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'Bomb Cyclone' Brings Freezing Weather as Grid Debate Intensifies

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This data visualization shows very cold temperatures gripping large portions of North America on Jan. 1, 2018. The cold is a key ingredient in forming the "bomb cyclone" along the East Coast. NOAA

Temperatures continue in their second week of freezing lows in much of the U.S. as the Northeast braces for an intense "bomb cyclone" storm expected to hit Thursday.

Science studies and models report that the outbreak of arctic air bringing freezing temperatures to the lower U.S. is consistent with a warming planet, while researchers also report the conditions fueling the current bomb cyclone are consistent with trends linked to climate change that intensify nor'easters.


The extreme cold is ramping up use of energy across the U.S. days before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is set to rule on Energy Sec. Rick Perry's grid resiliency proposal that many consider a bailout to the coal and nuclear industries. While coal and nuclear representatives have ramped up lobbying efforts during the cold snap, representatives from Mid-Atlantic and Midwest grid overseers and utilities questioned by E&E reported no problems or load shortages thus far.

As reported by Axios:

"Advocacy groups representing different fuel types are battling it out ahead of a Jan. 10 deadline facing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an independent government agency, to decide what to do with an Energy Department proposal compensating coal and nuclear power plants for their ability to store fuel on site, which most other electricity types can't do. That rule's stated aim is to ensure a resilient electric grid, but the department's own data shows fuel diversity isn't the main problem, it's things like power lines going down during bad weather (including the winter storm hitting the East Coast)."

Bloomberg reported that "grid operators are finding it easier than ever to handle the adverse conditions—that is, 'thanks to an increasingly diverse electricity supply featuring more wind energy production,' said Evan Vaughan of the American Wind Energy Association.

For a deeper dive:

Weather: New York Times, Washington Post, AP, Mother Jones, Vox, Vice, Mashable, Wired, Michigan Public Radio, Louisville Courier-Journal, Earther. Energy: New York Times, Axios, Washington Examiner, Bloomberg, E&E. Commentary: Scientific American, Jeff Masters interview. Background: Climate Signals

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