COVID Adventures

On 30th August I tested positive for COVID. I had a runny nose plus slight cough for a couple of days and generally felt tired. My wife Anna had already experienced similar symptoms 10 days earlier (hence our box of antigen tests) but had always tested negative. As a result we booked our NHS PCR tests the next day (Monday) and sure enough mine came back positive on Tuesday, but hers not. Track and Trace contacted me and I agreed to self isolate for 7 days (10 days since first symptoms appeared). This was not such a big deal as I have a garden and perhaps illogically my wife was free to do the shopping. By day 5 though I felt fine and tested negative on a consequent Antigen test. I am sure the real reason I had mild symptoms is because I had been already double vaccinated (AstraZeneca) at the end of April.

Dreaded positive Antigen Test

Before all this we had already booked Ryanair flights back to Italy on 10 Sep initially for a 2 week stay, but with the idea to stay an extra week because then we would be able to fly to Hong Kong and visit my son and family who we haven’t seen for nearly two years. This is because Italy is a medium risk country whereas UK is a high risk country. Only Hong Kong residents can fly from high risk countries, whereas anyone can enter from medium risk countries subject to restrictions and at least a 22 stay in that country. To travel to Italy we first took a Boots antigen test the day before and luckily these came back negative so we were good to fly.

Italy is my favourite country partly because I lived there for 22 years. The food is the best in the world and the weather is normally perfect. So spending 3 weeks in Liguria is a pleasure. The only doubt was how to get from there to Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific no longer fly direct from Milan so the only realistic solution was Lufthansa via Frankfurt, because a transfer via a high risk country (e.g. London) invalidates your entry to Hong Kong!

Sunday 3/10: Milan Malpensa – Frankfurt delayed 1 hour leaving 20 mins to meet the connection to Hong Kong. Brexit forced us to go through manual passport control first as we are leaving the EU. Then a 1 km run to get to the last gate in the airport. Huge relief that all PCR tests, vaccination certificates, Hong Kong Health declaration were in order. As we eventually board there are still a couple of people who got caught not having made the HK health declaration and are frantically entering it on their phones. Hopefully they too all made it on board.

Monday: We finally arrive in Hong Kong at 3.30pm . Then we are directed to a huge holding area for incoming persons where all the documents are again rechecked and we are each given a number. We are then directed into a large terminal area for yet another full PCR test, where an army of protective suited medical staff in multiple cubicles are lined up to swab each of us and then hand us a ticket confirming our test ID to hang round our necks. More long walks to yet another terminal area with hundreds of desks spaced one metre apart each with a code matching our test IDs. We then wait another 3 hours for the negative results to arrive and we are each given new freedom sheets so that we can finally leave. After double checks and finally passport checks  we are then able to pass through to a baggage collection area. Then eventually we get into another queuing system based on quarantine hotel name. Only a 20 minute wait till we finally get outside to get on a bus with one passenger on each 2 seat bench – ( 1 meter rule). The driver and assistant are dressed in full bio hazard suits. After traffic delays from an accident we finally arrive at our hotel 6 hours after landing in Hong Kong. We reach our fairly spacious hotel room where we must now spend the next 2 weeks.

Day 6 Saturday: We now have a kind of routine in place to keep sane. After breakfast spend 30 mins on a treadmill we managed to rent, then read newspapers on-line and afterwards the books we brought with us. Then coffee at 11am and lunch arrives at 1:30 pm. In the afternoon more exercise/stretching, dinner arrives around  8pm – now we can have some wine & beer ! Our food is good and all delivered in disposable cartons and left outside the room. It seems like a waste as we then throw it all away afterwards, but the objective is to avoid any possible contamination from our room escaping. We wait a couple of  minutes to retrieve meals  because we must avoid seeing anyone, and especially never leave the room itself. If you are caught more than ~1 metre from the door you risk being fined and taken into  government quarantine. That certainly would not be pleasant.

Yesterday we had PCR tests by the Hong Kong Health Authority in the entrance to our room. It was all very efficient. We put a chair and a bin in the entrance. They rang the bell dressed in protective gear, checked our passport numbers, swabbed us, and then disposed of their gloves in our bin. Again the logic is to keep any contamination always inside our room.  We now have only just over 1 week to go and 2 more PCR tests before we are free to leave !

Hong Kong averages 4 new cases per day in a population of 7.5 million. That is 0.5 cases per 100,000 (1 in 28000 persons per week), whereas the UK records ~60 cases per 100,000. The latest ONS figures show 1 in 70 persons testing positive in the UK.

Update 18th Oct : We are out of quarantine !


Posted in Covid-19, Health | Tagged | 4 Comments

UK Peak power 2019-2021

Electricity is a power source that runs the modern world. Meeting the instantaneous power demands of the UK  is the responsibility of the National Grid (ELEXON).

The balancing of available energy supply with the instantaneous power demand as logged  by ELEXON  provides a live snapshot of which fuel type provides the power required  needed  to match demand. Energy security requires that demand must  always be met. I have been monitored ELEXON data since December 2016. Peak demand in general always occurs around 6pm each evening so I use this value to compare the relative importance of different energy sources needed to provide energy security. The values provided by ELEXON  are for centrally ‘metered’ power supply and do not include smaller ‘feed-in’ sources. In addition unmetered ‘feed in’ wind farms are estimated to add ~46% to the larger metered wind farms. This correction is applied to the overall results below. Elexon changed format during the winter 20/21 so I missed a couple of months logging before I realised the problem. Despite this the results give a very similar picture to previous years.

Daily fuel contributions to peak power (6pm), The upper red trace is total demand.

The 2 year average contribution for each fuel  to peak power are given in the table below below

Fuel % Contribution
Gas 44.03%
Nuclear 16.443%
Wind 15.9%
French Imports 4.85%
Dutch Imports 2.0%
Bio(DRAX) 6.3%
Coal 2.9%
Hydro/Pumped 2.o%
Solar Metered ~4%

This result is shown graphically below which compares the peak power(6pm)  with the low power demand(4am) . Note how at night the weather dependent wind power increases its percentage as gas is turned down. Nuclear is basically always on and still outperforms wind in both scenarios despite the last operational station being completed in 1995 (Sizewell B).

Shown in red are the relative contributions to UK peak power. Blue shows the contribution at 4am

This analysis shows that it is not feasible to run UK on renewable energy alone. The only realistic zero carbon energy future is one that depends on a steady baseload of nuclear energy. Wind Energy needs a storage method that can iron out large fluctuations and avoid discarding excess power during high wind speeds especially at night. Otherwise we will always depend on Natural Gas as back up for wind lulls as shown below.

Gas and Wind output are perfectly anti-correlated. Gas is turned up or down depending on the output of Wind power. This balancing is needed to meet peak demand.

Alternative storage for wind energy is pumped hydro, green hydrogen or even green methane. However it is not clear the last two processes are economic.

Posted in Energy | Tagged | 14 Comments

Bias in Science

I just watched the Freddie Sayers UNHERD interview with Prof. Jay Bhattacharya from Stanford. The Great Barrington Declaration, also signed by Prof. Gupta from Oxford, proposed an alternative  policy to lockdowns while protecting the vulnerable. This was almost immediately ridiculed by mainstream epidemiologists and especially SAGE scientists as being dangerous nonsense. The signatories consequentially suffered professional damage as a result.  Today though as we learn that vaccines cannot fully stop the spread of COVID, so their approach begins to look more reasonable because we will most likely have to learn to live with COVID becoming an endemic disease. All the  various lockdowns, consequent economic carnage, and related non-COVID health damage (cancer, mental health etc.)  may turn out to have just been delaying the inevitable. The Barrington signatories were pilloried and ostracised by their peers at the time, so too was Anders Tegnell in Sweden. However they may well yet prove to have been right all along.

The conclusion I found most interesting in this interview was the proposal that scientific advice can simply depend on your politics rather than the “science”.  Since most academic scientists are inherently left wing so they tend to support top down social justice interventions. The consensus opinion against the Barrington scientists may simply have been because they were viewed as being too libertarian by opposing their government advice to impose NPIs.  Similarly they rubbished Tegel’s policy in Sweden for the same  reason. The left tend to be far more likely to support imposing widespread controls on social “justice”  whereas the right are more likely to oppose big government control over private lives. This advice for authoritarian control of society has then been  accentuated by the fear of COVID whipped up by the press. People become willing  to accept such draconian limitations on their freedom once they believe that otherwise their lives will put in imminent  danger.

There is almost an exact analogy here with the situation in Climate Science. The climate “experts” also tend to come from left leaning science academia and likewise they too are proposing stringent top down controls on society and our private lives in order to save the planet from climate change. The emergence of an explicitly left political protest group XR, hell bent on imposing a technological “lockdown” by force is no surprise since it has the implicit support of most climate scientists. The temperature data indeed seem to get more alarming and the language ever more strident. The difference though is that “dangerous” climate change, if it can even be defined,  is still projected to occur many decades into the future when most of us will be dead anyway. The other point that is completely overlooked is exactly how the whole world can realistically cut all CO2 emissions and who will police it. If it  was easy and cheap then it would already have happened.

So just how political has climate science become? Can we really trust the existing temperature data and its  projected rise into the future by ever more sensitive models? What would a 3C warmer world actually look like and why can’t we simply adapt to it?  How possibly could the world achieve Net Zero ? Who should act first? How much would it cost  and how would you then do you police other countries emissions ? These are all questions studiously avoided by climate scientists. It is someone else’s problem, not theirs.

AR5 was a good report but it had one flaw which many climate scientists hated. It showed a temperature “hiatus” – or essentially no warming at all between 1998 and 2012

AR5 Comparison of global temperature anomalies with CMIP5 models

Since then a huge effort has gone into expanding the station data, “homogenising” (adjusting nearby data station data) and extrapolating the results into sparsely populated regions especially the Arctic ( I have been doing the same !). This has resulted in vanishing the famous AR5 hiatus. A steady increase in temperatures is now the consensus, although even then the  trend still lies in the lower half of model projections (low sensitivity)

Updated Figure 2020 ( maintained by Ed Hawkins)

However some of the updates for example those in HadCRUT4 show that the underlying temperature data have been altered. The figure below shows a comparison of the final HadCRUT3 dataset and the latest HadCRUT4 series both calculated using just the  HADCRUT3 only station numbers.

Comparison of HadCRUT3 temperatures and HADCRUT4.6 temperatures restricted to H3 stations only. ‘New’ uses only the CRUTEM4 versions of the CRUTEM3 stations

This change enabled 2010 to just exceed the 1998 temperature breaking the Hiatus, although I discovered that they also relocated some stations using the same station number.

Figure 2. The black curve is based on “modern” CRUTEM3 stations combined with HADSST3 and the Yellow curve is CRUTEM3 stations with HADSST2.  Neither reproduces the Hiatus seen in  HadCRUT3

AR6 WG1 “summary for policymakers” is now available and he language is more strident and the graphics more slick. Humans have caused a net warming of about 1.1C since pre-industrial times.

Change in global surface temperature (decadal average) as reconstructed (1-2000) and observed (1850-2020)

The comparison is against the last 2000 years but if instead you use Marcott instead then the warmest period during the Holocene was 6000 years ago and was about 0.5C warmer than 1850. However current temperatures are still 0.6C warmer than then. The Eemian interglacial was yet warmer again reaching about 5C warmer than 1850. Here is my spiral showing EPICA Ice core derived temperatures over the last ~200,000 years.

So the earth has been warmer than now 125,000 years ago and far colder 24,000 year ago. Most human development has occurred during the holocene interglacial. Industrialisation since 1800 has improved the life of  billions of people, but the price to be paid for this is an unforeseen rise in CO2 levels leading to a ~1C rise in average annual temperatures. This rise will continue until CO2 levels stabilise. However the idea that you can blame an oil company for localised flooding or forest fires though is daft nonsense. The impact of an ever increasing population and the loss of natural environments are probably just as important.

Everyone agrees that we must eventually stop burning fossil fuels to avoid excessive temperatures in the next 80 years. The question is how to achieve that goal without destroying the wellbeing of everyone. For some reason political pressure groups push governments to deploy “renewable energy” and close all fossil fuel power plants. The trouble is none of them do the sums. David Mackay did them for us but most activists have conveniently forgotten his results.

If we electrify road transport & heating we will need more than twice the current peak power delivery. That roughly translates to 90GW power delivery for the UK at 6pm.  Quite often all UK Wind turbines combined produce <1GW for 24h. Sometimes they produce quite a lot (up to 18GW) and sometimes they produce nothing at all. A modern society cannot function with blackouts so renewable energy should never form the core of any electricity supply system. That has to be nuclear energy. Nothing else works and we have to stop listening to Greenpeace and XR nonsense.

Another fact that is conveniently ignored: A world based on renewable energy must also generate enough energy to renew itself – mine & refine copper, steel, rare earths, aluminium, fibreglass etc. Then transport them all to site, demolish the old plant, clear the site and erect the new plant, all without using any diesel.

So beware of simplistic solutions based on political ideology which simply don’t work.

Posted in AGW, Climate Change, Covid-19, Public Health | 25 Comments