Snow: Good for Cooling, Communists and Creativity

The process of snow being used to cool buildings.

Snowboarders are no strangers to collecting snow and re-purposing it for their needs: jumps, drop-ins, landing piles for urban jibs -- even halfpipes and parks are all examples of what you can get snow to do if you're creative.

Now, urban engineers in Canada, Sweden, and Japan are catching on to that lateral thinking, collecting snow in gigantic piles to cool buildings off in the summer.

A company called Snowpower is pioneering the industrial application, notably at the Swedish Sundsvall hospital, where during summer months, snow replaces traditional building-scale air conditioning. A large snowpile is covered with an insulating layer, and the just-above-freezing meltwater at the bottom of the pile is collected and fed into a heat exchanger, cooling down the air inside the hospital. A/C technology involves greenhouse gases, ozone-depleting HCFC, and has comparably lower energy efficiencies. Making buildings greener, wintry regions like Ottawa also benefit from using snow that otherwise ties up millions of dollars in municipal budgets for removal.

In a somewhat related vein of people trying to get creative with snow, China has used cloud seeding to artificially enhance Beijing's first snowfall of the season, ending a serious period of drought. Meanwhile, in Moscow, Russia, the mayor announced plans to use cloud seeding to cause storms to drop their snow outside the city limits, at an estimated cost of six million. While the Chinese revel in the white stuff, if mayor Yury Luzhkov has his way, it seems like rail-riding Muscovites are going be vexed as snow falls short, inundating the suburbs and leaving the capital's prized jibs high and dry.

But snowboarders in Moscow are just as resourceful for creating snow, even when there is none. Check this clip from WestCom jib session, where riders gather ice from a hockey rink and turn it into snow for the contest:

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