Making Snow While the Sun Shines

First, a short(ish) digression..
It has been several years since I was active in the climate blog discussions; – cue nostalgic memories of the delirious days of Delignpole at the Telegraph and post-climategate and see Footnote 1 at the end for a link -These days I mainly lurk!
It was an accident of coincidence that the time after Christmas I had available to get involved in a climate blog discussion thread and the time available to finally set up a long term project, this blog, intersected.
So the sudden influx of visitors and blogroll link at HotWopper provided an unexpected kick-start. Not the first time a blog has benefited from piggy-backing the climate debate ! However the intention is for this blog to cover rather more than climate. I intend to try and combine the Climate issue, which has roots into the fundamental economics of society in a way which the Evolution issue does not, with an interest in the visual media and the use of CGI to communicate, in a post in the pipeline with the working title –

“AGW = A Major Concern ?” – An Animated discussion !

Which will combine the climate issue with another video using some of the visual communication methods now available for general use. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps an animated picture is worth even more… but a thousand pictures is only around 40 seconds of animation, and can take hours to days to render and edit so be patient!
Here is a little taste –ALARMIST_40In the meantime here is a little side-reflection, a filler post on something triggered by Richard S J Tol’s recent contribution to the debate on adaption and mitigation to cater to all those new visitors with a taste for the climate pigpen… –

Perhaps some of my very welcome new visitors will be disappointed to find this blog will not be devoted solely to climate issues, I would be disappointed if it was! The methods of communicating information, knowledge or even wisdom (never mind TRUTH or beauty!) by means other than words are something I am just as interested in discussing as the latest developments in the climate debate.

I have a speculation, verging on a hypothesis that just as printing resulted in books and literature becoming the dominant means of spreading knowledge, the rise of the information age, the technology to create visual media that was previously the preserve of big organisations and many years of craft (think illuminated manuscripts before printing) is now becoming available to all.
Just as the keyboard of the word processor or synth did not convert everybody into a writer or musician, the emerging technologies do not convert everyone into a communicator in the medium of visual narrative.

But with the increasing use of the screen, whether on laptop, tablet or phone, as the medium to deliver the message the age of walls of words or slabs of text to communicate ideas may be limited. It will never be displaced for the purposes for which it works well. But increasingly information is packaged as audio-visual narratives, using the power of visual imagery to compress information and concepts in a way that will seem increasing effective for the young, and increasingly frustrating for those rooted in the literary tradition.

Richard S J Tol’s –“The more likely scenario, however, is that local tourist operators will preserve that bit of the Great Barrier Reef that attracts tourists. After all, that’s what they do with Venice, ski slopes, and sandy beaches.”

This triggered a vague memory about how to make snow, and the increasing use of snow making machines at ski resorts. A check on this subject reveals that sure enough, there has been a flurry of adaption and scientific development in snow-making and the use and economics of snow-makers at ski resorts since the first attempts back in the 1960s
Now it seems many resorts and not a few major sports tournaments including the winter Olympics, rely entirely on the ability of snow machines to make large amounts of snow, indistinguishable from the natural version at low cost. Although even with the latest low energy systems the expense of power and water for these snow machines can be around half of the total cost of running a ski resort.

“A ‘typical’ ski run of 200 feet wide with a drop of 1,500 feet would take three acre feet of water (55 tanker truck loads) to make one foot of snow. A review of ski areas across the nation indicates that capital costs for snow-making vary between $10,000 and $20,000 per acre to be covered. In addition, maintenance costs can be as much as 25% of the resort’s total operating costs.”
“Autumn leaves are gone from most of the deciduous trees. Like much of California and Nevada, which have been under severe drought for years, Martis Valley is brown and dry. But near the base of the resort, at about 6,330 feet in elevation, it’s a different landscape altogether.
That’s where a crew of as many as 28 people working with Director of Mountain Operations Jim Lamore work around the clock, but mostly at night, to cover the mountain with enough snow to make good on the resort’s promise to open Nov. 21. Lamore can flip through screens on a smart phone using a proprietary app that lets him monitor and even control nearly every aspect of the process, right down to the operation of the guns that fire the mist over the ski runs.”
“Several small low-lying Swiss resorts have already become unviable, and for others it is just a matter of time….But it is the immediate economic benefit of snow that people care about most, Marty says. Laurent Vanat, a winter sports consultant based in Geneva, estimates the world’s ski industry is worth $60n-$70bn (£37bn-£43bn). However small a fraction of the global economy that may be, it is critical to mountainous regions in Europe and North America. Vanat estimates that 44% of the 400 million global skier visits in the world are to the Alps, while the US, with the largest number of skiers, accounts for 21%.”

Eventually for some lower altitude resorts the temperature profile will never be right to provide snow from snow-makers because it requires sub-zero dry air for a few hours at least every day/night. Now the carbon footprint of skiing has never been small, as a holiday of the rich involving travel by air and more recently helicopter access to the best remaining ‘Natural Snow’ slopes it has hardly been a Green option. But the transfer from exploiting a natural resource, of snow on mountain slopes, to having to make the snow using energy and water in increasingly scarce and expensive supply just makes the sport/recreation look increasingly ridiculous in the face of climate change.
Perhaps that is why some resorts, in an attempt to control costs and make the whole snow-making process look a little less unnatural(?) have opted for solar panels to provide power for the snow making machines.

“Matt Hancock, co-owner of Mt. Abram, said there was a combination of factors that went into developing the project, which they first began researching back in October 2009. Hancock said price fluctuation in energy for heating oil or diesel fuel, used for the snow groomers and snow-making system, has the ability to be very impactful for the mountain. A renewable energy system can fix the cost of their daily energy usage, he explained.
“You now have a known cost of energy for whatever amount that you produce,” Hancock said.
Another key factor in the transition to solar was their clientele, who Hancock describes as outdoor enthusiasts. Hancock believes that customers who care deeply about the environment will recognize Mt. Abram’s green initiatives and would be more willing to plan a trip to the mountain.”

And so the reason for the title of this post…

Making Snow While the Sun Shines
Although I have this suspicion that a certain economist would tell the Maine ski resort that if it could get cheaper power from burning coal, (perhaps by leaving out the expensive SOx scrubbing) it would make economic sense to maintain the resort with coal. Despite the fact the very high CO2 emissions from burning coal for energy are a significant part of what causes the climate change that requires ski resorts to use energy making snow…
Does no-one else find that a strange paradoxical dichotomy?

{Footnote 1 Just in case anyone thinks this confluence of climate and animation is an entirely new and rather convenient interest cynically exploited to attract the climate enthusiasts, here is a response from some years back to the Telegraph bloggers;  back in them days whenever any ‘trolls’ appeared supporting the legitimacy of the AGW science there was a running joke about calling out the A10s, some enthusiasts actually did a storyboard and a soundtrack for me to use!}

4 responses to “Making Snow While the Sun Shines

  1. If 2015 were not already set to become the hottest year on record, the emissions produced by the creation of all that artificial snow will surely push it over the edge 🙂

    However, a better (and far larger) example of direct anthropogenic influence on climate is found in the 2012 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the “Earth Summit”. For anyone who examines the direct impact of this event on the world’s climate, the figures are astounding.

    While no binding agreements on emissions reductions were reached between the world’s major emitters, the environmental impact of fifty thousand climate activists travelling to Rio de Janeiro for a “climate summit” was profound.

    Let’s assume for simplicity that all 50,000 participants flew in on chartered Boeing 747s, each holding 350 passengers, at an average distance of 5,000 kilometres (10,000 km return trip, given the majority of participants were from Europe, North America and East Asia). A Boeing 747 generates about 30kg of CO2 for every kilometre flown.

    The calculation thus becomes 50,000 ÷ 350 ≈ 142.857 aircraft required
    Each plane emitting 10,000 × 30 = 300,000 kg CO2
    Giving 142.857 × 300,000 ≈ 4.3×108 kg CO2

    emitted by the participants of the Rio “summit” in jet fuel alone. It’s a safe bet that between accommodation, local transport, incessant partying and occasional summiteering, this emission figure would double. It was observed during the event that, for example, as in Copenhagen, very few attendees made use of the eco-friendly bus transport laid on, opting for private limousines.So say about 8.6×108 kg.

    Wikipedia tells us that global anthropogenic CO2 emissions for the year of the Rio conference totalled 3.45×1013 kg. So approximately 1 in every 40,000 kilograms of greenhouse gas, or about 0.0025% of global emissions for 2012, were expended on a single climate “summit” that could have been held far more easily by video conferencing! High on the agenda should have been the notion of “tipping points” and what these might mean.

    I guess being a climate activist is hard work.


  2. Sorry Izen, scientific notation superscripts above not displaying well on your WordPress theme!


  3. @-Ozboy
    Sorry Izen, scientific notation superscripts above not displaying well on your WordPress theme!

    I know, – apparently there is some way to copy it from a math page online and it will then embed the right fonts… but?
    I think I will have to upgrade for the video capabilities wordpress offers to save linking through to my old YouTUbe site. Perhaps that will also make other options available.
    Or work.

    Sigh, yes the problem is not getting agreement on what is happening, but how to deal with it.
    And sunk investments, whether it is in ski resorts or international political conferences will continue to be funded despite any glaring disjunction between declared aims and actual achievements and impacts.
    Nature decides what happens
    Politics is the Art of what can we Possibly do about it now!



  4. use sup and sub as html keywords. Thus

    CO2 should work


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.