobs.

Hmm, there's some nuclear, some greenhouse gas regulation, and a carbon market stuff.

And lots more.

Have you wondered just what the feds are considering renewable energy to be? Here's the list:

“(18) RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCE.—The term ‘renewable energy resource’ means each of the following:

(A) Wind energy.

(B) Solar energy.

(C) Geothermal energy.

(D) Renewable biomass.

(E) Biogas derived exclusively from renewable biomass.

(F) Biofuels derived exclusively from renewable biomass.

(G) Qualified hydropower.

(H) Marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy...”

And if you're wondering what that final marine power section means, you need to refer to a different document, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 , which defines it like this:

“the term ‘‘marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy’’ means electrical energy from—

(1) waves, tides, and currents in oceans, estuaries, and

tidal areas;

(2) free flowing water in rivers, lakes, and streams;

(3) free flowing water in man-made channels; and

(4) differentials in ocean temperature (ocean thermal

energy conversion).

The term ‘‘marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy’’ does not

include energy from any source that uses a dam, diversionary

structure, or impoundment for electric power purposes.”

In short, waves, currents and OTEC are included.

We'll be reporting more on this as time goes on.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The latest NASA moon shot, LRO, has Hawai'i cred

Each of three of the pieces of equipment aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter—which is swinging around the Moon as this is written—has hibiscus tucked behind its ear.

Well, not really. But they have legitimate Hawai'i credentials.

(Image: A shot taken Dec. 12, 1972, during the Apollo 17 mission, shows orange soil near Shorty Crater. The color, later examination showed, came from orange volcanic glass particles. Credit: NASA.)

Three University of Hawai'i scientists, B. Ray Hawke, Jeffey Gillis-Davis and Paul Lucey, all of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, are contributing scientists for the LRO mission, which is designed to gather data for the 2020 mission to put humans back on the Moon.

Hawke will help process data from the orbiter's camera, which will collect high-definition images of the lunar surface, in part to locate landing sites but also to gather more information about the Moon's surface.

Gillis-Davis is part of a team working with radio frequency to seek evidence of ice on the poles of the moon. They will use a Miniature Radio Frequency instrument, to try to extract new information about what's inside the Moon.

Lucey will help use the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter to create a detailed three-dimensional map of the lunar surface. The laser will help get images of permanently shadowed portions of polar regions. The laser will assist in identifying the abundance—on both the dark and light sides of the Moon—of minerals whose color changes with temperature.

The LRO is kind of like a scout, sent out in advance of the main party, to gather information.

For more information about the LRO, look here.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009