Disclaimer. After nearly 40 years managing money for some of the largest life offices and investment managers in the world, I think I have something to offer. These days I'm retired, and I can't by law give you advice. While I do make mistakes, I try hard to do my analysis thoroughly, and to make sure my data are correct (old habits die hard!) Also, don't ask me why I called it "Volewica". It's too late, now.

BTW, clicking on most charts will produce the original-sized, i.e., bigger version.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Delhi air pollution literally off the scale

From The Guardian:

Smog more toxic than can be measured by monitoring devices has blanketed the Indian capital this week, months before the start of Delhi’s traditional “pollution season”.

A thick haze was visible across the city from Tuesday and some government pollution monitors have recorded concentrations of 999 – the highest they can measure – as dust storms kicked up in nearby Rajasthan state blanketed the region.

Concern about north India’s air quality crisis is usually most acute after the Hindu festival of Diwali in autumn, when hundreds of thousands of Indians release firecrackers that combine with existing pollutants to form a poisonous haze over the region that persists for months until temperatures cool. Public health experts said pollution levels on some days in November last year were the equivalent of smoking 50 cigarettes per day.

India, home to 14 of the world’s top 20 most polluted cities, has the highest rate of respiratory diseases of any country. A leading lung specialist, Arvind Kumar, says the cancer patients he sees Delhi are younger, more often female and more likely to be non smokers than those outside the city.

Children are the most vulnerable: a 2015 study concluded about half Delhi’s 4.4m schoolchildren had stunted lung development and would never completely recover.

[Read more here]

Source: The Guardian

World GDP growth has prolly peaked

The chart shows the year on year % change in world real (inflation-adjusted) GDP (grey bars) compared with and index of world PMI (purchasing manager index) survey.  The PMIs are revealed quicker than world GDP, so they are a useful guide to what's happening right now, whereas GDP data are only released quarterly and with delays.  Even though the US is still strong, world growth is starting to slow as rising US  short and long rates start to bite.  A trade war would take world growth sharply lower.

➥ The composites for both series are my calculations using country contributions to GDP.  Latest Q1 Russian GDP is estimated.  Countries included make up 90% of world GDP.  The PMI indices come from Markit Economics

Caving away by the day

I talked here about beach erosion in WA (Western Australia).  For each centimetre of sea level rise, the beach retreats by one metre.

This is a report about how erosion in a beach town is threatening the Great Ocean Road.  Long stretches of the Great Ocean Road run along steep hillsides and are well above sea level, but there are places where it runs next to the beach.   The charming hamlet of Apollo Bay is one of these places.

Authorities have been accused of inaction as a car park in one of Victoria's premier tourist towns erodes "by the day," potentially threatening one of the state's major touring routes.

Apollo Bay locals have watched for months as the Tuxion Road car park falls into the sand, bringing the sea ever closer to the Great Ocean Road.

Pounding waves during the weekend's storm exacerbated the damage.

Parts of the beachside walking track are gone. There's now only five metres of land before the shoreline reaches the road.

Locals have been watching the section, about two kilometres in length, for a couple of months.

Apollo Bay Bakery co-owner Sally Cannon says the erosion is now progressing at an "alarming" rate.

"The car park is just caving away by the day," she told The Age. "Yesterday there were bollards. Today they're not there."

[Read more here]

This striking photograph sums it up very well.

Damage at the car park on Monday.
Photo: Sally Cannon

Sea level rise: denial by bullshit

From Open Mind:

Sea level rise is such a huge problem, and is so undeniable, that climate deniers have gone loony trying to blame it on anything and everything but global warming. It’s not working; the recent idiocy from congressman Mo Brooks trying to blame sea level rise on rocks and dirt filling the oceans didn’t increase doubt about human cause like he hoped, rather it raised extreme doubt about his competence. He, and his idea, quickly became a laughingstock. Others have been ridiculed for similarly ridiculous ideas. Now Roy Spencer has joined the crowd with something almost as dumb as rocks.

His “thesis” is that sea level rise before 1950 had to be all natural. His thesis is wrong. He further supposes that since 1950 it has continued to rise at the pre-1950 rate for entirely natural reasons. His further supposition is wrong. Only by using such blatantly false suppositions can he conclude that the human contribution to sea level rise is only 0.3 inches per decade (that’s 0.76 mm/yr). His conclusion is wrong.

[Read more here]


  1. The exponential slope of the atmospheric CO2 chart.  For global warming to stop, we need that line to be flat, which means we need to stop adding to the CO2 in the atmosphere by cutting emissions to zero.  Think of it as a bathtub with a very tiny plughole.   Until we turn the taps of altogether, the level of water in the bathtub will keep on rising--until it overflows.  Natural processes remove CO2 from the atmosphere but it will take thousands of years.
  2. The sharp down-spikes in the two series in the bottom chart are due to volcanic eruptions.  Volcanoes release SO2 into the upper atmosphere which forms 'aerosols' which reflect incoming infra-red from the sun back into space.  These particles quickly, within a couple of years, fall to earth, so the cooling effect is temporary.
  3. The global temperature anomaly, after allowing for volcanic eruptions, is rising in the same exponential way as CO2.  If we want to stop that rise we have to cease adding to the level of atmospheric CO2.
  4. The rise in global temperatures has been just under 0.2 degrees C per decade over the last 30 or 40 years.  We have already increased them by 1 degree C since pre-industrial times.  If it takes another 30 years to reach zero emissions, temperatures will rise by another 0.6 degrees.  
  5. Time is running out.  The bath is close to overflowing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

US advance indicators level off a tad

The US has a number of regional Fed surveys, plus the national ISM (formerly the NAPM) and the PMI surveys.  These come out early in the month and are well correlated with the economic cycle.  The thick green lines shows the average (for manufacturing) for the ISM and the PMI surveys, the blue dotted line shows the ISM alone and the red dashed line the PMI alone.  No signs of a precipitous plunge, but there does appear to be a levelling off.  Given the rise in the Fed's discount rate and the massive sell-off in Treasuries (10 year yield up from 1.38 in July 2016 to 2.94 now) that wouldn't be at all surprising.  Will there be a recession?  I'll keep you posted.

➥ "Extreme adjustment" refers to a statistical process whereby extreme points (up or down) are reduced to fit closer to the nearby data averages.  For example, the extreme adjustment algorithm would adjust the data point for a strike, say, or a hurricane, if it only lasted 1 month, but would not if its effects lasted 12 months.  The original algorithm was invented by the US Bureau of the Census.

Coal trends down, slowly

I alternate between optimism and pessimism about global warming and environmental degradation. 

Sometimes I am optimistic; when I see how renewables are getting ever cheaper; when I see how EV sales are booming; when I see the way so many people (the vast majority, in fact) know that there is a problem and express their willingness to do something to stop global warming.

Sometimes I am pessimistic.  When I get into arguments with denialists who appear to me to be either stupid or dishonest; when I see how slowly the transition is happening (even though I am very certain that it will accelerate over the next decade); when I see incontrovertible and mounting evidence that the climate is shifting in a very not benign direction; when I talk to people who still maintain that switching to renewables will cause the economy to crash.

So here's a piece of good news.  The amount of electricity produced from burning coal appears to have levelled off and this year may have started declining.

In the chart below, the change in electricity production from coal is represented by blue (of course!  why wouldn't you?), gas by black and wind/solar by pink (leftists everywhere!)  The years 1998 and 1999 which were years of deep global recession and 2010 was when the global economy especially China rebounded strongly.  So these are aberrations in the longer-term trends.  What is clear over the last 20 years is that for most of that period, the increase in the global demand for electricity was mostly supplied from coal and some gas.  There's a lot of blue.  Equally, there's hardly any pink.  But from 2010 onwards, there's more and more pink, and from 2014 onwards, the blue starts to disappear.  But wait a minute, what about 2017?  The blue bar gets larger, though so does the pink.  That's explained by China.  Hydro electricity production (light grey) was down, because of drought, so their coal power stations were run at slightly higher capacity.  In 2018, the pink bar will expand again, and the blue bar will narrow.  If China gets rain this northern hemisphere summer, the blue bar will be tiny.  In 2019, the pink bar will expand again, and the chances are very high that the blue bar will be negative.  Each year after that it will be more negative, because by then new wind and solar farms will be cheaper than the operating costs of coal mines nearly everywhere in the world.

(Source: IEEFA)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Annual Antarctic ice loss triples in just 5 years

The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is increasingly being viewed as posing a potential planetary emergency.
(Source: The Age)

Antarctica's ice sheet is melting at a rapidly increasing rate, now pouring more than 200 billion tonnes of ice into the ocean annually and raising sea levels half a millimetre every year, a team of 80 scientists has reported.

The rate of melting has tripled in the past decade, the study concluded. If the acceleration continues, some of scientists' worst fears about rising oceans could be realised, leaving low-lying cities and communities with less time to prepare than they had hoped.

The result also reinforces that nations have a short window - perhaps no more than a decade - to cut greenhouse gas emissions if they hope to avert some of the worst consequences of climate change.

Antarctica, the planet's largest ice sheet, lost 219 billion tonnes of ice annually from 2012 to 2017 - approximately triple the 73 billion tonne melt rate of a decade ago, the scientists concluded. From 1992 to 1997, Antarctica lost 49 billion tonnes of ice annually.

The study is the product of a large group of Antarctic experts who collectively reviewed 24 recent measurements of Antarctic ice loss, reconciling their differences to produce the most definitive figures yet on changes in Antarctica.

Their results - known formally as the "Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise" (IMBIE) - were published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

"The detailed record shows an acceleration, starting around 2002," Beata Csatho, one of the study authors and a glaciologist at the State University of New York at Buffalo, said in an email.

Csatho noted that comparing the first and last five-year periods in the record reveals an even steeper acceleration.

"Actually, if you compare 1997-2002 to 2012-2017, the increase is even larger, a factor of more than 5!!"

Looking closer, the rapid, recent changes are almost entirely driven by the West Antarctic ice sheet, which scientists have long viewed as an Achilles' heel. It is known to be losing ice rapidly because it is being melted from below by warm ocean waters, a process that is rendering its largest glaciers unstable.

West Antarctica lost 159 billion tonnes of ice a year from 2012 to 2017, compared with just 65 billion tonnes from 2002 to 2007.

The growth is largely attributable to just two huge glaciers - Pine Island and Thwaites. The latter is increasingly being viewed as posing a potential planetary emergency, because of its enormous size and its role as a gateway that could allow the ocean to someday access the entirety of West Antarctica, turning the marine-based ice sheet into a new sea.

Finally, the largest part of the continent, East Antarctica, has remained more stable and didn't contribute much ice to the ocean during the period of study, the assessment said. However, in the past  five years, it too has begun to lose ice, perhaps as much as 28 billion tonnes a year, although the uncertainty surrounding this number remains high.

What's happening in East Antarctica is extremely important because it has by far the most ice to give, being capable of raising sea levels by well over 30 metres. A single East Antarctic glacier, Totten, has the potential to unleash as much total sea level rise as the entire West Antarctic ice sheet, or more.

[Read more here and here]

Yet Florida, as just one example, still votes for the denialist Republican Party.