Climate and Energy
Scripps Climate Forecasting Tools Aid Management Of Precious Energy Resources
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego scientists have tapped into recent advances in climate science to provide valuable information to the energy industry.
Based on Scripps-operated climate models and applied climate research, researchers Tim Barnett and David Pierce have created forecasting tools tailored to the needs of water, electric, and natural gas industries in a partnership forged with the California Energy Commission and state utilities.
The methods and forecasts developed for the program, called CalEnergy, supply knowledge that helps energy officials more efficiently plan for electricity demand, such as in hot summer months when power needs surge, or when variations in local weather conditions affect electrical loads. CalEnergy became viable when advances in climate forecasting achieved a level of reliability useful in management decisions. The need for such a program was bolstered by California's 2000-2001 power crisis.
Weather forecasts provide meteorologists with reliable forecasts of two weeks or less, but climate prediction tools give probabilistic, season-ahead forecasts of phenomena such as El Nino and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (long-term climate fluctuations in the Pacific Ocean), both of which affect summer and winter energy use.
According to Pierce, CalEnergy acted as a vehicle between climate research academics and the energy industry. Energy representatives identified key decisions that could be influenced by weather and climate, and the climate scientists in return developed appropriate forecasts and associated estimates of uncertainty. For example, irrigation pump loads in parts of the rural western states make up a large part of the electrical load, and vary widely from year to year. Scripps researchers developed a method of predicting summer pump loads based on spring conditions, along with a characterization of the skill and uncertainty in the forecast. This allowed the energy utility to factor the forecast information into their springtime planning for whether to obtain long-term energy supply contracts ahead of time, or to buy energy on the spot market as the summer progressed.
Full Details and Publications from the project are linked here: Cal Energy Website.
Future Climate: Scripps Scientists Predict Dire Consequences From Warming
Impacts of global warming are often difficult to calculate, but Scripps scientists and their colleagues are using scientific data to describe upcoming climate change scenarios.
The simulations developed by a group of leading climate researchers at Scripps and several laboratories and universities illustrate the effects of rising temperatures in several cases in the western United States.
The Accelerated Climate Prediction Initiative (ACPI) describes possible responses to global warming for key water resources vital for agriculture, industrial, and residential needs.
Among ACPI's predictions for the next 100 years:
A separate study from Scripps analyzed fire fuel and summer temperatures, along with climate model forecasting, and determined that the West could experience twice as many wildfires per year as now.
ACPI scientists developed the scenarios based on regionalized versions of a global-scale ocean-atmosphere climate model. Underscoring the severity of the situation, the ACPI predictions are based on conservative estimates of future warming. As such, the results are "best case" forecasts.
Further Details on Scripps research as applied to California Climate: