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To remove snow, why not try flame throwers?

Posted by Rob Anderson  February 1, 2011 12:20 PM

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snow2.JPGAs 28 backhoes and front-end loaders continue to excavate the city from mountains of snow today, there's one question everyone seems to be asking: What's the best way for the city to remove all of this snow? Judging from recent media coverage, this is what we have determined so far: Gas-guzzling Snowzillas are bad, but biodiesel-powered Snow Dragons are awesome. Massive "snow farms" aren't that efficient, but melting snow and dumping it into the ocean could be, if only we could somehow separate it from all of the junk that accumulates with it.

It turns we aren't the first generation of Bostonians to grapple with this question. Back in 1948, Boston Mayor James Michael Curley sent a letter to the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology asking for the school's engineers to determine the best way of removing snow accumulating in the city. The best part is that he specifically asked the engineers to study whether flame throwers would be a smart snow-melting solution.

Not so much, responded Dr. Karl Compton:

The use of flame throwers to dissipate snow would neither be practical or efficient. Even the earlier types of flame thrower were designed so that combustion took place about twenty yards away from the nozzle. Obviously it would be hazardous to use a flame thrower for snow removal at this distance. If used at a closer range, there would be an excess of vaporized fuel on the snow, resulting in poor combustion, a considerable amount of black smoke and relatively low heat per unit of snow removed.

I'm still not convinced, really. How could something like this not make a great addition to the city's snow-removal arsenal?

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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