Scientists Test Salt Aerosol Spray To Boost Cloud Reflectivity in Order to Cut Global Warming


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Atmospheric scientists are testing out a method called ‘marine cloud brightening’ in Alameda County, California through May. Cloud droplets form on aerosol particles and reflect sunlight back into space. Researchers are testing sea salt spray as a means of changing cloud composition with increased small droplets that are more reflective of the sun than clouds with fewer, large droplets. Solar radiation modification is controversial because widespread use could alter weather patterns in unclear ways and potentially limit the productivity of fisheries and farms. A similar experiment by Harvard in Sweden was canceled last month following complaints.

The New York Times reported, “The idea of interfering with nature is so contentious, organizers of Tuesday’s test kept the details tightly held, concerned that critics would try to stop them.” This shows that the University of Washington (UW) scientists and their backer, a Smithsonian-affiliated museum, conspired to keep the experiment a secret rather than face scrutiny. This is more evidence that weather modification and control is not a “conspiracy theory.”

Aerosol particles are the seeds on which cloud droplets form.

Clouds with more, smaller droplets are more reflective than clouds with fewer, larger droplets.

Researchers are testing sea salt spray as a means of changing cloud composition.

The Earth is warming. But what if there was something we could do on a global scale to slow it down, perhaps some way to “brighten” clouds and deflect the sun’s energy back into space?

That’s what one group of atmospheric scientists is trying to figure out. It’s called marine cloud brightening (MCB) and it’s being tested on a small scale right now in Alameda, California.

Where The Idea Started
Aerosols are the seeds on which cloud droplets form, meaning they partially dictate a cloud’s composition. The natural world has long been a playground for this effect. Volcanoes, for example, leak aerosols into the atmosphere and studies have shown that these aerosols can change the structure of clouds. In particular, clouds around active volcanoes tend to be “brighter,” meaning they contain smaller water droplets.

Ship emissions have also been shown to create bright clouds visible from space. Research has shown that a reduction in ship emissions beginning in 2020 contributed to warmer-than-normal seas. While that may seem backward from typical thinking — lower emissions leading to increased warming — it goes to show just how powerful the impact of natural cloud reflectivity can be.

“I think most people are aware that there’s a greenhouse gas effect that warms climate,” said atmospheric scientist and University of Washington MCB Program Director Sarah Doherty. “But what most people aren’t aware of is that the particles that we’ve also been producing and adding to the atmosphere offset some of that climate warming. So, the overall effect is one of climate warming, but it would be a lot more without that particulate pollution.”

The Marine Cloud Brightening Program
The University of Washington (UW) is home to the Marine Cloud Brightening Program, a contingency of more than 35 interdisciplinary experts led by Doherty and fellow atmospheric scientist Robert Wood.

Because clouds have such a profound impact on climate, researchers from UW and beyond are seeking to better understand the conditions in which bright clouds are formed and what other impacts that might have.

“We’re at a point where, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, of course, which needs to be the biggest thing we do, we probably are going to need to have approaches for dealing with the major climate impacts that are to come,” Doherty said.

Marine cloud brightening is one possible intervention.

The Sea’s The Limit
Clouds, nature’s own sunshades, reflect sunlight back into space, offering a natural cooling effect that is a crucial part of our climate. Marine cloud brightening zeroes in on this natural phenomenon. As researchers seek to understand how aerosols interact with clouds and how we might enhance this “reflecting,” the answer may lie in sea salt.

In a small-scale study, MCB program researchers are spraying sea salt particles into the atmosphere to increase cloud “brightness” and, hopefully, reflective capability.

To study this, researchers developed the Cloud-Aerosol Research Instrument, also known as CARI. The device sprays a plume of sea-salt-laden ocean water past a series of sensitive scientific instruments. The results will help atmospheric scientists better understand how aerosols affect droplets within a cloud and ultimately shape their reflectivity.

“What we’re doing here is simply understanding how particles are transported in the atmosphere on their way to clouds and what the size of those particles looks like, so we can get better model simulations of those processes,” Doherty said, “Which will then be used to understand how much clouds could be brightened and, therefore, what the climate impacts of doing that would be.”

Why sea salt? For starters, there’s plenty of it. “You’ve got a whole ocean of salt,” Doherty said. Sea salt also readily absorbs water, making its aerosol particles a great candidate for cloud droplet formation.

Read full article here…

Scientific American:


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