Monday, January 31, 2011

Geoengineering research, getting real

DECEMBER 1, 2010
Geoengineering research is emerging from the laboratory.
Government-funded scientists in the UK are moving forward with a pair of small-scale, carefully-controlled experiments–one to test the qualities of particles that could be used to block the sun’s rays, and another in which droplets of water will be pumped into the air using a one-kilometer-long pipe.
The experiments are designed to help scientists better understand how a geoengineering technique known as solar radiation management, often called SRM, would work. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention,Geoengineering is the deliberate manipulation of the earth’s climate to counter the effects of global warming. Solar radiation management, meanwhile, is a technique intended to reduce the amount of sunlight hitting the earth, and thereby cool the planet. SRM can be attempted in a variety of ways, including by  injecting sulfate particles into the upper atmosphere to form aerosols–a process that happens naturally when volcanoes erupt, leading to a temporary global cooling.
How (maybe) to cool the planet
This is my fifth blogpost this year on geoengineering. (The others can be foundhere.) While the idea of geoengineering is, at first glance, so  so strange and scary that some people want to ban any research into climate manipulation,  I’m convinced the time has come not just for scientific research but for public conversation about geoengineering.
Why? Simply because the world’s collective efforts to curb climate change, such as they are, are failing. This week, while thousands of officials are meeting in Cancun for the UN’s COP16, the 16th major round of negotiations to deal with climate change, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. (See Cancun can’t: Ten reasons why the climate talks will failLast year’s emissions were 37% above those in 1990. So we’re not mitigating at all–to the contrary, our actions, each and every day, increase the danger of catastrophic climate disruptions. Earlier this year, a U.S. government interagency report concluded:
It is clear that impacts in the United States are already occurring and are projected to increase in the future, particularly if the concentration of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continues to rise.
Which is why we need to think about geoengineering, if only as a way to buy time for a gradual transition to clean energy. The Brits are ahead of us in this regard; the UK’s Royal Society, Britain’s premiere scientific society,  published a major study on geoengineering last year, saying that man-made efforts to cool the earth “may provide a potentially useful short-term back-up to mitigation in case rapid reductions in global temperature are needed.”
Since then, government-funded research councils have agreed to sponsor two projects. One is known as the Integrated Assessment of Geoengineering Proposals (IAGP), which will deliver an overview of the different potential techniques that might be used to geoengineer climate. The other, known as Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering, or SPICE, spans four UK universities and is intended to address “the gaps in our knowledge about effectiveness and side effects of geoengineering schemes.” Funding is 1.61 million pounds, according toEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, a major funder.
Matt Watson
Recently, Matthew Watson, an earth scientist at the University of Bristol, who’s leading one of the research projects, came to Washington to talk about the SPICE project. He spoke to a geoengineering task force assembled by the DC-based Bipartisan Policy Center, which is studying the issue. The SPICE research, he said, is notably because it is publicly-funded and because it will be the first peer-reviewed research that takes geoengineering beyond computer simulations.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council describes SPICE this way:
The SPICE project will investigate the effectiveness of stratospheric particle injection. It will address the three grand challenges in solar radiation management: 1. How much, of what, needs to be injected where into the atmosphere to effectively and safely manage the climate system? 2. How do we deliver it there? 3. What are the likely impacts?
One part of SPICE, according to Watson, will examine the qualities of particles to be injected into the stratosphere by using lasers at the Rutherford-Appleton laboratory in Oxfordshire. “We’re going to investigate a range of natural and man made particles,” he said, in an effort to figure out which would be best. The issues are quite technical–particles must be very small (o.2 or 0.3 microns thick) to be effective.
A second part of project, he explained, will examine the question of how to deliver the particles. Scientists have talked about using airplanes, balloons or pipes tethered to the ground. Former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold, who is co-founder of Intellectual Ventures in Seatlle, has talked about building a “garden hose to the sky” to deliver the particles.
Plans call for scientists to build a 1Km-long pipe, about 1/20 of the length that would eventually be needed, on a location still to be determined, and to pump either water or saltwater into the air, to see how the pipe would work. “This is an engineering test, not a climate test,” Watson said.
None of this, it should be noted, will go forward without ample opportunity for the public to comment. Geoengineering raises an array of ethical, political and governance issues; no one would want the discussion to be left to the scientists.

George Soros Center for American Progress

Are they pushing geoengineering

A Climate Cure’s Dark Side

It sounded like a panacea for climate change: “geo-engineering” the atmosphere to block some sunlight and counter global warming. Now scientists scrutinizing the approach say it could produce dangerous cascade effects, severely disrupting weather and agriculture—and might fail to block the worst of the greenhouse effects anyway.
Two prominent climate scientists raised the possibility of geo-engineering in 2006, and it’s been invoked as the world’s emergency escape hatch ever since—a quick fix to stabilize or even reverse the heating of the planet. It would head off worsening heat waves, droughts, and rising sea levels. The estimated price is right, too. A 2009 analysis found that geo-engineering would cost only $2 billion or so a year, chump change compared with converting from CO2-producing coal, oil, and natural gas to wind, solar, nuclear, and biofuels.
But further study shows worrying pitfalls, according to a series of research papers that will appear in the next issue of Atmospheric Science Letters. The greatest threat is to Asian monsoons, which are driven by the temperature difference between warm land and cooler seas. In one scheme, a fleet of jets would crisscross the planet releasing five megatons of sulfur dioxide gas every year. The gas would mix with water in the stratosphere to form minuscule particles called sulfate aerosols, which scatter incoming sunlight back to space before it warms the atmosphere or ground. (That’s also how volcanic eruptions cool the planet.)
But oceans are harder to cool than land. As the sun effectively dims, warmer land cools faster than cooler oceans, explains meteorologist Alan Robock of Rutgers University. Shrinking that land-sea temperature gap would enfeeble the summer monsoons over Asia and Africa, a possible catastrophe for the billions who depend on that rain for their crops.
Perversely, geo-engineering might also reinforce some of the worst consequences of global warming, says climate modeler Olivier Boucher of the British Met Office, the U.K.’s national weather service. He has focused on a plan for ships to spray seawater up above the oceans, where it would evaporate to form a layer of sea-salt aerosols—making marine clouds brighter and reflecting more sunlight back to space. But because of where the clouds cluster, cooling effects wouldn’t be uniform. That would likely intensify greenhouse-induced drying in the Amazon, threatening the riot of species that live there, as well as the rainforest’s ability to suck up CO2.
In perhaps the greatest surprise to scientists, geo-engineering looks like it would fail to stop warming in the Arctic. “Quite a bit of warming keeps occurring there,” says Boucher, “so you don’t manage to reverse the greenhouse effect there.” Trouble is, loss of sea ice saps high-pressure bands that bottle up arctic winds, steering winter storms farther south. Europe and the U.S. would continue to be walloped by severe winter cold and snow, and ocean levels would keep rising. (Expect a seller’s market in sea walls.)
Most worrisome is how geo-engineering might disrupt “teleconnections.” These long-distance links let atmospheric conditions in one place influence weather half a world away. The best known teleconnection is the El Niño/Southern Oscillation: warm waters in the eastern Pacific that weaken the easterly trade winds, bringing deluges to the Southern U.S. and Peru but drought to Indonesia and Australia. “The strength and occurrence of [El Niño] might change in a geo-engineered world,” says climate scientist Peter Braesicke of the University of Cambridge. Even if safe and effective approaches are found, scientists can’t answer what may be the ultimate challenge: securing long-term political and economic support for the such measures. If the world becomes suddenly unwilling or unable to keep supplying the atmosphere with sunblock even as we continue to pump out CO2, we’ll be worse off than where we started.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Beware of the danger of geo-engineering

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We’ve changed the composition of ocean water, we’ve remodeled the landscape, and we’ve created monster weather patterns. And now, to rescue us from the pickle we’ve gotten ourselves into, there’s talk about further manipulating the climate to compensate for the imbalances that human activity has brought about.
With a dawning realization that curbing greenhouse gases produced by an industrial society borders on the impossible, some of the very people who have been in denial about human-induced climate change are now looking at artificial ways to mitigate a steady rise in global temperatures.
Lumped under the catchall phrase of Geo-engineering, these initiatives seek to deploy iffy and unproven technologies — such as shields to reflect solar radiation, iron compounds to neutralize the acidity of ocean waters, aerosol seeding of the stratosphere, and other questionable schemes.
All to control a phenomenon about which we still know very little — the mechanics of the atmosphere. The unpredictability of the skies’ multiple moods, as manifested by our day-to-day weather and long range climate trends, is appreciated by experienced weather and climate professionals, few of whom would suggest tinkering with it’s intricate works.
 I managed to Google up a long (57 minute) lecture by Keith Caldeira of the Carnegie Institute’s Department of Global Ecology.
 Caldeira was exploring the idea of dabbling with nature on this gargantuan scale. I could hardly believe my ears at some of the wild proposals that were being trotted out, examined, and added to a list of options we could deploy in the likely event the C02 count goes off the charts and we humans are too undisciplined to kick our fossil fuel addiction.
I will spare you the technical details, which I’d have to play over and over to understand well enough to explain.
What stuck with me, however, was the admission that once any or all of the procedures were implemented they would have to continue unabated with no interruption — otherwise the buildup of greenhouse gases would effectively cook the planet. And few of us would want to live with the side effects.
Regular seeding of the stratosphere with sulfate aerosols would result in a permanent, whitish haze, and we earthbound humans in the affected regions would never see a blue sky again.
These are just two of the possible consequences of opening this Pandora’s Box.
And Caldeira closed his lecture on a precautionary note that was the understatement of the year.
“The earth system,” he reminded us, “is notoriously complex, and one can assume that tinkering with it on a global scale will produce unanticipated outcomes.”
Amen to that.

More on Geoengineering

If geoengineering doesnt exist who are these people ?!/geoengpolicy/following

January 30th 2011 Plenty of activity today. Blue skies fading fast.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

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Look! Up in the sky! It's ... 'chemtrails'?

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CHEMTRAILS.JPGSunday's column about the strange patterns in the sky was educational for me in that I had never heard of "chemtrails" -- let alone the more conventional "contrails" -- before meeting with Joe 
Joe  believes the government is engaging in "geo-engineering" -- that is, it's trying to control the climate.
"Do a Google search for 'Operation Popeye' and tell me what you think," he said.
Joe , who took the photo above, has started a blog on this topic. In Sunday's blog entry, he mentioned "Operation Popeye."
I'll tell you, some of what he says does make sense. I mean, it's not like the U.S. government has never intentionally misled us.
One reader, Walt, suggested I do a Google search for HAARP. Interesting stuff. 
However, some take the "chemtrails" and believe the government is involved in population control. That's too far out there for me ... but reader Mark left a voice-mail message this morning, saying he believes there are "very dark forces closing in on the American people."
Anyway, I'd have to side with Flight Safety International's Keith Gordon, who described the patterns this way: 

"I have just read your column about the jet trails. Like Eric Menger, I have never heard of these trails being called chemtrails. I think the word "contrails" (short for condensation trails) might have been coined during WWII when the English and Europeans saw them coming from high flying bombers heading to and from their raids.
"I have used the term "jet trails" for as long as I can remember. I have left them all over the world, so you would think that if this is a huge government conspiracy, someone like North Korea or Iran would break ranks and start a protest at jets flying over their countries.
"The formation of these trails is a chemical process caused by the combustion of hydrocarbons (oil that comes out of the ground), which has been refined into jet fuel and not much different to the gasoline used in cars. Hydro stands for water and, of course, carbons consist of many elements and gasses, including carbon-dioxide. When these are exhausted into the atmosphere at very low temperatures, the water becomes super-cooled but needs a nucleus before it will turn to ice crystals. Some of these by-products of combustion provide the nucleus for the ice crystals to form and become visible. In the last couple of months the jet-stream has been over Florida bringing very cold air down from the North (don't we know about it). That is why the jet trails have been visible. The reason for the criss-crossing is that the VOR navigation facility at Vero Beach is an important one; a great number of the airways (highways in the sky) cross over Vero Beach travelling in different directions. Why don't we see them in the summer or warmer months; the right conditions do not exist for them to be visible.

"Are they harmful? The jury is still out amongst the scientists. There was a good study made in the three days after 9/11 when all aircraft in the USA were grounded. Surface temperatures around the USA were studied and compared with the three days before and another three days after the grounding and an approximate 1 degree celsious rise was detected during the three-day grounding. This could suggest that jet trails are not contributing to global warming. Maybe more people had to drive their cars to get around in those three days and that was the cause of the rise."

Scientists Create 52 Artificial Rain Storms in Abu Dhabi Desert

Fifty-two storms in Abu Dhabi this summer were artifically created.
Fifty-two storms in Abu Dhabi this summer were artifically created.
Via Getty Images
Hail, lightning and gales came through the state's eastern region this summer thanks to scientist-puppetmasters.
As part of a secret program to control the weather in the Middle East, scientists working for the United Arab Emirates government artificially created rain where rain is generally nowhere to be found.The $11 million project, which began in July, put steel lampshade-looking ionizers in the desert to produce charged particles. The negatively charged ions rose with the hot air, attracting dust. Moisture then condensed around the dust and eventually produced a rain cloud. A bunch of rain clouds.
On the 52 days it rained in the region throughout July and August, forecasters did not predict rain once.
While fascinating, this is not the first time scientists have attempted to mess with Mother Nature. China has been tinkering with cloud seeding for years, not always successfully.
But the idea that countries in the Middle East could actually create rain in this water-poor region could go a long way to solving the area's problems with drought and is considered to be cheaper than desalination. But how controllable the weather can be is still in doubt, and the consequences of meddling with nature at this level are yet to be seen.

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