Science - November 11, 2011

Alterra says: No Flevoberg, please

Ex-cyclist Thijs Zonneveld wants a Dutch mountain. One which is two kilometres high in Flevoland. Don't, say climate researchers in Alterra. Unless you like rain and wind.

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The Nits once had a hit: In the Dutch mountains. Zonneveld is serious about having one. Two kilometres high and situated in the polders. A Flevo mountain, so to speak. For cycling and skiing. This idea has received all-round support from governmental bodies, engineering offices, architects and project developers. But how will an obstacle like this affect the climate?  Ronald Hutjes, Herbert ter Maat and Eddy Moors of Alterra take out their climate models for all to see. Ronald Hutjes explains.
Whose idea was this?
'It's from all three of us. In response to various reports in the media about that mountain. We conduct research into the effects of modified landscape on climate. So we have the tools of the trade. And we came up with the idea to make a computation. It took us an hour of programming and a few days of calculating to come up with this.

What does your mountain look like?

'We chose a pyramid to be our model, with a base 25 by 25 kilometres and a height of 1700 metres. We used data from August 2006, an extremely wet month. That set of data was available from a study into the effect of extremely warm sea water on the climate.'
And what is the effect on the climate?
'A lot of rain. Twice as much rain as normal falls within an area of 30,000 hectares around the mountain. On top of the mountain, that's even four times as much. Some sort of wind shadow extends 50 kilometres behind the mountain. But the wind picks up speed along the slopes. The extent of the effects of such a mountain has taken us by surprise. That's why we want to bring this to the public's attention. Consider it as a warning: examine how a mountain like this can affect the landscape and the climate.'
Would a lot of rain on and around the mountain mean that the Veluwe becomes dry?
'No, this is not what we have for this month with a rather constant wind from the west. On the Veluwe, more rain than normal falls too.'
You compare the climate with a mountain with that of Bergen in Norway. Isn't this a bit far-fetched?
'Bergen is known as the rainy capital of Europe. Annually, three times as much rain falls there as here in a climate which is comparable in other aspects. The rainfall is caused by the steep mountain slopes rising up from the sea. That's why we've made the comparison.'
Meanwhile, shares for the mountain are being offered at 50 euros each. Have you acquired any?
'No, and I wouldn't do that either. Such a mountain is an expression of human arrogance. Let's not have any of that. We should put our money to better use.'

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