Scientists Plan To Block The Sun Using Man-Made Clouds

The planet is hot and getting hotter. But while most plans to use geoengineering to alter the weather have been rather hypothetical, a pair of Harvard engineers have announced that they intend to spray particles into the sky to block the sun's rays — within the coming year.

The pair plan to launch a balloon to ascend 80,000 feet over Fort Sumner, New Mexico, before pumping out tens or hundreds of kilograms of sulphate aerosols into the sky. The idea is that the particles will reflect sunlight back into space, helping decrease the temperature of the Earth.

In theory, they're replicating the effects they've observed as volcanoes spew out similar sulphates into the atmosphere. In practice... well, there is no practice, because nobody's ever done it before. David Keith, one of the scientists, explained to The Guardian:

"The objective is not to alter the climate, but simply to probe the processes at a micro scale. The direct risk is very small."

Yeah, right. But however confidently he says that, in reality he doesn't know. It's hardly surprising then that the plan has its fair share of opposition from scientists who believe that the experiment could have unpredictable — and therefore quite possibly negative — effects. Still, that doesn't seem to bother Keith or his partner James Anderson too much. In fact, they're keen to push forward with the project and plan to put it into action within the next twelve months.

In truth, it's difficult to decide if the idea is a good one or not. It's easy to speculate about how effective geoengineering projects can be without ever actually putting one into action. So in that sense, it's good to see someone bite the bullet and give it a try — here's hoping it works out. [The Guardian]

Image: davedehetre/Flickr


Comments

    They are only experimenting on a small scale, so I don't see any reason to be concerned. If they were going to seed the upper atmosphere with millions of tonnes of the stuff, like Krakatoa, that would be another thing altogether but this is no different to a drug trial.

      How could you possibly understand the risks? Oh it's on a small (whatever that means) scale so no need to be concerned even though other SCIENTISTS are.

      Experiment in the lab or on you own body not where the results could be catastropic.

        So I guess when A Volcano spews forth 1 trillion times as much of the same aerosols that's not a risk then.

      A Drug Trial that nobody has consented to, but they're doing it anyway... Ethical? What about the Declaration of Helsinki?

    Another, scientific experiment goes wrong global catastrophy (don't know how to spell it) movie in the making

    They already made that movie. Isn't that what they did to try and stop the machines in The Matrix? ;)

    The fools! Don't they know Australia now has a carbon tax, so the Earth's temperature is going to drop anyway?!? How are they going to get that balloon up there? By burning global-warming fossil fuel? To release global-cooling sulphates?
    Daft - in fifty years time they'll look back at us and ask "What were they thinking?". The world won't have ended, the globe will be slightly warmer or cooler than it is now, no real damage will be done and humanity will have moved on to a different scare... all perfectly normal...

      If you only cared about people in first world countries then your probably right... If you gave a damn about those in third world countries living at sea level you would be less of a dick.

    The first thing that came to mind...
    "But we do know it was us that scorched the sky." -Morpheus

      At least we're starting early, before all hell breaks loose.

    David Keith's TED talk >> http://www.ted.com/talks/david_keith_s_surprising_ideas_on_climate_change.html

    The Matrix... "But we do know it was us that torched the sky"

    Arnt their regulations about this kind of emission? Polution...EPA? Anyone?

    This rings a little too similar to an Episode of "Eureka" which recently aired.

    The scientists sprayed a dust into the sky which acted as a reflective surface for the sun to combat global warming.

    "The pair plan to launch a balloon to ascend 80,000 feet over Fort Sumner, New Mexico, before pumping out tens or hundreds of kilograms of sulphate aerosols into the sky. The idea is that the particles will reflect sunlight back into space, helping decrease the temperature of the Earth."

    If these sulphates reflect the sunlight back into space will they not reflect the suns rays that manage to make it through the atmosphere back down onto earth?? This really can't have much positive impact. Who wants more sulphate in the air anyways.. I've never heard of someone that enjoys breathing in volcanic air.. perhaps if they were a dragon?

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