As a climate realist, this is a subject that has fascinated me since I was a child in my native Sweden and saw first hand the effect of the ice ages. We learnt in school that the climate was warmer during the age of the Littorina Sea (now the Baltic Sea) around 5,000 years ago, followed by the little ice age when the Baltic Sea froze over and the Swedish army in 1648 crossed the Danish Great Belt on ice and sacked Copenhagen. Since then the climate has gotten milder, some people are worried of a thermal runaway, others about a coming ice age.
I will try to observe and calculate where the temperature of our planet will be in 2050. I will use thermal equilibrium calculations assuming the earth is a black body where incoming radiation is in balance with outgoing radiation. This gives the best instantaneous results. It will also partly give the heating or cooling of lagging bodies such as the oceans.
1. The sun is getting warmer and will explode, but before that there will be a thermal runaway on earth.
Believe it or not, this is how Dr. James Lovelock started trying out to find when the earth’s self regulating ability would come to an end. This eventually lead to the GAIA hypothesis. It turns out that the sun gets brighter at a rate of just over 1% every 100 million years—Earth would suffer this “runaway greenhouse” in 600 million to 700 million years. In the next 27 years that would amount to a temperature increase of 0.000005C
2. The sun has gotten warmer the last 200 years, but we may now be entering the ‘Eddy Grand solar minimum’.
The sun reverses its magnetic field every 11 years or so. and the sunspot intensity varies with time. Every 400 years or so it enters a grand solar minimum and the resulting average global temperature is reduced by about 1C at the minimum. This grand solar minimum may have started in 2020 and will be accelerating, starting in 2025 and reach its minimum around 2070, after which the warming will resume.
3. The effect of the Milankovitch cycles.
We are near the end of the interglacial period, and from now on we will slowly enter a new ice age at a rate of – 1C per 2000 years.This means we are cooling down another 0.0135C by 2050
5. The greenhouse effect increase from now to 2050.
In ‘Of the total temperature rise from 1775 to 2050, how much is due to greenhouse gas increases, and how much is due to CO2 increase?‘ is answered how much temperature increase since the beginning of the industrial age until 2050. Temperature rise from greenhouse gasses from 1775 until now: 0.885 C Here is an estimate of the temperature rise from 2023 to 2050 if the current trends continue.
CO2 rises from 420 ppm to 460 ppm causes a temperature rise of 0.025 C
CH4 rises from 1.9 ppm to 223 ppm causes a temperature rise of 0.02C
Water vapor rises 2% with a 0.3 C abs temperature rise, Greenhouse rise 0.13 C
All other greenhouse gasses combined 0.029 C
Total temperature rise from greenhouse gasses the next 23 years: 0.165C if current trends continue and no action is taken.
But there are sources other than greenhouse gassed for temperature increases
6. The effect from decreasing cloud cover.
This is a world map showing the average cloud cover in August 2009. It shows the cloud free areas of the earth in blue. Another way to look at it is to see how much total water vapor there is in the atmosphere:
Nowhere on earth can it rain out more than two inches without more humidity being transported in from another place. Over the ocean humidity gets replenished by evaporation, over land only areas that has vegetation or swamps or lakes will replenish humidity by evaporation. Keep these charts in mind for later. For now concentrate on the decreasing average cloud cover. It has only been measured for the last 40 years, but here are the results:
There are many different clouds, low, mid-level and high clouds, and they have changed differently over the same time span:
Of these clouds, the low level clouds are reflecting the most, so the 2.4% loss in average cloud cover is an assumption on the low side on the loss of reflection.
In 1984 the average cloud cover was 63.7%, in 2019, 35 years later it was 61.1%, a loss of 2.6%. over 35 years or 0.075% /year. This amounts to a loss of 1.7% from now until 2050 if the current trend holds. The total reflection from clouds and atmospheric scattering is 77 W/m2, of which 60 is from cloud reflection. A 1.7% loss of area of reflection leads to a decreasing of incoming energy of 60 * 0.017 = 1.03 W/m2. This results in a temperature increase to 287 * fourth root of (1 + (1.03 / 340)) = 287.21 K, or 0.21degree Celsius increase
When temperature increases by 0.21C water vapor increases by 1.25% on average; the total absorption of water vapor increases by 0.3 W/m2, mostly by shrinking the atmospheric window. This amounts to 0.09% 0f the total incoming solar radiation. The current average temp on earth is 287 degree Kelvin, so the temperature rise since pre-industrial times from increasing H2O levels is 287 * fourth root of (1+0.3/340) = 287.063 K, or 0.063 degree Celsius increase.
If this trend continues until 2050 the temperature rise from diminishing clouds will be 0.21 + 0.06 C = 0.27C
7. The effects from air and water pollution. . a. The warming of the Northern Arctic region.
North America has great rivers, none greater than the mighty Mississippi. It used to be a meandering river with frequent floods that resulted in depositing its silt over large areas and thus fertilizing the land. The American Indians living by the river moved to its new location after the water receded, and they could use the newly fertilized land. After the Louisiana purchase river traffic grew rapidly, but shifting sandbars and the excessively winding river became a problem, so the Mississippi river was converted to be the main transportation artery of the middle USA, the river banks were reinforced and the course of the river straightened. This meant that more of the silt was transported out into the Mexican Gulf, some of the silt that used to fertilize the soil instead fertilized the Mexican gulf. In addition, the Mississippi river used to be very polluted, but is now clean enough that it can be used for drinking water after treatment all the way down to Louisiana. There remains elevated concentration of nitrogen compounds so the Mexican Gulf suffers from excessive algae blooms and even red tide from time to time. This leads to more cloud formation and more rain in the United States east of the 98th meridian. This also occurs in Northern Europe, especially in the North Sea; the rivers flowing into the North Sea are rich in nutrients. The Baltic Sea was near oxygen death, but after the Baltic countries and Poland joined the EU, their rivers got partially cleaned up. In the far East the Yellow Sea and the South China sea are suffering major pollution. All these regions produce more clouds, and through prevailing winds some end up in the Arctic, where they snow out, except in the Summer when they rain out except on Greenland where it snows 12 months of the year. This leads to increasing winter temperatures of about 5.5 C above the 80th latitude, 2.5 C in spring and fall and a decrease of about 0.5 C in the summer (it takes a long time to melt that extra snow). This affects about 4% of the earth’s surface, so the total temperature increase from over-fertilizing the rivers is 0.04 * 2.5 = 0.1 C. No such effect occurs in the Antarctic. To illustrate the current yearly temperature trend in the Arctic, see this current polar temperature chart:
Even more illustrative is the development of ice on Greenland. In 2012 it looked like all of Greenland was going to melt in less than 1000 years, and the polar ice cap would be gone altogether in late summer of 2020. The ice over Greenland is now growing ever so slightly again:
b. The effect of various air pollution.
This is a picture from IPCC AR4
The following picture is from IPCC AR5 showing 1750 to 2009
This is from IPCC AR6
These are three interesting charts, trying to explain warming from anthropogenic greenhouse gasses and other pollutants such as aerosols. It is expressed as W/m2 and a 1W/m2 energy absorption results in. a 0.21C temperature rise. But the most important greenhouse gas of all, water vapor is missing from the calculations. IPCC has from the beginning omitted the influence of water vapor. it affects CO2 calculations the most, since CO2 is fully saturated in the most important range, water vapor also participates, and it is impossible to absorb more than all energy available in any given band. Methane and N2O also must be adjusted for water vapor presence. To compensate for the lack of water vapor calculations they assign a temperature runaway factor to the net result, but it depends how much each greenhouse gas is influenced by water vapors, so the net result will not be right.
The greenhouse effect for CO2 between 1750 and 2011 is according to IPCC AR6 is 1. 8 W/m2 or 0.38C. According to my calculations the greenhouse effect from CO2 is 0.35 W/m2 or 0.073 C, and the effect from Water vapor in the same frequency range as CO2 is 0.38 W/m2 or 0.08 C. For CH4 the same calculations yield 0.5 W/m2 or 0.105 C from IPCC6, and 0.26 W/m2 or 0.055 C plus 0.22 W/m2 0r 0.05C from water vapor. This means the real climate sensitivity for CO2 is only 40% of what is given in IPCC AR6. For CH4 the real climate sensitivity is 20% of what is given in IPCC AR6
The major effect from air pollution is that it generates aerosols that act as condensation points for cloud formation if the air is oversaturated with moisture. In the last 40 years the air has gotten cleaner in the industrial west, not so in China, India and Africa. The net result was a 2 % drop in cloud cover and the resulting temperature rise is already accounted for. There are no good worldwide analyses of ancient cloud cover, but air pollution was rising rapidly until the clean air act, enacted in 1963 was beginning to show results in the 70’s. However, ancient method of heating with coal, wood, peat and dried cowdung was far more polluting and harmful to your lungs. If U.S is eliminating all remaining coal plants the CO2 will still be rising since China is planning to build another 1070 coal burning power
c. The effect of greening of most of the earth.
There is one great benefit of increased CO2, the greening of the earth.
Thanks to this greening, about 15% more leaves and grass since 1982, done with only the fertilizer of CO2, the earth can now keep another 2 billion people from starvation, not to mention what good it does for plants and wildlife.
The greening of the earth will cause a temperature to increase, thanks to the lowering of the albedo of green leaves and grass rather than desert sand. In addition, with rising CO2 levels the leaves need less water to perform the photosynthesis, so the net result from lowering the albedo by 15% of 0.05 over 17% of the world leads to a warming of the earth. The average albedo on land is 30%, and 17% of the earth lowers the albedo by 15% of 0.05 this lowers the total albedo of the earth by 0.13%.
The total reflection of sunlight from the earth is 22.9 W/m2, so 0.13% of that is 0.030 W/m2, which translates to a net temperature increase of (287 * fourth root of (1+(0.030/ 340)) -287 = 287.063 K, or 0.063 degree Celsius.
d. The areas that are becoming more like a desert.
Most of the earth displays an increase of leaf area, but there are areas in red that are becoming less green. The areas are: The American Southwest, The Pampas area of South America, a 100 mile band in Southern Sahara, part of East Africa, Madagascar, South East Africa, Western Australia, Part of the Volga region, Kazakhstan east of Lake Aral and various parts of China, and the Mekong river. These areas have this in common, the aquifers ate being depleted, the rivers are diminishing and some of them no longer reach the ocean, lakes are almost disappearing, but people still move to those areas “for the good climate”.
The areas so affected are about 900,000 sq miles of the American Southwest and about 3 million square miles total to suffer from becoming more like a desert. The common theme of all these areas is depletion of the aquifers, rivers diminishing, lakes drying up and soil erosion.
The only part of the world US can control directly is The American Southwest. It can expect more frequent and longer droughts, since there is no amplification of clouds from the relatively cool and clean Pacific ocean, and the long term temperature trend is cooling. The Colorado River no longer feeds the Gulf of California with nourishment. The Colorado river used to all the water allocation for all the participating states, but around 2000 the water use had caught up with supply, and since then it has become much worse with demand far outstripping supply.
In addition the Great Salt Lake is now less than a third of the size it was in the 1970’s. A second level water shortage has been issued and for example Arizona will get a million Acre-feet lass per year from the river. The aquifers will be further depleted leading to less rainfall and the few remaining springs will dry out. If nothing is done, the American southwest will become desertified.
Ironically, deserts have a higher albedo than green soil, so letting the American Southwest become a desert would have a cooling effect by the increasing albedo, but the effect from the disappearing clouds would have a far greater heating effect, so letting the American Southwest become a desert is not a solution to the problem.
However, the area subject to desertification is about 0.6% of the world’s land area and rising the albedo by 0.05 leads to a cooling down. The average albedo of the earth is 30%, and before desertification the albedo was 25%, this rises the albedo of the earth by 0.03%. The total reflection of sunlight from the earth is 22.9 W/m2, so 0.03% of that is 0.007 W/m2, which translates to a net temperature decreasee of 287 * fourth root of (1- (0.007/ 340)) = 286.9985 K, or a cool down of 0.0015 degree Celsius.
Summary of all causes for climate change from now until 2050:
Long term warming of the sun: 0.000005C
Effect from the potential Eddy Grand Solar minimum: 0 to – 1C. Yes,that’s cooler
Effect from the Milankovitch cycles: – 0.0135C
Effect from reversing the magnetic poles: undetermined.
Direct effect from rising CO2: 0.025C
Effect from increasing CO2 increasing water vapor : 0.03 C
All other greenhouse gasses combined 0.032 C
Temperature rise from decreasing cloud cover 0.27C
Temperature increase from greening of the earth 0.063C
Temperature decrease from areas of desertification 0.0015C
TOTAL TEMPERATURE CHANGE 2023 to 2050: 0.384 C rise to 0,616 C decrease if the Dodd grand solar minimum occurs
If the cloudiness of the earth stays the same the temperature change will be from a 0.114 C rise to a 0,886 C decrease between now and 2050.
Of the changes CO2 amounts to only 6.5% of the potential change, decreasing cloud cover could be up to 70% of the rise.
What will be the temperature in 2050 if all pledges by the Paris accord were fulfilled?
The sum of all pledges means a 15% reduction in the RISE of C02 between now and 2050, leading to a reduction in temperature rise from rising CO2 of 0.004 C. In addition it will reduce the amount of temperature rise from the greening of the world by 0.0009 C. the total temperature rise will be 0.0049 C less by 2050.
Then again, temperatures will rise again after 2050 when the Grand solar minimum is over, but by that time we should have switched electricity production to Uranium and Thorium Nuclear power. We need the coal for the coming ice age. And fusion power is always around the corner and will one day solve our energy problems.
What congress is doing to “solve the problem.”
Congress has passed the anti-inflation bill that included over 300 billion to fight climate change, and it included more solar panels and wind turbine motors to be imported from China. The experience from Europe is that electricity from solar panels and windmills is 5.7 times as expensive as conventional power generation.
This analysis was done for 2019, before COVID. The situation is even worse now, with electricity rares up to 80 c/kWh, topping $1 /kWh this winter in some countries.
Even at the current increased European Gas prices, the estimated excess expenditures on Weather-Dependent “Renewables” in Europe is still very large: $~0.5 trillion in capital expenditures and $~1.2 trillion excess expenditures in the long-term.
These simple calculations show that any claim that Wind and Solar power are now cost competitive with conventional fossil fuel (Gas-fired) generation are patently false. The figures give an outline of the financial achievements of Green activists in stopping fracking for gas in Europe, close on to $1.2 trillion of excess costs.
It would be better not to import any solar panels and wind power generators from China and let them pay for the extra cost rather than building more coal burning plants. After all they were planning to build over a thousand new plants between now and 2030, all legal under the Paris accord. This would benefit the world climate much more, since Chinese coal plants are far more polluting, since China has far less stringent environmental regulations than U.S.
U.S. uses 13.5% of the world’s coal, and eliminating U.S. CO2 emissions would in time reduce the world temperature by 0.023C, providing no other country, such as China and India would increase their use of Coal, which they are, to the total of 1300 new coal plants between now and 2030. This would raise global temperature by more than 0.06 C.
What congress should do instead.
a. What congress should do immediately.
- Immediately stop downblending U 233 and pass The Thorium Energy security act SB 4242a. See more here.
2. Remove Thorium from the list of nuclear source material. The half-life of Thorium232 is 14 billion years, so its radioactivity is barely above background level. More importantly, while Thorium is fertile, it is not fissile and should therefore not be included in the list. This would make it far easier to mine rare earth metals, as long as the ore consists of less than 0.05% Uranium, but any amount of Thorium is allowed without classifying the ore “Source material”.
3. Separate nuclear power into 3 categories. a. Conventional nuclear power. b. Thorium breeder reactors that make more U233 than it consumes, and c. Thorium reactors that reduce nuclear waste.
4. Stop buying solar panels from China. Stop buying wind turbine generators from China. Let them install those in China and pay 5 times as much for their electricity.
5. Immediately form a commission led by competent people, not politicians; to decide how to best expand the electric grid and to best harden it against electro-magnetic pulses, whether solar or nuclear and to safeguard it against sabotage.
6. Remove all subsidies on electric cars, solar panels and wind generators, but continue to encourage energy conservation.
7. Encourage research and development of Thorium fueled reactors, especially liquid salt reactors by drastically simplifying and speeding up the approval process. President Trump issued an executive order in the last month of his presidency EO 13972 specifying that the United States must sustain its ability to meet the energy requirements for its national defense and space exploration initiatives. The ability to use small modular reactors will help maintain and advance United States dominance and strategic leadership across the space and terrestrial domains. This EO should be expanded to include civilian small modular reactors, including Liquid salt Thorium reactors less than 200 MW, which are the only valid reactors for space exploration.
b. Longer term developments, but extremely urgent.
Of the long term warming of the globe of 1.1 C since the beginning of industrialization only 0.11 C is attributable to rising CO2, NH4 and NO2 levels, of which United states is currently responsible for 13.5% and decreasing, or 0.023C. The disappearance of clouds is responsible for twice as much globally or 0.27 C, of which probably 1/6 is occurring in the American Southwest, causing an increase in temperature of 0.045C. However, the temperature rise in say the Grand Canyon has been in excess of 2 C,, and in the urban areas it has been even more. Below are my long term suggestions:
Build a TransContinental Aqueduct.
A realistic way to save Lake Mead and reverse the desertification of the American SouthWest.Build a TransContinental Aqueduct. A realistic way to save Lake Mead and reverse the desertification of the American SouthWest.
Lake Mead will be emptied in less than 10 years with the current usage pattern. Then what?
The hydroelectric power from Lake Mead (and Lake Powell) is diminishing as the lakes are emptied.
The aquifers in Arizona, especially in the Phoenix and Tucson area, and to some extent New Mexico and the dry part of Texas are being drawn down and are at risk of being exhausted.
The Salton Sea in the Imperial Valley of California is maybe the most polluted lake in all of U.S.A. It is even dangerous to breathe the air around it sometimes. The area contains maybe the largest Lithium deposit in the world.
The Colorado River water is too salty for good irrigation .
The Colorado river no longer reaches the Gulf of California. Fishing and shrimp harvesting around the Colorado River Delta is no more.
The hydroelectric power from Lake Mead (and Lake Powell) is diminishing as the lakes are emptied.
40 million people depend on the Colorado River for drinking water. The population is still rising rapidly in the West. Will they have water in the future?
Except for California there is not much pumped Hydro-power storage in the American Southwest.
Texas has plenty of wind power, but no pumped hydro-power storage. This makes it difficult to provide peak power when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. Nuclear power is of no help, it provides base power only. Peak power has to come from coal and natural gas plants.
New Mexico has some ideal spots for solar panels, but no water is available for pumped storage.
Arizona has a surging population, wind and solar power locations are abundant, but no pumped hydro-power storage.
Arkansas and Oklahoma have a good barge traffic system. This proposal will increase flood control and improve barge traffic by increasing the maximum barge draft from 9 feet to 12 feet, and during dry periods reverse the flow of the Arkansas River. The Arkansas river yearly water flow is nearly double that of the Colorado River.
Build a transcontinental aqueduct from the Mississippi River to the Colorado River capable of transporting 12 million acre-ft of water yearly through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. It will be built similar to the Central Arizona Project aqueduct that is supplying water from the Colorado river to the Phoenix and Tucson area, but this aqueduct will be carrying four times more water over four times the distance and raise the water nearly twice as high before returning to near sea level. The original Central Arizona Project cost $4.7 billion in 1980’s money, the Transcontinental Aqueduct will in Phase 1 cost around $200 Billion in 2023 money applying simple scaling up principles.
The Mississippi River has a bad reputation for having polluted water, but since the clean water act the water quality has improved drastically. Fecal coli-form bacteria is down by a factor of more than 100, the water is now used all the way down to New Orleans for drinking water after treatment. The lead levels are down by a factor of 1000 or more since 1979. Plastic pollution and pharmaceutical pollution are still a problem, as is the case with most rivers. The Ph is back to around 8 and salt content is negligible. Mississippi water is good for irrigation, and usable for drinking water after treatment. The Arkansas River is used as a drinking water source.
But the aqueduct will do more than provide sweet Mississippi water to the thirsty South-west, it will make possible to provide peak power to Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. In fact, it is so big it will nearly triple the pumped Hydro-power storage for the nation, from 23 GW for 5 hours a day to up to 66 GW when fully built out.
The extra pumped hydro-power storage will come from a number of dams built as part of the aqueduct or adjacent to it. The water will be pumped from surplus wind and solar power generators when available. This will provide up to 50 GW of power for 5 hours a day. If not enough extra power has been generated during the 19 pumping hours, sometimes power will be purchased from the regular grid. The other source of pumped hydro-power storage is virtual. There will be up to 23 GW of LFTR (Liquid Fluoride salt Thorium Rector) power stations strategically stationed along the waterway providing pumping of water for 19 hours and providing virtual hydro-power output for the remaining 5, when the aqueduct is fully built.
These 43 GW of hydro-power capacity will be as follows: Oklahoma, 0.2 GW; Texas, 18,5 GW (right now, Texas has no hydro-power storage, but plenty of wind power); New Mexico, 10.5 GW; Arizona 13.6 GW. In Addition, when the Transcontinental Aqueduct is fully built out, the Hoover dam can provide a true 2.2 GW hydro-power storage by pumping water back from Lake Mojave; a 3 billion dollar existing proposal is waiting to be realized once Lake Mead is saved.
The amount of installed hydroelectric power storage is:
Most hydroelectric pumped storage was installed in the 70’s. Now natural gas plants provide most of the peak power. This aqueduct will more than double, triple the U.S. pumped peak storage if virtual peak storage is included. By being pumped from surplus wind and solar energy as well as surplus nuclear energy it is true “Green power”. People like that.
What follows is a description of each leg of the aqueduct. Each leg except legs 7,8,9, 11 and 12 end in a dam or lake, which hold enough water to make each leg free to operate to best use of available electricity and provide peak power on demand.
Leg 1 of the Trans-Continental aqueduct. From the Mississippi river to the Robert S. Kerr Lock and dam on the Arkansas River. Total length 15miles of aqueduct and 305 miles of river. Cost of water 300 kWh per acre-ft.
Leg 2 of the Transcontinental Aqueduct: From the Robert S. Kerr Lock and dam to the Eufaula Dam on the Canadian River. Total length 42 miles of lake and river. Cost of water 585 kWh per acre-ft.
Leg 3 of the Transcontinental aqueduct. From the Eufaula Dam to Ray Roberts Lake. Total length 42 miles of lake and 125 miles of aqueduct. Cost of water 900 kWh per acre-ft.
Leg 4 of the Transcontinental Aqueduct. From Lake Ray Roberts to the Brad Dam (to be built). Total length 205 miles of aqueduct. Cost of water 1735 kWh per acre-ft.
Leg 5 of the Transcontinental aqueduct. From Brad dam to Deadman Draw dam and pumped storage power plant. Total length 5 miles of lake and 60 miles of aqueduct. Cost of water 2425 kWh per acre-ft. In Phase 2 can provide up to 4 GW of pumped storage power.
Leg 6 of the Transcontinental aqueduct. From Deadman Draw dam and pumped storage power plant to Buffalo Soldier Draw dam and optional pumped storage plant.Total length 205 miles of aqueduct. Cost of water 3711 kWh per acre-ft.In Phase 2 can provide up to 4.8 GW of pumped storage power.
Leg 7, leg 8 and leg 9 of the Transcontinental aqueduct. From the Buffalo Soldier Draw dam to the highest point of the aqueduct 10 miles into Arizona. Leg 7 is 255 miles. Cost of water 6132 kWh per acre-ft. Leg 8 is 125 miles. Cost of water is 5705 kWh per acre-ft. Leg 9 is 160 miles. Cost of water is 6605 kWh per acre-ft.
The Transcontinental Aqueduct. Leg 10: The highest pumping station in Arizona to San Carlos Lake, a distance of 93 miles. Cost of water 5205 kWh per acre-ft.
The Transcontinental Aqueduct. Leg 11: From San Carlos Lake to East Diversion dam, a distance of about 60 miles. Cost of water 4905 kWh per acre-ft.
The Transcontinental aqueduct Leg 12: From the East Diversion dam to connecting to the Central Arizona aqueduct 45 miles WNW of Phoenix. Phase 1 is 20 miles of aqueduct and 85 miles of River. Cost of water is 5105 kWh per acre-ft. Phase 2 adds 130 miles of aqueduct . The cost of water is 5065 kWh per acre-ft.
The Transcontinental aqueduct, Leg 13: From the New Arlington dam to the Colorado River. Leg 13, phase 1 is 130 miles of river.Cost of water is 5105 kWh per acre-ft. Phase 2 adds 15 miles of aqueduct . The cost of water is 5130 kWh per acre-ft.
The Transcontinental Aqueduct, spur 14: The Wilson Canyon Solar farm and pumped storage plant. Can supply 13.5 GW of pumped storage power.
The Transcontinental Aqueduct, spur 15: The Poppy Canyon Solar farm and pumped storage plant. Can provide up to 28 GW of pumped storage power.
The Transcontinental Aqueduct will serve the Lower Colorado River Basin, Southern New Mexico and Western Texas. It will pump up to 12 million acre-ft of water annually from the Arkansas river and Mississippi river all the way to southern Colorado River.
The total electricity needed to accomplish this giant endeavor is about 60 billion kWh annually. or about one and a half percent of the current US electricity demand. In 2020 the US produced 1,586 billion kWh from natural gas, 956 from coal, 337.5 from wind and 90.9 from solar.
For this giant project to have any chance of success there has to be something in it to be gained from every state that will be participating. Here are some of the benefits:
Arizona: Arizona needs more water. The water from Mississippi is less saline and better suited for agriculture and the people growth makes it necessary to provide more water sources. Right now the aquifers are being depleted. Then what? One example: The San Carlos lake is nearly dry half the time and almost never filled to capacity. With the aqueduct supplying water it can be filled to 80 +- 20% of full capacity all the time. In the event of a very large snow melt the lake level can be reduced in advance to accommodate the extra flow. Likewise during Monsoon season the aqueduct flow can be reduced in anticipation of large rain events. Arizona together with New Mexico has the best locations for solar power, but is lacking the water necessary for hydro-power storage. This proposal will give 600 cfs of water to Tucson, 3,100 cfs to the Phoenix area and 3,900 cfs to the lower Colorado River in Phase 1. I phase 2 it will add 3,100 cfs to Lake Havasu and an extra 4,700 cfs to the lower Colorado River. It will also also add 28 GW of hydro-power storage capable of adding 140 GWh of electric peak power daily when it is fully built out in Phase 3.
Arkansas: The main benefit for Arkansas is better flood control and river control of the Arkansas River and allowing it to deepen the draft for canal barges from 9,5 feet to 12 feet, which is standard on the Mississippi river.
California: The water aqueduct serving Los Angeles will be allowed to use maximum capacity at all times. Additional water resources will be given the greater San Diego area. The Imperial valley will be given sweet Mississippi and Arkansas River water, which will improve agriculture yield. The polluted New River will be cut off at the Mexico border. There will be water allocated to the Salton Sea. There is a proposal to mine the world’s largest Lithium ore, mining the deep brine, rich in Lithium. (about a third of the world supply according to one estimate). This requires water, and as a minimum requirement to allow mining in the Salton Sea the water needs to be cleaned. This requires further investigation, but the area around the Salton Sea is maybe the most unhealthy in the United States. It used to be a great vacation spot.
Mexico: During the negotiations about who was going to get the water in Lake Mead Mexico did not get enough water, so they have been using all remaining water for irrigation, and no water is reaching the ocean anymore. In addition the water is too salty for ideal irrigation. This proposal will provide sweet Mississippi and Arkansas River water to Mexico, ensure that some water reaches the Colorado river delta. This will restore the important ecology and restore aquatic life in the delta and the gulf. The town of Mexicali will get some water in exchange for shutting off New River completely.
Nevada: Las Vegas is a catastrophe waiting to happen unless Lake Mead is saved. With this proposal there will be ample opportunity to make the desert bloom.
New Mexico: The state is ideally suited for solar panels. In addition to give much needed water to communities along the length of the aqueduct, it will provide 13.5 GW of pumped storage power to be made available at peak power usage for up to 5 hours a day.
Oklahoma: The main advantage for Oklahoma is a much improved flood control. It will provide the same advantage for river barge traffic as benefits Arkansas.
Texas: The state has a big problem. It has already built up too much wind power and can not give up their coal burning power plants until the electricity is better balanced. They have no hydro-electric power storage at all, and we saw the result of that in a previous year’s cold snap. This proposal will give the Texas electric grid 8.8 GW of hydro-electric power for up to 5 hours a day.
Utah: The state will no longer be bound to provide water to Lake Mead, but can use all of its water rights for Utah, especially the Salt Lake City region, and to reverse the decline of the Great Salt Lake that is now shrunk to less than a third of the size it had in the 1970’s.
Wyoming: The state will be free to use the water in the Green River and all the yearly allocated 1.05 million acre-feet of water can be used by the state of Wyoming.
The cost to do all these aqueducts will be substantial, but it can be done for less than 350 billion dollars in 2022 money, and that includes the cost of providing power generation. Considering it involves 40 million people dependent on the Colorado River now and another 10 million east of the Rocky Mountains, it is well worth doing, much more important to do than other “green” projects, since it will save the American Southwest from becoming an uninhabitable desert.
This proposed solution cannot be made possible without changing our approach to power generation. The mantra now is to solve all our power needs through renewables. Texas has shown us that too much wind power without any hydroelectric power storage can lead to disaster. In addition, windmills kill birds, even threatening some species, such as the Golden Eagle and other large raptors that like to build their aeries on top of the generators. Solar panels work best in arid, sunny climate, such as Arizona and New Mexico, but the panels need cooling and cleaning to work best, and that takes water. They are even more dependent on hydro-power storage than wind. The transcontinental aqueduct will triple the hydro-electric power storage for the nation. Without pumped power storage we still need all the conventional power generation capacity for when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.
Conventional Nuclear power plants doesn’t work in most places since they depend on water for their cooling, and most of these aqueducts pump water in near deserts, and there would be too much evaporation losses to use water from the aqueducts for cooling.
The only realistic approach would be to use LFTR power plants. (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors). There are many advantages for using LFTR. Here are 30 reasons why LFTRs is by far the best choice.
For this project to succeed there must be developed a better way to build SMRs (Small Modular Reactors, less than 250 MW) more effectively. The price to build a LFTR plant should be less than $2.50 per watt. While the LFTR science is well understood, the LFTR engineering is not fully developed yet, but will be ready in less than 5 years if we get to it. In the mean time there should be built one or more assembly plants that can mass produce LFTR reactor vessels small enough so they can be shipped on a normal flatbed trailer through the normal highway system. My contention is that a 100 MW reactor vessel can be built this way and the total cost per plant will be less than 250 Million dollars. To save the American Southwest we will need about 350 of them, or 87,5 billion dollars total. This cost is included in the total calculation. There will be many more of these plants produced to produce all the electric power to power all the electric vehicles that are going to be built. This is the way to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Just switching to electric vehicles will not do the trick. The electric energy must come from somewhere. To convert all cars and trucks and with unchanging driving habits will require another 600 GW of generating capacity by 2050, our present “net zero emissions” goal.
To do this project we need cooperation from all states in providing eminent domain access. The Federal government will need to approve LFTR as the preferred Nuclear process and streamline approval process from many years to less than one year.
Some of the power will come from solar panels and wind turbines, which will reduce the need for LFTR’s. One tantalizing idea is to cover the aqueduct with solar panels. This will do many things, it will not take up additional acreage, water needed to keep the panels clean is readily available, and can even be used to cool the solar panels if economically beneficial. The area available is 152 feet times 1100 miles = 1.6 billion square feet, and one square foot of solar panel produces around 1 W, which means covering the aqueduct with solar panels would produce 882 MW of power. It would also reduce evaporation. The second source of energy will be 165,000 5kW vertical wind turbines producing 825 MW when the wind is blowing. The rest of the power will cme from LFTRs. This idea requires further analysis. Here is one possible implementation of the idea:
Further developments to save the American Southwest.
When the Transcontinental aqueduct is well under way it is time to start the Trans-Rocky-Mountain Aqueduct. in a few years the population growth will require again to save Lake Powell and Lake Mead, and rejuvenate the American South-west.
- Lake Powell and Lake Mead will be emptied in less than 10 years with the current usage pattern. Then what?
- The hydroelectric power from Lake Mead (and Lake Powell) is diminishing as the lakes are emptied.
- the aquifers are drawn down everywhere in the Southwest, but also the Ogallala Aquifer in Colorado and Kansas, and are at risk of being exhausted.
- The Colorado River water is too salty for good irrigation .
- The Colorado river no longer reaches the Gulf of California. Fishing and shrimp harvesting around the Colorado River Delta is no more.
- 40 million people depend on the Colorado River for drinking water. The population is still rising rapidly in the West. Will they have water in the future? Think 20 million future population growth in the next 40 years, people want to move there even with the current water problems.
Build a Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct from the Mississippi River to the San Juan River. In the first 391 miles the aqueduct joins the McClellan–Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System by adding the capability of pumping 7,500 cfs of water through 16 dams that service the locks. This will lead to reversing the flow of water during low flow. This also facilitates the navigation channel to be deepened from 9 feet to 12 feet to service fully loaded barges, a step authorized but not funded by Congress. The Arkansas river will then be capable of transporting 8 million acre-ft of water yearly through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, supplying water from the Colorado river to Lake Powell. All that is needed to do in this stage is provide the dams and locks with a number of pumps and pump/generators to accommodate this, at a cost of less than 2 billion dollars. The next phase is pumping up water in the Arkansas river for 185 miles. To accommodate this there will be 17 small control dams built that are closed when normal pumping occurs and open during flood conditions. The cost for this segment, including pumps will be less than 3 billion dollars. The third segment is a 465 mile aqueduct to cross the Rocky Mountains much like the Central Arizona project but this aqueduct will carry three times more water 1.27 times the distance and raise the water four times higher. The original Central Arizona Project cost $4.7 billion in 1980’s money, the aqueduct part of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct will cost around $50 Billion in 2021 money applying simple scaling up principles.
Power requirements for the 3 stages are 310 MW for the canal stage, 600MW for the river stage and 6.2 GW for the aqueduct stage. The aqueduct stage can be controlled by the power companies to shut off the pumps and provide 6.4 GW of virtual peak power for up to 5 hours a day on average, and each leg can be controlled individually since they are separated by large dams. There will be 64 one hundred MegaWatt LFTR (Liquid Fluoride salt Thorium Rector) power stations strategically stationed along the waterway providing pumping of water for 19 hours and providing virtual hydro-power output for on average 5 hours. There will also be 910 MW of power needed that is controlled by the river authorities.
The building cost of providing LFTR power should be around $2.50 per Watt of installed energy if a plant is built to manufacture via an assembly line a standardized version of 100 MW LFTR reactor core vessels assemblies capable of being transported on truck to the installation point. The total power cost should then be 16 billion dollars to build, and 5 cents per kWh or about 2.5 billion dollars a year to provide power.
The Mississippi River has a bad reputation for having polluted water, but since the clean water act the water quality has improved drastically. Fecal coli-form bacteria is down by a factor of more than 100, the water is now used all the way down to New Orleans for drinking water after treatment. The lead levels are down by a factor of 1000 or more since 1979. Plastic pollution and pharmaceutical pollution is still a problem, as is the case with most rivers. The Ph is back to around 8 and salt content is negligible. Mississippi water is good for irrigation, and usable for drinking water after treatment. The Arkansas River water quality is pretty good, good enough in Kaw Lake to be used for municipal water supply. Nitrates and phosphates are lower than in most Eastern rivers, Ph is around 8 and coli-bacteria low.
Most hydroelectric pumped storage was installed in the 70’s. Now natural gas plants provide most of the peak power. This aqueduct will add 6.4 GW to the U.S. pumped peak storage if virtual peak storage is included. By being pumped from surplus wind and solar energy as well as nuclear energy it is true “Green power”. Some people like that.
What follows is a description of each leg of the aqueduct. Legs 3, 4, 5 and 6 ends in a dam, which holds enough water to make each leg free to operate to best use of available electricity and provide peak power on demand.
Leg 1 of The Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From the Mississippi river to Webbers Falls lock and dam. Total length 15miles of aqueduct and 335 miles of river. Cost of water 333 kWh per acre-ft.
Leg 2 of The Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From Webbers Falls to Keystone Dam, a distance of about 75 miles that is river and 25 miles, which is canal. Cost of water 593 kWh per acre-ft.
Leg 3 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From Keystone Dam to Kaw Dam.The Keystone Lake is 38 miles long and the river part is about 110 miles. Cost of water 901 kWh per acre-ft.
Leg 4 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From Kaw Lake to John Martin Reservoir, a distance of about 200 miles. Cost of water 4,446 kWh per acre-ft.
Leg 5 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From John Martin Reservoir to Trinidad Lake, a distance of about 120 miles. Cost of water 7,300 kWh per acre-ft.
Leg 6 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From Trinidad Lake to Abiquiu Reservoir, a distance of 90 miles. Cost of water 7,910 kWh per acre-ft.
Leg 7 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From the Abiquiu Reservoir to the San Juan River, a distance of 55 miles. Cost of water 7,395 kWh per acre-ft.
Once these two aquifers are completed and running successfully filling the rivers again it is time to refill the aquifers. This requires a change in the water rights laws. The rain water is a property of the land and can be locally retained via small catch basins and ditches. This will restore the aquifers, reduce soil erosion and rejuvenate vegetation as has been successfully done in the dry parts of India. They needed to capture the monsoon rains, and so does Arizona and New Mexico.
One more thing:
Build a South Platte River aqueduct. This will solve the water needs for the greater Denver ares and help preserve the northern Ogallala aquifer.
The rise in CO2 is on balance positive, it has already helped to keep 2 billion people from starvation. With food famine coming the very worst thing we can do is declare a climate emergency and unilaterally reduce our electric supply eliminating much of our fossil fuel source to produce electricity and at the same time push electric cars.
This cannot be solved unless there will be a deep commitment to Nuclear power, streamline government permit processes and let private industry find the best solutions without government playing favorites and slowing down the process. Regular U235 power is not sufficient for this, Only Thorium power will do, and there are many reasons for it. Here are 30 of them:
1. A million year supply of Thorium available worldwide.
2. Thorium already mined, ready to be extracted.
3. Thorium based nuclear power produces 0.012 percent as much TRansUranium waste products as traditional nuclear power.
4. Thorium based nuclear power will produce Plutonium-238, needed for space exploration.
5. Thorium nuclear power is only realistic solution to power space colonies.
6. Radioactive waste from an Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor decays down to background radiation in 300 years compared to a million years for U-235 based reactors. A Limerick.
7. Thorium based nuclear power is not suited for making nuclear bombs.
8. Produces isotopes that helps treat and maybe cure certain cancers.
9. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors are earthquake safe, only gravity needed for safe shutdown.
10. Molten Salt Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors cannot have a meltdown, the fuel is already molten, and it is a continuous process. No need for refueling shutdowns.
11. Molten Salt Nuclear Reactors have a very high negative temperature coefficient leading to a safe and stable control.
12. Atmospheric pressure operating conditions, no risk for explosions. Much safer and simpler design.
13. Virtually no spent fuel problem, very little on site storage or transport.
14. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Nuclear reactors scale beautifully from small portable generators to full size power plants.
15. No need for evacuation zones, Liquid Fuel Thorium Reactors can be placed near urban areas.
16. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will work both as Base Load and Load Following power plants.
17. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will lessen the need for an expanded national grid.
18. Russia has an active Thorium program.
19. India is having an ambitious Thorium program, planning to meet 30% of its electricity demand via Thorium based reactors by 2050.
20. China is having a massive Thorium program.
21. United States used to be the leader in Thorium usage. What happened?
22. With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like the Three Mile Island disaster will not happen.
23. With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like Chernobyl are impossible.
24. With Molten Salt Reactors, a catastrophe like Fukushima cannot happen.
25. Will produce electrical energy at about 4 cents per kWh.
26. Can deplete most of the existing radioactive waste and nuclear weapons stockpiles.
27. With electric cars and trucks replacing combustion engine cars, only Thorium Nuclear power is the rational solution to provide the extra electric power needed.
28. The race for space colonies is on. Only Molten Salt Thorium Nuclear reactors can fit the bill.
29. President Donald J. Trump on Jan. 5 2021 issued an Executive Order on Promoting Small Modular Reactors for National Defense and Space Exploration. Only Liquid fluoride thorium reactors can meet all the needs.
30. We have to switch from Uranium to Thorium as nuclear feed-stock. We are running out of domestic Uranium.
My favorite Thorium power plant would be a 100 MW Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR). It is also called a Small Modular Reactor (SMR). It is small enough that all core elements will fit in three standard truck containers and be made on an assembly line. It can be constructed many ways, one is a normal fast breeder reactor, another is adapted to burn nuclear waste. The cost for these reactors, when built on an assembly line will be less than $2 per Watt. They can be placed anywhere, since they are inherently safe, no need for an evacuation zone. Since they are operating at 500C temperature with either gas or liquid lead as heat transfer media there is no need for water as a cooling medium. When mass produced it will be able to produce electricity at 5 c per kWh and the mining to produce the materials is a fraction of what is needed for solar, and wind power, especially when taking into account the intermittent nature of these power sources.The only thing better would be fusion power, but that is at least 20 years away as a power producing source, but it is coming. These are exciting times!