Effects of sea spray geoengineering on global climate

Feb 14, 2012

Anthropogenic climate warming is leading to consideration of options for geoengineering to offset rising carbon dioxide levels. One potential technique involves injecting artificial sea spray into the atmosphere. The sea salt particles would affect Earth's radiation budget directly, by scattering incoming solar radiation, and indirectly, by acting as cloud condensation nuclei, which could lead to whiter clouds that reflect more radiation.

But the potential effects of this method, especially the direct effects, are not fully known. Partanen et al. studied the effects of artificial sea spray using . They find that outside of the most heavily clouded regions the direct effect of scattering of radiation is an important part of the total effect. They also examined the effect of particle size and find that decreasing the size of injected particles could improve the efficiency of the geoengineering technique.

In addition, they conducted one simulation with aerosols injected over all Earth's oceans to identify regions that were most susceptible to cloud whitening, then carried out simulations with aerosol injections just in those specific regions. They find that geoengineering in just those regions would not be enough to offset the warming from the doubling of carbon dioxide since preindustrial times, but if enough sea salt were injected into the atmosphere over all oceans, it would be possible to compensate for much of the warming due to higher levels.

The authors stress, however, that their study did not address some of the potential side effects of this geoengineering technique, such as changes in the hydrological cycle, and they note that models of sea spray geoengineering still have significant uncertainties.

Explore further: Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

More information: Direct and indirect effects of sea spray geoengineering and the role of injected particle size, Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, doi:10.1029/2011JD016428 , 2012

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User comments : 4

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Squirrel
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 14, 2012
What are the energy costs of generating all the salt spray both the aerosols and the machines need to create them? And more importantly, the climate warming carbon dioxide produced needed to produce this energy?
deatopmg
1.7 / 5 (6) Feb 15, 2012
@Squirrel It doesn't matter that this is energetically silly, these people (including the AGU reviewers) clearly do not have the ability to think rationally or logically (but they are good at getting grant$). Earths climate system seems to have handled regulating itself to within a very narrow temperature range, w/ at times very much higher CO2 levels, for the past 500 million yrs. Never runaway high temperatures either.

The sky isn't falling.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.5 / 5 (6) Feb 15, 2012
Yes, but 500 million years ago when the earth was much warmer than today, what is now the central U.S. was sprawling desert.

Where do you intend to get your food Tard Boy? Mars?

"Earths climate system seems to have handled regulating itself to within a very narrow temperature range, w/ at times very much higher CO2 levels, for the past 500 million yrs." - deatopmg
Birger
3.3 / 5 (3) Feb 15, 2012
Also... in a warmer environment the plant biomass of crops will contain more "empty calories" and less of the essential substances. This was not a problem for the warm-climate dinosaurs, since they had evolved to fit and probably had co-evolved intestinal symbionts that were perfectly adapted to the plant food.
A warmer world may produce more green stuff but it is not automatically of the same quality.

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