Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weird Atmospheric Science

You might remember this story from last year about “Geoengineering”, an attempt, essentially, to hack the global climate. Well there's now another mad scientist-style idea floating around out there to fight global warming, and while this one won't have the Matrix-style affect on the skies that Geoengineering would, there's also a good chance that this plan could make global warming worse, instead of better.

The plan, as presented to the European Geosciences Union and reported by the BBC is simple enough in theory: Specially designed ships will sail to precise parts of the world's oceans where stratocumulus clouds are in short supply, the ships will then pump tiny droplets of seawater into the atmosphere to promote cloud growth to reflect more sunlight back into space, thus cooling the Earth. Simple enough, right? Well, in theory, yes, but it turns out that clouds are complex things and that the wrong size droplets could actually reduce cloud cover, rather than increase it. And fewer clouds would mean more sunlight would reach the Earth's surface, warming the globe rather than cooling it. Plus other scientists say that the plan drastically underestimates the amount of seawater that would need to be pumped into the atmosphere to achieve the desired effect in the first place.

Of course another way to fight global warming would be to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions pumped into the atmosphere in the first place. Just sayin'....
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