|State's energy crisis powers
interest in wind generators
Special to the Mercury News
With power problems dominating the headlines, the quest
for additional sources of electricity has been jump-started. In the
Bay Area, we feel one of those potential energy generators almost
every afternoon -- it's the wind, a free and completely renewable
The California Energy Commission estimates that only about 1.5
percent of the state's electricity production comes from wind power.
Most energy is derived from non-renewable sources, such as natural
The bulk of California's wind power comes from turbines that
catch the wind and turn it into electricity at Altamont Pass east of
the Bay Area, in the Tehachapi Mountains north of Los Angeles and at
San Gorgonio Pass east of Los Angeles. These regions have more than
13,000 turbines and account for 96 percent of the state's
In a recent issue of the journal Science, Stanford professors
Mark Jacobson and Gilbert Masters, both with the Department of Civil
and Environmental Engineering, estimate that as much as 10 percent
of the state's electrical capacity could come from the wind with the
addition of 5,000 newer and more efficient wind turbines.
California is a prime area for the generation of wind energy
because three geographical factors. The state is in the middle
latitudes, between 30 and 60 degrees north, where the circulation of
winds around the Earth are generally from the west and of moderate
velocity. Secondly, the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean create an
area of high pressure, generating consistent winds. And, finally,
the passes between coastal and interior regions of the state channel
wind flows, resulting in areas with a fairly consistent flow of
moderate to strong winds.
THE BAY AREA PERFECT CLIMATE INDEX: After a recent column about
my Camelot Climate Index (http://ggweather.com/camelot.htm
), I received a number of letters from readers desiring
information about their local city's ranking. However, most of the
Bay Area falls within a very narrow range of good weather, given the
criteria I used for my Camelot Index. Consequently, I am endeavoring
to develop a Bay Area Perfect Climate Index, but I need your help.
What do you consider a perfect climate for the Bay Area? No days
over 90 degrees? No freezing temperatures? No fog? Lots of fog? Ask
your family, friends and co-workers what they think is an ideal
climate. Send comments and suggestions, along with your name and
Q I just read a story about
Popsicles, which said the first Popsicle was made when a boy left a
cup of soda on a porch in San Francisco in 1905 and it froze
overnight. I lived in San Francisco most of my life, since 1935, and
we had some pretty yucky weather, but freezing? Is this fact or
fiction? M.G. - Burleson, Texas
A The basic elements of this
story have been well documented. But your recollection about San
Francisco seldom freezing is also correct.
In the 126 years that temperature records have been kept in the
city, it has only been below 32 degrees officially on 10 occasions.
However, these readings historically have been taken at rooftop
locations, and the ground temperature can sometimes be as much as 5
In 1905, an 11-year-old named Frank Epperson left his drink of
soda water and flavored powder outside with the stirring stick still
in it. Overnight, there were record low temperatures, and in the
morning he found frozen soda water with a stick in the middle.
Eighteen years later, Frank remembered his mistake and patented his
frozen treat in seven different flavors. And 3 billion frozen
desserts later, that's most of the story.
But not everyone agrees with this version. According to other
sources, Epperson grew up in Oakland, where it is usually colder
than San Francisco. This is supported by weather records that show
the coldest 1905 temperature in San Francisco was 39 degrees, but in
Oakland there were sub-freezing readings on at least three
Q Just last week, I happened
to be in the area around Islamabad, Pakistan, during a record
rainstorm in the city. As I was reading your recent article about
rain in a town of India this morning, I thought I should pass a
description on to you. It may not be a world record, but it was
interesting to see 25 inches of rain in six to eight hours.
Faheem Dani - San Jose
A It is interesting and very
wet -- equivalent to 172 percent of San Jose's average annual
rainfall. I could not locate a world rainfall record for a six-hour
period, but the one-hour record is a phenomenal 12 inches under a
thunderstorm in Holt, Mo., and the 12-hour record is a soggy 53
inches on La Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean.