Thursday, June 19, 2014

What to Do About the Summer Heat

145119730It’s not even summer yet and it’s time to break out the handkerchiefs and mop the swampy brow. Could it be – El Nino? No, too soon, and anyway, meteorologists are backing away from their earlier forecasts that the young one will be particularly strong this year.

It appears less likely than it did a few months ago that a “super El Nino” will develop.

“Earlier in the spring we had rapid warming beneath the surface in the central Pacific and it was headed east,” said NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins.

“That is why you heard many headlines saying ‘super El Nino possible this fall,'” Karins said, and that it “might be as strong and as bad as 1997-98. But since then the rapid warming has leveled off and even lessened.”

So it’s an early blast of summer, likely to be followed by more summer, as Sol just does its annual thing. We can’t discount world temperatures creeping upwards every year – or for that matter, air conditioning.

Because the cities are getting hotter as the climate changes, residents are increasingly investing in aircon systems − which discharge heat from offices and apartment blocks straight into the city air. And the vicious circle effect is that cities get still warmer, making air conditioning all the more attractive to residents.

This is the Guardian, so the effect, though real, has been given, shall we say, a gloss.

According to scientists at Arizona State University, the air conditioning system is now having a measurable effect. During the days, the systems emit waste heat, but because the days are hot anyway, the difference is negligible. At night, heat from air conditioning systems now raises some urban temperatures by more than 1C, they report in the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres.

“Some urban temperatures.” “1C.” City dwellers would likely accept that one degree as long as they’re not in it. Well, if you have a particular hobby horse – and The Guardian has a lot of them - by all means ride it. Our equine pastime is nuclear energy, so it’s worth taking a look at how the facilities are operating during the early heat.

This is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s “Power Reactor Status Report” for June 19. I’d almost call the sea of reactors operating at 100 percent capacity embarrassingly good, except there’s nothing embarrassing about it. In Region 4, all reactors are operating at 100 percent and in Region 3, 21 of 23 are doing so (the “laggards” are at 99 and 88 percent.).

Let’s not call that hot; that invites fishy looks. But it does attest to nuclear energy’s reliability. When reactors go into outage periods to replace fuel rods and make upgrades, it’s almost always in the more temperate spring and fall. That’s how you get these capacity scores in the summer and winter when electricity use soars to run home heating and, um, those temperature-raising air conditioners.

And reliability matters in the summer, especially during periods of extreme heat. Remember the polar vortex? Like that, only in reverse. Maybe we won’t have El Nino to kick around this year as we did the vortex, and let’s not wish a derecho or other weather oddities on people just to prove a point. Instead, let’s tip our hat to the power of a simple summer – and nuclear energy’s outsized role in containing its worst offenses.

1 comment:

Mitch said...

Good report that leads nicely into this:

http://atomicinsights.com/cuomos-fix-against-indian-point/

How can we help urge nuclear power unions and nuclear professional organizations to write in to these governors and sound off to the local media the errors of their ways??