Author Archives: Kimberly Ayers

Kimberly Ayers has lived in California for more than 20 years, both north and south. Growing up in the Middle East as an "oil brat," she has been blessed with lots of travel. Her storytelling has appeared most recently on the National Geographic Channel, including reporting from Belize and Egypt. For the past four years, she has produced the PBS stations' broadcast of the National Geographic Bee: the questions are really hard, and the kids are crazy-smart. At forty-something, she walked the Catalina Marathon, and most mornings you will find her walking somewhere on the SoCal coast.

House Member Says Air Board Tried to “Mislead Congress”

The National Academy of Sciences/Flickr

Mary Nichols chairs the California Air Resources Board.

ARB’s response to inquiry wasn’t what Orange County Republican had in mind

Orange County Republican Darrell Issa says he remains “deeply troubled” by what he calls a “lack of candor” & “internal inconsistencies” in the California Air Resource Board’s (ARB) response to his November 9th letter probing negotiations toward a new national fuel economy standard. (You can read my original post on Rep. Issa’s and Nichols first round of correspondence here.)

Issa now charges that the initial response from ARB Chair Mary Nichols “appear[s] to be a deliberate attempt to mislead Congress and obstruct an official investigation.” Continue reading

Take Your Pick: Wetter, Drier, and Hotter for California

New science forecasts include everything except moderation

Craig Miller

Scientists say there's a little bit of everything on the horizon for California -- except maybe funds to study it.

Two days before Governor Jerry Brown hosts his own conference on “Extreme Climate Risks and California’s Future,” scientists and a smattering of state and local officials spent a rainy Tuesday at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, talking about just that.

It began with calls to keep the funding for statewide climate research. Sacramento legislators may be looking at cutting money to the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program in particular, and California Energy Commission vice chair James Boyd told the crowd “all is not well.”  He said that research funding is “under assault again” with the weak economy used to question the focus on climate at a time when predictions are becoming more severe. Continue reading

Build a Better Wind Farm and the Watts Will Beat a Path to Your Door

High-tech imaging helps Colorado researchers catch the wind

Craig Miller

Wind power has come a long way but maximizing the output of even modern wind farms is still a challenge.

It isn’t enough to buy a slew of multi-megawatt turbines and stake them on a windy hillside. You have to know how the wind behaves, not only going into the turbine but the “wake” coming out the backside. Otherwise, you can get more windstorm than wattage. It’s a new area of research and it got help this week from scientists who literally “look” at the wind.

Speaking at the American Geophysical Union (#AGU11) here in San Francisco, Julie Lundquist from the University of Colorado, Boulder, offered up her team’s images of a wind turbine’s wake. Using Doppler Lidar — think police radar gun — she showed us the color-coded flow: a slower, cool-colored wake at the center just behind the turbine, surrounded by the warmer-colored fast flow swirling around it. Continue reading

NOAA Chief Wants Nation “Weather-Ready” for More Extreme Events

Fifty-two billion dollars and counting, one thousand deaths — double the yearly average — from 12 extreme weather events in 2011 alone.

NOAA

Those grim numbers are part of the reason why the country’s top weather official is calling for better and smarter observation tools, new climate models and a new national readiness.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Jane Lubchenco shared those stats with scientists here at the American Geophysicial Union’s fall meeting in San Francisco (#AGU11), many of whom are giving presentations about how to better forecast these events and measure them.”

I think that people have to appreciate how very bizarre the weather has been this year,” Lubchenco told us in an interview following her keynote presentation. “And it’s pretty clear that for some of those events like heat waves, droughts, really big intensive rainfall events – those we can connect the dots to climate change pretty convincingly.” Continue reading

Can Rocks Really Store Enough CO2 to Keep it Out of the Atmosphere?

Stanford study suggests that carbon dioxide “sequestration” can be part of the global warming solution.

Stanford University

Stanford researchers Sally Benson and Jean-Christophe Perrin measure the movement of CO2 through rock samples.

Sally Benson and her lab crew have been giving rocks a very hard time.

The energy resources engineering professor has been heating rock to 122 degrees and subjecting it to the pressure of a hundred atmospheres —  the same pressure present at a half-mile or so underground — to see how carbon dioxide would move through the microscopic nooks and crannies.

It’s a key question for energy companies pinning their hopes on “carbon capture and sequestration” (CCS) as way to mitigate the high greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. In practical terms, that means intercepting the CO2 and pumping it underground, essentially forever. Continue reading

NASA: Climate Changes Coming Faster Than We Thought

“If we burn all the fossil fuels, we would send the planet back to an ice-free state.” — James Hansen, NASA

A new investigation of the ancient climate record shows that time to stop climate change is running out — maybe sooner than scientists had thought.

That’s the message from an international team of scientists reporting today at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco (#AGU11 on Twitter).

NASA

Melt water tumbles through a Greenland ice sheet.

James Hansen is director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, and was one of the scientists on the study. He says that even the accepted benchmark of a 2-degree Celsius rise (3.6 F) in temperature that might result from doubling of current carbon dioxide levels would have a much greater impact than was previously thought.

“Once the ice sheets begin to disintegrate, then you’ve got an unstable shoreline, which is going to be continuing to change over time,” said Hansen in a presentation to fellow scientists. “It would be a mess for those people living at that time to deal with. And it looks like that time will be this century.” Continue reading

CA, Capitol Republicans Lock Horns over Tailpipe Regs

Committee calls CA Air officials “unresponsive, ” suggests CA stepping on feds’ toes

Reed Galin / Lone Tree Productions

Updated Monday, November 28, 2011

For California Air Resources Board (ARB) chair Mary Nichols, pre-Thanksgiving prep meant responding to list of requests from Orange County Republican congressman Darrell Issa and his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

As part of its expanding probe into how the newest Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards were set, the letter asked for information about how California came up with its vehicle emissions standards and what role state officials played in developing the newly announced federal fuel economy standard. Continue reading

Fast-Forward: What the New Fuel Economy Standard Will Mean to You

Talking turkey: 54.5 MPG = Another $17 in your pocket this weekend

Kimberly Ayers

This morning's commute, 405 North, Los Angeles

If we all were driving cars that averaged the newly announced federal standard for fuel efficiency, Californians would save $34.9 million this Thanksgiving weekend. At least, those are the numbers from a report released today In Culver City by Environment California. That $17 per family spells another four holiday pies or a few more lattes on the way home. Put that slice of information on your Christmas list — not for this year but for 2025. Even with the usual exemptions and provisions, the new standard announced by the Obama administration would still effectively almost double the average gas mileage for a carmaker’s fleet in those 14 years. Continue reading

Water Risks a Looming Iceberg for Global, California Business

Big California companies and investors see “significant near-term risk” at the spigot

Craig Miller

Lake Almanor in the northern Sierra, November, 2009

Companies around the world are beginning to recognize “a significant near-term risk” to their water supplies, according to the second annual Water Disclosure Global Report released today by the non-profit Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) in London. But despite the obvious connection, water appears to lag climate as a priority in corporate boardrooms. The CDP report found that a whopping 94% of Global 500 companies that responded have board-level oversight of climate change. Water risks, not so much: just 57% of the respondents to the water disclosure report have board level oversight on those issues. Continue reading

Another Run for Flush-to-Faucet Water Recycling

L.A. tries some new technology to get past the “yuck factor”

Hear the companion radio feature to this post on The California Report.

Ten million dogs can't be wrong.

For the record: the route isn’t nearly as direct as the popular canine version. I tasted this water in Orange County and it’s fine — actually, a little “tasteless” since all the minerals had been removed from it as well. The engineering folks in both Orange County and LA’s Department of Water and Power will tell you that this recycled water has a “distilled” quality to it.

With the future of Southern California’s water supply in some doubt, municipal water managers are moving again toward the ultimate recycling strategy, which lingers in the public’s mind with such appetizing monikers as “toilet to tap.” The region went through a political tempest a decade ago as it tried to bring the East Valley Water Recycling Project on line, a system that did not use the final “advanced” stage of water treatment (being used today in the OC and proposed for the new effort by LADWP). Mired in engineering concerns and a public relations mess, the project was scuttled by newly-elected LA mayor James Hahn. Today, the technology has improved and now, the process has a successful SoCal track record for “potable re-use.” Continue reading