But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
With every effort of man to correct problems we have created, will we do more harm than good? Will we make a bad situation worse. While cloud control offers promise to stem global warming, we must proceed with caution. Here “butterfly effect” is in effect. This month’s article is something science reflects on for climate control. I took a shining to it myself. I’m talking about “albedo.”
What is albedo?
Here’s your Webster Dictionary definition: The fraction of incident radiation (such as light) that is reflected by a surface or body (such as the moon or a cloud).
And just one more definition or actually an explanation, the Twomey effect, is the effect of concentrated water droplets that can form a virtual shield and shine bright.
In 1990 British cloud physicist John Lathan wrote an article for Nature Magazine, titled “Control of Global Warming.” He knew that in order to stem global warming there had to be a global solution. As a cloud scientist he knew that clouds reflect the sun’s rays coupled with the fact that they are global and are affected globally. Clouds over the ocean would block the absorption of solar energy into the dark waters while at the same time reflecting solar energy back into space. This sounds like a great platform to control the temperature of the earth.
The Twomey effect was observed in clouds that received a great deal of aerosol pollution. Aerosol pollution here means anything that is propelled in the atmosphere, which can be virtually anything — the solvents that escape when paint dries, car exhaust, etc. The aerosol pollution, mostly from ships, effectively seeds the clouds with their high level of sulfur exhaust making the clouds — marine clouds to be specific — more sunlight reflective.
Latham observed these ocean fireworks from satellite pictures. What he proposed was to use this observation and to “salt spray” the clouds over the ocean. Marine clouds typically hang lower and reflect less light. It was discovered by satellite photography that the maritime clouds are thin and spotty in contrast to the expanse of the oceans, which are very dark and appear as “fireworks” from space.
The sulfur emitted from the low-grade diesel fuel, the kind allowed to be used by ships, would effectively seed the maritime clouds. The sulfur fumes packed the otherwise loose larger water molecules tightly together and became a mirror to sunlight. If you have ever traveled overseas and looked outside at the ocean, you may have observed these “fireworks.”
So Latham imagined that if we could make larger seeded clouds uniform over the ocean maybe we could accomplish a reasonable offset to global warming. By doing this, the now warming oceans would start to cool, the ice sheets would not melt as fast and the coral reefs would be able to “heal” themselves. Coral reefs are significant estuaries of life. Without them much of ocean life would die because the food chain in the ocean would simply break.
Can we make it happen?
OK, let’s say the theory makes sense. How could we make it happen? Think of what it would take to span oceans with clouds. How could you control the mass and direction? What if they hovered over a tropical area and could not move? How long would it take to make the devices and at what cost?
Well, here is one idea: Build ships that can skip along the ocean surface by the force of the winds and create a vortex that will push the salt water up a stack (150 feet tall, I’m told) and “seed” a cloud. We would need many of these ships and they would all have to be monitored. These ships would have to communicate with existing ships to avoid collision. But would the cost be worth it? What about the butterfly effect? That’s the effect where a small change in one place at one time could create a larger change somewhere else at another time. Will these new clouds affect something on the other side of the planet?
The albedo approach has the advantage of not needing to address carbon sequestering. The albedo effect is merely reflecting sunlight back to space to reduce the global warming. It does not address the sequestering of carbon dioxide but rather compensates for its effects of carbon dioxide insulating the earth, thus warming it.
Right now there is not enough research to show the value of this means of climate control.
In my research I could not find a better statement than this by the Academy of Natural Science to address albedo and all other attempts to create a radical cure for global warming.
Climate change is a global challenge that will require complex and comprehensive solutions, which in turn will require that people of many nations work together toward common objectives. For the outcome to be as successful as possible, any climate intervention research should be robust, open, likely to yield valuable scientific information, and international in nature. The impacts of any potential future climate interventions should be honestly acknowledged and fairly considered.
The committee firmly believes that there is no substitute for dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions to mitigate the negative consequences of climate change at the lowest probability of risk to humanity. However, if society ultimately decides to intervene in Earth’s climate, the committee most strongly recommends any such actions be informed by a far more substantive body of scientific research than is available at present.
James Bobreski is a process control engineer who has been in the field of electric power production for 43 years. His “Alternate Energy” column runs monthly. He is the owner of Synchronicity1 LLC in Penn Yan, which is dedicated to designing a digital farm for independent farm operation. He has several inventions, namely a digital wire sorter, portable scoreboard, axis solar panel drive and a ubiquitously mountable LED light module. He lives with his life partner, Sherry, in Penn Yan.
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