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Marine Cloud Brightening to Slow Down Global Warming

Aug 21, 2012 07:48 AM EDT
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Researchers are urging to test the controversial idea of marine cloud brightening that could help counter global warming.

University of Washington researcher Rob Wood and his colleague have proposed to test the cloud brightening method in their latest paper published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

Cloud brightening method is a type of geoengineering technology that has been designed to manipulate the environment and counter the climate change. Cloud brightening is a method wherein salt water is sprayed on the clouds, which in turn reflects the light back into the space thus bringing a cooling effect on the Earth and reduce global warming.

A team of international researchers wants to test the method on a small-scale experiment to study the effects of the method.  Accordingly, the experts wants to send a ship loaded with sprayers that are large enough to spray the salt particles on the clouds. They insisted to send an airplane occupied with sensors to study the characteristics of the salt particles and their effect on the clouds.

Additional airplanes need to be used to study the developments in the clouds and how they react, said the experts.

While the initial phase involves sending a ship to cover a small targeted size, the researchers noted that the final phase should indulge sending five to ten ships that spreads across a much bigger area of around 60 miles to target large clouds. Then the researchers will be able to study through satellites on how clouds reflect light.

While earlier studies have already proposed geoengineering techniques, it has been considered controversial as their impact on climate is not known. But the researchers argue that the impact of cloud brightening doesn't exist for longer periods and lasts only for few days.

Researchers believe that the experiment will also help in understanding the effect of particles caused by pollution on clouds, but also pointed out that the cloud brightening technique may not entirely solve the problem of global warming. "It's a quick-fix idea when really what we need to do is move toward a low-carbon emission economy, which is turning out to be a long process," Wood said in a statement. "I think we ought to know about the possibilities, just in case."

Experts also cautiously noted that the technique cannot be used until it has been proved that there are no adverse effects of using it. They added that an international agreement needs to be achieved before plunging into action. 

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