Canada's oil sands project has created an "urban heat island" effect, drying out a city-sized area and raising the local temperature by more than a degree.
In a study released last month, University of Alberta researchers found that existing mining activities (which occupy more than 600 sq. km or an area slightly smaller than Edmonton) have dramatically raised temperatures but have not yet changed rain patterns or thunderstorms.
The study, published in the journal Earth Interactions, found that summer overnight minimum temperatures near the oil sands have increased by about 1.2 C compared to the regional average due to waste heat released by the world's largest energy project.
"It's a big disturbed area. There is a definite heat island effect as there would be in any city of that size," notes Daniel Brown, the study's lead author and a University of Alberta PhD student studying thunderstorms.
The area has also become drier than the surrounding region probably due to the removal of millions of spruce and aspen trees.