Sunday, July 23, 2006

What causes the mist rising from Niagara Falls?

What causes the mist rising from Niagara Falls?

Studies blame high-rise hotels, temperature changes

Corey Binns / New York Times

>From his seventh-floor office at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Marcus Bursik can watch the mist rising from Niagara Falls, about 20 miles away. In size and shape, the mist resembles the volcano plumes Bursik studies as his primary topic of research.

Noticing that the dimensions of the Niagara plume changed from day to day, he decided to investigate them.

Across the border in Canada, the Niagara Parks Commission was doing the same thing for a different reason: Over the past decade, the number of misty days had more than doubled. The mist may have looked nice from a distance, but it was spattering patios, ruining Kodak moments and chasing tourists under awnings and umbrellas.

In 1996, the commission recorded 29 misty days, but by 2003 that number had risen to 68. Complaints from workers at outdoor restaurants were rising, too.

"People love to see the mist billowing up into the air," said John Kernahan, the commission's general manager, "but they're not happy when the mist starts coming over and getting them wet."

The two investigations reached very different conclusions, perhaps because they used very different methods.

In 2004, the Canadian parks commission hired Rowan Williams Davies & Irwin, an engineering firm, to study the problem by creating a scale model of the area in a wind tunnel.

The consultants determined that high-rise hotels sprouting on the Canadian side -- nine in the past decade -- were altering the airflow near the falls, drawing vapor toward the land and creating more days with rainlike conditions.

Temperature influences mist

Bursik, who began his research in 2002 and presented it in April at a conference sponsored by the university's Environment and Society Institute, applied the principles of volcanology.

It turned out, he said, that whether a plume rises from a waterfall or Mount Vesuvius, its size and shape are greatly influenced by differences in temperature.

"The plume at Niagara Falls," he said, "is just like any other plume."

At Niagara Falls, water roars over the edge and hits the water and rocks below, smashing into tiny droplets. When the water temperature is warmer than the air, the droplets mix with the air and warm it. The mixture expands, and the plume rises like a hot-air balloon. As it rises, the plume sucks in even more misty air.

The greater the temperature difference between the air and the water, Bursik said, the taller and bigger the plume will grow.

Volcano plumes work the same way, but the extreme difference in temperature between the air inside and outside a volcano, and the large amount of ash and pumice spewed, means the plumes can grow much larger than those at Niagara Falls, which can reach 3,500 feet.

Fall and winter bring the biggest plumes, when temperature differences between the air and the water are greatest. In late autumn, temperatures at Niagara begin to drop to 30-40 degrees, while water flowing into the Niagara River from Lake Erie retains its summer warmth, as high as 60 degrees.

Frigid winters envelop the region, and air temperatures can drop 30 degrees below zero, but the constant flow at the falls keeps the water from dipping below 32 degrees. Those temperature differences make more mist, Bursik said.

Two studies are different

To ensure that they were not ignoring any contributing factors, Bursik's research team measured the direction of the wind where the 2004 study reported the hotel-induced gust, but they found no change.

"Making scale models of things sometimes just doesn't work too well," he said. "Usually it's because you haven't gotten the conditions close enough to nature."

But Kernahan, of the Canadian parks agency, is not convinced.

"They are two different studies," he said. "One's about how big the mist is and one is about where it lands. We were looking at the day-to-day operational impacts of the mist."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

U.S. golfers not up fore Niagara

U.S. golfers not up fore Niagara

The Hamilton Spectator
(Jul 22, 2006)

The robust Canadian dollar is just one more kick in the teeth that Niagara golf courses didn't need.

From SARS to Mad Cow, to terrorism and border delays, Americans are coming up with more and more reasons not to come to Niagara to golf.

"They're so patriotic over there," says Tom Vanderlip, the director of operations at the Peninsula Lakes Golf and Country Club in Fonthill.

"I've even had people tell me they're not coming here because Canada didn't support the war effort in Iraq.

"At one time our play here was probably 50 per cent American. In 2003 when I started here, it was still between 30 and 40 per cent. Now it's between 15-18 per cent and it's flat."

And Peninsula Lakes isn't alone.

"In 2002 when we opened Legends on the Niagara, 42 per cent of our play was American, now it's 20 per cent," says Brian Moore, who is in charge of golf for Niagara Parks Commission.

The NPC was counting on the growth of American golf tourism when it built the course.

"When we opened (Legends), the Canadian dollar was 62 cents, now it's 90."

But Canadian golfers may find a silver lining in that dark cloud. Some peninsula courses have reduced green fees.

Others are offering specials to entice golfers from Hamilton and Toronto.

But operators are still trying to lure the American duffer.

Vanderlip said he has advertised in a Buffalo newspaper offering golf at 1982 prices.

"You have creative ideas to get them here," says Vanderlip. "We've done some things with the Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills, things like, if the Bills win, you win with two-for-ones. You have to do all kinds of different things to entice them to come here."

Legends has dropped its regular greens fees from $140 to $125 this year, and even brought in one of the top teaching academies in North America, to provide high calibre instruction in the game.

Still, the Americans haven't come rushing back.

And Vanderlip isn't sure that he'll ever see the day again when half the cars in his parking lot have New York State plates.

"Most of the new courses built in Niagara are high-end, and both Buffalo and Rochester are depressed areas," he says, adding that there have been five or six courses built on the American side of the border in the past few years as well.

With 48 golf courses in Niagara, most operators agree that the area is at the saturation point.

And so where are all the golfers going to come from to fill all those tee times?

For starters, seven Niagara courses have banded together to form the Niagara Golf Trail, which offers stay-and-play packages.

And they're concentrating their efforts in Canada.

"We feel that a group effort is what will bring destination golf to the area," says Brian Antonsen, owner of Beechwood Golf Club and chair of the Niagara Golf Trail.

"I don't have any exact figures, but we're hoping it's making a dent," says Antonsen, of the bid to replace missing Americans with Canadians.

"For every few rounds we sell of destination golf, it helps fill the inventory we've lost to the U.S."


Sunday, July 02, 2006



Mr. Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. Minister, you will know that last week there was a press conference here, sponsored by myself, in regard to the drastic cut in MNR seasonal staff and full-time staff who maintain our provincial parks in the province of Ontario. As you know, provincial parks are some of the places where Ontarians and others love to holiday, and especially for those with little income it's probably the only holiday they'll get.

I want to point out something that was in this press conference that I thought was interesting. It said, "`MNR is wiping out the equivalent of 226 full-time summer jobs out of a total of 1,189 seasonal and regular student workers,' said OPSEU president Leah Casselman. `It's atrocious. We thought cuts of this magnitude were gone with Mike Harris.'" People voted for change. Why are you acting like Mike Harris?

Hon. David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs): Thanks for the compliment, there, at the end your question. I have to say to the member, in the context of your question, you really set up my answer, because I do appreciate that the provincial parks system is how many Ontarians of low income access the wonderful natural resources of Ontario. We have kept the costs down this year to what they were the year before, yet we have higher operating costs in energy and other expenses all the way through the park system. But I want to make sure that the Ontario parks system, being one of the best in the world, is accessible to everyone in this province.

Mr. Bisson: Listen, Minister, you can say all you want about reducing the amount of money spent year over year in provincial parks. The reality is that you're going to have far less staff maintaining our parks from the perspective of making sure those parks are well maintained so that we don't have garbage lying around and others, but there's also the issue of health and safety when it comes to those people visiting the parks. The fact is that you're reducing park staff by almost 20% over last year. I asked you a specific question: Why are you doing this? People did vote for change. You're acting just like Mike Harris did. When are you going to start acting as you were supposed to after the last election, and not like Mike Harris?

Hon. Mr. Ramsay: As the member knows, the parks system is one of two special-purpose accounts in the Ontario government, the other being revenues from angling and hunting. In that special-purpose account we're basically at a point where we're very close to being break-even now on the parks revenues coming in to operate those parks. We're trying to manage within that budget. Again I stay to the member that with increasing costs coming to the parks system, I think you'd be the first on your feet to criticize me if all of a sudden I had a large increase in camping fees that might make it prohibitive for many Ontario families to enter our parks system. So we're going to keep the fees down, and reasonable and affordable so that all Ontarians can access the Ontario provincial parks system.