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Climate

How Bad Will Hurricane Season Be?

On NOAA’s annual outlook, LNG lawsuits, and peaker pollution.

Thursday
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Thousands of people in the Midwest are still without power in the aftermath of this week’s severe thunderstorms • A heat wave along the Gulf Coast could break temperature records over Memorial Day weekend • The UN says droughts, floods threaten a “humanitarian catastrophe” in southern Africa.

THE TOP FIVE

1. NOAA to release its Atlantic hurricane forecast

This morning, officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will announce their predictions for the coming storm season in the Atlantic Ocean. Based on what we know already, it’s shaping up to be a doozy.

  • Researchers at Colorado State University, which has issued an annual hurricane season outlook since 1984, are predicting 23 named storms, nearly nine more than the 30-year average leading up to 2020.
  • The Weather Company and Atmospheric G2, a weather data company, predict 24 named storms, citing freakishly warm ocean waters and the shift from El Niño to La Niña conditions as reasons for the elevated forecast.
  • AccuWeather’s meteorologists gave themselves some wiggle room, predicting 20-25 named storms for this year, with a 10% to 15% chance of 30 or more, said lead hurricane forecaster Alex DaSilva.
  • Just yesterday, the U.K.’s Met Office predicted 22 named storms in the North Atlantic.

What all this means is not quite anybody’s guess, but it is far from certain. As Heatmap’s Jeva Lange has written, “describing hurricane seasons as ‘quiet’ or ‘active’ is really a matter of perspective, even if it makes for good headlines.” It all depends on where they land. If that’s along the Gulf Coast, Heatmap’s Matthew Zeitlin wrote, it could spoil what looks to be a mild summer for gasoline prices in addition to whatever physical and emotional devastation it might cause.

So far this year the Northern Hemisphere has yet to see a named storm, the latest we’ve gone without one since 1983, according to CSU’s Phil Klotzbach. When we do get one in the Atlantic, it’ll be called Alberto.

2. Nissan postpones some new EVs

Nissan is delaying an expansion of its electric vehicle lineup in response to slow sales growth. The automaker had announced plans last year to build five new EV models, including two electric sedans, at its factory in Canton, Mississippi, as part of a push to offer 19 EV models worldwide by 2030. Nissan is now shifting its focus to the crossover SUVs in its EV lineup while it continues work on the sedans.

“We are adjusting the timeline for the introduction of these five new models to ensure we bring the vehicles to the market at the right time, prioritizing in line with customer demand and maximizing the opportunity for our brands and supplier partners,” a Nissan spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.

3. Iowa tornadoes take out wind turbines

During the deadly storm that devastated the town of Greenfield, Iowa on Tuesday, a tornado also caused significant damage to a nearby wind farm. Footage from the storm shows multiple 250-foot turbines collapsing, one by one, as the tornado passes over them. MidAmerican Energy Company has reported the “unprecedented” destruction of five turbines at its Orient wind farm in Iowa. The company said some of its turbines recorded wind speeds above 100 miles per hour.

Wind turbines are designed to withstand extreme weather, and losses like this are rare, even in Tornado Alley. (Iowa ranks second after Texas in total wind power generation.) But weather patterns’ increasing unpredictability and severity due to climate change are making such events more likely. Most wind turbines are not equipped to handle direct hits from powerful tornadoes, according to researchers.

The tornado\u2019s aftermath in Greenfield, Iowa.The tornado’s aftermath in Greenfield, Iowa.Scott Olson/Getty Images

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  • 4. Alaskan youth challenge LNG export project

    Eight Alaskans between the ages of 11 and 22 are suing the state over a major liquified natural gas export project they say violates their constitutional rights. Alaska Gasline Development Corporation’s nearly $40 billion Alaska LNG project — which would include a treatment plant, a liquefaction facility, and an 800-mile gas pipeline stretching across the state — is projected to start exporting around 2030. Its shipments would go to Asia, where demand for LNG is expected to rise. The youth bringing the lawsuit argue that the project infringes on the freedoms afforded them by the Alaska constitution, including access to natural resources and protection from government overreach.

    “The acceleration of climate change that this project will bring will affect what the land provides and brings to my culture,” Summer Sagoonick, the 22-year-old lead plaintiff and a member the Iñupiaq tribe, told The Guardian. “I am counting on the courts to protect my rights.”

    5. Report: Gas peaker plants dirtier than their counterparts

    Gas “peaker” plants — those used by electric utilities mostly to satisfy peak demand — emit above-average amounts of pollution and are often located near historically disadvantaged communities, a new report from the Government Accountability Office found. The 999 peaker plants operating in the U.S. in 2021 provided just 3.1% of the country’s net electricity generation that year. But these peaker plants emitted sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides at much higher rates than non-peaker plants, in part because they often lack emissions control technologies, the report found. It pointed to battery storage systems as an alternative that can help meet fluctuating power demand but acknowledged that utilities are concerned about the impacts such a shift would have on grid reliability.

    THE KICKER

    NASA and IBM are releasing a new artificial intelligence model they hope will refine weather forecasting and climate simulations.

    Editor’s note: This post has been updated to clarify the region that has seen no named storms so far this year.

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    Nicole Pollack profile image

    Nicole Pollack

    Nicole Pollack is a freelance environmental journalist who writes about energy, agriculture, and climate change. She is based in Northeast Ohio.

    Sparks

    Nuclear Energy Is the One Thing Congress Can Agree On

    Environmentalists, however, still aren’t sold on the ADVANCE Act.

    A nuclear power plant.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    While climate change policy is typically heavily polarized along party lines, nuclear energy policy is not. The ADVANCE Act, which would reform the nuclear regulatory policy to encourage the development of advanced nuclear reactors, passed the Senate today, by a vote of 88-2, preparing it for an almost certain presidential signature.

    The bill has been floating around Congress for about a year and is the product of bipartisanship within the relevant committees, a notable departure from increasingly top-down legislating in Washington. The House of Representatives has its own nuclear regulatory bill, the Atomic Energy Advancement Act, which the House overwhelmingly voted for in February.

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    Technology

    AM Briefing: America’s Long Bake

    On Equatic’s big news, heat waves, and the Paris Olympics

    Ocean-Based Carbon Removal Is About to Take a Big Step Forward
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Current conditions: Tropical storm warnings have been issued for Texas and Mexico • Parts of southwestern France were hit with large hail stones • The temperature trend for June is making climate scientists awfully nervous.

    THE TOP FIVE

    1. Lengthy heat wave threatens nearly 80 million Americans

    About 77 million people are under some kind of heat advisory as a heat wave works its way across the Midwest and Northeast. In most of New England, the heat index is expected to reach or exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. What makes this heat wave especially dangerous is its “striking duration,” Jake Petr, the lead forecaster with National Weather Service Chicago, toldThe New York Times. Temperatures are projected to stay exceptionally high for several days before beginning to taper off only slightly over the weekend. According toThe Washington Post, temperatures could be up to 25 degrees higher than normal for this time of year. And forecasters expect it to be unseasonably hot across the country for at least the next three weeks. Below is a look at the NWS HeatRisk projections today (top) and Thursday (bottom). The darker the color, the warmer the temperature and the higher the health risks.

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    Economy

    Crux Is Getting Some Powerful New Backers

    The New York-based startup aims to create a market for clean energy tax credits.

    Green energy and money details.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    One of the least-noticed changes in the Inflation Reduction Act may be one of the most important.

    For years, the government has encouraged developers, power utilities, and other companies to build clean energy by offering tax credits. But those tax credits were difficult to transfer to other companies, meaning that complicated financial instruments had to be created to allow them to share in the wealth.

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    Green