Let it snow! Many cities are looking at ways to save snow for the hot summer months. (Oregon Department of Transportation via Flickr/AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Chill ways to recycle last year's snow
December 08, 2016
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In many places, snowfall blankets city streets during the winter. It is seen as a pain. In fact, heavy snowfall is often considered as an important test. Blizzards can make or break many politicians' careers. The leaders might be voted out if they don't keep streets clear.
Some places, however, are bucking the trend. They are treating snowfall as a resource. It is not considered a burden. This is according to Marlene Cimons. She reports for Popular Science.
It might seem almost like waste to keep giant snowdrifts around. But the hottest times of year are just when a big pile of snow might seem like a relief. Several countries have begun to experiment. They are looking at ways of saving their winter snow. They want to put it to use when they need it most.
"Snow is not a waste," Kasun Hewage told Cimons. Hewage said snow is a resource. Hewage is associate professor of engineering at the University of British Columbia. "With temperatures rising in many areas, and with them, air conditioning bills, we as societies are increasingly looking at resources and materials differently."
Hewage's recent study as been published. It can be read in the journal Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy. The study looked at pumping air through a room cooled by snow. It found that the snow could reduce the need for traditional air conditioning. Facilities in several countries have already implemented ways to make use of heavy snowfall. Sweden and Japan are two of the countries. They keep it in special rooms. These are insulated and uniquely designed. They can cool air conditioning systems. Or even keep food cold.
Cooling down office buildings isn't the only thing saving snow can do. It also can be a lifesaver for businesses that rely on regular snowfall. For example, ski resorts could use saved snow. As winters get warmer heavy snows will become more rare. Many resorts make their own snow. But by figuring out ways to keep as much of that snow preserved through warmer months as possible, these places make sure they will open on time. That can save money. It also can reduce how much fuel they use each winter to keep their slopes fresh. This is according to John Hopewell. He reports for The Washington Post.
Keeping snow around can be pretty simple. Just pile it into mounds. Then the snow is covered with special tarps. The tarps hold in the cold. But snow-cooled systems likely won't be replacing air conditioners any time soon. It's also likely that the method would only be possible in parts of the world. Like where they get a certain amount of snow each year. Currently, Hewage and his colleagues see it more as a potential option for cities and towns. They might recoup some of the expenses for removing snow by putting it to work to reduce high electricity bills, Cimons writes.
"It is a proven technology ... (but) the economic feasibility of this is climate-dependent," Hewage tells Cimons.
As the world gets warmer, the climates that could take advantage of this type of air conditioning could become increasingly rare.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why must snow be covered with special tarps to keep it cold?
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