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Harvard scientists will spend the next year experiment on the cooling of the Earth

04.12.2018 - Science
Harvard scientists will spend the next year experiment on the cooling of the Earth

Conversations about this research have started to go to the media in the last month. A group of scientists from Harvard and Yale offered to “cheat” the Sun “original but not yet a proven way to combat climate change.” But as it turned out, it was only to check the feasibility of whether solar geoengineering from a technical and economic point of view in principle.

As it became known, the idea was picked up by another group of Harvard researchers who decided to test it in an experiment to determine the impact of solar geoengineering above our heads. Their experiment at a cost of three million dollars may begin as early as next year, reports ScienceAlert. Learn more about the project, reports the journal Nature.

The project is called “Stratospheric controlled perturbation experiment” (Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment, SCoPEx) and should become part of the program at Harvard University for the study of solar geoengineering (Harvard’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program). While most studies on the effects of the sprayed chemicals into the atmosphere to cool the planet, based on computer modeling, experiment, SCoPEx proposed to be conducted in real conditions in the stratosphere.

In the experiment, to a height of about 20 kilometers above the Earth’s surface is scheduled to launch the balloon, which will be released in a small aerosol can of calcium carbonate. As soon as the substance gets into the atmosphere, its particles dissipate in the air space of approximately 1 km and a diameter of 100 meters. Then, within 24 hours the balloon will fly at this field of the scattering particles, their behaviour, and to observe what is happening in the sky processes.

The researchers want to know whether the particles in the atmosphere reflecting the sun’s rays affect the surface cooling of the planet. During the experiment it is planned to recreate part of the effects of the eruption of mount Pinatubo in 1991, which led to the reduction of ambient temperature by 0.5 degrees Celsius.

However, solar geoengineering has its drawbacks. According to the findings of some earlier studies, spraying into the atmosphere a large amount of particles reflecting sunlight, can lead to serious consequences, such as negatively affecting the yield, weather conditions and the ozone layer. By the way, the last factor explains why a team of researchers of the experiment, SCoPEx plans to use calcium carbonate. Previous studies have shown that this compound is the safest way to the stratosphere.

In addition, the SCoPEx experiment would be small scale — the volume of the substance, which is planned to be released in the stratosphere do not exceed the emissions of regular commercial passenger liner for one minute of operation of its engines.

Even if the experiments are successful and will demonstrate that solar geoengineering is worth it to develop it, it will not become the ideal solution in the fight against global warming, the researchers note. Humanity will still be required to reduce carbon emissions, as they are considered to be the main cause of climate change. In addition, the solar geoengineering will not be able to help solve related issues, for example, increased acidity of ocean waters.

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