Author Archives: Craig Miller

Craig is KQED's science editor, specializing in weather, climate, water & energy issues, with a little seismology thrown in just to shake things up. Prior to his current position, he launched and led the station's award-winning multimedia project, Climate Watch. Craig is also an accomplished writer/producer of television documentaries, with a focus on natural resource issues.

Climate Watch Joins New KQED Science Unit

Move forms California’s largest science & environmental unit for electronic media

Keven Guillory

Climate Watch Sr. Editor Craig Miller with Producer Molly Samuel in the KQED studios.

After four years, numerous awards, and something just shy of 900 blog posts, the multimedia reporting effort that’s been known as Climate Watch is turning a significant page. KQED is combining our efforts with Quest, the station’s more broadly-based science and environmental news and programming effort.

We’ll continue to cover climate-related issues, as evidenced by the recent rollout of Heat and Harvest, a major multimedia project with the combined resources of Climate Watch, Quest and the Center for Investigative Reporting. Through a documentary now airing on public television stations throughout California, radio features on The California Report and an extensive lineup of online features, Heat and Harvest examines some of the ways in which climate change is already challenging farmers in the Golden State. Continue reading

Autumn Makes a Sultry Entrance

California’s heat wave came late and is staying late

Craig Miller

Sunset on San Pablo Bay. Coastal areas saw a balmy end to September, accompanied by air quality alerts.

The Great American Heat Wave of 2012 arrived later in California than in many parts of the country — and it’s in no hurry to leave.

Having nudged the upper 90s on Sunday, Sacramento closed out the month of September with a record 26 days of 90-plus highs, surpassing the 1974 record of 24 days. The trend is forecast to continue into the first several days of October, with a chance of hitting 100 for the first time since mid-August. Farther north, Sacramento Valley towns like Redding and Red Bluff are suffering similar bake-offs. Continue reading

California’s Farm Belt Didn’t Dodge the Summer Heat Wave

Abnormally warm summer temperatures were felt across much of interior California

By Nicholas Christen and Craig Miller

Craig Miller / KQED

Even tomatoes can only take so much heat. A belt from Bakersfield to the northern Sacramento Valley produces a third of the nation's canning tomatoes.

Autumn is here, so says the calendar. Living on the coast, it might be easy to think that California escaped the heat wave suffered by much of the nation this summer. While that may be true for most of the large coastal population centers, it was a different story for much of the state’s interior farm belt.

Throughout June and July, even Central Valley spots escaped much of the heat felt by the Great Plains, though Cal Expo officials blamed the heat, in part, for tamping down attendance at the state fair. Then things heated up quickly — especially in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys — through August and into September.  Valley towns including Redding, Red Bluff, Sacramento, Merced, Madera, Fresno, and Bakersfield, have been on the order of three-to-five degrees above normal for the duration of August and September. Continue reading

Animation: The Arctic’s Record-Breaking Ice Melt

Arctic sea area covered by ice sets new low

Nat'l Snow & Ice Data Center

NOAA has created a startling animation of this year’s record shrinkage of ice in the Arctic Ocean. The 34-second clip zooms in from a western hemisphere view and presents as a time-lapse, tracking the ice from January 1 to September 14. This is the first time since NOAA started using satellites to monitor the Arctic in 1979, that sea ice area has shrunk to less than 4,000,000 square kilometers. What happens in the polar regions has a profound effect on the world’s climate.

Studies: Offshore Wind Potential is Huge

Harnessing wind offshore and at higher altitude could meet all electricity needs — theoretically

NC State University

The U.S. has lagged behind other developed countries in capturing offshore wind for electricity..

The U.S. has lagged behind European countries in capturing offshore wind for electricity, but a spate of recent studies suggest that a bigger push might be in order.

The latest, from Stanford civil & environmental engineer Mark Jacobson concludes that off the East Coast alone is enough moving air to meet a third of the entire nation’s energy needs.

Running out the string quite a bit further, studies from Stanford and Lawrence Livermore National Lab point to a breezy bounty offshore and at higher altitudes that could theoretically power the planet, perhaps as soon as 2030.

Of course, that would take four million powerful turbines. Continue reading

Quick Link: ‘Climate change: why it could be a hot topic on the campaign trail’

Long before the current campaign season, it seemed like “climate” had been banished from the Beltway vocabulary. Suddenly it’s back.


Climate change had been virtually absent from the campaign until Mitt Romney and President Obama traded jabs at their conventions. Some polls say it could be a vote-getter for Democrats. By Mark Clayton, Staff writer / September 7, 2012 Like Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter saga, climate change has been the issue “that shall not be named” – mostly a political no-show in the presidential campaign.

Read more at: www.csmonitor.com

Quick Link: “El Niño is coming, but weakly – sort of”

The Pacific warm-water phase known as El Nino is gathering momentum but don’t batten down the hatches just yet, as the impact on California weather remains ambiguous. Often associated with drenching winter storms, this occurrence seems too weak to have forecasters in an uproar.

Thanks to a tiny but consistent warming of the Pacific Ocean half a world away, the Bay Area will experience an El Nino season this year, beginning this month. If that idea conjures up images of fearsome storms and tumultuous winds – as one infamous El Nino pattern caused in the late 1990s – fear not.

Read more at: www.sfgate.com

Jerry Brown’s Anti-Anti-Climate Science Site

California governor posts a direct rebuttal to climate change contrarians

Governor Brown is pushing back against those who deny the evidence for climate change and this week, used a Lake Tahoe environmental conference to say that he’s taken his campaign online.

Governor's Office of Planning & Research

Jerry Brown's new website is a countermeasure against climate science "deniers."

The Governor has long been a vocal supporter of climate action but his new “Just the Facts” website represents his most definitive reaction against what he calls “the deniers” of widely accepted climate science.

About half the site is devoted to a rehash of the evidence that global warming is real and effects are happening now. The other half is a rebuttal to climate science contrarians, whom the site describes as, “a small-but-vocal group” that “has spread misinformation about the science, aiming to cast doubt on well-established findings and conclusions.” Continue reading

Nuclear Woes Could Create a Window for Geothermal Energy

Industry looks for inroads in a “stalled” California market

One of California’s two nuclear power plants remains offline amid roiling speculation about its future. At a geothermal energy conference in Sacramento this week, the head of California’s Independent Energy Producers association put the odds of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) “ever” coming back online at 50/50.

Geothermal Education Office

A "flash steam" geothermal plant in East Mesa. Geothermal plants tap the heat energy underground to produce steam for electricity.

The odds matter because nuclear plants provide so-called “baseload” power, which is to say that they produce electricity 24/7 — when they’re on. Geothermal power — tapping energy from underground sources of heat — also has the virtue of being baseload. While geothermal plants can lose potency during the hottest part of the day, they don’t stop producing completely. Solar and wind are considered “intermittent” sources as they’re at the mercy of the sun shining and wind blowing.

At this week’s meeting of the Geothermal Energy Association, there was visible consternation over geothermal being the odd man out in California’s race for renewables, even though the Golden State is endowed with the most geothermal capacity in the nation. Continue reading