Artificial volcano to cool planet
Field test by British academics have marked the first step towards recreating an artificial volcano that would inject particles into the stratosphere and cool the planet.india Updated: Sep 02, 2011 12:02 IST
Field test by British academics have marked first step towards recreating an artificial volcano that would inject particles into the stratosphere and cool the planet.
A tethered balloon the size of Wembley stadium suspended 20km above Earth, linked to the ground by a giant garden hose pumping hundreds of tonnes of minute chemical particles a day into the thin stratospheric air to reflect sunlight and cool the planet.
But a team of British academics will next month formally announce the first step towards creating an artificial volcano by going ahead with the world’s first major “geo-engineering” field-test in the next few months.
The ultimate aim is to mimic the cooling effect that volcanoes have when they inject particles into the stratosphere that bounce some of the Sun''s energy back into space, so preventing it from warming the Earth and mitigating the effects of man-made climate change, reports the Guardian.
Before the full-sized system can be deployed, the research team will test a scaled-down version of the balloon-and-hose design. The team will send a balloon to a height of 1km over an undisclosed location. It will pump nothing more than water into the air, but it will allow climate scientists and engineers to gauge the engineering feasibility of the plan. Ultimately, they aim to test the impact of sulphates and other aerosol particles if they are sprayed directly into the stratosphere.
If the technical problems posed by controlling a massive balloon at more than twice the cruising height of a commercial airliner are resolved, then the team from Cambridge, Oxford, Reading and Bristol universities expect to move to full-scale solar radiation tests.
Principal investigator Matthew Watson, a Bristol University lecturer, said the experiment is inspired by volcanoes and the way they can affect the climate after eruptions.
“We will test pure water only, in sufficient quantity to test the engineering. Much more research is required,” he said; in answer the question of what effect a planetary-scale deployment of the technology could have.
“The whole weight of this thing is going to be a few hundred tonnes. That’s the weight of several double-decker buses. So imagine how big a helium balloon do you need to hold several double-decker buses – a big balloon. We’re looking at a balloon which is possibly 100-200m in diameter. It’s about the same size as Wembley stadium,” said the Oxford engineering lecturer Hugh Hunt in an interview earlier this year.
“This hose would be just like a garden hose, 20km long and we pump stuff up the pipe. The nice thing about it is that we can really have a knob, if you like, which we can control to adjust the rate at which we inject these particles,” added Hunt.