Greenwashing the Significant (and discretionary) Impacts of Aviation

20160509cpy.. The Magic of Green Marketing'

(click on image to view source/original article at UpperBlackEddy.us)

Airlines for America can spin all they want, to try and convince the world that the  negative impacts of air travel can be conveniently overlooked, but it does not change the reality: that aside from war and arson, air travel is the most intensive human activity today, for the consumption of fossil fuels and the creation of greenhouse gasses. Always, these examples of greenwashing are aimed at helping people justify more consumption while ignoring the consequences of that consumption. But, our planet is finite. We simply cannot afford to continue these Ponzi schemes that say, we do better and better if we consume more and more. More consumption is now proving to mean more destruction.

Stepping above the debate and denialism, if the global warming and climate change issues are as dangerous as they conceivably are, and given that the impacts appear to be rapidly accelerating, it will do us no good to allow our planet to be destroyed. Do we really want to come to a day, perhaps to be lived by our babies born today, when a few rockets will launch in a vain attempt to save the human species?

If those rockets send our most politically powerful elites, will the species have a chance by sustaining the genepool of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton?

Someday, if these rockets send off our most politically powerful elites, will the species have a chance … by sustaining the genepools and characters of people like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? (click on image to view source tweet by FAA, about a recent commercial rocket launch)

Pennsylvania to Vote in Primaries This Tuesday

(click on image to view tweet with short video clip)

(click on image to view tweet with short video clip)

20121105pic.. Flooding at KLGA post, Delta jetbridge

Flooding at La Guardia Airport caused by Hurricane Sandy, in 2012.

Today is the last Sunday before the presidential primaries in five key states, including Pennsylvania. I ran across a tweet with a short video clip at a Bernie Sanders rally, and a speaker noting that climate change will cause the airport at Philadelphia to become flooded. I have thoroughly studied airports across the nation, and have blogged before about flooding risks impacting Florida as well as LaGuardia and other major airports. But, until hearing this Bernie 2016 speaker, I had always assumed the Philly airport was at a safer and higher elevation. So, I looked up the data; the speaker was absolutely correct.
The major hub airport at Philadelphia [KPHL] is on the north bank of the Delaware River, not far from the northern tip of the Chesapeake Bay. A look at the Airport Diagram shows that all four KPHL runways are very vulnerable to flooding; low points on each of the four runways are between 8-ft MSL and 10-ft MSL. While FAA is spending billions to further overdevelop KPHL, we are ignoring the risks of flooding, which grow greater each year. All to subsidize airline profits and prop up wasteful airport programs and corrupt incumbent politicians.

(four low elevations marked with yellow boxes)

(four low elevations marked with yellow boxes)

Pennsylvania gets to vote in the primaries this week. We have endured too many decades of top-down control by the two major parties, and the balance continues to tip toward expanding the wealth gap, enriching elected officials (like the Clintons), all while a full-blown oligarchy is setting in. We need real and rational change, and it is more easily done now than later.

There is only one candidate who accepts the real threat to our planet caused by our excessive consumption of fossil fuels. There is only one candidate who is not beholden to money interests such as the fossil fuel industry, the Av-Gov complex, the banks, pharma, etc. There is only one candidate demanding an end to our corrupt ‘pay-to-play’ politics … demanding real reforms so we have effective governance that is transparent and accountable. That candidate is Bernie Sanders.

Greenland Ice Facing an Early Melt Season (and new records)

An interesting article by the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), detailing this year’s extraordinarily warm arctic winter and accelerating Greenland melt rates.

20160412.. Unusually Early Greenland Melt (Danish Meteorological Institute, PolarPortal.dk)

(click on image to view article at polarportal.dk)

Given that the mainstream media (and the airlines and other industries that buy services from the media) continue to downplay and ignore these developments, here is a simple list of what this plausibly means re our planetary future:

  1. melting Greenland ice is creating a lens of cold fresh water, accumulating in the northern Atlantic; this is shunting the warm-water Gulf Stream, which backs up against the cold lens and is forced to dive under the cold fresh water.
  2. the result, in climate terms, is a developing configuration with an area of very warm water adjacent to an area of very cold water; this configuration tends to intensify weather patterns, creating a high frequency of weather events with stronger winds and larger rainfalls/flooding (sort of like turning up the heat under a tea kettle; water that had been warm but quiescent now starts to circulate and bubble).
  3. other climate change results include an intensified north-south flow of weather patterns that causes rapid temperature fluctuations from unseasonably warm to killing frosts; on a local level, this will potentially destroy trees and other perennial plants, while also reducing our ability to produce needed annual food crops.
  4. the ice melt from both Arctic and Antarctic regions will increase the volume of water in our oceans, which in turn will cause tens of meters of sea level rise; major cities (and airports) will be flooded, including: London, New York, Miami, Shanghai, Bangkok, Rome, Buenos Aires, and many more. Hundreds of millions of people will be displaced; extraordinary acreages of the most productive farmland will be lost.

The connection to aviation comes in these ways:

  • First, the evident root cause of this climate change is the collective (and excessive) consumption of fossil fuels by all of humanity.
  • Some forms of fossil fuel consumption are more necessary, while some are more discretionary. While heating homes and providing electricity are relatively ‘necessary’ across the globe, flying for business or pleasure is a very discretionary activity.
  • The per capita rate of fossil fuel consumption is not even close to level; while some populations consume almost no fossil fuels, other populations are ‘off the charts’ due to daily commutes, air travel, suburban sprawl, etc.
  • Aviation is extraordinarily dependent on fossil fuels, in that we are nowhere close to developing alternative energy sources that can efficiently power scheduled passenger or cargo flights.
  • there is no other common human activity that consumes fossil fuels – and generates CO2 and other pollutants – at a faster rate than does aviation. The per capita pollution rate is particularly intense for business jet (bizjet) operations. Instead of tax laws that incentivize acquisition and use of bizjets, we need tax laws that strongly disincentivize.
  • The conversion of farmlands from growing food to growing aviation biofuels is absurd, unjust, and ultimately undermines security across vast regions of the world.
  • The combustion of fossil fuels at higher altitudes is believed to create significant air pollutants, including soot that precipitates onto areas of polar ice, thus further accelerating ice melt and sea level rise.

See also:

Is This Why Hillary ‘Lost Her Tone’ the Other Day?

When she blew up at the Greenpeace activist who asked her a civil question, perhaps it was because she cannot stand the momentum shift? She was once invincible and only waiting through the process until election day. But not anymore. The Bernie Sanders campaign sent out this email today, illustrating the huge momentum shift in the past three weeks:

20160403scp.. winning percentages ID,UT,AK,HI,WA & abroad (email from B.Sanders campaign)

The next big step in the Democratic Primary happens on Tuesday, with the caucus in Wisconsin. For what it is worth, I find the Sanders platform attractive because it resonates deeply with the underlying mission of Aviation Impact REFORM. The Sanders platform emphasis is where it needs to be, aimed at producing long-overdue reforms:

  1. maximum transparency
  2. equitable and just treatment of all people
  3. verifiable accountability of government employees and officials
  4. empowerment of individuals and local communities – give the people the data and information, so they can become meaningfully involved
  5. acceptance of the need to rapidly end our dependence on fossil fuels; i.e., taking actions, including in aviation, to address the emerging climate change crisis.

It seems hard to refute that the political party duopoly in the U.S. is insufferable for its abuse of power and enabling of limitless corruption. This corruption consistently benefits corporations and elite wealth, yet hurts the diminishing middle class … and ALWAYS includes rich kickbacks to the politicians nearest the top of the parties. Like Hillary’s $225,000 Wall Street speeches (and, yes, she really does need to share transcript copies!). And the problem is undeniably bipartisan: all of our recent Presidents – both Bushes, as well as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – have reaped huge rewards by acting as ‘cheerleader-in-chief’ for the establishment, while doing nothing about whistleblower retaliations and agencies that blow off the FOIA laws. Think about it: if Hillary cannot even share a speech transcript, why would she EVER be expected to demand FAA release records that show ATC’s watching movies or concealing controller errors? If she is such a beneficiary friend to corporations, how could she EVER insist on cleaning up the NextGen impacts, or demand an end to excessive airline mergers?

Hillary Clinton has made it quite clear: she plans to emulate the Bushes and Bill and Barack. She plans to extend the failed practices of the corrupted modern U.S. duopoly. So, I hope Bernie Sanders does well in Wisconsin and continues onward to eventually win the nomination, as needed to help us all reclaim the future we are losing.

Fossil Fuel Campaign Contributions: ‘I Am So Sick’

On the campaign trail, candidate Hillary Clinton lost her cool in this quick exchange, caught on video:

citizen: “Thank you for tackling climate change. Will you act on your words and reject future fossil fuel money in your campaign?” 

20160331scp.. 'I am So SICK!'

Hillary: “I do not have… I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies. I am so sick… I AM SO SICK of the Sanders campaign lying about me. I’m sick of it.”

Hillary then walks on, and resumes working the crowd.

20160331.. 'I'm the Greenpeace Activist who Asked HRC to Pledge rejecting FF money'(E.Resnick-Day, Greenpeace)

(click on image to view a PDF copy of the Greenpeace blog post)

The citizen was Eva Resnick-Day, and she followed up with a blog post about the incident. Eva is NOT affiliated with the Sanders campaign, but works for Greenpeace and is an activist for both democracy and climate action. Given the emerging reality of climate change, and also given the total reliance of aviation on FOSSIL FUELS, it is critical that our future political leaders can recognize the problems and initiate plans to fix the problems. It is also critical that our leaders guide us away from what appears to be a trend toward fascism dressed up as a self-serving ‘collaboration’ between bureaucrats, elected officials and corporate interests … such as we see with today’s matured ‘Av-Gov Complex’.

Hillary’s ‘I am so sick!’ reaction, and her evident intent to continue business as usual is simply unacceptable.


See also:
  • 4/1/2016 – copy of an email sent out by BernieSanders.com. Includes a link to a petition asking candidate Clinton to pledge to reject fossil fuel campaign donations.

Arctic Sea Ice Continues Decaying to Record Lows

Slowly, the mainstream media is coming around to cease enabling denialism of climate change and anthropogenic global warming. An initial watermark was the revelation last year that Exxon Mobil had spent decades hiding research results and giving millions to entities that worked to seed doubt. A more recent watermark is found by simply looking at the Arctic sea ice decline. We reasonably assess polar sea ice decline in three ways: areal extent of the ice, thickness of the ice, and age-distribution of the ice. The latter two parameters are of course closely related.

Here are two graphics depicting the extraordinarily rapid destruction of the Arctic ice that has existed throughout human history, providing a stabilizing base for our weather patterns. The embedded video shows a time-lapse simulation of daily Arctic sea ice extent from September 2015 onward. The JPEG below compiles four images, at 8-year intervals from 1990 to 2014, showing the near-disappearance of all ice more than 2-years old.

SOURCE: NSIDC via Climate Central and Ecowatch.com (click on image to view a 22-second video with weekly ice conditions over the 1990-2015 timeframe)

SOURCE: NSIDC via Climate Central and Ecowatch.com (click on image to view a 22-second video with weekly ice conditions over the 1990-2015 timeframe)

Aviation, especially by residents of the most ‘advanced’ economies, makes a substantial contribution to this sea ice decline, both in generated greenhouse gasses and in dark soot that accumulates on the ice and then accelerates summer melting.

Research suggests that our continued excessive fossil fuel consumption is the root cause of this rapid polar ice decline and related phenomena of global warming, weather intensification, and regional instabilities. Further, that if trends continue, we will soon be urgently seeking ways to stop generating greenhouse gasses such as CO2. This distills down to a problem of hyper-consumption, and in solving the problem one of the easiest targets is aviation. So, perhaps in the next few years we might see a stiff carbon tax on all aviation fuels, to discourage excessive flying in all forms: commercial airline passengers, subsidized bizjets (for business, as well as for golf junkets), and even small plane recreational flying.


See also:
  • 2/21/2016 – What Happens if Arctic Ice Seasonally Disappears?
  • 2/9/2016 – ICAO Announces New CO2 Rules … Their Proposal is All Hype & Offers Little Meaningful Progress
  • 7/24/2015 – Arctic Ice Melt on a Tear in Recent Weeks
  • 12/9/2014 – Oceans Will Rise more Quickly as Antarctic Ice Melt Accelerates
  • 10/9/2012 – Is Arctic ice melting faster than expected?

Arctic Sea Ice Setting Multiple New Record Lows in 2016

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), in Boulder, CO, updates a webpage each day, showing the measured sea ice extent for both the Arctic and Antarctic polar regions. The data is presented via a user-customizable chart, called the ‘Charctic Interactive Sea Ice Graph’. Here is a screen-cap of a recent chart, with additional content added by aiREFORM.com:20160218scp.. Peak date arctic sea ice extent

This chart shows daily Arctic sea ice extent for selected years (2006, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016) for the calendar window from approximately January 15th through March 26th each year. The  color-codes for the lines representing each year are noted in the index; the heavy black line (highest plot) represents an average for all years 1981-2010. The gray background band represents a range of +/-2 standard deviations for the 1981-2010 dataset.

For each calendar year, there is a date at which the peak Arctic sea ice extent is reached. Following that date, sea ice extent declines until reaching an annual cyclical bottom, typically in mid- to late- September. Vertical red lines have been added to help see the dates of peak sea ice extent. The ‘average’ date for peak ice, as suggested by the 1981-2010 average plot, is March 13th. Note that the peak for 2015 was the earliest on record: February 25th. Now, for this year, as of February 17th, the Arctic sea ice extent is 14.203 square kilometers. We are at an all-time low record, and nearly 2% below last year, when we had 14.469 square kilometers extent.

So far this year, the sea ice extent has set new records for three different time periods: January 3-9, February 2-6, and for the past week (starting on February 11). This data offers yet one more indicator suggesting that we are imposing very rapid and very significant warming onto our planet, with a consequence of accelerated polar ice melting.


See also:

Global Atmospheric CO2 Appears to be Accelerating

Of the many adverse impacts caused by aviation, the slowest to set in is likely climate change, as will eventually follow from our excessive consumption of fossil fuels. One of the points emphasized within this website is that aviation, with very high fuel burn rates needed to power aircraft, has an exceptionally high rate of CO2 generation per minute. Another key point is that the ‘decision’ to travel by air is exceptionally discretionary. In other words, in the largest analysis we do not have to travel long distances, but it has been our cultural habit that ‘we choose to’, and in so doing we generate a very substantial CO2 impact in a short period of time. Seemingly, if we ever get serious about reducing our CO2 generation, aviation is a logical first target – the easy-to-pick low-hanging fruit. An easy adjustment to our cultural habit will be to significantly reduce air travel, and also ensure our aviation regulators are disincentivizing fuel-inefficient practices such as trips via hubs off the direct route, or use of over-congested airports.

Regular measurements of the level of atmospheric CO2 began in the late 1950s. The Keeling Curve is broadly accepted as the original and longest standing CO2 chart, depicting daily readings near the summit of Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Here is a recent screen capture of the Keeling Curve, posted by Scripps:20160217scp.. Keeling Curve, 2yr view, annotated for annual changesAt the Scripps website, the chart is viewable in a variety of timeframes. The above is a 2-year view, showing readings from mid-February 2014 through 2/15/2016. The curve is striking in its regularity, and in the consistent sawtooth pattern that has been climbing roughly two parts per million each year. On this image, lines have been added (red, and orange) to aid in quantifying year-to-year changes. The annual changes are then quantified, using red numbers (e.g., “+2.0”). The four annual changes, in sequence, are:

  1. peak 2014 to peak 2015 (approx. 5/20/2015): +2.0 ppm
  2. trough 2014 to trough 2015 (approx. 9/25/2015): +2.7 ppm
  3. January 1, 2015 to January 1, 2016: +3.0 ppm
  4. February 1, 2015 to February 1, 2016: +3.1ppm.

This would appear to show a substantial acceleration has occurred since last May. We will know better in another year, if it is a data anomaly or the leading edge of a major shift. If it is the latter, we can expect further acceleration of polar ice melts, sea rise, and weather intensification and ‘weirding’.

The case for a unified action against climate change may soon become more urgent.

One U.S. Corporation, AT&T, Warned Us About Climate Change in 1958

Sixty years ago, CO2 was not even an issue. There were some scientists thinking ahead and stating it might eventually become an issue, but it was not until the late 1950s that we even developed a means to accurately measure atmospheric CO2, to document trends from year to year. Surprisingly, one of those early ‘scientists’ was actually a ‘scientist character’ in a science film directed by Frank Capra. Mr. Capra is familiar to many who have watched classic movies he directed in the 1930s and 1940s, such as ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, both starring James Stewart. Mr. Capra earned his college degree at Cal Tech, after studying chemical engineering. He got into the film industry and was successful, winning three ‘Best Director’ Oscars by 1938. When World War II broke out, Mr. Capra enlisted in the Army, where he helped create propaganda films. In the mid-1950s, he was hired by the original telecommunications giant, AT&T, to produce the first four in a series of nine educational films called ‘The Bell Laboratory Science Series’. These 16mm films were widely distributed to schools, free of charge. Estimates are that, by the late 1960s, five million school children and a half million college students had watched these films.

The fourth film by Mr. Capra was released in 1958, the same year FAA was created by Congress. ‘Unchained Goddess’ presents a discussion between a scientist and a writer, rehearsing for their science TV show. Their work area includes a ‘magic screen’ upon which animation appears. Part of that animation is a set of weather gods, including Meteora, the Goddess of Weather. The interactions with the magic screen and the animated figures aids in explaining all sorts of weather phenomena, while also showing weather equipment and the labor-intensive work of technicians at the National Weather Analysis Center.20160217scp.. labor-intensive weather bureau, at time 2400 of 1958 version 'Unchained Goddess'Here’s a 2-minute clip focused on the portion most relevant today, where Mr. Capra’s scientist offers the 1958 view of possible consequences of global warming:

A Series of Embedded Videos:

Isaac Asimov, speaking in January 1989 (~2-minutes):

A short film from perhaps 3-5 years ago, featuring the start of “Unchained Goddess’, followed by a plausible documentary looking back from the year 2053 (6-minutes)…

…and an image within this film, showing rising seas inundating the southeast:20160217scp.. SE U.S. 30m sea level rise, from time 0422 in short-updated version of 'Unchained Goddess'
Lastly, the complete 1958 film by Frank Capra (55-minutes):

Airport Weather Observations (METARs) for Winter Storm Jonas

20160124cpy.. Winter Storm Jonas snow depth map (WeatherChannel)A storm for the record books, Jonas is also understood to be an indication of storms to come. And, it is not a stretch to understand the cause and effect – the link between these extreme weather events and our energy consumption habits:

  • excessive fossil fuel consumption, causes…
    • …excessive greenhouse gas accumulation, causes…
      • …geologically rapid and substantial temperature increases, causes…
        •  …a more energized weather system, with more heat energy and larger amounts of water vapor, causes…
          • …more violently-interacting air masses (hence, intensified weather).

So, in the course of just a few human generations, we are literally destroying the habitability of our waters and our air. And aviation is very much at the heart of this problem. Not only is aviation arguably the poster-child of excessive and arbitrary energy consumption, but this industry also relies heavily on fossil fuel consumption (and it does us no real benefit to take food crops out of production to grow biofuels for aviation!). Thus, our best political leaders (if we have any?!) will take note: aviation is perhaps the most logical first target within the transportation sector, for meaningful action to address our growing problem of excessive atmospheric CO2.

Weather & Aviation

Aviation safety has always depended on accurate and detailed weather predictions and observations. The international system for recording weather observations is METAR. METAR observations are recorded at least once per hour at most U.S. airports, and more frequently when conditions are changing or marginal. Although the intricate coding may feel a bit ‘geeky’, it is not difficult to learn to read METARs; see Reference Materials for Decoding METARs.

July 22, 2013: Dangerous crosswinds and tailwinds contributed to this high-speed landing and nose gear collapse for a Southwest KLGA arrival.

METARs are also an excellent resource to use, to help predict the flow configurations and thus the likely impacts on your home or community, as caused by your local airport. ATC constantly refers to METARs to make runway change decisions. In most cases, ATC selects a runway configuration that is aligned into the wind, to maximize safety. At some of the most congested airports though (LGA and JFK come to mind), FAA’s failure to stop excessive airline scheduling has created barriers to runway changes, and has thus created unsafe landing conditions. These conditions have contributed to incidents, sometimes with injuries or worse. One example: the July 22, 2013 crash of Southwest Flight #345 while landing at La Guardia.

DIY: Viewing METARs Online

Most of the larger snow-impacted airports include snowfall and accumulated snow depth in their METAR observations. The METAR observations, recorded 3-times per hour during most of this weather event, offer a fascinating and precise insight into the weather severity.

Here is a summary of snowfall totals and snow history for the ten largest commercial service airports, listed from north to south. For each airport, three blue links include the aiREFORM airport page, the current METAR (showing the last 168 observations), and the NOAA forecast:

[KBOS] — Boston-Logan Airport
Snowfall first reported at 1:54pm Saturday, ended 11-hours later at 12:04am Sunday. Snow Depth not recorded. Peak winds 35 gusting to 45.METARForecast
[KPVD] — Providence Airport
Snowfall first reported at 12:30pm Saturday, ended 10-hours later at 10:16pm Saturday. Snow Depth not recorded. Peak winds 29 gusting to 38.METARForecast
[KISP] — Long Island / Islip Airport
Snowfall first reported at 11:56pm Friday, ended 29-hours later at 4:56am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 23-inches. Peak winds 36 gusting to 52.METARForecast
[KLGA] — LaGuardia Airport
Snowfall first reported at 10:30pm Friday, ended 28-hours later at 2:45am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 28-inches. Peak winds 32 gusting to 48.METARForecast
[KJFK] — JFK Airport
Snowfall first reported at 9:49pm Friday, ended 27-hours later at 2:51am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 30-inches. Peak winds 33 gusting to 46.METARForecast
[KEWR] — Newark Airport
Snowfall first reported at 9:28pm Friday, ended 29-hours later at 2:51am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 21-inches. Peak winds 30 gusting to 39.METARForecast
[KPHL] — Philadelpia Airport
Snowfall first reported at 6:34pm Friday, ended 28-hours later at 10:19pm Saturday. Snow Depth not recorded. Peak winds 31 gusting to 49.METARForecast
[BWI] — Baltimore-Washington Airport
Snowfall first reported at 1:38pm Friday, ended 35-hours later at 12:54am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 27-inches. Peak winds 23 gusting to 37.METARForecast
[KIAD] — Washington-Dulles Airport
Snowfall first reported at 12:52pm Friday, ended 35-hours later at 11:52pm Saturday. Snow Depth reached 23-inches. Peak winds 28 gusting to 46.METARForecast
[KDCA] — Washington-Reagan Airport
Snowfall first reported at 12:59pm Friday, ended 36-hours later at 12:52 am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 18-inches. Peak winds 29 gusting to 43.METARForecast

And, here is a compilation of the METARs for all ten airports, converted into a scrollable PDF file:

This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

Next Up: The Melting

The initial snowfall and winds are just Part One of this weather event. Part Two will soon play out, as the accumulated snowfall melts and eventually flows away. Depending on how much (and how quickly) temperatures warm up, and how much rain falls onto the accumulated snow, there may be local flooding, ponding, and other problems. Airport conditions could remain untenable for many days.


See also: