Can modern science and the display of information help with any possible oil pipeline problem? What pipeline problem?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  January 8, 2012  This is one of those jaw dropping stories.  Bookmark it and take the time to go through the whole thing.  Amazing, absolutely amazing.

A group called the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has created a room sized, global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six-foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe.

This isn’t a photograph of the earth but instead it is a globe shaped computer screen on which the earth has been projected.  All kinds of data can be projected on this kind of computer screen that comes in models up to 3 metres wide.  The data can be a live feed from a satellite.  Consider the possibilities?

They call it Science On a Sphere® and promote it as an educational tool to help illustrate Earth System science to people of all ages.

They project data on this room sized globe and then move the globe around so that you can see this world of ours from different angles.  With the globe in place they can display all kinds of data on the thing.  If your child’s science teacher doesn’t know about this – make sure you tell them.

This is an image from that globe shaped computer screen of live cloud data fed from satellites that show the formation and movement of clouds.

How weather moves around the globe is displayed and you can see the changes taking place right before your eyes.

Remember now – you are seeing an image on a computer screen that is very large and shaped like a globe. The image you see here is of the warm water currents, shown in light green, as they move down the west side of Africa across the Atlantic. What does that do to our weather patterns?

Ever wondered what the “gulf stream” really is and how it affects our weather.  You can see where it originates and how the flow of warm air moves around the globe.

You can see whatever data is put up on this huge globe.  The educational opportunities are incredible.  Information about the impact of air pollution, water pollution – the impact of the changing seasons on our world – there to be seen right before your eyes.

In one segment they show how the continents on this earth were formed.  This is absolutely amazing stuff. Animated images of atmospheric storms, climate change, and ocean temperature can be shown on the sphere, which is used to explain what are sometimes complex environmental processes, in a way that is simultaneously intuitive and captivating.

These things are not cheap. They cost around $43,000 for a 24-inch diameter HyperGlobe from iGlobe of Franklin, N.H.; $40,000 for a 32-inch OmniGlobe from ARC Science of Loveland, Colo., or $21,000 for a 24-inch Magic Planet from the market leader, Global Imagination of Santa Clara, Calif.

The Halton Board of Education isn’t going to pony up that kind of money (but if they let one of the bureaucrats go – maybe?) The prices, though, are falling. Mike Foody, the C.E.O. of Global Imagination, says that he hopes to have education-discounted prices down to $2,500 within a year or two. If he succeeds, that would be within the price point of other high-tech classroom equipment, like interactive whiteboards.

A digital globe can illuminate the human planet and display whatever we want in the way of data:  wars, colonization, and the formation of diaspora, modern trade flows or air traffic.

While this stuff is not brand new, been around since 2010, scientists and educators are now getting a sense of just what they can display in terms of information.

It won’t be long before this kind of data display will be part of every news source.  Instead of having the oil lobbyists tell us that the tar sands are not harming the environment – we will be able to see the actual changes – live – of the impact the tar sands are having on the environment.  We will be able to see crop failures as well as bountiful crops.

This is the area any pipeline break would impact.  The actual pipeline runs through the northern part of the city north of Side Road # 1 and south of Side Road # 2

To bring this down to a purely local level, consider the very real concern about what Enbridge, a national energy transportation company wants to do with the pipeline they own that runs through north Burlington.  Enbridge is a powerful North American oil and natural gas transportation company.  The gas heating your house is delivered to your door by Enbridge.

They have  pipeline projects being developed throughout North America.  Some analysts think that Enbridge has figured out they will not be able to get a pipeline though western Canada to get Alberta oil to the far east – so they want to use the pipelines they have to move that oil to eastern Canada and on into the United States where there is a strong market. These guys are big.

The pipeline they want to do that with is a 37-year-old  line that runs through Burlington between #1 Side Road and # 2 Side Road.

Part of the Enbridge #9 pipeline where it crosses Walkers Line.  The company wants to reverse the flow of oil through this line so that it goes from west to east.  Reversing the flow in a pipeline is no small matter.  This line is more than 37 years old.  What kind of shape do you think it’s in?

Enbridge is seeking permission to be able to reverse the flow of oil through their pipeline – not as simple as it seems.  And they want to ship bitumen from the Alberta tar sands  through to Montreal and points eastward.  Problem for Burlington is, there are creeks galore that run south of that pipeline – right smack into our communities and on into Lake Ontario.

Were that pipeline to burst – and where have we heard of pipeline bursts before – parts of this city would be severely damaged.  City hall worries about who is going to pay for any clean up that might have to be done.

As you can see from the still photo’s we have posted there is certainly a pipe line there but we can’t show you the connection to the different creeks and then follow those creeks in real-time down to the lake.

While on the matter of that Enbridge application – it is going to get messy.  Hamilton has been dealing with Enbridge on a different application and has found the company very difficult to deal with

Mayor Goldring, a staunch environmentalist, wants to do something but isn’t quite sure what the first step should be.  The federal government has cut back severely on the number and circumstances under which environmental assessments take place – they have basically taken themselves out of that business.  Don’t expect to read anything about this in the Newsletter our MP, “Marvelous” Mike Wallace sends to you at your expense.

The province could decide that it wanted an environmental assessment done and the Region could get creative and look for ways to cause an environmental assessment to take place.  Problem is the Region isn’t all that a creative place these days.

Ideally, our MP should have met with our Mayor by now to work together to find a way to, first get the facts and inform the citizens, and then figure out what the city can do to protect its citizens.

BurlingtonGreen is advocating heavily for a public meeting.  The key player in all this appears to be the National Energy Board (NEB) that decides if Enbridge gets permission to reverse the flow of oil in their pipeline and also decides if they are going to be given permission to move bitumen from the tar sands though the pipeline.

Burlington’s Member of Parliament Mike Wallace takes a close look at a piece of art while taking part in a photo-op that had him announcing the opening of a kiln at the Art Centre. There are some in the city who think the MP might involve himself in taking a closer look at an oil pipeline application that could negatively impact the city.

Burlington could invite the National Energy Board to town and talk to the public.  The NEB is a federal agency; our MP “Marvelous” Mike could make some of those phone calls on behalf of the city to set up a meeting.  He may have already done that – ya think?

What Burlington wants to know is: what shape is that 37-year-old pipeline in?  Dig up a section and let’s have a look at the condition of the pipe.  And then do a study of what the impacts would be if there were a break in the line should they be given permission to move bitumen through that line.

Any study done would be a report printed on paper with maybe a video as part of the document.  But if there were a way to put current data on one of those globes and put that on-line where anyone at any time could log in and see for themselves what is happening – that would be great new age journalism; great public education and as educational as all get out.

Researching this would make an ideal high school science project.  The full story of what the Science on a Sphere was published in the New York Times.

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2 comments to Can modern science and the display of information help with any possible oil pipeline problem? What pipeline problem?

  • Robert Narejko

    Thanks to “Our Burlington” for sharing some very interesting information. It is a pleasure to read your insightful articles, expanding our knowledge of our community.

  • Bill Coucher

    Hey Pepper, the MPP for the area in question isnt Mike Wallace, its actually Lisa Raitt. Perhaps you will want to contact her for comment and details.
    Editors note:
    You need some help on two level: The MPP for Burlington is neither Mike Wallace or Lisa Raitt; it is Jane McKenna and, unless there has been a change in the city boundaries, Walkers Line is in Burlington and the photographs used were taken in Burlington.