23 February 2008

A School Bus for an Ice Age

If solar signs are being read correctly (PDF), we could very well be in for at least a little ice age, beginning in about a decade--if we are lucky. If we are unlucky, we may be in for more than just a "little" ice age. It all depends upon the brightest deity in our sky--the Sun God. As an atheo-agnostic, I do not actually believe in a Sun God, but it is quite true that humans at this stage in their development can not very well live without the Sun.

Suppose we do have a little ice age. How will we get around from place to place, on all of that ice? The red contraption pictured above may be one answer to the question. Believe it or not, it is used during colder winters as a School Bus, to ferry children living on Madeline Island to their mainland school in lovely Bayfield.
Though the trip offers a breathtaking panorama in a winter-wonderland sort of way, with this part of Lake Superior taking on the look of the grandest, most pristine ice rink the imagination can conjure, the windsled is purely utilitarian.

The 9,000-pound vehicle, propelled by its twin fans and steered by a driver much the way a regular bus would be, is heated and has padded benches with room for about 20 students. Beyond that, there are no luxuries. Loud and bumping along at 18 miles an hour, it hardly qualifies as a thrill ride...Because of the pounding it takes on the ice, the windsled is a high-maintenance machine. It was built in 2000 with a grant of half a million dollars from the federal Department of Transportation.

...The windsled was built by Arnie and Ronald Nelson, brothers who own a local construction business and who operate the sled under contract with La Pointe and the school district. It is kept light on its feet by its forward motion and the way the design disperses its four and a half tons over its 336 square feet.

The Nelsons regularly check the ice for safety. Once it freezes to a depth of greater than 11 inches, as it typically does by mid-to-late winter, the bay is deemed safe for cars and light trucks. A road is then plowed in the top layer of ice, and at that point the students are shuttled across by minivan. The ice road is open to anyone who wants to drive it. And many people do.____ImpactLab

So the ice sled is mainly used when the ice is too thick for boats but too thin for cars and trucks. I have ridden in air boats before, and driven many miles over frozen lakes. But an air-boat ice sled is a bit of a novelty for me.

I suspect that some type of hovercraft--similar to some US Navy vessels I observed in operation--would also be capable of carrying several dozen school kids across many miles of ice and snow. But honestly, when the weather gets too bad, would it not be simpler just to provide a classroom at home?

Whether we are truly headed into an extended duration ice age (lasting for decades at least) or not, it is not a bad idea to consider our options, just in case.

Remember: if the sun does decide to take it easy for a while, we will need to burn more fuel to stay warm. And since our capacity to grow biomass for electricity and fuel will be diminished during a period of weaker sun, we will have to look elsewhere for our sustaining heat and energy. Unless westerners get cracking, building new fission reactor power plants, we will no doubt have to burn more coal. A lot more coal.
The interesting thing to me about Archibald's predictions for an ice age beginning within the decade, is that he is putting his predictions boldly within the near future--where they can be refuted by reality. Contrast that boldness with the weasels at the IPCC, NASA Goddard, etc. who place their catastrophes well into the future. There is no fudging Archibald's theories. If they are wrong, we will soon know it. The CAGW orthodox tautology, on the other hand, can be used to explain virtually any climate whatsoever--short of a genuine ice age.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Hawkeye said...

How would an ice age (let's assume a little one) impact trade between the states? My thoughts began with trade across the Rockies. Pretty much everyone I know who would take I-80 in the summer chooses to drive down from the Bay Area toward LA and across toward Phoenix in the winter. How effectively could we keep traffic flowing in a little ice age?

What other things get difficult for transportation? Flying, obviously, there are a lot more delays for snowstorms than rainstorms.

I see big issues with Food Production. All those fields of corn, soy and wheat covered in snow and ice... We'll need those multi-story vertical farm buildings and an underground fission reactor to generate heat and "sunlight". I'd probably prefer to build them underground to help conserve heat, using the ground as an insulator, but that assumes that the cost of the heat loss is not offset by the available sunlight or the cost of generating the delta.

Interesting... I'm not yet sold on an Ice Age, but it seems much more likely given the geological history than a global warming catastrophe. I'd rather see some warming myself. The idea of wine country in England or Minnesota and mild winters sounds a lot better than the terrible weather the Midwestern states usually get every winter.

Sunday, 24 February, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Yep. I'd like to see coconut and banana trees growing along the shore of Lake Superior. With a warming, we would have no problems growing enough biomass to provide most of the electricity and liquid fuels we need--as long as we also build a few more nuclear plants for solid baseload support. HVDC transmission lines--preferably buried--would also make a lot of sense.

In an ice age, all bets are off, since you really do not know how much longer the sun will stay weak, and how much farther south the ice zone will reach. I expect any ice age we have in the 2020s and 2030s to last only 20 or 30 years. But colder than contemporary weather could last through most of the century or longer. A several decades long ice age would be catastrophic.

Anything you bury that later gets covered with ice, is going to be mostly inaccessible. Ice is heavy and causes seismic shifts, and depressions in the underlying crust. And like I say, in an ice age, biomass- biofuels- soil agriculture etc. will have much lower yields. Mining (coal, shale oil, tar sands), oil and gas drilling, etc. become more expensive.

Sunday, 24 February, 2008  

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