Friday, December 26, 2008

Two Places in Alberta Canada

In August 2008 I visited Wateron Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada. Waterton Lakes and Glacier National Park in the US join to form an International Peace Park which is also an UNESCO World Heritage Park and Biosphere Reserve. These parks have fantastic scenery and biodiversity, truly inspiring to visit.

View looking South along Waterton lake.

Photo taken at end of "Peace Park" hike, a ranger led hike that starts in Canada and ends in the US.

Further north in Alberta, operations are underway to extract oil from Oil Sands. There is a huge deposit of oil in these sands. Extraction of the oil is inherently inefficient, requiring an input of ~50% of the energy available in the extracted oil and huge amounts of water, yet extraction from these deposits accounts for almost 50% of the total Canadian oil production. Pop Quiz: What country is the top importer of crude oil to the US? (Saudi Arabia, Russia, Canada?). Here is what the operation looks like:

Photo Credit: Jeff McIntosh/AP
Here is what some Canadians think about this great boom to the economy:

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For another viewpoint, with essentially the same facts, see the Alberta Government's page on Oil Sands . One of the more sobering facts offered by the government on this site is the following:

"Mineable bitumen deposits are located near the surface and can be recovered by open-pit mining techniques. For example, the Syncrude and Suncor oil sands operations near Fort McMurray, Alberta, use the world's largest trucks and shovels to recover bitumen.
About two tonnes of oil sands must be dug up, moved and processed to produce one barrel of oil."

I wondered, what do we get for our willingness to scrape up two tonnes of the earth. One barrel of crude oil is 42 gallons, which yields approximately 19.5 gallons of gasoline. This would fuel a Prius approximately twice, at 45 miles per gallon would allow a trip of approximately 875 miles, equivalent to a round trip between Boston and Baltimore. Driving an SUV or a vehicle averaging around 20-25 miles per gallon, you would only have enough for a one way trip. To get home, a second two ton scoop would be required.
Top importer of oil to United States: CANADA, by a wide margin.

CANADA - 1,910
MEXICO - 1,180
IRAQ - 652
1000's of barrels/day, source: EIA Figures through Oct 2008 (Energy Information Administration, Official Energy Statistics from the US Government)
Please conserve and support alternatives to Oil!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Middlesex Fells Ice Beauty - December 14 2008

These photos were taken on Sunday December 14 2008 in the Middlesex Fells Reservation, along the Reservoir trail, west of the lower pond. Some recent weather had created conditions favorable for some truly wonderful ice patterns. On Thursday-Friday of this week there was a lot of rain, which caused flooding in places. By Friday evening to Saturday temperatures were quite cold, going down into the 20s at night. On Sunday, relatively warmer, temps pushing 40 by the afternoon.

Saw many patches of these long needle-like ice crystals in disturbed areas on the ground. These were about 3/4 inch long, but even longer ones were evident. Please click on the photo above to see how extraordinary these long needles are, the small photo doesn't reveal the detail.

This low lying area was likly flooded to a greater depth in previous days. As the water receded, the ice layer gently bent, melting and refreezing, and sometimes cracking. In some places very thin sheets, about a millimeter or two near their edges were suspended horizontally.

The formation below was razor thin, angled at about 45 degrees against a submerged branch. Extraordinarily crafted and ephemeral.
The Arlington Natural Connections project seeks to promote a connection with nature. These images are an example of the richness that awaits, right here in our own backyard. You can click on photos above to view larger and see finer detail.

Update 21 April 2010: Some of these photos are on display in "Images of Arlington: Mystery and Magic" showing at the Tufts Gallery at the Arlington Center for the Arts through June 11, 2010. Reception and awards Sunday May 16, 2-4 PM. I also chanced upon a video by the Boston Pops featuring Ice Photos from the Sudbury River and an accompanying musical composition by the principal horn player Richard Sebring.
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