El Niño and Climate Change- Do Not Confuse the Two

Every winter in North America, when there is a period of above seasonal temperatures, conversation turns to a familiar subject, the weather. It generally starts with comments like the warmer temperatures are ‘a terrible consequence of global warming’ and then ‘every year the global temperature gets warmer and warmer’.  We hear these comments on the street, in the gym and even on news and weather broadcasts. These have become fashionable sound bites and conversation starters. And sadly, they have also become a rally cry to solicit support for political dogma.

In this blog post, I will explain why I believe these weather statements are false.

Over the past two years in North America our winters have been profoundly affected by the El Niño Southern Oscillation System, referred to as ENSO in climatic circles. The El Niño phenomenon is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central equatorial Pacific. It produces a very mild winter in North America and very wet conditions in South America. This warming also causes a shift in the atmospheric circulation with rainfall becoming reduced over Indonesia and Australia, while rainfall and tropical cyclone formation increases over the tropical Pacific Ocean.

El Niño is a cyclical, short lived event lasting from between 1 to 3 years. It is a coupled phenomenon whose subsequent counterpart is La Nina, resulting in cooler than average sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean. La Nina immediately follows, and has the opposite effect of El Niño: a colder winter in N America, drought in S America and heavy rains in Southeast Asia.

There have been at least 30 El Niño events since 1900 (Figure 1), with the 1982-83, 1997–98 and 2016-17 events among the strongest on record. Other El Niño events have been recorded in 1790–93, 1828, 1876–78, and 1891. It is also believed that El Niño affected the Inca Empire, who sacrificed humans in order to try to prevent the rains. Scientists have also found that chemical signatures in 13,000 year old coral samples indicate warmer sea surface temperatures and increased rainfall caused by El Niño. In other words, we have evidence of El Niño going back tens of thousands of years. This not a man-made phenomenon.

el nino fig1

In the last 30 years, the eastern hemisphere has been significantly effected by two El Niño events, in 1998 and in 2016. Both were exceptionally strong and both winters in North America were extremely mild.

Many attributed the effects of these two Los Niños to global warming. However, there are fundamental differences between the El Niño and Global Warmingthe former is a short duration event, coupled by a subsequent cooling event (i.e. La Niña) and a return to seasonal temperature; Global Warming from an activist perspective, is the continued warming of the planet.

In order to establish a global warming trend, one needs to look beyond cyclical weather patterns and see what’s happening between El Niño events.

First, let’s look at the temperature data measured from satellites. This is considered more reliable than land based temperature data, but unfortunately we only have 40 years of it. However, it does allow us to examine in detail, with data confidence, a critical period from 1998-present.

Since 1979, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have been recording global temperature from satellites and this is presented in Figure 2.

el nino- fig2

If you look closely at the last 20 years, from the large El Niño of 1998 to the very large 2016 El Niño event, the global temperatures have been essentially flat. Note how this differs to the rate of warming between 1979 and 1998. A change in warming rate has occurred. Continue reading “El Niño and Climate Change- Do Not Confuse the Two”

Video: The Other Inconvenient Truth- Jonathan Foley

If you are concerned about our climate, you should also be concerned about agricultural development.

Agriculture is the single largest contributor of greenhouse gasses. Far more than auto industry. And deforestation of rain-forests, in particular, seriously inhibits the ability of our Earth to convert CO2 in the atmosphere to Oxygen. This is a 17 minute, well presented, informative video that all should watch.

Also, visit our Videos We Think Matter page for other videos on Climate Change.

 

 

The Earth’s Upcoming Ice Age

Yes, a change in our climate is coming but not the one climate change advocates are talking about. We are about to enter a period of prolonged global cooling and even possibly another ice age. It is believed that a combination of lower solar output and high volcanic activity will be catalysts of this climate change.

Although the sun is around 150 million kilometers from Earth, its relentless activity has a profound impact of our planet beyond the obvious light/heat source. After all, the Sun is the source of almost all of the energy on Earth and it is logical that changes in the patterns of solar activity play a role in global warming and cooling.

Solar activity, like sunspots and solar flares, warms our planet. Conversely, lack of solar activity also cools our planet. Solar activity is controlled by regular changes in the suns magnetic field and solar dynamo, the suns internal convection system. These changes affect the number of sunspots that occur over a repeating cycle, called the ‘solar cycle’ or sunspot cycle. Solar cycles are also believed to play a significant role in global climate change.

Some scientists note that sunspot activity has doubled in the last 100 years. In 2006, a team of researchers at University of Oulu, Finland concluded that there has been a significant increase in solar activity the past 100 years. Others have also observed the sun burns brighter by 0.1% now than it did 100 years ago.

Interestingly, the increase in solar activity in the last 100 years also corresponds to the well documented increase in global temperatures that began around ~1880. Since the late 1800’s the planets temperature has risen by ~0.9 C. This warming triggered the emergence of the northern hemisphere from the Little Ice Age that persisted from ~1450-1880. During this glacial period, thick continental ice sheets, up to several kilometers, covered northeastern North America. I have previously discussed the Little Ice Age and inter-glacial phenomenon in my blog Climate Change: A Geological Perspective.

Contrary to what some climate change advocates suggest, the post-Little Ice Age temperature increase cannot be attributed to burning of fossil fuels. After all, the ramp-up in fossil fuel consumption only began in any meaningful way after World War II. Why then, did the planets temperature begin to rise in the late 1800’s?

Many scientists believe that it was sunspot activity that caused the Northern Hemisphere to emerge from the Little Ice Age.

Conversely, we also understand it was a decrease in sun spot activity that caused the planet to become colder during the Little Ice Age. The Little Ice Age is also known in astronomical circles as the Maunder Minimum, after the English Astronomer Edward Maunder. Maunder presented a paper in 1890 that illustrated a prolonged absence of sunspot activity during the 17-18th centuries. Maunders’ observations showed fewer than 50 sunspots over a 28-year period, as opposed to the thousands of sun spots he expected to see. This period bears his name and is referred to as the Maunder Minimum. Maunder also attributed the bitterly cold winters in Europe and North America, to this solar inactivity.

Back to present day, what is the solar activity like now and what does this tell us?

The sun is currently in solar cycle 24, the 24th cycle since solar record keeping began in 1755. This cycle began in 2008 and in 2015 solar activity began to slow down. According to the NOAA Weather Prediction Center, (Predicted Sunspot Number And Radio Flux) sunspot activity will decline into the 30’s in 2016 and many scientists are predicting a prolonged cooling pattern over the next decades.

Notable astrophysicists also believe we are entering another Maunder Minimum. (Is Our Sun Falling Silent?)

  • Richard Harrison, Head of Space Physics Division and Chief Scientist at the Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory in the UK, believes that the rate solar activity is falling is the same as what Maunder observed during the Little Ice Age.

  • Professor Mike Lockwood of the University of Reading believe we are now seeing the fastest decline in solar activity in 10,000 years. In 2015, Lockwood’s solar model was presented to 500 European astronomers and space scientists at the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting in Wales (Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting 2015). Their model predicts reduced solar activity will trigger another mini-ice age.

  • Professor Valentina Zharkova an astrophysicist from Northumbria University also predicts a sharp decline in solar activity between 2020 and 2050 and believes this signals an onset of an ice age.

  • A study of sunspots in 2015 by Indian, Chinese and Japanese astronomers indicates that a new ice age could start as soon as 2020 and reach its depths by 2030 to 2040. (Lawrence Solomon: Why it looks like ‘game over’ for global warming)

  • According to Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of Russia’s Pulkovo Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences, we may have already have started decent into another Little Ice Age, the 19th that Earth has experienced in the past 7,500 years. His analysis indicates the ice age will reach worrying depths — a “deep cooling,” imperiling the energy security of the planet — in 2060.

Unfortunately, solar activity does not get much consideration amongst the climate change advocate community. It should! There are macro processes in the universe that have a far bigger footprint than man’s. Solar activity, volcanic activity and Milankovitch Cycles are all factors that control our planets warming and cooling cycles. Yet we ignore their impact.

Beware; winter is coming. Get your parkas out and think warm thoughts.

Our Oceans – Climatic Regulator and Biochemical Cleanser

The Ocean is the planet’s largest carbon dioxide source. It controls the amount of carbon dioxide released into our atmosphere and has a fundamental influence on the planet’s climatic patterns. And when the ocean becomes contaminated, our climate is affected. However, there are remarkable natural detoxifying processes at work in our oceans. These restore balance to the Ocean and keep it in a healthy state.

Through the earth’s recent 500 million year history, there have been a numerous natural occurring events that have contaminated our oceans. We know this because we can see the geological fingerprints of these phenomenon in the rock record. In a previous blog, Our Climate, Volcanoes and The Great Dying, I discussed the effects of volcanoes on our climate. I refer to the massive volcanic eruption of the Siberia Traps in NE Russia that killed off almost all life on the planet. In this post, I will discuss the catastrophic effect the eruption had on the Ocean and massive extinction of up to 96% of all marine species. What happened to the ocean that killed all this life?

In 2015, scientists at the University of Edinburgh, discovered that extinction occurred in two stages, each governed by distinct oceanic biochemical processes. Initially, extinctions occurred gradually with the least adaptable of land species beginning to die off. Oceans remained stable and slightly alkaline, which inhibited the release of CO2 into the atmosphere. But in the second phase, the chemistry of the oceans suddenly changed. Some believed that volcanic eruptions may have melted limestones, releasing much large volumes of CO2 into the atmosphere. This warmed the planet, and the oceans, quickly. The chemistry of the oceans changed, and became acidic. This released even more CO2 into the atmosphere and depleted the ocean of oxygen and carbon.

The consequence was a massive extinction phase, one more far deadly than the first. Widespread extinctions occurred, including the extinction of calcified marine life. The Edinburgh researchers concluded that a deadly trio of ocean warming, acidification and subsequent oxygen depletion was the ‘smoking gun’ for the largest extinction event on the planet’s history.

Researchers Chen and Benton (2012) believe carbon-oxygen depletion cycles persisted for 5 million years before subsiding. Once oxygen was replenished in the oceans, chemical equilibrium was reestablish, environmental volatility subsided and more complex ecosystems began to emerge.

How does the Ocean handle other natural contaminants? What happens when oil is introduced to the ocean, by naturally occurring oil seeps?

By definition, oil seeps are naturally formed hydrocarbons that escape to the earth’s surface either via fractures in the rock or from an outcrop of oil bearing rock. Oil seeps also occur in oceans in many places in the world including the offshore California and Gulf of Mexico, also where world class beach and vacation areas exist. At first thought, this may seem strange that beautiful beaches and very active oil seeps can co-exist in immediate proximity.

Natural oil seeps oceans

In California, there are several hundred naturally occurring seeps that are found in 28 counties across the state. Among these is the world’s largest natural oil seepage at Coal Oil Point, in the offshore Santa Barbara channel. This seep covers an area of 3 sq. km. on the seafloor and it has been an active seep for hundreds of thousands of years.

However, beaches in southern California are not covered in oil seeping from the seabed in the offshore area. Why is that?

The ocean contains literally billions of billions of microorganisms, or microbes, that detoxify the ocean. Microbes live in every part of the biosphere including; soil, hot springs, deep ocean trenches, in the upper stratosphere and inside rocks far down within the Earth’s crust. They are hungry creatures that eat almost anything including plastic bottles floating in the sea and also CO2 in our atmosphere!

University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) researchers have found as generated oil at depth within the earth, microbes living below the seafloor consume around 1000 compounds in the oil even before it even reaches the sea floor. And once in the ocean, microbes known as oceanospirillales, really get hungry. These bugs break down the oil molecules systematically, consuming compounds easiest for them to degrade.

In the Gulf of Mexico, there are more than 600 natural oil seeps that leak between 1-5 million barrels per year into the Gulf. For perspective, BP’s Macondo blowout in 2010, spilled 5 million barrels. Almost as much oil naturally can seep into the Gulf of Mexico in an active year as spilled by the 2010 Macondo blow out!

Macondo oil spill

Macondo was tragic disaster on many levels. From human, economic, operational, safety and not the least, environmental perspectives. And yet as bad as the environmental and economic damage was, the environmental recovery has been remarkable. And the recovery highlighted how effective bacteria are at consuming oil.

After the blowout was capped in late 2010, and the cleanup was underway, environmentalists identified and examined a 22-mile, 3,600ft-deep oil plume. They were very surprised to find a large and growing population of carbon-eating bacteria consuming the plume. The bacteria were so abundant and active that by the time the scientists could get back to the laboratory to test the water samples, the bugs had already consumed all the oil in them. What is interesting is that, a few months later when the team returned to where the oil plume had been, the microbes were still there but the oil was not. According to Terry Hazen, head of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s ecology department, said DNA tests showed that the bugs had genes for processing oil. He observed that the microbes were much more efficient at removing the oil from the water than any of man’s cleanup processes.

Since the spill was capped, less than 2 percent of almost 18,000 water samples and a similar proportion of more than 8,000 sediment samples have exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) toxicity benchmarks. Wildlife populations have bounced back.

No one can say for sure how much BP oil has settled into deep water residue. However, over time bacteria will consume any residual tar balls or beds on the sea bottom. And over time, it will also be increasingly difficult to distinguish BP’s Macondo foot print from Mother Nature’s oil seep footprint.

The Ocean is truly a remarkable part of our planets natural cleansing systems. The Ocean regulates our atmosphere, controls our climate and filters out toxic natural bi-products that threaten it. However, the interplay between processes is still not fully understood.

Current climatic models and forecasts do not take into account oceanic process. They need to. A more complete understanding of the Ocean’s processes will likely lead to more accurate climatic models.

Aruba- Beautiful Beach and Oil Refinery

Aruba….. ‘One Happy Island’ is how they like to project their culture and market tourism. The slogan is on their license plates. And it is true. The people are very charismatic and engaging. It is a happy island and a great place for a vacation.

Tourism is the primary driver of the Aruban economy. It accounts for 80% of the economic activity. Over 1.5 million tourists visit Aruba each year. Many want to just hangout on the beautiful white sandstone beaches. Others prefer to see the underwater sites by visiting the many scuba diving sites on the island’s west coast.

There are more than 30 world class dive sites on the west coast of Aruba. There are many World War II vintage wrecks including ships and airplanes along the reef dominated west coast. For a diver, this is paradise.

But did you know that there is an oil refinery at the southwest tip of the island? It is located in the port city of San Nicolas, approximately 20 km from Oranjestad, the primary tourist area. The refinery known as the Valero Refinery has a capacity of 235,000 barrels of oil per day. Because of low refining margins, and also low global oil price, Valero has not been operational for several years and the owners have been attempting to sell it. Recent reports have linked a possible sale to the cash-strapped Venezuelan national oil company, PDVSA.

Because of its close proximity to oil rich Venezuela, the island has a natural strategic setting for a refinery. In 1929, two refineries, Lago and Eagle Refineries, were started on the island. In the subsequent decade, oil refining became Aruba’s primary economic contributor. And the Lago Refinery became one of the largest refineries in the world. The Lago complex remained in operation until the late 1980’s as global oil demand fell and it was sold to a series of companies and ultimately Valero became the owner in 2004.

Valero-gate

At its peak in the 1950’s, the refinery was running at full capacity and employed almost 10,000. At the time, this represented 16% of the work force. It dramatically increased the standard of living on the island. By 2012, as refining margins contracted, the Valero refinery only employed 800 people.

But how do Aruban people feel about the refinery? Are there environmental concerns? Every Aruban I spoke with was a supporter for the refinery and the positive economic impact it would bring. Most want to see a broader economic base than to be solely dependent on tourism.

‘Our children need this’, is what one parent told me.

But how would an oil spill at the refinery affect the beautiful beaches 20km away? Over the past 20 years, there have been a couple of minor spills that had no impact. But what about a large spill, could this not destroy the marine ecosystem AND tourism?

While any spill would have negative short term consequences, the environment would be less effected than most might think. The ocean is a powerful and efficient cleansing system. It contains billions of bacteria that cleans the water as well as the air. Next time, I will discuss these bacterial communities on pollutants in the ocean. You may be surprised by what you read. Stay tuned.

And next time you think of Aruba, also think of the refinery and how it benefits the nice people in this beautiful island community.

Aruba- beach

Our Climate, Volcanoes and ‘The Great Dying’

Scientists recognize that there are many factors that control our climate. Volcanic eruptions are one factors.  Although we have known this for a long time, how the volcanic-climatic process works is still not fully understood.

In late 1700s, Ben Franklin recognized that abnormally cold summer of 1783 in the northern hemisphere was related to the large scale basaltic eruption of the Laki fissure in Iceland. This volcanic event produced an ash cloud reaching into the upper stratosphere and dense haze from Europe to Siberia that dimmed the sun. It also lowered temperatures in the northern hemisphere by 1 C.

Initially, scientists believed that it was volcanic ash clouds that had the dominant effect on global temperatures. However, it was only in 1982, after eruption of El Chichn in Mexico, did this view change. Just two years earlier, the massive eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington had lowered global temperatures by about 0.1 degree C. The much smaller eruption of El Chichn, had three to five times the global cooling effect worldwide. The difference was El Chichn emitted more than 40 times the volume of sulfur-rich gases than Mt. St. Helens.

1980 Mt. St. Helens Eruption
1980 Mt. St. Helens Eruption

Of the two main types of volcanic eruptions, rhyolitic and basaltic, it is basaltic eruptions that release large amounts of sulfur into the atmosphere, mostly as SO2 and H2S, and can have extreme climatic and environment consequences.

Scientist have now linked flood basalt eruptions with major fauna and flora extinction events in the last 500 million years. There have been as many as 11 basaltic eruptions associated with various extinction events and five basaltic eruptions associated with major extinctions.

The largest of these basaltic eruptions occurred around 251 million years ago, at the boundary of Permian-Triassic geological periods. At this time, the massive eruption of the basaltic Siberian Traps in Russia produced the world’s largest extinction, killing almost all life on the planet. This mass extinction has also been referred to as ‘the Great Dying’.

During this eruption, basaltic lava flooded an area about 7 million square kilometers with up to 4 million cubic kilometers of basaltic magma. The series of eruptions lasted 1 million years and was responsible for the extinction of 96% of ALL marine species, 70% of all terrestrial vertebrate species and ALL insects becoming extinct.  

It was a devastating effect. Large expanses of land were scorched with acid rain, the atmosphere became clouded with dust, climate-altering greenhouse gases were released into the atmosphere causing global warming and caused acidification. The temperature rose by 8C, CO2 level increased to 2000 ppm.

Extreme environmental conditions persisted for around 5-10 million years after the eruptions stopped.

It was only after the environmental volatility subsided did more complex ecosystem emerged. New groups such as crab and lobsters, as well as reptiles, appeared. Despite all the negative consequences of the eruptions, the event had re-set evolution and new advanced life emerged. It was the catalyst of early modern life.

And now, researchers at Harvard believe larger volcanic eruptions occur in regular cycles. S Kutterol, et. al. (2013) have dated volcanic ash in Pleistocene rock along the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ and conclude large eruption have occurred in 40,000 and 100,000 year cycles. They believe these volcanic cycles also correspond to Milankovitch Cycles (Climate Change- A Geological Perspective), or the regular changes in the Earth’s elliptical orbit and also the axis of the earth rotation. They reasoned that change in orbital and rotational axis cause changes the areas of weakness in stress regime at the earth’s surface where eruptions occur.

Ring of Fire
Ring of Fire

There are more than 1500 active volcanoes on the Earth. We currently know of 80 or more volcanoes which are under our oceans. Underwater volcanoes effect the temperature of the ocean, which also effects the amount of CO2 and water vapor in the atmosphere. Both components lead to increased climatic warming. And oceans are the primary source of atmospheric CO2. Therefore, ocean temperature has a very important climatic effect.

We now know volcanism, the global carbon cycle and climate are certainly connected. However, our earth’s climate is a complex process that is a result of the interplay between many factors that are not fully understood. Volcanic activity is just one factor.

Solar output, interstellar dust, Milankovitch Cycles, plate tectonics, oceanic temperature, atmospheric chemistry and not least, volcanic activity ALL effect earth’s climate.

There is a famous weather forecaster, Ms. Evelyn Browning Garriss, who became known as the ‘Volcano Lady’ because of the high frequency of volcanic activity that affected her seasonal weather predictions. We have uploaded a video of her discussing volcanic influence on weather.

Evelyn Browning Garriss explains…

I believe our ability to predict our future climate is limited by the understanding of the interplay between ALL the climatic factors. We need far more research and more refined climatic modelling to develop meaningful climatic models. Until this happens it is hard to differentiate between man’s footprint and natural factors.

 

FT McMurray Fire- Tragic Destruction and a Time to Help

This week’s entry highlights the very tragic fire in the northern Alberta community of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. On Monday this past week, a wild fire, brought on by a strong El Nino winter and persistent drought conditions in Central and Northern Alberta, started in a forested area south of the city. Initially the city was not concerned about the threat of a fire. However, strong winds of 30 km/hr. quickly turned the situation into a life threatening one. In addition to the winds, abnormally high temperatures of >30C and very low humidity of <20% contributed.

The fire started in the boreal forest typical to the region’s landscape. As pointed out by foresters, the boreal forests are fire-dependent ecosystems, and need to burn to regenerate themselves.

All the factors created a ‘perfect storm’ for the fire to spread.

By Tuesday, the fire started encroaching the community. If you want to see the fire front begin to spread on video, please watch this video from Monday. 

As of Thursday 5 May, the fire has totally engulfed the city and all residences have been evacuated. As of Thursday afternoon, the fire had consumed a total of over 200,000 acres and still remains out of control. Dry conditions still prevail and it is expected the fire will continue to grow.

Ft. McMurray was home to 80,000 people, all of whom have been evacuated. Almost the entire city has burnt down. Very few buildings remain standing.

It’s hard to imagine anything more tragic than an entire city destroyed.  

What makes this situation even sadder is most of these people were employed by the oil industry. As a result of the late 2014 oil price collapse, the unemployment rate in the area has risen by around 40% from Jan 2015. Many people had already lost their jobs and now they have lost their homes. Almost everything is gone. They have nothing.

All across Canada, from the west all-the-way to the east coast, there is an overwhelming feeling of sadness for the people of Ft. McMurray. Everywhere in Toronto, where I live, people are giving and donating to the relief fund. People are moved.

In a very touching act of kindness, newly immigrated Syrian refugees living in Calgary, are doing their part. These people don’t have much, in fact they have almost nothing. 

Syrian refugees in Calgary step up to help Fort McMurray fire evacuees

If you wish to contribute to the recovery and help this community get back on its feet again, you can do so at the following:

Canadian Red Cross- Alberta Fires Appeal

Please help, if you can.

Canada’s Oil Pipelines- Environmental Safety and Economics

Although many understand the importance of oil pipelines to Canada’s economy, there still is a large number who are against oil pipelines, and for nebulous reasons.

In the past year, two oil pipelines that would have benefited Canada have been halted or delayed. They are: the Keystone Pipeline, that would have transported 0.8 million barrels oil/day (bo/d) to the US Gulf, and the Energy East Pipeline, that will ultimately transport 1.1 million bo/d to St John’s, New Brunswick. Both would allow access to world markets and most importantly, world pricing.

Without world market access, we sell our crude at ~$10/bbl discount to world prices. This amounts to a staggering $35 million every day, over $13 Billion each year that Canada is losing by not getting world pricing. This economic perspective has been presented in an article by Gwyn Morgan (2016) and you can read it here.

I believe President Obama’s objection to Keystone on the basis of environmental concerns lacks credibility and transparency. Environment assessment studies indicate the pipeline poses no environmental threat. And climate change, as discussed in my last blog, is not a real factor, it is political Doublespeak.

Fact is, Keystone would allow Canadians to sell oil at a higher price, which would cost American refineries more. A lot more.

In a puzzling response to the Keystone outcome, the Canadian political machine has stalled the Energy East pipeline. The Federal Liberal Government have shunned leadership on the pipeline issue and, rather than taking decisive action to improve our federal balance sheet, they imposed an additional 9 month extension to the existing 18 regulatory approval process.

A few months back, liberal-minded Canadian political satirist, Rick Mercer, spoke on his show in support of the Energy East pipeline and the glaring need to support what is clearly in Canada’s best interests. We have uploaded the ‘Rick’s Rant’ segment of the program that discusses the Energy East pipeline. As a primer to this, here are a few other facts to keep in mind while watching:

  • Canada is the world’s fifth-largest producer of oil at around 3.5 million bo/d, the lion’s share from Alberta.
  • Alberta’s oil resources remain landlocked. There are no pipelines to either coastline and we now transport it by rail to the coast where it can be shipped to world markets.
  • Energy East Pipeline will ultimately transport 1.1 million bo/d to Irving Oil marine terminal refinery in St. John’s, New Brunswick. With $600 Million in debt, and an unemployment rate of nearly 10%, New Brunswick really needs this. (BOE REPORT)
  • In July 2013, 47 people tragically died when an unattended freight train carrying crude rolled down a 1.2% grade outside the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec and then derailed and exploded in the town.
  • Most do not realize that trains have very high rates of accidents. The US Department of Transport estimates that between 2015-2020, there will be 14 train derailments EACH year in the United States. This year in the US, there have been five train derailments injuring almost 100 people. And if you want to be shocked, google ‘list of global rail accidents since 2010.
  • Many US cities and towns are opposed to trains carrying crude entering their communities. Many ‘rail towns’ have organized protests to stop crude train transportation calling them ‘train bombs’.
  • The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP June 2015) expected that 200,000 bo/d would be transported by rail in 2015 and to increase to 500,000-600,000 bo/d by 2018. This seems like another disaster waiting to happen.
  • Oil pipelines are safe. There are plenty of statistics supporting this. In Alberta, there are over 400,000 km of pipelines and over the last 16 years, the oil spilt from pipelines is almost negligible, which B Jean (2016) describes as a few teaspoons.

Mr. Mercer states it’s in Canada best interest. Please have a look. Rick’s Rant

We agree.

From safety, environmental and economic standpoints, we NEED the Energy East Pipeline. From all perspectives, it benefits ALL Canadians.

Climate Change- A Geological Perspective

If there was ever a subject to polarize a room, it’s this one. Just ask a group of people if they enjoyed the mild winter and many will attribute it to ‘global warming’.

This is incorrect. Our past winter was similar to the ‘super’ El Nino winter in 1998. And since 1998, temperature data indicates temperature is decreasing and not warming! The fact is, for the last 120 years we have been in an interglacial warming period and the global temperature is where a geologist would expect it to be.

There is much confusion about Global Warming. It has been a highly politicized subject, distorted by activists and special interest lobby groups (e.g. Tides Foundation). Politicians push hidden agendas past us on the basis of global warming or climate change. In President Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan (June 2015) he says ‘no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change’ as a basis for investing billions of dollars in solar power. But is this a visionary investment or a political sound bite? Even the Pope has weighed in and wants ‘every living person to accept shared moral responsibility for climate change’.

However, the need is much more fundamental. There is a moral responsibility for all of us to understand ‘climate change’ issues and how these should shape energy policy.

I was in Calgary a few weeks ago to attend the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists annual convention. I had the pleasure of listening to a luncheon talk by Dr. Gary Smith called Climate Change- Fact or Fiction. This talk has been uploaded to our website, and we encourage all to take the time to listen to Dr. Smith. What I like about this presentation is that it is very well document and well referenced. And it is pure, unpolitical science. Much of this blog has been inspired by Dr. Smith’s research and the data he presented.

It’s hard to cover all the climate change issues in one short blog. What I have presented is based on my 35 years working as a professional geologist and is my geological perspective on climate change.  I am hoping this blog will serve as a primer for the Climate Change videos we have uploaded to our website from Dr. G. Smith and also Dr. P. Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace.

I will start by saying climate change is not only a natural phenomenon but it has been the fundamental catalyst in the evolution of man.

As geologists, we know the Earth’s natural climate has been changing since the earliest of time. There have been at least 5 major periods of glaciation in our planet’s last 500 million year history.

During the most recent glacial event, the Laurentian Ice Age from 120,000- 11,000 years ago, massive continental ice sheets covered most of Canada and North America.  In fact, 2km of ice covered the city of Toronto, where 6 million now live, and over 3km of ice covered Montreal.

Many animal species were driven to extinction by this ice age.  Humanity adapted by changing food sources from plant, which could not survive the cold temperatures, to animal. Humans became proficient at hunting, especially large animals that provided more calories.  This required developing more sophisticated hunting skills, as well as better weapons and butchering tools.

Around 11,000 years ago, temperatures rose over 5 Celsius (C) and the melting Laurentian ice sheets caused world sea levels to rise 35 m. This is referred to as the Holocene interglacial period and is informally called ‘the Age of Man’.

Changing climate was the catalyst for advancement of European agriculture and domestication of plants and animals. Humans began herding animals and gathering in communities.

There were four Holocene warm periods in the past 11,000 years: the Holocene Climate Optimum, the Roman Optimum, the Medieval Warm Period and our present day Post Industrial Period (Figure 1). The temperature only changed by ~1 C during this interglacial ‘warm’ period but this produced significant changes in human history.

Dansgaard et al. & Schonwiese

From around 8000 years ago (ie. Holocene Climate Optimum), increasing global temperature lead to the desertification of a wet, lush North Africa into the dry Sahara. This was the catalyst for the migration of North African tribes into wet, fertile Nile River Valley to form the early civilizations of Egypt.  Similarly, in the Roman Climate-Optimum period around two thousand years ago, the Roman Empire expanded through the conquest of Europe and Middle East. This was followed by the Medieval Warm period which marked the Viking era. Vikings established settlements on Newfoundland, Greenland and Iceland. However, the Vikings abandoned their settlements when the climate became ~1.5 C cooler in the Little Ice Age and the ability to farm and fish became challenged. Continue reading “Climate Change- A Geological Perspective”

Welcome to The Good Earth Energy Blog

Welcome to ‘The Good Earth Energy’ Blog

Many might ask ‘Why have an energy blog’?

We live in a time where information is all about sound bites, a time where movie stars are environmental scientists, where political leaders are renewable energy pioneers, and special interest lobby groups become the real winners. This is disconcerting.

I have been a petroleum geologist for 35 years, since before it was fashionable to mistrust the oil industry. When I started my career in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1979, many viewed the petroleum professional as an honorable profession, one serving the energy consuming public in a safe and honest way. Nowadays, industry professionals are looked upon with mistrust and cynicism. When I introduce myself as a petroleum geologist to people outside our industry, generally the response is a cringe, a gaze downward or an awkward silence. What has happened in 30 years to create this change in perception?

My father, Dr. R. J. Cvetanovic , was a research chemical scientist for the National Research Council, a governmental research group, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. His research indicated the harmful effect of aerosol propellants, called chloroflurocarbons (CFC), on the ozone layer. His work contributed to the ultimate removal of CFC’s from aerosol sprays through the implementation of the Montreal Protocol in 1989.

My father’s passion for the reduction of CFC’s, elimination of polluting emissions and with the sanctity of scientific research, formed a deep early impression on me. To this day, I hold these values in high esteem.

I was attending a good friends’ daughter’s wedding last year. My friend had known my father and had previously spoken about his achievements to his family. During the post wedding festivities, one of the young family members ask me, albeit very politely, ‘How could I rationalize my father’s significant contribution to mankind, with my own career as a petroleum geologist?’ The question caught me flatfooted. Is this what today’s youth think of the oil and gas business?? 

Unfortunately, political agendas have shaped public perceptions. Sadly, politicians misuse scientific information. They provide research grants and funding to those that support their agendas. They use sound bites and catchy phrases that most digest easily and without question. And yet, there is so much accurate energy information from credible impartial research groups that most do not come across. As a geological scientist, I do. Continue reading “Welcome to The Good Earth Energy Blog”