Farming versus Nature

A majestic view of the biosphere and of oneself.

Who does it better?

Can we really improve on nature? Is it remotely possible for us to reproduce her elegant mysteries or achieve her breathtaking biological efficiencies, or is our greatest work a crude parody?

Dr Kelli Archie, climate change lecturer, VUW.

In an article in yesterday’s Herald, Resistance is fertile in battle for our climate, (a Dr Who reference — hilarious!) Dr Kelli Archie (right, evincing a fine enthusiasm in the face of an imminent global calamity) makes a case for reducing our meat intake for the sake of climate control. The concept that anthropogenic climate change might be dangerous is sheer madness, so I recommend the term ‘climate control’ when the focus is humanity’s culpability, to emphasize its foolishness.

She’s not the first, of course—we’re increasingly badgered to give up our meat. In this cause, entrepreneurs smell an opportunity for profit, so plant-based meat substitutes are making ground in the marketplace and getting a lot of press. That’s just the market at work, but why should we avoid raising meat animals in the name of climate change? Why do people imagine that farming should be making some unnatural contribution to climate change?

Dr Archie is a climate change lecturer in the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington. She gets a few things wrong in her article, beginning with this astounding claim:

Nevertheless, there is at least one thing we can all (well, most of us) do that would make a big difference in the fight against climate change – modify the way we eat.

A big difference, eh? All right, what change in the global mean surface temperature would result from, say, a 30% reduction in meat-eating by, say, 2050—how big is big?

We need to start with the total amount of warming for a period, then how much warming we caused, then break it into sectors. In the AR5 SPM (p. 17) the IPCC tell us that warming of maybe 0.6°C or 0.7°C was observed across the globe from 1951 to 2010 (60 years). Of that, the IPCC say “more than half” was caused by us. It’s just a guess, but we’ll use it.

So, the warming over 60 years was 0.7°C and we caused at least 51%, which makes 0.36°C. But how much warming was from raising meat alone? Agriculture is responsible for about 25% of all human emissions, and presumably a quarter of that temperature rise, which would be 0.09°C over those 60 years. How much is our theoretical 30% reduction? Just 0.027°C—depressingly tiny after doing without 60 years’ worth of tasty steaks, roasts and bacon. Everyone in the whole, wide world.

So the warming saved by reducing our meat intake would be an amount too small to measure. But Dr Ritchie forgot to look for evidence that specifically shows that raising meat animals makes an unnatural contribution to climate change. It’s a serious oversight for a scientist.

What is farming? Fence a piece of land, remove trees that would impede pasture growth, suitably cultivate the earth, sow grass seed, fence off dangerous cliffs, bogs and bodies of water and introduce livestock good to eat. They eat the grass, the elements of the land, water and air go into their bodies, they thrive, reproduce and in due course we slaughter them, consume them and the elements of their bodies return to the land, water and air. So it goes on.

A savanna; the grass, the wildebeest, oh, the wildebeest.

Is the untamed wilderness any different? There’s a stretch of land containing pasture, trees, dangerous cliffs, bogs and bodies of water. The livestock come in, eat the grass, the elements of the land, water and air go into their bodies, they thrive, reproduce, some are eaten by predators, fall off the cliffs, into the bogs and bodies of water and die, the elements of their bodies returning to the land, water and air. So it goes on.

They are the same. Farming is not different from the wilderness. All the same things must occur, since plants and animals have the same requirements in both situations. About the only thing the farmer does that might be different is to add fertiliser occasionally to replenish the elements lost in taking the animals away for slaughter and consumption, though regionally or globally the subsequent decay into elements and their return to the soil, water and air is identical.

Dr Richie crams a lot of fads, popular mythology and modern superstition into this next paragraph:

Unlike changing light bulbs, changing our eating habits has so many added benefits. Eating a plant-based diet, rich in local and sustainable products, means better health, happier animals, a cleaner environment and more local jobs.

Added benefits? But who wants more after avoiding all that warming of 0.027°C? Why should a plant-based diet mean better health? Why should animals be happier—they’re always happy. The environment would be no cleaner than before, unless Dr Richie thinks that animal droppings are unclean (the earth doesn’t care). More local jobs? What about all the farm workers who lost their jobs raising beef, lamb, pigs, chickens, goats and deer?

Dr Richie shows us no evidence of an imbalance that might justify criticism of farming. Now where’s that bacon?

Let me know what you think.

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Mike JowseyDennis N HorneKleinefeldmausLarry KayMaggy Wassilieff Recent comment authors
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Magoo
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Magoo

Ah bacon, one of man’s great inventions. Fire, the wheel, & then bacon – the wonders of science. You can tell a lot about a person by their views on bacon.

Magoo
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Magoo

The feeling is mutual RT. We can’t have the haters & wreckers interfering with the bacon supply.

http://cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/419a6e53-39ae-4e38-874d-0f876837be00/25ca1e26-9757-473f-93f6-b3e528b66b21.jpg

jschnack - Katikati
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jschnack - Katikati

A question I’ve been meaning to research: Are there any more animals on earth now than there were 50 years ago? 100 years ago? 200 years ago? Clearly the ‘wild’ population has reduced, replaced by domesticated animals. But is the animal population significantly up that there is some merit to the ‘increased GHG’ argument from animals, or is it really ‘same, same’?

Alexander K
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Alexander K

The older I become (I am in my late 70s) the less meat I need to consume to stay healthy, but that is very different from choosing not to eat meat to prevent global warming, Why does so called higher education produce so many individuals who espouse strange and very unscientific beliefs despite their advanced education? It does not require long years of study to establish the difference between sense and stupidity.

Dennis N Horne
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Dennis N Horne

Is comparing the number of animals now with earlier times meant to show somehow that methane from ruminants is irrelevant now? Fact 1: the numbers then were relevant then and the numbers now are relevant now. Fact 2: as the numbers of wild animals dwindled, so did the methane and effect on the atmosphere. Fact 3. as the numbers have increased due to industrial farming, so has the methane and effect on the atmosphere. Richard. Your views are not endorsed by any institution or society, in any branch of science, in any part of the world. Fact 1. Human activity is causing all the warming, Earth would otherwise be cooling slightly. Fact 2. Mean global surface temperature is up 1C with a 40% increase in CO2. Fact 3. The mean land surface temperature is up 1C, and more than 2C in places. Fact 4. Agriculture accounts for 15% of global GHG emissions; in NZ nearly 50%. Please don’t eat too much bacon. It’s bad for you and I want you to live at least another 10 years. By then I suspect you’ll be eating your own words … although there’s not much goodness… Read more »

Andy
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Andy

Here is a puzzle for the festive season.

If I go into the hills with my trusty gun ( that I don’t have ) and shoot a deer or tahr, am I contributing to global warming? For sake of argument I’ll assume that I walk to the hills, not drive

If I shoot 100 rabbits on one evening, what is the climate impact?

I might pop down the pub and ask the locals

Maggy Wassilieff
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Maggy Wassilieff

We’ve been fed a lot of nonsense about our belching beasts.
It’s not a simple story of more cows = more methane in our atmosphere.

In 2008, the FAO recognised that there was no link between increasing ruminant numbers and atmospheric methane.
http://www-naweb.iaea.org/nafa/aph/stories/2008-atmospheric-methane.html
Currently, it looks like atmospheric methane levels may be rising slowly again…… who/what to blame this time?
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/12/why-atmospheric-methane-surging-hint-its-not-fracking

Gary Kerkin
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Gary Kerkin

Richard,

I think you missed the statement that should have her dismissed from her post: the appalling pun

Collectively we should be demanding rapid, top-down responses to climate change, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a little old-fashioned bottom-up approach as well.

Gary Kerkin
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Gary Kerkin

I don’t often think about stooping to the level of people like Dennis Horne but I have come very close to it this morning. On reflection, though, I won’t, and will renew my my desire to stay above it tomorrow night.

I wonder whether people who promote the views Dennis does ever stop to think about what they are writing or question the sources of their information? Dennis clearly denies that there are natural processes involved in global warming (“Human activity is causing all the warming, …”). He should ask himself (just a little thought experiment) how global temperatures fell from the Mediæval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age and then rose to the temperature of the early 20th Century without the influence of human caused emissions.

He is entitled to his opinion but should be wary of expressing those, and the opinions of others, as “facts”.

That said, Happy New Year all.

Magoo
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Magoo

Gary,

Dennis is just trolling, just laugh at him – it’s both hilarious and sad, like watching the village idiot choking on a chicken bone. He’s a dentist searching for a life purpose (dentists have a high suicide rate due to the depressing nature of their occupation):

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/most-suicidal-occupations-2011-10#19-natural-scientists-are-128-times-more-likely-to-commit-suicide-than-average-1

Magoo
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Magoo

I wasn’t suggesting Dennis top himself RT, I care for the happiness & well being of all in the climate debate (which is more than I can say for Dennis, who wishes us all an ‘Unhappy New Year’ & continuously calls us all derogatory names).

I’ve known 2 dentists and they both assured me it’s true, so I’m merely stating facts. Dennis comes across as a very unhappy & disgruntled person, & I doubt anything I can say will change that.

Alexander K
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Alexander K

Magoo is correct about the mental and physical health risks that the profession of dentistry faces. These are well documented in various reputable journals.
Dennis’s ill humour and ill will toward those he does not agree with, so freely expressed here, suggests that all is not well in his personal universe.

Andy
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Andy

OK, New Year’s Eve. I’m wishing everyone here (including Dennis) a very happy and prosperous New Year

may we overcome our differences and work together to make the world a better place

Larry Kay
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Larry Kay

I have a problem with your calculation of the cooling effects of vegetarians. For one thing, agriculture did not cause 25% of the AGW-attributed 0.36°C in the latter half of the 20th century. More like 11% and therefore 0.039·C. As approximately half the world’s population eats virtually no meat all and all the carnivores eat wheat, rice, corn, sorghum, soybeans, olives, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, etc, animal products probably amount to less than 20% of this total. Then deduct the fish and seafood, milk, cheese, eggs, etc that don’t fall within the genus of “meat”. At this point, we are surely down to 0.0039° or less. But the distinguished author is concerned only with emissions that “come in the form of methane from enteric fermentation (livestock burps) and nitrous oxide..” So she is excluding both poultry and pork – which make up the vast majority of “meat” consumed by humans. The figure reduces to less than 0.0018°C or a rate of 0.003°C/century. Can Dr Archie be seriously suggesting that the earth’s entire population should forego eating meat in the hope that the global future mean surface temperature might reduce by less than 3… Read more »

Dennis N Horne
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Dennis N Horne

The forum for scientific debate is scientific publishing. There is no scientific debate about the cause of present global warming: it’s human activity and GHG emissions must be reduced if we are to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Rational people defer to the global community of scientists. The RS, NAS, AAAS, APS, ACS, ASA etc etc etc all endorse the scientific consensus of more than 30,000 publishing climate scientists. Never before has science received so much attention. Magoof quotes IPCC but thinks his interpretation of the evidence is correct and that of hundreds of world-leading scientists – who actually wrote the report – are wrong. Explain that! If you can. Of course farming takes a toll on the environment. Industrial farming is shocking. In NZ farming accounts for nearly half GHG emissions. Producing meat is many more times destructive than other food. I can’t be bothered linking evidence because evidence has no effect on you. None at all. Unfortunately your votes have given populist politicians like Key an excuse for inaction. Looks like the young people who will inherit the mess we are making of our habitat must wait for a… Read more »

Larry Kay
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Larry Kay

Nick

Why do you alarmists feel a need to”interpret” the consensus science contained in thousands of pages of IPCC reports?

Why not just cite the relevant passage?

Only an extreme activist would claim that all current warming is attributable to humans. The literature, and worldwide policymakers, accept that the IPCC’s human attribution is limited to “more than half of the observed warming” during 1950-1999 (about 0.2°C).

And where does Dr Farci get her guess that 25% of emissions are caused by agriculture? Today’s New York Times (which always exaggerates climate matters) contends that the figure is 18%. It also says that avoiding food wastage would do more for mitigation that any drastic change in diet.

Magoo
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Magoo

Dennis,

‘Magoof quotes IPCC but thinks his interpretation of the evidence is correct and that of hundreds of world-leading scientists – who actually wrote the report – are wrong. Explain that! If you can.’

That’s easy dear boy. I agree with the ‘hundreds of world-leading scientists’ that believe CO2 warms the atmosphere, and I also agree with the scientist’s empirical temperature datasets in the IPCC report (GISS, NOAA, HadCRUT, UAH, RSS, etc.) – i.e. the empirical datasets that falsify the non-empirical climate models.

Only an imbecile would make the idiotic assumption that the ‘hundreds of world-leading scientists – who actually wrote the report’ all agree with each other. The empirical temperature dataset scientists don’t agree with the climate model scientists, & neither do I – see for yourself:
comment image

Which of the scientists in the IPCC report do you disagree with Dennis dear boy, the empirical dataset ones who falsify the climate models, or the climate model ones that are falsified by ALL the empirical datasets?

You really do walk straight into these traps you set for yourself dear boy, I think you need a good holiday – rest your mind a bit.

Dennis N Horne
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Dennis N Horne

You’ve probably realised by now I don’t actually read your comments. None of you is in a position to challenge the orthodox science. Even if you were qualified to do so, you need to do so within the forum of scientific publishing: journals. Meaningful questions on the science might get answered at http://www.realclimate.org Here is a simple report. Everything in it is backed by evidence produced and accepted by tens of thousands of expert climate scientists and endorsed by the global community of scientists. No rational person can reject it on the grounds there is an ongoing scientific debate. There isn’t. https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/98020081/some-new-zealand-climate-change-impacts-may-already-be-irreversible-government-report-says – Last updated 17:17, October 19 2017 Climate change may have already had an irreversible impact on New Zealand’s natural systems and the effects are likely to worsen, a new Government report says. Data showed conclusively that temperatures had already risen by one degree in New Zealand, which would have an impact on the economy, extreme weather events, biodiversity and health. The Our Climate and Atmosphere report, released by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) and Statistics New Zealand on Thursday, revealed the country’s glaciers had lost nearly a quarter of… Read more »

Maggy Wassilieff
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Maggy Wassilieff
Maggy Wassilieff
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Maggy Wassilieff

I hope this history of manufacturing consensus gives rational people reason to pause before accepting arguments from consensus about climate change.

Judith Curry presents a look at the early history of the IPCC
https://judithcurry.com/2018/01/03/manufacturing-consensus-the-early-history-of-the-ipcc/#more-23734

Magoo
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Magoo

Dennis,

‘You’ve probably realised by now I don’t actually read your comments.’

Of course you read them dear boy, you often unsuccessfully attempt to debate points from them. You just deny that you read them because you lose the debate every time.

Now, back to my previous question dear boy – which scientists in the IPCC report do you disagree with Dennis, the empirical temperature dataset scientists who falsify the climate models, or the climate model scientists that are falsified by ALL the empirical datasets?
comment image

Extreme weather? That’s hilarious, you obviously haven’t read the IPCC AR5 chapter on extreme weather. Very funny.

BTW dear boy, you often mention the Royal Society, do you know what their motto is? Nullius in verba; (Take nobody’s word for it).

Gary Kerkin
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Gary Kerkin

Sorry, Richard, I’ve not been looking at CCG in the last few days.

The “appalling pun” is

a little old-fashioned bottom-up approach as well.

Think in terms of where animal wastes originate.

Magoo, thanks for your comments. I appreciate your point. I didn’t know he is a dentist and I didn’t know about the suicide rate amongst dentists. I can certainly appreciate why it could be a problem, given the nature of the work. Especially knowing a couple who were involved in forensic dentistry, both of whom were in SE Asia twice after disastrous tsunamis, and having heard their accounts of the experiences.

Noting the comment from Horne that he never reads other comments I suspect he is a little more than just a troll. And he does get into debates although, as you mention, he bails when he apprehends that he is losing. In some ways I am amused that he appears not to appreciate that whereas we do not deny the physical evidence in front of us, we don’t accept the validity of hypotheses for which there is no supporting empirical evidence.

Andy
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Andy

Either you accept the report or you are a climate science denier.

I don’t accept the report, as the report claims that sea level rise has doubled in the last 100 years, which is in contradiction to peer reviewed literature on the subject which claims that there is no acceleration in sea levels

Andy
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Andy

This article on Stuff has to be the shortest ever:
http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/climate-news/100345267/2017-was-earths-second-hottest-year-on-record

The article concludes:

Sixteen of the 17 warmest years have all been this century.

MORE TO COME*
*not just with this particular story, but also climate change in general.

I’m guessing the Christmas interns are running the climate change story dept over the holidays

Simon
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Simon

The Our Atmosphere and Climate 2017 report reports actual measured sea level rise, all fully cross-referenced. A lot of people today learnt the folly of building too close to the ocean.

Andy
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Andy

I have been following a thread on Facebook for the NZ Coastal Residents today. Obviously there has been a lot of rain, and combined with king tides, is causing big problems, particularly in the North Island

However, the Christchurch City Council have been posting road closure information that appears to be fake.

There were two separate reports of Rocking Horse Road (Southshore) being closed due to flooding. The locals reported no road signs and no indication of flooding other than a bit extra water in the culverts. The first was reported to council. They changed the notice and moved to flooding to somewhere else on the same street, that had no flooding

If you think I am paranoid, then am. These guys have been trying to screw the Southshore residents ever since the earthquakes

Ian Cooper
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Ian Cooper

It was interesting comparing items on TV 1 news tonight with the great variety in weather related events from here and around the world. Firstly I would like to highlight comments from an elderly gentlemen badly affected by the strong storm surges in the Firth of Thames area. A man with a surname of Cooper, but that wasn’t what caught my ear as much as his comment, “That it was all just nature!” or something similar. His partner had only been in NZ for 20 years and hadn’t seen anything like it in that time. Fair enough, 20 years is a short time span for this sort of event. Compare that to the one line played from an interview with the mayor of Boston, Mass. who claimed that the storm surges there, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in the past 30 years, were proof positive that global warming was having an impact on severe weather, and it was plain for all to see! It reminds me of the hyperbole coming from the mouths of alarmists in Queensland earlier this decade when they claimed that the flooding they experienced as a result… Read more »

Maggy Wassilieff
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Maggy Wassilieff

The Mayor of Boston seems to have forgotten that much of his city is built on a landfilled tidal marsh and the Atlantic seaboard is subsiding.
https://www.amazon.com/Bostons-Back-Bay-Americas-Nineteenth-Century/dp/1555536808

Ian Cooper
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Ian Cooper

A good point Maggy. I would suggest that a majority of towns and cities have been founded in places that given our current knowledge of the geology and oceans nearby would not now be chosen in the same fashion. I’m not saying that Boston would not exist, but perhaps certain factors would have shifted it to a place considered ‘better’ by modern standards. Our forebears didn’t have that knowledge but they made their decisions on other constraints at the time.

Would the founders of Christchurch knowing about liquefaction, have allowed major construction in those areas susceptible to that phenomenon? Auckland and Portland, Oregon have been built on a dormant volcanic field and their citizens will face the consequences one day. Throughout history cities have been devastated by earthquakes and yet relatively few have been abandoned altogether. In most cases people learn from the disaster, rebuild and carry on. Humans adapt, even Bostonians!

BTW Maggy, are you related to the late Alex Wassilieff of Hiwinui, Manawatu?

Maggy Wassilieff
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Maggy Wassilieff

Alex is my hubby’s father.

Ian Cooper
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Ian Cooper

I lived down the road from him 30+ years ago Maggy, when he joined our local astronomical society. He was one of my mentors up until he passed away. I learnt that the rewards come to those who wait when working with a perfectionist. We almost collaborated on an internationally published astronomy handbook, but Alex became very frustrated with the American publishing company and their inability to use CCD images that he was a New Zealand pioneer in. Nothing but the best would have his name on it. At one stage I too was going to pull the plug on that project, but continued with the memory of Alex in mind. A lot of fun memories from his sense of humour. A man who took no prisoners when it came to intellectual discussions would not have given much time to those promoting human induced catastrophe that we see now.

Maggy Wassilieff
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Maggy Wassilieff

Thanks for that Ian.
How Alex managed to get any decent viewing stuck at the entrance of the Manawatu Gorge was a wonder.
It always seemed to be cloudy/raining when we went to visit.
Great to see that the PNAS is still active and producing great images.
We live just beyond the Cook Observatory on Kaiti Hill.
Come & visit if you venture up to Gisborne.

Larry Kay
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Larry Kay

Many academics have been preaching the virtue of eschewing meat in oder to reduce “carbon footprints”. So how well has that worked in the real world, away from the university campus?

“The American appetite for meat is expected to hit an all time high this year.

Annual red-meat and poultry consumption in America will reach 222 pounds per person for the first time ever in 2018, according to food-availability estimates by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The numbers measure how food supplies move from production to retail for domestic consumption. At 222 pounds per person, overall meat consumption comes out to the equivalent of more than 800 quarter-pound burgers per person when measured by weight, or about 2.4 burgers per day.”

https://qz.com/1171669/the-average-american-will-eat-the-equivalent-of-800-hamburgers-in-2018

Hmm … better go back to bicycles and candles, Dr Archie! The veggie meme doesn’t seem to be working.

Ian Cooper
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Ian Cooper

Cheers for the invite Maggy. It has been nearly 11 years since I was last up the East Coast. The reason that I moved to west of the city 30 years ago was to get away from the influence of the ‘Gorgeous Gorge!’ I worked in the Gorge on and off over 13 years back then so I know its influence only too well. The Gorge has a great influence on our weather and long term climate in much the same way as Cook Strait and Mt Egmont/Taranaki have in their areas. The plethora of wind farms situated near the Gorge is testament to its influence. I note however that despite this regions’ renowned reputation for persistent wind this hasn’t always been the case. Since records for wind in this region began after WWII there was a period of nearly 15 years when the windrun was probably only half of what it was in the 80’s when it peaked (especially during the Grand El Nino of 1982-83 when I moved to Hiwinui). Those peak figures are what sold people on the idea of the Gorge area being ideal for wind farms. I’m not… Read more »

Kleinefeldmaus
Guest
Kleinefeldmaus

And then there’s this! Dennis Horne of Howick – surely not!
https://youtu.be/rEDZiwjGlgU?t=3

Dennis N Horne
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Dennis N Horne

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11973975 Record marine heatwave to ‘energise’ coming storm. 12 Jan, 2018 The “marine heatwave” that’s engulfed New Zealand this summer made the Tasman Sea the warmest it ever had been for December. And now meteorologists say it could energise a storm forecast to hit the country early next week. At its peak, the La Nina-fuelled marine heatwave pushed sea surface temperatures to more than 6C above normal in some parts of the Tasman. Warmer water: good for pilots ending up in the drink! 🙂 HEATWAVE TO ‘DAMPEN DOWN’ NEXT MONTH MetService meteorologist Lisa Murray said some the summer had began with waters in some places around New Zealand being 4C warmer than normal for that time of year. It had also had a big impact on some of the weather we’d seen so far in the season, she said. “Put simply; warmer water evaporates more which increases the amounts of water particles into the air, so when the water particles condense there is more latent heat released.” This latent heat was a key ingredient to lows deepening rapidly – or even explosively. “An example of sea surface temperatures contributing to the development of… Read more »

Mike Jowsey
Guest
Mike Jowsey

Denis. You are of course talking about weather, not climate change. Disingenuous.

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