Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Snow Trains Bring Water to the West

Today, Governor Inslee made an important announcement that will put a smile on the faces of local environmentalists: many of the coal trains that have been plying our region will be adapted to carry snow from the eastern and central U.S. to the Pacific Northwest.   Coal trains will be turned to snow trains, and as shown below, the first snow trains are rolling.


During the past several years it has become obvious that global climate change is here and that a major impact will be increased snow in the eastern U.S. and drought in the west.  The President's Science Adviser, Dr. John Holdren, described this situation in a number of high level briefings in which he described the impacts of the global-warming-induced polar vortex.

Using his executive powers and the recent declaration of CO2 being a pollutant, the President has put sufficient roadblocks in the way of West Coast coal export terminals (such the proposed GPT terminal north of Bellingham) that virtually all have been cancelled.  But a huge number of double-walled coal cars have been built in expectation of coal exports, potentially devastating the bottom lines of Burlington Northern and other train companies.   As a result, these companies have offered an alternative idea: to transport snow from the east to the west by rail, solving two problems at once:  where to put the excessive snow pummeling the east and how to deal with the snow drought in the west.  And the double-walled coal cars can act as insulating containers that allow the snow to travel long distances with little melting during the winter.

Skiers will be particularly delighted to learn of the terminus of the first snow trains:  Steven's Pass, a ski area with a rail line nearby.    The first snow train (above) has already delivered a load of snow to Steven's with bulldozers pushing snow up the hills (see pictures).   In an interview with the Seattle Times, Steven's General Manager Hal Burton said " I am beyond words in praise of those who conceived of this grand idea.  We expect to open by the weekend"


As the snow melts during the spring, it will drive flow into local rivers, supporting agriculture and fisheries.    The director of the Washington State Department of Ecology, Maia Bellon, also noted another positive of the snow trains: " the melting snow interacting with Cascade soils will have a relatively high pH and greatly lessen the threat of coastal ocean acidification in our region."   Furthermore, the energy needed to melt the snow will reduce the global warming of the region by roughly .1C, according to Dr. Phil Mote, Director of the Oregon Climate Center and an expert on Northwest snowpack/climate interactions.

Snow trains will be a big part of the future of the Northwest and should ensure plenty of mountain snow for years to come.


30 comments:

Chris Isaacson said...

Nice . If there was any snow to export I am sure Nestle has a plan for it already in place.

Unknown said...

April Fools to you, too!

Carl said...

This is outrageous! Any fool can see that snow blowing from these unprotected cars will chill the surrounding atmosphere and contribute to...contribute to... contri... let me think a moment and I'll get back to you.

Kris Henke said...

Ha ha great column Cliff! Had me going for a minute before the coffee kicked in!

Kris Henke
Port Angeles

Laura P said...

April Fools!....ummm correct?

Steve Rodriguez said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention all the snow jobs this would bring you the region.

Michael Snyder said...

April Fools, haha

Thecatguy93 said...

April Fools. :)

lange said...

Happy April Fool's, Cliff.

Unknown said...

April fools! :)

Not really that bad of an idea.

Murdoch said...

Clever April Fools joke Cliff! I for one would not want the melt water from a coal car.

SkunkBayWeather said...

Once again Cliff…. Thank you for this very informative blog on an innovative solution to combat the extreme conditions caused by global warming. I also read that during their trek west these cars were periodically run through mobile macrowave sheds that flash froze the snow to insure powder quality. Such an exciting new technology that works in reverse of the microwave. May be a topic for a future blog…..

Unknown said...

And a Happy April First to you too, Dr. Mass. Nicely done!

jno62 said...

Very good.

But where will the ridge be next week? Thanks.

Quixotix said...

"The first snow train has already delivered a load of snow..."

Yep, this does sound like a big load of something.

wxjeff said...

Nicely done, Cliff. You had me going for the first paragraph ;-)

David Sanger said...

Hopefully they will run year-round

Dam Girl said...

Happy April Fools Day

John said...

Fun and interesting (if expensive!) idea.

Too bad this is April 1st.

Elizabeth S said...

April Fools!! Ya goof!

Elizabeth S said...

April Fools ! Ya goof!

SWSDuvall said...

Awesome April fools article :)

Dyno said...

I'm just so glad somebody is thinking of the oysters.

I wonder how cost effective it would be to start shipping water to drought-stricken California. I'm thinking towing barges of water down the coast would be a guaranteed win for both states' economies.

Rabbits' Guy said...

But what would we put in those cars for the return trip? Seems like some sort of "payback" is a good idea. Clams and oysters?

Cailean said...

I actually believed this and told my husband tonight and literally as the words were coming out of my mouth I realized how ridiculous it sounds....came back here to read the comments and see it was a joke. I should stay in bed all day on April Fools Day.

Patrick said...

Great, Cliff. Had me until the bulldozers pushing the snow onto the slopes.

jeb Thurow said...

That was too funny! And next fall we can return the cars full of seahawks fans to New England

Ansel said...

Nice snow job, Cliff. Happy April Fool's Day.

Kris Law said...

If they actually did do this and sent snow via enclosed, insulated train cars, and were to send it it to the Sierra Nevada range of California, it would melt to the rivers and make it to the crops in California’s valley’s. From there, agriculture would have a good chance at recovery which would add jobs, reduce cost of produce and nuts, and boost the economy. Although the transportation of the snow would likely drive all those prices back up in one way or another; ie taxes :)

Troy Center said...

HA HA HA! That was one of the best reads for April 1 this year. It really had me going for about 1 minute. Nice... The old picture of the bulldozer was what threw the red flag and moments later I was rofl. Thank you. :-)