AbstractThe Athabasca oil sands development has created a land surface disturbance of almost 900 km2 in northeastern Alberta. Both through industrial processes and the removal of boreal forest vegetation, this surface disturbance impacts meteorology in the vicinity by releasing waste heat, raising the surface temperature, and lowering the surface humidity. To investigate the effects of the Athabasca oil sands development on thunderstorm intensity, initiation time, and duration, the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model was employed to simulate the effect of the surface disturbance on atmospheric conditions on 10 case study days. The results suggested the oil sands surface disturbance was not associated with substantial increases in thunderstorm intensity on any of the case study days. On two case study days, however, the WRF Model simulations differed substantially from the observed meteorological conditions and only approached the observations when the oil sands surface disturbance was included in the model simulation. Including the oil sands surface disturbance in the model simulations resulted in thunderstorm initiation about 2 h earlier and increased thunderstorm duration. Data from commercial aircraft showed that the 850–500-mb temperature difference was greater than 30°C (very unstable) only on these 2 days. Such cases are sufficiently rare that they are not expected to affect the overall thunderstorm climatology. Still, in these very unstable cases, the oil sands development appears to have a significant effect on thunderstorm initiation time and duration.
Earth Interactions – American Meteorological Society
Published: Mar 13, 2018
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