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Spoiler Alert: Yes, it is related to climate change
The last couple of weeks have been brutally cold in the Calgary area, with temperatures dipping down to the –30s, with wind chills much colder, and extreme cold warnings by Environment Canada.
Why so cold for so long?
A senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Falmouth, Mass., says it was the jet stream all along.
“All of our weather is really governed by the jet stream and what the jet stream is doing,” Jennifer Francis told The Homestretch this week.
“This is a fast-moving river of wind that encircles the northern hemisphere. It tends to be stronger in the wintertime but it controls whether it’s cold or hot or rainy or dry everywhere around the Northern Hemisphere.”
It’s all connected
And that jet stream can really make things interesting.
“The jet stream has been in a very persistent pattern for the last couple of weeks. When the jet stream is south of you, it means the Arctic air to the north has no boundaries. It can come right down and spend time right there in Calgary,” Francis said.
“It’s all connected, too, to the persistent storminess along the West Coast. The high, record temperatures that have been happening in the southeast U.S., and even the tornadoes and storms striking the middle of the country, including the incredible situation happening in Colorado, where they have gone from unusual heat to extreme cold and snow.”
Francis says research in the last five or so years has sharpened the connection between climate change and persistent weather patterns.
“With changes in the jet stream creating more persistent patterns means when you get a cold spell like this, it will probably last longer, but next winter it might be very different,” she said.
“It’s the persistence, not the cold itself, that people should focus on when we are talking about how climate change is having an impact.”
U of A study finds the circulation of captured carbon dioxide could be used to produce geothermal energy
This research was conducted in part by Future Energy Systems — a multidisciplinary research program at the U of A.
A recent University of Alberta feasibility study has found that the circulation of captured carbon dioxide in the earth could be used to produce geothermal energy.
This research was conducted in part by Future Energy Systems – a multidisciplinary research program at the U of A. This marks a step closer to commercializing Carbon Dioxide Plume Geothermal (CPG) technology according to Alireza Rangriz Shokri, a research associate in the geotechnical unit of the department of civil and environmental engineering.
The study focused on Aquistore, an independent research project on carbon dioxide storage in deep saline formations in Saskatchewan, which found that heat could be extracted from the captured carbon dioxide.
First, cold carbon dioxide could be “injected in one well” going 3,400 metres deep in the ground, Shokri explained. There, the carbon dioxide would “extract geothermal heat from underground formation” and then the researchers bring “the heated [carbon dioxide] back to the surface,” where the geothermal energy could potentially be extracted. Finally, the carbon dioxide would be recycled back into the first injection well, and the cycle would repeat.
Aquistore is a geological reservoir where carbon dioxide is stored — in this case a saline aquifer filled with a salty water called brine. First, the carbon dioxide is captured from the nearby Boundary Dam 3 and transported to the reservoir to offset the site’s carbon footprint. The deep underground formation is around 110 degrees Celsius, offering valuable geothermal energy if it can be extracted.
That value would come from using supercritical carbon dioxide as opposed to water in the geothermal process. Hot and under high pressure, supercritical carbon dioxide has the low viscosity of a gas and high density of a liquid. Therefore, it flows faster than more viscous water through the underground formation. The unique phase behaviour of carbon dioxide would ease the generation of geothermal power.
“The other excitement is about the fact that with carbon dioxide, you can go to shallower reservoirs and expand the viability of geothermal resources; you don’t necessarily need to drill very deep wells,” Shokri added.