Many people find it counterintuitive that underground temperatures as low as 10°C degrees are sufficient to keep our homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Which parts of the UK are best for GSHPs?
Is the ground warmer in some places and cooler in others?
The British Geological Survey (BGS) has been carrying out a range of research across the UK to answer some of these questions.
It’s a fact that most rock types are suitable for GSHP technology, although some are better than others, for example, sandstone has a much higher thermal conductivity than gravel. The ground retains its heat so that at even very shallow depths of a few metres the seasonal temperature swing is far less than the air temperature. So even though southern areas are warmer than northern areas, ground source heat pumps can be used anywhere to heat your home.
The BGS has been carrying out research across the Glasgow area, and has produced 3D models of the underground that are amongst the most ambitious and detailed of their kind for any city in the world. These models can be used to help identify, and provide access to a reservoir of heat energy that exists beneath Glasgow, focusing on waters in abandoned and flooded mines. This could meet some of the city’s needs for many years to come and there is potential for other cities to do likewise both in the UK and further afield.
Seen from space our Sun is a variable and dynamic star, very different from its placid day-to-day appearance from Earth. Eruptions from the surface of the Sun, known as coronal mass ejections (CME’s), can cause real problems as they collide with the geomagnetic field surrounding the Earth. CME’s result in geomagnetic storms that have the potential to disrupt ground and space technologies, such as electricity transmission, communications and satellites.
The spectacular Northern Lights (aurora borealis) are also a consequence of space weather and CMEs. The Northern Lights usually occur when energy from the solar wind accelerates electrically charged particles towards the Earth’s polar atmosphere, but CME’s boost this process. If the CME’s are strong enough and the magnetic fields they contain point in the right direction this interaction can be very strong. If this happens we have a much greater chance of seeing the aurora further south than is usual. In the past few months, with solar activity increasing the aurora have been spotted in central Scotland and as far south as Lincolnshire, England.
The Russian Geological Research Institute (VSEGEI) launched the map data at the 34th International Geological Congress (IGC), in Brisbane, Australia, in August 2012. This is the first digital geological map of the whole of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and neighbouring countries the maps can be viewed via OneGeology.
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Are we in for a summer of cracked buildings? It all depends on the weather. Research from the British Geological Survey (BGS) has highlighted the importance of rainfall and temperature on the incidence of clay shrink-swell, a precursor to subsidence, in the UK. For many, the cool, wet conditions we have experienced so far this summer may be just what is needed to keep their house in order.
New research by the BGS - published this week in the Proceedings of the Geologists Association - suggests that the low rainfall of the last 2 years has increased the susceptibility of buildings to subsidence due to clay 'shrink-swell' . The research takes into account the effect of rainfall and temperature, and despite the very wet weather experienced since April, there is still an increased potential for clay soils to shrink and swell this year. If this occurs, it is likely to lead to an increase in subsidence.
Scientists have produced a new free map app of the soils of Great Britain. The app, mySoil, also enables the general public to upload information about the soil where they live, helping to improve our knowledge about the properties of soils and the vegetation habitats that they provide.
Using mySoil you can view a map of soil parent material - the underlying geological material - click on an area to get information about soil depth, texture, pH and organic matter content, and explore vegetation habitat data across the UK.
mySoil, produced by the NERC British Geological Survey (BGS) and the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), was launched at the Times Cheltenham Science Festival on 14 June 2012.
mySoil, for iPhones and iPads, is for anyone with an interest in the soil of Great Britain, including allotment owners, farmers and agricultural specialists, gardeners, schools and college students, environmentalists and land use planners. We encourage land users, especially in cities, to send us descriptions and pictures of their soil. The public can play a big role in contributing to soil science data, for urban areas in particular, where the data is limited.