Friday, January 23, 2015

Boston’s Natural Gas Pipes Leaking High Levels of Heat-Trapping Methane

Bobby Magill, Climate Central
Published: January 23,2015




 
Boston's Back Bay neighborhood. (Wikipedia)
The stink gives it away. Spend half a day walking the streets of New York, Los Angeles or Boston and the occasional whiff of rotten eggs makes it clear that natural gas is leaking from somewhere.

Just as oil and natural gas fields have been found to be emitting more methane than official government estimates suggest, a new study shows that more methane than previously thought may be leaking from the other end of that system — cities, where people actually use natural gas for heating and cooking.

Cities have a giant greenhouse gas footprint and are responsible for 70 percent of all global CO2 emissions, according to NASA. Urban areas and their aging natural gas pipes and valves are also responsible for a lot of methane emissions, which is about 35 times as potent as a greenhouse gas over the span of 100 years and makes up about 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in terms of CO2 equivalents.

In Boston, methane emissions from aging pipes and other sources may be more than double official state estimates for the city, according to a study published Thursday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which was led by a team of researchers and scientists at Harvard University.

The research is the first of its kind using continuous measurements of methane in the air both inside and outside a major metropolitan area. The study focused on the Boston urban area every day for a full year. Previous research has measured emissions for much shorter periods of time and were unable to get as complete a picture of how much gas is escaping into the air.
Natural gas meters measuring natural gas at a business. (Grant Hutchinson/flickr)


The study found that about 2.7 percent of all natural gas delivered to the city is emitted into the atmosphere, more than double the official state estimate of about 1.1 percent. That totals about 15 billion standard cubic feet of natural gas escaping into the Boston air — enough natural gas for more than 286,000 average homes to use during the year. (The average home in the U.S. consumes 52,372 cubic feet of natural gas per year.)

The researchers measured methane in the air from stations both on the ground and atop skyscrapers, and at sites both near and far from Boston. Then they compared the ratios of methane and ethane, which is a major component of natural gas, whereas other methane sources such as landfills and sewage produce little or no ethane.

They found that most of the methane in the atmosphere around Boston comes from natural gas delivered to the area for heating and cooking. Emissions fluctuate slightly during the year and are highest in spring and summer.

“Some of the emissions are not really leaks,” study co-author Steven Wofsy, an atmospheric science professor at Harvard University Center for the Environment, said. “We can’t tell what’s coming from leaks or what we’d call venting or what might be poorly tuned appliances.”

From a climate standpoint, it’s important that the area where natural gas is consumed is identified as a place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

Bob Harriss, a senior scientist studying leaks in the U.S. natural gas delivery system at the Environmental Defense Fund and former scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, called the study a “remarkable success” in obtaining accurate measurements in methane lost from various sources in Boston.

Many studies investigating methane leaks have used different methods of measuring methane emissions, but none have been able to capture so well how methane emissions fluctuate during the course of a year, he said.

Riley Duren, chief systems engineer for the Earth Science Directorate at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who is unaffiliated with the study, said he agrees with the study’s findings that locating and mitigating methane emissions are important both in cities and in oil and gas fields.

“I would go further, and emphasize that there’s also significant diversity in methane emissions between cities and regions that we’re just beginning to grasp through studies like this one,” Duren said.

Sources of methane would differ in cities, Duren said. For example, research in Los Angeles is showing that small methane leaks in homes between the gas meter and heaters and stoves could be leading to higher atmospheric methane concentrations there, he said, whereas other cities may have old, leaking gas pipes.

Duren is involved with the Los Angeles Megacities Carbon Project, a major effort of NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to thoroughly measure methane and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere above major urban centers.

“As a large megacity, the LA environment is more complex than Boston, but our methods and objectives are similar to those reported by the Harvard group: to improve understanding of the sources and trends of methane, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in cities since they’re responsible for a large fraction of humanity’s carbon footprint,” Duren said.

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California Drought Worsening During Height of Rainy Season

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:10PM,GMT on January 23,2015





The Western U.S. winter rainy season has reached its halfway point, and there is only bad news to report for drought-beleaguered California. November through March marks the period when California receives its heaviest rains and snows, thanks to the wintertime path of the jet stream, which dips to the south and brings wet Pacific low pressure systems to the state. The rainy season started out promisingly, with several December storms bringing precipitation amounts close to average for the month over much of the state. Troublingly, though, record-warm ocean temperatures off of the coast meant that the December storms were unusually warm. This resulted in snow falling only at very high elevations, keeping the critical Sierra snow pack much lower than usual. The jet stream pattern shifted during January 2015, bringing disastrously dry conditions to the state. January usually brings 4.19" of rain to San Francisco, but no rain at all has fallen in January 2015 in the city--or over much of Central California. The dryness has been accompanied by near-record warmth at higher elevations in the Sierras, with temperatures at Blue Canyon and South Lake Tahoe averaging nearly 8°F above average for the month of January. As a result, the snowpack in the Sierras--a critical reservoir of water that is used throughout the rest of the year--is abysmally low, running about 30% of normal for this time of year. California's eight largest reservoirs are 33% - 86% below their historical average, and the portion of the state covered by the highest level of drought expanded in mid-January--a very ominous occurrence for the height of the rainy season.


Figure 1. The Enterprise Bridge passes over a section of Lake Oroville that was nearly dry on September 30, 2014, in Oroville, California. Lake Oroville, California's 2nd largest reservoir, was at 49% of average (30% of capacity), the second lowest level on record (behind 1977.) Heavy rains in December 2014 allowed lake levels to recover slightly--as of January 23, 2015 Lake Oroville was at its 7th lowest level of the past 35 years. Image credit: California Department of Water Resources.


Figure 2. The same view of Lake Oroville in happier times: July 20, 2011. (Paul Hames/California Department of Water Resources/Getty Images)

The forecast: hot and dry
An intense ridge of high pressure will build in over California this weekend, bringing near-record high temperatures in the low to mid-70s to San Francisco. The all-time hottest January temperature in San Francisco of 73°F, set just last year, could fall on Sunday. The ridge of high pressure will stay entrenched over California during the remainder of January, bringing continued dry conditions. A weak upper-level low pressure system will bring a few rain showers to the state beginning this Tuesday, but rainfall amounts will be generally less than 1/2"--an insignificant drop in a very large, dry bucket. With long-range models showing no shift in the jet stream pattern through the first week of February, California may be on its way to a fourth consecutive bone-dry rainy season--pushing the state into an increasingly dire drought situation.


Figure 3. Time series of the change in drought conditions in California from January 28, 2014 through January 22, 2015. The area covered by the worst category of drought--"Exceptional"--peaked at 58% during the summer of 2014. In December 2014, "Exceptional" drought coverage fell to 32%, thanks to heavy rains, but this area increased again to 39% in mid-January 2015 due to unusual dryness. Image credit: drought.gov.

Related blog post: The State of the California Drought: Still Very Bad, January 13, 2015, by water resources expert Dr. Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute.

Jeff Masters

Weather Underground National Forecast for Friday,January 23,2015

By: nationalsummary , 11:00PM,GMT on January 22,2015

Weather Underground Forecast for Friday,January 23,2015

A strong low pressure system will develop over the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, while unsettled weather will persist over the Northwest.

A vigorous area of low pressure will deepen over the northern Gulf of Mexico. As this system moves east northeastward, it will usher widespread precipitation across the southern Plains, the Gulf Coast, the Deep South, the Southeast and the Mid-Atlantic. A light mixture of rain and snow will linger over Texas, while rain and embedded thunderstorms will be possible across the Gulf Coast and the Southeast. As this system transitions over the Southeast, it will bring a mixture of rain and snow to the middle Mississippi Valley and the Tennessee Valley. In addition, rain, freezing rain and snow will impact the Mid-Atlantic and the southern Ohio Valley. This weather will create messy conditions along roadways, especially during evening commutes. Just to the north, a weaker area of low pressure will dip south southeastward over the upper Great Lakes. This system will push light snow and freezing rain over the upper Midwest and parts of northwest New England. High pressure will keep conditions relatively calm across the central and northern Plains on Friday.

Meanwhile, an onshore flow will generate light to moderate rain over Washington and western Oregon. High elevation snow showers will also develop over the Cascades and the northern Rockies. A ridge of high pressure will stay parked over the eastern Pacific, keeping conditions clear across the Great Basin and the Southwest.

This Date in Weather History for January 24,2015 from weatherforyou.com

Weather History
For Saturday,January 24,2015
 
 
 
1916 - The temperature at Browning MT plunged 100 degrees in just 24 hours, from 44 degrees above zero to 56 degrees below zero. It was a record 24 hour temperature drop for the U.S. (Weather Channel) (National Severe Storms Forecast Center)
1935 - Snowstorms hit the northeastern U.S. and the Pacific Northwest producing record 24 hour snowfall totals of 23 inches at Portland ME and 52 inches at Winthrop MA. (David Ludlum)
1956 - Thirty-eight inches of rain deluged the Kilauea Sugar Plantation of Hawaii in 24 hours, including twelve inches in just one hour. (David Ludlum)
1963 - A great arctic outbreak reached the southern U.S. The cold wave broke many records for duration of cold weather along the Gulf Coast. A reading of 15 degrees below zero at Nashville TN was an all-time record low for that location. (David Ludlum)
1982 - Chinook winds plagued the foothills of southeastern Wyoming and northern and central Colorado for the second straight Sunday. The winds gusted to 140 mph at Wondervu CO, located northeast of Denver. Chinook winds a week earlier produced wind gusts to 137 mph. (Storm Data)
1987 - Temperatures in Minnesota plunged far below the zero mark. International Falls MN reported a morning low of 35 degrees below zero, and Warroad MN was the cold spot in the nation with a low of 45 below zero. A storm developing in northeastern Texas produced severe thunderstorms with large hail in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. Camden AR reported golf ball size hail. (National Weather Summary) (Storm Data)
1988 - A blizzard rapidly developed in the north central U.S. In just one hour weather conditions in eastern North Dakota switched from sunny skies, light winds and temperature readings in the 20s, to rapidly falling temperatures and near zero visibility in snow and blowing snow. High winds in Wyoming, gusting to 72 mph at Gillette, produced snow drifts sixteen feet high. Northwestern Iowa experienced its second blizzard in just 24 hours. High winds in Iowa produced wind chill readings as cold as 65 degrees below zero. (National Weather Summary) (Storm Data)
1989 - Heavy snow blanketed the Rockies and the Northern High Plains Region. Hettinger ND received 12 inches of snow. Wolf Creek Pass CO was blanketed with 16 inches of snow in just 24 hours. Severe cold prevailed across Alaska. Between the 24th and the 29th of January, a total of thirty stations in the state report all-time record low temperatures. (National Weather Summary) (Storm Data)
1990 - A deep low pressure system brought high winds and heavy snow to the western Aleutian Islands of Alaska. Winds gusting to 82 mph at Shemya reduced the visibility to near zero in blowing snow. Rain and gale force winds lashed the northern Pacific coast. Thunderstorms produced locally heavy rains over the central Gulf coast states. (National Weather Summary) (Storm Data)

This Date in Weather History for January 23,2015 from weatherforyou.com

Weather History
For Friday,January 23,2015
 
 
 
1780 - The coldest day of the coldest month of record in the northeastern U.S. A British Army thermometer in New York City registered a reading of 16 degrees below zero. During that infamous hard winter the harbor was frozen solid for five weeks, and the port was cut off from sea supply. (David Ludlum)
1971 - The temperature at Prospect Creek, AK, plunged to 80 degrees below zero, the coldest reading of record for the United States. (David Ludlum)
1987 - Strong winds ushered bitterly cold air into the north central U.S., and produced snow squalls in the Great Lakes Region. Snowfall totals in northwest Lower Michigan ranged up to 17 inches in Leelanau County. Wind chill temperatures reached 70 degrees below zero at Sault Ste Marie MI and Hibbing MN. (National Weather Summary) (Storm Data)
1988 - Northeastern Colorado experienced its most severe windstorm in years. A wind gust to 92 mph was recorded at Boulder CO before the anenometer blew away, and in the mountains, a wind gust to 120 mph was reported at Mines Peak. The high winds blew down a partially constructed viaduct east of Boulder, as nine unanchored concrete girders, each weighing forty-five tons, were blown off their supports. (National Weather Summary) (Storm Data)
1989 - Low pressure brought heavy snow to Wyoming, with 18 inches reported at the Shoshone National Forest, and 17 inches in the Yellowstone Park area. Gunnison CO, with a low of 19 degrees below zero, was the cold spot in the nation for the twelfth day in a row. (National Weather Summary) (Storm Data)
1990 - A Pacific cold front brought strong and gusty winds to the northwestern U.S. Winds in southeastern Idaho gusted to 62 mph at Burley. Strong winds also prevailed along the eastern slopes of the northern and central Rockies. Winds in Wyoming gusted to 74 mph in Goshen County. (National Weather Summary) (Storm Data)

Winter Weather Advisory Winter Weather Advisory in effect until 6:00 PM EST. Source: U.S. National Weather Service

NORTHERN WESTCHESTER:

...WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT
TONIGHT TO 6 PM EST SATURDAY...

* LOCATIONS...MUCH OF SOUTHERN CONNECTICUT...THE LOWER HUDSON
VALLEY...AND INTERIOR NORTHEASTERN NEW JERSEY

* HAZARD TYPES...SNOW AND ICE.

* ACCUMULATIONS...SNOW ACCUMULATION OF 3 TO 5 INCHES...WITH
LOCALLY 6 INCH AMOUNTS. 1 TO 2 TENTHS OF AN INCH OF ICE.

* VISIBILITY...ONE QUARTER MILE OR LESS AT TIMES SATURDAY
MORNING.

* SNOWFALL RATES...1 INCH PER HOUR EARLY TO MID SATURDAY MORNING.

* TIMING...SNOW BEGINS LATE TONIGHT. SNOW WILL BECOME MODERATE TO
HEAVY EARLY SATURDAY MORNING...THEN MIX WITH AND CHANGE TO SLEET
AND FREEZING RAIN AND RAIN DURING THE MID TO LATE MORNING.
PRECIP SHOULD THEN GRADUALLY CHANGING BACK TO SNOW MID TO LATE
SATURDAY AFTERNOON BEFORE ENDING IN THE EVENING.

* IMPACTS...HAZARDOUS TRAVEL CONDITIONS DUE TO REDUCED
VISBILITIES AND SNOW/ICE COVERED ROADS.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW...SLEET...OR
FREEZING RAIN WILL CAUSE TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR
SLIPPERY ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITY...AND USE CAUTION WHILE
DRIVING.

&&

===================

SOUTHERN WESTCHESTER:

...WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT
TONIGHT TO 6 PM EST SATURDAY...

* LOCATIONS...MUCH OF SOUTHERN CONNECTICUT...THE LOWER HUDSON
VALLEY...AND INTERIOR NORTHEASTERN NEW JERSEY

* HAZARD TYPES...SNOW AND ICE.

* ACCUMULATIONS...SNOW ACCUMULATION OF 3 TO 5 INCHES...WITH
LOCALLY 6 INCH AMOUNTS. 1 TO 2 TENTHS OF AN INCH OF ICE.

* VISIBILITY...ONE QUARTER MILE OR LESS AT TIMES SATURDAY
MORNING.

* SNOWFALL RATES...1 INCH PER HOUR EARLY TO MID SATURDAY MORNING.

* TIMING...SNOW BEGINS LATE TONIGHT. SNOW WILL BECOME MODERATE TO
HEAVY EARLY SATURDAY MORNING...THEN MIX WITH AND CHANGE TO SLEET
AND FREEZING RAIN AND RAIN DURING THE MID TO LATE MORNING.
PRECIP SHOULD THEN GRADUALLY CHANGING BACK TO SNOW MID TO LATE
SATURDAY AFTERNOON BEFORE ENDING IN THE EVENING.

* IMPACTS...HAZARDOUS TRAVEL CONDITIONS DUE TO REDUCED
VISBILITIES AND SNOW/ICE COVERED ROADS.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW...SLEET...OR
FREEZING RAIN WILL CAUSE TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR
SLIPPERY ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITY...AND USE CAUTION WHILE
DRIVING.

Live Blog: Snowy, Icy Conditions Snarls Travel in the Northeast US

By Mark Leberfinger, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
January 23,2015; 11:26PM,EST
 
 
A major storm moved into the Northeast United States on Friday, and roads started to become slick across the region.
The storm began Thursday in the southern U.S. before moving toward the mid-Atlantic coast, spreading snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain in its path.
Travel conditions will deteriorate along the I-95 corridor from Philadelphia to New York City into Saturday morning as the storm moves up the Eastern Seaboard.

RELATED:
Second Round of Snow May Slick Roads From DC to NYC by Early Week
AccuWeather Winter Weather Center
Black Ice: How to Spot This Winter Driving Danger


REPORTS: (All times listed in EST)
10:45 p.m. Friday: Slick travel reported in Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio, the respective departments of transportation said.
11:02 p.m. Friday:
11:05 p.m. Friday: "Snow will continue to spread northward along the I-95 corridor overnight, impacting Philadelphia and New York City, and it will fall heavily at times, which will reduce visibility and create slippery travel conditions," AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Mike Doll said.
11:07 p.m. Friday:


View image on Twitter
Seeing a lot of ice on elevated surfaces tonight. Roads are still mainly wet in Bluefield . @breakingweather


11:09 p.m. Friday: More than 3,000 Appalachian Power customers in Virginia and West Virginia are without service, the utility reported.
11:14 p.m. Friday: 4.3 inches of snow have fallen near Elk Creek, Kentucky, an NWS trained spotter reported.

11:22 p.m. Friday: Snowing at AccuWeather Global Headquarters, State College, Pennsylvania.

11:36 p.m. Friday:Large snowflakes falling on Interstate 70 near Wheeling, West Virginia, WV511 showed on one of its webcams.

11:43 p.m. Friday: Icy travel conditions moving into northeast Pennsylvania, 511PA reported.

11:46 p.m. Friday: Snow is reported from Pennsylvania to Mississippi.

12:02 a.m. Saturday: "Heavy snow will create snow-packed and slippery roads and poor visibility overnight across the mid-Atlantic," AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Mike Doll said.
12:08 a.m. Saturday: More than 1,100 PECO customers are without power in southeast Pennsylvania, the utility reported.
 

Second Round of Snow May Slick Roads From DC to NYC by Early Week

By , Expert Senior Meteorologist
January 23,2015; 11:24PM,EST
 
 
An Alberta Clipper storm moving in from the Midwest may bring snow to areas in the mid-Atlantic missed by a coastal storm on Saturday.
The clipper storm, originating from western Canada, will spread a swath of accumulating snow and slippery travel from Chicago to Pittsburgh on Sunday before reaching the mid-Atlantic early in the week.
Depending on how quickly this storm strengthens upon reaching the mid-Atlantic coast will determine how much snow and travel problems develop from Interstate 81 to Interstate 95 and perhaps right to the beaches spanning Sunday night into Monday night.

The clipper storm early next week may occur as the atmosphere turns colder. Such a setup could lead to more substantial wintry driving conditions along the coast. The storm is likely to bring a general 1-3 inches of snow with locally higher amounts possible.
RELATED:
AccuWeather.com Winter Weather Center
Winter Storm to Snarl Travel From DC to Boston Into This Weekend
Check AccuWeather.com MinuteCast® for Your Location

Commuters heading to work and school on Monday in the zone from Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia to New York City should be prepared for slow travel and potential disruptions. The snow could expand northward into Boston and southern New England.
Roads around Washington, D.C., especially in the northern suburbs could become slippery on Monday. Roads from Baltimore to New York City could be slippery and snow-covered for a time.
As the clipper storm gains strength on Monday, winds will pick up from the north and northeast, which will not only help to pull down colder air, but can cause also some blowing snow.
A second and weaker clipper storm could track farther south prior to midweek and could bring some snow showers to parts of the southern Appalachians.
 

Winter Storm to Snarl Travel From DC to Boston Into This Weekend

By , Expert Senior Meteorologist
January 23,2015; 11:21PM,EST
 
 
While the mid-Atlantic will be spared a major snowstorm, snow will accumulate in part of the region and a nor'easter will deliver heavy snow to a portion of New England during the first part of this weekend.
Plenty of moisture, a lack of arctic air and a fast-moving, but strengthening storm will all weigh in to bring a wintry mess along the Atlantic Seaboard Friday night into Saturday night.
Enough rain, snow or a mix thereof will lead to travel delays from the Interstate 81 corridor to I-95.

According to AccuWeather.com Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams, "Airline passengers on the East Coast can expect delays due to direct effects of the storm ranging from poor visibility and low clouds to drenching rain and heavy snow."
Ripple-effect delays are possible in other parts of the nation with some crews and aircraft being displaced.
A mix of rain and snow or a change to plain rain for a time will limit the snowfall accumulation from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia, New York City and Providence, Rhode Island. Only a small amount of snow will fall around Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. However, farther to the north, several inches of snow can accumulate prior to or following a change to rain.
Slushy travel may be followed by poor drainage area flooding on Saturday along the I-95 upper mid-Atlantic swath. A change back to snow and slush may occur at the tail end of the storm.
North and west of the I-95 swath from Washington, D.C., to New York City, more substantial snow will fall with likely enough to shovel and plow. A few inches of snow may fall from Martinsburg, West Virginia, to Harrisburg and Scranton, Pennsylvania and Middletown, New York, even if some sleet and rain mix in.

A very short distance from southeast to northwest in the I-95 corridor may define just wet roads to snow and slippery travel.
"A distance of 30 miles could make the difference between 6 inches of snow and an inch of rain from Philadelphia to New York City, adding to the forecast challenge," Abrams said.
RELATED:
AccuWeather.com Winter Weather Center
PHOTOS: Northeast Storm Wreaks Havoc for Motorists
Check AccuWeather.com MinuteCast® for Your Location

There is still the potential for a major snowstorm from north of New York City to coastal northern New England.
"The Boston area will get heavy wet snow with the risk of downed tree limbs and power outages," Abrams said.

"In the city of Boston, the storm will become slushy and wet, but north and west it will get increasingly snowy."
As the storm rapidly strengthens along the New England coast later Saturday and Saturday night, winds will increase over the Northeast. Gusts past 50 mph are possible on Cape Cod.
Areas from the mountains of western Virginia and North Carolina, parts of northern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, western Maryland will get enough snow or wintry mix to cause slippery travel into early Saturday.
Skiers can expect the storm to cooperate for the most part this weekend. While the biggest snow will not reach most resorts, drenching rain will not reach ski areas from the Poconos to northern New England.
Over much of the southern Atlantic Seaboard and the Piedmont areas of the Carolinas, enough rain can fall to cause urban flooding problems. Where heavy rain alone occurs or follows heavy snow, along part of the mid-Atlantic and southern New England coasts, there can be street and poor drainage area flooding.
Another storm with snow will affect the Midwest later this weekend and then the coastal Northeast during the first part of next week. Indications are the storm on Monday will have colder air to work with and could bring snow all the way to the mid-Atlantic beaches.
AccuWeather.com will continue to provide updates on this and other storms through the weekend.