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Is Weird Winter Weather Related to Climate Change? by Fred Pearce: Yale Environment 360
Is Weird Winter Weather Related to Climate Change? by Fred Pearce: Yale Environment 360.
24 FEB 2014: ANALYSIS
Is Weird Winter Weather
Related to Climate Change?
Scientists are trying to understand if the unusual weather in the Northern Hemisphere this winter — from record heat in Alaska to unprecedented flooding in Britain — is linked to climate change. One thing seems clear: Shifts in the jet stream play a key role and could become even more disruptive as the world warms.
by fred pearce
This winter’s weather has been weird across much of the Northern Hemisphere. Record storms in Europe; record drought in California; record heat in parts of the Arctic, including Alaska and parts of Scandinavia; but record freezes too, as polar air blew south over Canada and the U.S., causing near-record ice cover on the Great Lakes, sending the mercury as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius in Minnesota, and bringing sharp chills to Texas.
Everyone is blaming the jet stream, which drives most weather in mid-latitudes. That would be a significant development. For what happens
to the jet stream in the coming decades looks likely to be the key link between the abstractions of climate change and real weather we all experience. So, is our recent strange weather a sign of things to come? Are we, as British opposition leader Ed Milliband put it this month while surveying a flooded nation, “sleepwalking to a climate crisis”?
The story gets tangled because trying to identify long-term trends amid the noise of daily weather is hard.
The U.K. Met Office, which keeps a global weather watch, said in a rushreport put out in mid-February that we are experiencing a “hemispheric pattern of severe weather,” and that the events are linked. The most extreme days of the U.S. cold event, for instance, coincided with some of the most intense storms over the U.K. And physically the connection is through the polar jet stream, which the report said showed a “persistent pattern of perturbations” — in other words, it ran wild.
The polar jet stream is a narrow stream of fast wind circling the globe from west to east at the top of the troposphere from 7 to 12 kilometers up, and usually between 50 and 70 degrees north. It forms where cold, dense air from the Arctic meets warmer and less dense air from mid-latitudes. At the
Climatologist Jennifer Francis links ‘this bizarre winter’ to changes in the jet stream caused by a warming Arctic.
boundary, winds rush in to equalize the pressure difference. The earth’s rotation diverts these winds to travel eastward.
As the jet roars around the world, it drags weather systems with it. Most of Europe’s weather rides in under the jet stream from the Atlantic, and most of the western U.S.’s weather comes from the Pacific in a similar manner.
This year, the jet has been unusually far north in the Pacific, bringing balmy weather to Alaska. But across the Atlantic it has been unusually far south, unusually persistent, and 30 percent faster than normal. It has sent more than 30 storms, many of them much larger and more intense than normal, crashing into the shores of Britain in the past three months. With the storms have come high winds and heavy rains almost every day, delivering amounts of precipitation unseen in records going back more than a century — and probably exceeding anything else in the last 250 years, according to the Met Office report.
At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago this month, climatologist Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University linked “this bizarre winter” to climate change, and in particular to changes in the jet stream caused by a warming Arctic. “Weather patterns are changing,” she said. “We can expect more of the same.”
Francis notes that the Arctic has been warming faster than the rest of the planet in recent decades, driven by melting ice that replaced reflective white surfaces with dark, energy-absorbing ocean. That is expected to continue. While lower latitudes will also warm, the result will be to reduce the temperature gradient between polar and mid-latitude air that drives the jet. So, says Francis, we can expect the jet to slow. A slower jet is generally more meandering and inclined to get “stuck,” delivering unchanging weather.
There is one problem with this analysis as regards recent events, says Tim Woollings, who researches atmospheric dynamics at Oxford University in England. While the jet stream has indeed been “stuck” for the past two months, delivering cold weather to North America and storms across the Atlantic, it is not slow and meandering. Across the Atlantic at least, it has been fast and remarkably straight. “That is the exact opposite to the weak meandering jet of your hypothesis,” Woollings told Francis in an email exchange last week that both shared with Yale Environment 360.
That certainly doesn’t prove Francis wrong. Woollings agrees that Francis’s prediction of a stuck meandering jet looks very like the situation in the Pacific this winter. But it does complicate claims that this winter’s
Britain’s Met Office says the real driver of recent climate patterns has been the jet stream over the Pacific Ocean.
extremes can be blamed on man-made climate change.
So what is going on? The Met Office came to the conclusion that the real driver of the action in recent months was not in the Arctic or the Atlantic, but far away in the western Pacific Ocean. The jet stream, remember, is a global wind, circling the earth. This winter, the jet stream over the Pacific has been deflected much further north than usual. This, according to the Met Office, is likely a consequence of some combination of heavy rains over Indonesia, warm Pacific waters, and unusual pressure systems.
The displaced Pacific leg of the jet stream dragged warm air up over Alaska. But, once east of the Rockies, it met the dense cold air of the Arctic and plunged south. A long way south — as far as Texas at times. This southward excursion of the jet brought freezing weather across much of the U.S. But it also brought that cold polar air into contact with warm southerly breezes. Thus the temperature gradient at the boundary between polar and non-polar air was exceptionally great. At times, says Francis, Arctic air was meeting tropical air as the polar jet coalesced with the sub-tropical jet, which forms where tropical air meets air from the north.
The scientists agree that this exceptional temperature difference dramatically speeded up the jet stream as it pushed out over the Atlantic on its unusually southerly trajectory. A fast jet stream is usually also a straight jet stream. And the southerly route allowed the surface air it pulled along to pick up unusual amounts of moisture evaporating from the warm waters of the Atlantic.
The result was that the jet slammed a long succession of intense storms into southern England, where they would normally hit Scotland or miss the U.K. altogether. The storms contained huge volumes of moisture. And, to add to the tumult, the fast winds across the Atlantic also whipped up big waves and tidal surges; so in places record flood flows coming down rivers met flood waters coming off the sea. Parts of Britain were submerged.
Where does this leave us on climate change? It is no great surprise that there is confusion. Weather is weather. It is always changeable, with a large
Scientists remain uncertain about how the major features of world’s weather will respond to global warming.
random element. Stuff happens. The Met Office notes that the winter’s weird weather has a range of causes besides the jet stream, including unusual upper atmosphere winds over the North Pole, and anomalies in the eastern Pacific that have delivered severe drought to California. There is, the Met Office says, no compelling evidence from this winter to suggest that there is a new emerging pattern.
But that doesn’t mean nothing is going on. Long-term trends are hard to spot, and natural variability is still generally dominant over the subtle changes in climate, or “average weather.”
Yet there are some instances where attribution is possible. For example, climate researchers have persuasively argued that a few intense heat waves — such as the one that killed 70,000 people in western Europe in 2003 — would have been highly unlikely without the added impetus of global warming. But for weather extremes other than rising temperatures, unambiguous attribution of even extreme events is very hard to make, whatever the suspicions that something is up.
Climate scientists remain very uncertain about how most of the major features of the world’s weather will respond to global warming. The climate will change, for sure, but exactly how is a tough call.
El Niño, the Asian and African monsoons, Atlantic hurricanes, the jet streams: The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued last October, puts a big question mark over the likely trends for all of them. And while Francis suggests the polar jet stream should slow as the Arctic warms, the IPCC noted that most climate models predict a faster polar jet.
Actual trends so far don’t tell us much. According to the Met Office, the number of storms crossing the Atlantic in a normal year is no higher today
MORE FROM YALE e360
Solar Geoengineering: Weighing
Costs of Blocking the Sun’s Ray
With prominent scientists now calling for experiments to test whether pumping sulfates into the atmosphere could safely counteract global warming, critics worry that the world community may be moving a step closer to deploying this controversial technology.
than 150 years ago. But Xiaolan Wang of Environment Canada, a government agency, last yearreported evidence that winter storms are becoming stronger over the North Atlantic. This may not have anything to do with the jet stream, however. These storms could just be picking up more moisture from an Atlantic that is now substantially warmer than in past decades.
Data from weather stations around the world reveal more extreme precipitation events — and more droughts, too. This is firmly in line with the predictions of climate models and is “what is expected from fundamental physics,” says the Met Office. A warmer atmosphere will contain more energy, and more moisture from evaporation, says Woollings. It already does. And, in general, more energy and moisture will mean wetter storms in many places.
Weird weather is definitely on the agenda, and the jet stream is very likely to be an important part of it. The nightmare scenario is that Francis will be proved right about the jet stream becoming more “stuck” in a particular trajectory, but that, as happened this winter, it will get stuck while traveling at express speed and bringing strong winds and heavy rain with it. The Met Office says the Francis scenario “raises the possibility that disruption of our usual weather patterns may be how climate change may manifest itself.” If so, that would indeed unleash the perfect storm.
Activist Post: Half-Prepping Equals NO Prepping: Lessons From The Icepocalypse
Activist Post: Half-Prepping Equals NO Prepping: Lessons From The Icepocalypse.
As a survivor of the Icepocalypse that recently gripped much of the South in crippling power outages and freezing temperatures, at least three lessons can be deduced from the experience.
- A very small minority of people are equipped to deal with an emergency in a competent fashion.
- A slightly larger number of people attempt to be prepared but fall short if the emergency persists.
- The vast majority of people are wholly unprepared for even a slight disturbance in their usual routine or living conditions.
While this statement may come as basic common sense to the majority of my usual readers, such observations do bear repeating. Indeed, it is important to remind ourselves of just how unprepared we may be, even though we may be more prepared than most of the rest of the population.
Many of those who are aware of the possibility of an economic collapse, general war, electrical grid failure, or simple natural disasters are aware through available literature of how human behavior will adjust to the new circumstances if a crisis takes place. Although much of what “preppers” are confronted with in terms of information often borders on the state of panic and fear, it is true that what is at first a tranquil community of friends and neighbors can very quickly turn into a violent mob and dangerous enemies fighting over finite resources.
While the recent winter storm did not turn out to be the Apocalypse, the days without power for many was a very important learning experience on just how prepared they were for an emergency as well as how their neighbors will react in the same situation.
As I already mentioned, there were a small minority of individuals who were prepared all along, because they had previously learned to stock up on essential items and tools for personal survival to begin with. These individuals are often called “preppers” by media outlets (mainstream and alternative alike) but, in reality, they are simply people who exercise a level of basic forethought in the manner that was once common behavior and not notable in any sense.
These individuals were able to weather the storm in conditions ranging from basic temporary self-reliance to minor discomfort and inconvenience. They had a source of food, water, and heat. They had a means to defend themselves if necessary. They did not require supplies after the fact.
They were also a distinct minority.
Others still believed they were prepared . . . until the storm hit. They had generators but no gas. They had extra food but no way to cook it. They had a well but no way to pump the water. Some had fireplaces with no logs or firewood with nowhere to burn it. The list of half-preparedness is endless but the resulting sum of that half-work is the same – they were not prepared at all.
In short, being prepared half-way is not being prepared at all.
The vast majority of people, however, did not even have the basic material needed to last through a four-hour disturbance in their normal routine. Most had not purchased extra food and water or made plans to heat themselves in some way other than electricity. Nor had they even bothered to fill up their gas tanks the day before the storm. In fact, with the exception of the usual rush to buy milk and eggs (food that will spoil as soon as the power goes out)when a storm approaches, there was not even the shockwave of panicked buyers looking to prepare. Most of the important items like canned goods were still on the shelves the day before the storm.
After the storm, however, panicked masses brought out by sudden discomfort and disruption were lining up for warm food (or any food they could find) while others lined up for a mile to purchase gas for their vehicles or generators. Any stations and restaurants with a generator were able to make a killing in one day, but the number of stores with that capability were few and far between. People congregated anywhere with signs of heat and commerce. It should also be noted that most open stores were unable to process credit and debit cards.
This was the morning after the power went out.
On the second day without power, the lines of people at the pump were noticeably more irritated, with some breaking in line by parking across the street with their gas containers and jumping in front of motorists to pump their fuel. Others simply tried to use their vehicles to push their way ahead. Thankfully, gas trucks were able to reach most areas, keeping the supply flowing, and food trucks were also able to resupply corporate fast food chains which also faced a number of line jumpers.
While power was gradually restored after the second day, the tension and panic began to subside. However, one can only wonder as to what might have taken place had the power continued to be shut off for another day or even a week. What would the city have looked like if food and gas trucks had not been able to reach the stations and restaurants freshly out of food? What if the outage continued indefinitely?
Clearly, one answer is that a great many people – particularly those who are incapable of even the slightest forethought to prepare for an oncoming storm, much less an undefined disaster which may or may not happen in the future – will be looking for food and warmth. If the crisis persists, they will not be able to find either.
With this in mind, the recent winter storm and its corresponding power outages should serve as a reminder that a little preparation is never a bad idea. However, your preparation should cover the most essential items, as well as cover a longer-than-expected length of time. Indeed, whatever preparation done now in the correct manner will be worth so much more when an actual event takes place.
Thus, a short list of basic necessities to consider in the case of a winter storm is included below. It is by no means comprehensive – but, from my experience, it will definitely keep you well ahead of even the half-prepared. Readers are encouraged to add useful tips in the comments section.
Remember, purchasing goods for the winter in the summer is usually a cheaper route than waiting until the cold has arrived.
1. Storable food and water – This does not necessarily have to be hundreds of dollars of worth freeze-dried food. It could mean something as simple as canned goods, Raemen noodles, and other foods that last a long time without requiring electricity to prepare. Bottled water or storable water jugs are always a good idea as well.
2. Guns and Ammunition – Let’s face it. If the crisis continues, you will need to defend yourself as others reap the fruits of years of television watching when they should have been preparing.
3. Generator – Although a good generator is out of the price range for many and possibly even a liability in a prolonged crisis for everyday use (it can signal who has power when everything else is silent), in a short-lived winter emergency a generator is life saver.
4. Propane and Propane Accessories – A propane cooker, for short-term outages, can provide an avenue to cook all of the food that may be in danger of going to waste if the power stays out. Similarly, having iron cookware that can be used in tandem with a traditional grill or even over an open fire might eventually become useful.
5. Heat Source – This heat source can come from a generator, but only so long as the gasoline lasts. Likewise, almost all heat sources rely on finite sources of energy – gas, oil, wood, etc. Not relying solely on one source is paramount. Wood stoves, kerosene heaters, propane, generators and more are all welcome additions for those of us who need to take heat into a consideration. Also, look into innovative means of heating your home in an emergency such as using tea light candles and other useful mechanisms.
6. Winter Wear/Extra Blankets – Eventually, if the crisis persists, the heat will run out. You need extra sets of warm clothes and several sets of extra blankets if you are to survive. Water-resistant boots can make the difference between comfort and frostbite. The same applies to gloves, jackets, and hats.
7. Flashlights – You will need light inside and outside of the house. Darkness falls quickly and one needs light by which to locate tools, find your way around, or even to travel if need be.
8. Batteries – Lots of them. And not just for flashlights. However, batteries have incredibly short lives when they are being utilized regularly, so the more the better.
9. Candles – Eventually, batteries run out. Candles can provide steady light in the dark so flashlights can be saved for travel or emergencies.
10. Lighters – Fire is extremely important in winter, and for only a few dollars you can make sure that fire is always at your fingertips. Magnesium fire starters are also a good idea.
11. Medicines – If you or a loved one rely on prescription or non-prescription medications, always do your best to save up and keep an extra supply of medication just in case. In a real crisis, medical centers may not be open and family practitioners/pharmacists will be in short supply.
12. Fuel! – If you know a winter storm is coming, fill up your gas tanks and your gas cans beforehand. After the storm, to do anything is always too late.
Recently by Brandon Turbeville:
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Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1and volume 2, and The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Turbeville has published over 275 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV. He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.
585,000 Without Power As “Catastrophic” Winter Storm Pax Pounds Northeast | Zero Hedge
585,000 Without Power As “Catastrophic” Winter Storm Pax Pounds Northeast | Zero Hedge.
Winter Storm ‘Pax’ has already crippled much of the South, snarling traffic and dumping more snow than most can remember on places that are unarguably ill-prepared to cope. But, as The Weather Channel warns, up to 18 more inches of snow is forecast for the Northeast as Pax pushes up the East Coast. With no thaw expected in the South until at least the weekend (and freezing winds causing havoc), forecasters expect more power outages. Trouble has already started though further North with DC over 13 inches of snow and NYC having over 7 inches this morning alone. It’s not everyday that snow is falling in Atlanta and Boston at the same time! 585,000 households are without power in 7 states this morning. Flight cancellations have begun from DC to NYC building on the4,000 that were cancelled yesterday.
Snowing from Atlanta to Boston
Near Blizzard conditions in Manhattan/NYC:
Chaos on the roads…
Total Freeway gridlock…
And now it is heading North… with up to 18 inches of snow forecast for the NorthEast
In the last few hours, NYC alone has received 7 inches of snow and over 13 inches of snow in DC…
Though further west is getting more…
New York City’s Central Park has record 5 inches of snow in the last 2 hours…
As a reminder, here is how Weather.com described Pax yesterday:
“Sometimes we want to tell them, ‘Hey, listen, this warning is different. This is really extremely dangerous, and it doesn’t happen very often,'” Jacks said.
The service’s memo early Wednesday called the storm “an event of historical proportions.”
It continues: “Catastrophic … crippling … paralyzing … choose your adjective.”
And power outages in the south are likely to surge…
Heads up.. winds will be picking up next few hrs before the ice melts…potential surge in pwr outages http://t.co/nptlDkbDAY #gawx
— NWS Atlanta (@NWSAtlanta) February 13, 2014
We suspect the image of weathermen with hands on their faces will be more prevalent today…
As this is coming…
THE BROKEN LIMB & BURST PIPE FALLACIES Washington’s Blog
THE BROKEN LIMB & BURST PIPE FALLACIES Washington’s Blog.
“Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man. This is no accident. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible.
In addition to these endless pleadings of self-interest, there is a second main factor that spawns new economic fallacies every day. This is the persistent tendency of man to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.” – Henry Hazlitt – Economics in One Lesson
Saturday was the first day since a double shot of snow and ice storms hit the Philadelphia metro area on Monday and Wednesday I had a chance to drive around Montgomery County and witness the devastation firsthand. Over 750,000 homes lost power at the height of the ice storm on Wednesday and over 100,000 remained without power this past weekend. The mainstream media has become such a farce and propaganda machine for vested interests, it is essential to verify with your own eyes everything they report as fact. Their purpose is to entertain the consciously ignorant, exaggerate threats to keep the low IQ multitudes fearful, and function as mouthpieces for the ruling class. Deceitful corporate executives, mendacious government apparatchiks, and oblivious teleprompter reading media talking heads have been utilizing cold weather as an excuse for every poor earnings announcement, horrific employment report, and dreadful decline in retail sales. It certainly has nothing to do with decades of stagnant household income, awful monetary and fiscal policies, or the consequences of Obamacare.
We have become a delusional state dependent upon fallacies to convince ourselves our foolhardy beliefs, ludicrous economic policies, corrupt captured political system, and preposterously fraudulent financial system are actually based on sound logic and reason. Some fallacies have been perpetrated intentionally by the ruling class to manipulate, sway and deceive the populace, while others have been willfully employed by millions of techno-narcissistic iGadget addicted zombies as a substitute for thinking, reasoning and taking responsibility for the course of our nation.
You have men who constitute the unseen true ruling power of the country making a conscious and intentional effort to peddle fallacies to the masses in order to manipulate, mold, and corral them in a manner beneficial to the ruling power, financially, politically, and socially. The ruling class has been hugely successful in their capture of the public mind, creating a vast majority of the willfully ignorant who desperately grasp at fallacious concepts, beliefs, and storylines in order to avoid dealing with reality and being accountable for their actions and the actions of their leaders.
The fallacy being flogged by government drones and the legacy media about companies not hiring new employees because it has been cold and snowy during the winter is beyond absurd, except to someone who lives in the cocoon of Washington D.C. or regurgitates words processed on a teleprompter by paid minions of the ruling class. If you live in the real world, run a business, or manage employees, you understand weather has absolutely nothing to do with your decision to hire an employee. An organization takes weeks or months to hire employees. They don’t stop hiring because it snowed on Wednesday or the temperature was below normal. The contention that hiring has been weak for the last two months due to weather is outlandish and based upon flawed logic and warped reasoning. It is so illogical, only an Ivy League economist could believe it.
The other fallacy being pontificated by retail executives in denial, cheerleaders on CNBC and the rest of the propaganda press is weather is to blame for terrible retail sales over the last quarter. Again, this argument is specious in its conception. The retail executives use weather as an excuse for their failure in execution, hubris in over-expanding, and arrogance in pursuit of quarterly earnings per share and bonuses. CNBC and the rest of the Wall Street media pawns must provide lame fallacies for the corporate fascists regarding our downward economic path or the masses my wake up to reality. Protecting and expanding the wealth of the parasitic oligarch class is the one and only purpose of the corporate media.
Think about whether cold and snow in the winter will really stop purchases by individuals. If you need a new shirt for work or a pair of sneakers and it snows on Wednesday, you will wait until Saturday to make the purchase. Groceries will be consumed and replenished whether it is cold and snowy, or not. If an appliance or car breaks down, weather will be a non-factor in the new purchase decision. The proliferation of on-line retailing allows everyone to shop from the warmth of their homes. If anything, bad winter weather often spurs stocking up of groceries and the purchase of items needed to contend with winter weather (salt, shovels, coats, hats, gloves). Only an asinine spokes-model bimbo on CNBC could non-questioningly report the press release excuses of retailers. Critical thinking skills and journalistic integrity are non-essential traits among the propaganda mainstream press today.
Revealing the truth about pitiful employment growth and dreadful retail sales would destroy the fallacy of economic recovery stimulated by the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve and fiscal policies of the Federal government. The ruling class must perpetuate the myth that central bankers pumping $3.2 trillion of debt into the veins Wall Street banks and Obama dumping $6.7 trillion of debt onto the shoulders of future generations in order to cure a cancerous disease created by debt, has revived our economy and cured the disease. The unseen governing class cannot admit their traitorous actions have impoverished the working middle class, destroyed small businesses, depleted senior citizens of their savings, and warped our economic system to such an extent that recovery in now impossible. If the ignorant masses were to become sentient, the ruling class would become lamppost decorations.
After discovering water pipes at my rental property had burst due to the extreme cold weather and witnessing the widespread damage caused by the mid-week ice storm, I immediately thought how overjoyed my favorite Keynesian, Ivy League, Nobel Prize winning, New York Times scribbler, Paul (destruction is good) Krugman must be. All this destruction and devastation will be a tremendous boost to the economy according to Krugman and his ilk. This intellectually deceitful, morally bankrupt, despicable excuse for a human being spoke these words of wisdom three days after the 9/11 attacks:
“Ghastly as it may seem to say this, the terror attack – like the original day of infamy, which brought an end to the Great Depression – could even do some economic good. So the direct economic impact of the attacks will probably not be that bad. And there will, potentially, be two favorable effects. First, the driving force behind the economic slowdown has been a plunge in business investment. Now, all of a sudden, we need some new office buildings. As I’ve already indicated, the destruction isn’t big compared with the economy, but rebuilding will generate at least some increase in business spending.”
He had expanded his broken window beliefs to broken buildings, broken nations, and a broken people. You can’t keep a cunning Keynesian down when they need to propagate discredited fallacies in order to feed their own ego and promote foolish debt fueled spending by government, consumers and corporations as a solution to all economic ills. It makes no difference to a statist like Krugman that Frederic Bastiat had obliterated the preposterous notion that destruction and the money spent to repair the destruction was a net benefit to society, 164 years ago in his essay – That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen. Bastiat’s logic is unassailable. Only the most highly educated Princeton economists don’t get it.
Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James B., when his careless son has happened to break a pane of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation – “It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?”
Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our economical institutions.
Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier’s trade – that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs – I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.
But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, “Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.”
It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.
I wonder whether the myopic focus on only immediate impacts and inability of ideologues to understand unintended consequences is premeditated or just erroneous reasoning. The broken window fallacy can now be extended to broken limbs and burst pipes across the Northeast. Huge trees have been toppled, limbs and branches are strewn on the properties of homeowners across the region, homes and businesses have been physically damaged, and power outages wrecked profits at small businesses. Society has gained no benefit whatsoever from the mass destruction wrought by these storms. Thi
s weather induced ruin exposes GDP calculations as useless and misleading regarding the true economic health of the nation. The hundreds of millions in destruction will not be factored into the GDP calculation, but the spending by homeowners and businesses to remove downed trees, fix broken roofs, replace burst pipes and clean-up debris will be factored positively in the GDP calculation. The inevitable politician response will be increased government spending to repair damage to infrastructure. This will also be additive to GDP. Krugman will get a tingle up his leg.
CNBC’s Cramer & Liesman will rave about the unexpectedly strong GDP in the first quarter as proof the economy is doing great. The fallacy that GDP growth and stock market gains are beneficial to the average American will be flogged by the propaganda press at the behest of the ruling class until the last vestiges of national wealth are confiscated by the oligarchs. In the real world, the destruction caused by the harsh winter weather will not benefit society one iota. GDP will reflect the immediate short-term seen impact of the cleanup and repair of property damage. GDP will ignore the unseen opportunity costs which were lost and the long-term consequences of expenditures made to put property back in the condition in which it started. Destruction does not create profit, except in the Keynesian world of Krugman and his Ivy League educated sycophant cronies.
There are 2.5 million households in the Philadelphia metro area. There are hundreds of thousands with trees down, pipes frozen, gutters smashed, roofs leaking and electrical infrastructure damaged. An individual homeowner with a couple of large trees down will need to pay $500 to $1,000 for a tree service to remove the debris from their property. Considering the median household income in Montgomery County, PA is $75,000, that is not an insubstantial sum.
The homeowner did not anticipate this expenditure and will react by not dining out, taking a shorter vacation, not buying that new couch, or not investing in their small business. A landlord who has to repair busted pipes will incur added expense, resulting in less profit. Less profit means less taxes paid to the state and federal government, exacerbating their budget deficits. The landlord will defer replacing that old air conditioner for at least another year. Multiply these scenarios across the entire Northeastern United States and you have the long-term negative financial implications outweighing the short-term boost to GDP.
The Keynesian fallacy of increased economic activity being beneficial is annihilated by the fact homeowners and business owners are left in the same condition as they were prior to the storms, while the money spent to achieve the same property condition was not spent on other goods and services that would have truly expanded the economy. The fallacious government engineered GDP calculation will portray destruction as an economic boost. Keynesian worshiping economists and government bureaucrats observe this tragedy as only between two parties, the consumer who is forced to repair their property and is denied the pleasure of spending their money on something more enjoyable and the tree service company who experiences a positive impact to their business. They exclude the appliance store, restaurant, or hotel that did not receive the money spent on repairing the property. It is this third unseen party who is left out of the equation. It is this third party that shows the absurdity of believing destruction leads to profit and economic advancement. The national economic output is not increased, but highly educated government drones and Wall Street captured economists will point to GDP and disseminate the fallacy.
This leads us to government in general and the fallacy that government spending, government borrowing, and government programs are beneficial to society and the economy. Legalized plunder of the populace through income taxes, real estate taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, cigarette taxes, license fees, sewer fees, tolls, and a myriad of other ass raping techniques is used to subsidize crony capitalist special interests, the military industrial complex, faux wars on poverty, drugs and terror, a failed public education system, vote buying entitlement programs, and a tax code written to benefit those who pay the biggest bribes to the corrupt politicians slithering around the halls of congress.
Government is a criminal enterprise designed to take from the weak and powerless while benefitting the connected and powerful. The government extracts the earnings of citizens and businesses at the point of a gun and redistributes those funds to special interests; funding boondoggles, wars of choice, foreign dictators, and the corporate and banking interests who control the puppet strings of Washington politicians. State organized and legal plunder designed to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else is the delusional fallacy permeating our cultural mindset today.
President Obama declared my region a disaster area, allowing for government funds to supposedly help in the cleanup efforts. Again, the fallacy of government intervention benefiting society is unquestioned by the ignorant masses. Local and State governments are required by law to balance their budgets. The never ending progression of storms and record cold temperatures has already blown the winter storm budgets of transportation departments across the region. Gaping potholes are swallowing vehicles and will need to be repaired.
Government spokespersons and politicians tell the public not to worry. The government will come to the rescue, even when the funds officially run out. They won’t react the way a family would react to a budget overage, by cutting spending in another area. We have had mild winters in the recent past when the winter road budgets were far under. Did the government set aside this surplus for winters like the one we are currently experiencing? Of course not – they spent it on some other boondoggle program or useless shovel ready bridge to nowhere. Government politicians and their lackeys do not look beyond their 2 year election cycle.
The government budget overages due to winter storms will show up in the GDP calculation as a positive impact. A snowplow pushing snow to the side of the road and a crew filing a pothole has put the roadway back into the condition it was prior to the bad weather. The roadway is exactly the same. The money spent could have been used to pay down debt, fund the government pension shortfalls which will overwhelm taxpayers in the foreseeable future, or be given back to citizens to spend as they choose. There has been no net benefit to society.
No government spending provides a net benefit to society. Every government program, law, regulation, subsidy, tax or fee gives rise to a series of effects. The immediate seen effect may be favorable in the eyes of myopic politicians and an ignorant populace, but most government intervention in our lives proves to be fatal and unsustainable in the long-term. Whatever short-term benefits might accrue is far outweighed by the long-term negative implications on future generations. All government expenditures are foisted upon the public either through increased taxation or state created surreptitious inflation.
We have a country built on a Himalayan mountain of fallacies. We are a short-term oriented people who only care about our present situation, giving no thought about long-term consequences of our policies, programs, laws or actions. Critical thinking skills, reasoning abilities, and a basic understanding of mathematical concepts appear to be beyond our grasp. We’d rather believe falsehoods than deal with the harsh lessons of reality. We choose to experience the severe penalties of burying our heads in the sand over using our God given ability to think and foresee the future consequences of our irrational choices. We suffer from the ultimately fatal disease of ignorance, as described by Bastiat.
This explains the fatally grievous condition of mankind. Ignorance surrounds its cradle: then its actions are determined by their first consequences, the only ones which, in its first stage, it can see. It is only in the long run that it learns to take account of the others. It has to learn this lesson from two very different masters – experience and foresight. Experience teaches effectually, but brutally. It makes us acquainted with all the effects of an action, by causing us to feel them; and we cannot fail to finish by knowing that fire burns, if we have burned ourselves. For this rough teacher, I should like, if possible, to substitute a more gentle one. I mean Foresight.
It’s a big country and one fallacy doesn’t fit all. Some fallacies are committed purposefully by evil men with evil intent. The Wall Street financial elite, big corporations, big media and their politician puppets fall into this category. Other fallacies are executed by people whose salary depends upon the fallacies being believed by the masses. Middle level bankers, managers, journalists, and bureaucrats fall into this category. And lastly you have the willfully ignorant masses who would rather believe fallacies than look up from their iGadgets, Facebook, and Twitter and think. The thing about fallacies is they eventually are buried under an avalanche of reality. If you listen closely you can hear the rumble of snow beginning to give way on the mountaintop. Fallacies are about to be crushed and swept away by the real world of consequences.
“Wall Street had been doing business with pieces of paper; and now someone asked for a dollar, and it was discovered that the dollar had been mislaid. It was an experience for which the captains of industry were not entirely prepared; they had forgotten the public. It was like some great convulsion of nature, which made mockery of all the powers of men, and left the beholder dazed and terrified. In Wall Street men stood as if in a valley, and saw far above them the starting of an avalanche; they stood fascinated with horror, and watched it gathering headway; saw the clouds of dust rising up, and heard the roar of it swelling, and realized it was only a matter of time before it swept them to their destruction…
But it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it.”
Upton Sinclair – The Moneychangers
The moral of the natural gas/winter weather story | Peak Oil News and Message Boards
The moral of the natural gas/winter weather story | Peak Oil News and Message Boards.
If the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop were alive today, he might have written a fable about North American energy markets. Aesop’s sheet of papyrus may have ended with the moral: “If you wait long enough, gas prices will go up.”
Last week, the ticker showed the highest continental natural gas prices in four years, momentarily bobbing above $5.50 (U.S.) per 1,000 cubic feet (Mcf) in the United States and $5 (Canadian) in Canada. We know Aesop could have easily penned another truism, “Cold weather drives higher prices,” but would he have offered the more complex wisdom: “Prices under $3.50 are not sustainable?”
Are we to believe that the days of two or three dollars for a 1,000 cubic feet of the coveted heating fuel are gone?
Since December, the shivering populace on the eastern side of the continental divide have dialled up their thermostats and brought vigour back to winter natural gas consumption. Scenes of snowy roads and frosty mustaches made it look like conditions were exceptionally frigid in the U.S. and Canada. They were (and still are). But averaged over the span of the continent, the numbers tell a different story; the spreadsheets show that what we have been experiencing is nothing more than a good old-fashioned winter. While thermometers have been showing cold in the east, readouts in western states like California have been indicating warm temperatures.
Of all the natural gas burned in North America in one year, between 30 and 35 per cent is seasonally related to warming up our bodies in the winter months. Heating Degree Days (HDDs) are a measure of cold weather intensity that correlate directly to natural gas consumption. Figure 1 shows weekly U.S. HDDs from 2000 to present. The seasonality of heating is obvious: Furnaces are turned off in mid-summer and blowing hard in the third week of January.
What’s notable about our HDD chart this week is that there is nothing notable about this winter of 2013-14. Total HDDs have been close to the long-term average, back to 2000. In fact, this winter’s performance is unremarkably reminiscent of the winter of 2009-10.
It was the winter of 2011-12 that was weird – one of the warmest on record. And last winter, that of 2012-13, was also anomalously short on heating, and therefore gas demand. Back to back, these abnormally weak winters were juxtaposed against excessive gas output from shale drilling. On top of that, large quantities of associated gas – natural gas liberated as a byproduct from oil drilling – also pressurized the pipeline gauges to “full.” Storage levels ballooned out as a consequence. Not enough consumption and too much production combined in a “perfect storm” that pummelled gas for two years hence.
Today, North American natural gas production is still rising, but nowhere near the growth rate experienced between 2007 and 2012. During that boom era, productive capacity in the U.S. expanded by 20 per cent (10 billion cubic feet a day). Today, output growth is running at a reasonable 2 per cent to meet incremental demands, which means that the demand-pull of a normal winter isn’t masked by a surplus of production.
By the numbers, this coming year is like déjà vu 2010, which was arguably a pretty “normal” year. Volumes of natural gas in storage today – where supply meets demand – are on a restrained 2010 trajectory. By association, price indications for 2014 also seem to be tracking 2010. Back then Henry Hub averaged $4.40 (U.S.) Mcf while AECO logged the year at $4.00 (Canadian) Mcf. Those numbers are reasonable expectations for 2014.
Yet neither producer nor consumer should believe that $4.00 (U.S.) Mcf ($3.50 U.S. Mcf AECO) is a stable price, although the bias is for a firmer floor. Volatile weather will always conspire to rattle the markets up and down. Fundamentals are running hot and cold too. New drilling and completion techniques continue to improve productivity, yet the marginal cost of bringing dry gas to market is still obscured by waste gas coming from oil drilling. Production growth is becoming increasingly dependent on “sweet” areas like the Marcellus (concentration of assets is usually accompanied by greater volatility). And the price impact of potential liquefied natural gas exports may excite markets in a couple of years.
More than anything, the past couple of months remind us that natural gas is a commodity that can’t sit still. Prices are, and will continue, to be volatile. So it’s prudent for both producers and consumers to heed Aesop’s advice in his classic winter fable, The Grasshopper and the Ant: “It is wise to plan for tomorrow today.”
Peter Tertzakian is chief energy economist at ARC Financial Corp. in Calgary and the author of two best-selling books, A Thousand Barrels a Second andThe End of Energy Obesity.