Guest Commentary by
Richard Golladay, PEC Member
“Climate Change” is real, and will continue to have greater effects on PEC, LCRA, and grid operator ERCOT. No Board member of the PEC can afford to ignore this well-documented mega-trend, because that dated and linear-thinking 1980s “climate-change-denial” perspective is shrinking as fast as sales of Kenny G CDs. (But welcome to the 1980’s world-view of Emily Pataki, current Chair of PEC’s latest Board.)
Decade and longer duration Pacific and Atlantic temperature cycles (called “decadal oscillations”) correlate to wet years and drought in Texas and the Southwest. El-Niño events come and go across these long cycles (meaning more rain for a few months). El-Niños coincident with a positive PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillations) amplify rain, while El-Niños with negative PDO lessens the amount of rain we would hope for. La-Nina years are typically years of drought. We have experienced an incredibly strong El Niño in the last few months, coincident with an amplifying positive PDO. That PDO will inevitably switch cycles, and we’ll be back in drought mode, and possibly extreme drought if coincident with several La Niña years.
But there is another Climate Change phenomenon that has already affected Texas: The fact of increasing “rain bomb” events. We’ve already seen one example in the Wimberley Memorial Day flood of May 2015, in which PEC’s quick response was stellar and praiseworthy. And these “rain-bomb” events can come during any PDO cycle, and also during either of the shorter El-Niño or La-Niña events.
“Rain bomb” and violent weather events (hail and tornados) will become more commonplace in the future. This prediction by our Climatologists is what they call a “robust prediction” – meaning virtually certain to happen. And it is already happening with the rash of tornados across the Midwest this summer, and other extreme flood events in Texas, even since that infamous 2015 Memorial Day flood.
There are two basic reasons (with other complicating factors): First, due to “Climate Change”, the lower atmosphere (troposphere) is heating faster than the stratosphere, creating a greater heat differential, which puts the thermal engine of a large thunderstorm in overdrive. Secondly, due to greater evaporation (from rising global temperature) there is more water vapor than ever in the lower atmosphere (a 5% increase during the last century). In a large thunderstorm, as columns of hot moist air rise, water vapor condenses out, releasing more of its “heat of vaporization” into the air column, positively reinforcing the heat differential driving engine of the rising cloud, as it punches through the troposphere/stratosphere boundary. Torrential rain, hail, and occasional tornadoes are the results. And these storms will become more violent in the future.
Now Mrs. Pataki, both of these two measurable FACTS were predicted in advance by the Climatology “Standard Model” (supercomputer models) some years ago, according to Climatologist Dr. Andrew Dessler at Texas A&M.
The implications of more frequent severe thunderstorm and “rain bomb” events facing PEC and its members are these:
(1) PEC will need more emergency response capability. What form that will take is unknown, but it’s absolutely necessary, and will cost us.
(2) If PEC is sold out to “Customer Choice” by its current Board of special-interest aficionados, will PEC have the resources to respond as well? And what about our customers lost to the “Retail Electric Providers”? Who will respond to them when the lights go out? If response time is low, will some people without power for lengthy periods actually die?
Mrs. Pataki, you have become Board President of PEC, and I respect that role. In fact, I respect your political conservatism in general, since I too am a Republican. But you effectively disparaged the idea of “Climate Change” in your personal Blog post of Feb 26, 2015 and ridiculed NASA in the process. (Not wise, Emily.) It was indeed some 1980’s political music that an older, graying local political party audience wanted to hear. I believe an overwhelming percentage of PEC members would disagree with you, at this point. You need to rethink the 1980’s mindset and not hold our Cooperative back, and especially not abandon our Co-op to “Customer Choice”, which will hurt many people. El Niños come and go, but conscience and regret linger much longer. Don’t do it, Emily.