Friday, August 1, 2014

The one that missed us: barely

I won't go into too many details as to the potential destructiveness of a solar storm of the "Carrington Event" level.  Presumably if you are here you have a clue.  . 

Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012
NASA Science, 23 July 2014 (hat tip: All Outdoors)
"In my view the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event," says [Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado]. "The only difference is, it missed."
In February 2014, physicist Pete Riley of Predictive Science Inc. published a paper in Space Weather entitled "On the probability of occurrence of extreme space weather events."  In it, he analyzed records of solar storms going back 50+ years.  By extrapolating the frequency of ordinary storms to the extreme, he calculated the odds that a Carrington-class storm would hit Earth in the next ten years.
The answer: 12%.
 One item I will note, that the All Outdoors posting on it (see hat tip above) seems to think that affordable protection could be had for the price of millions.
If a full blown event, which historically lasted for days, and have the potential to hit the entire globe, were to strike, "paltry millions" of protection are not going to help much.  The Lloyds of London report he discusses apparently misses the fact that no only will the transformers be damaged, but that long conductors, particularly open air high tension wires that are set up like a perfect antenna, are going to melt.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Squeezing the working class

Raleigh is growing, but not in all categories.  As the article below notes,  there was an increase of 4,500 residents with four year degrees, and 1,600 with advanced degrees.  But those with less than a full four year degree are moving out.
Meredith Hamrick, Business Journal, 18 June 2014
Raleigh may be a growing hub of opportunity for the young, professional set – it’s earned accolades as a great city for recent grads and a best city for job seekers, to name a few. But the picture hasn’t been so bright for Raleigh’s less educated, who have been fleeing the area, according to data featured Monday on The Atlantic’s City Lab site.
The Raleigh-Cary area lost a net of more than 1,300 of its residents with less education than a bachelor’s degree from 2011 to 2012 alone, despite the area’s overall net influx of nearly 5,000 residents during that same time period.
Raleigh is not particularly expensive by national standards, but it is expensive by Southeastern U.S. standards.  My guess is that some are moving to surrounding counties where they can either work in one of the light manufacturing jobs that have been pushed out of the main urban areas, with some family members doing a long distance commute.  And others simply have chosen to be poor, somewhere where it is less expensive.
There is a certain meme within apocalyptic fiction that all the advanced degrees and what not that folks have accumulated become useless after the EMP-zombie strike.  While there is some logic to that, in a slow collapse scenario, you have to make it to the collapse.  Notice how many stories get around this problem by either having the protagonists luck into some sort of hide away, or they are yuppie-types who can afford whatever sort of gear that they want. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Water squeeze

One assumption that I think some folks make is that as the world population increases, there will be an intensification of the effort to produce food.
But more people, means more people wanting water, and urban folk usually "out vote" rural interests, even if the long term interests of the rural folk would (somewhat) be beneficial to the urban folk.

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 20 June 2014 (hat tip: NC)
Another assumption being challenged is the primacy of agriculture's claim on water. The solution is to buy farmers out, trading cash for their water rights to keep supplies flowing to urban areas. The MWD is working to develop a plan to pay growers to fallow their land to raise the water level of Lake Mead. "But we really don't know what the response will be to a cash offer to take land out of production," Kightlinger says.
The reason I say "somewhat" beneficial, is that in a global market, the water used by agriculture will not necessarily go toward local use.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Calculating gasoline prices

A long time ago I did a calculation on how much the price of a barrel of oil effected the price of gasoline.  Great minds think alike, or something like that, and James Hamilton at Econbrowser has come up with a slightly different way to do the calculus.
I did a bottom up number crunch, and he instead looked at how the historical prices correlated:
James Hamilton, Econbrowser, 21 June 2014 (hat tip: NC)
The relation implies that a $10 increase in the price of a barrel of Brent crude oil is typically associated with a 25 cent increase in the average U.S. retail price of a gallon of gasoline
Note, this type of estimate is generally much more accurate than a build it up from the pieces, detailed approach.  It will miss major changes in the dynamics of the situation, but most micro-approaches will do that as well.
What I find interesting is that if you put $222/barrel into their calculator, you get a gasoline price of $6.39/gallon.  When I did the calculation in 2011, I came up with a price of $6.16/gallon.  Given the number of assumptions I had to make, and stated, that seems pretty good to me.