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Artificial volcanoes: a solution to global warming? 6 June 2008

Posted by admin in climate, current research, geoscience, volcanoes.
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An article in the latest Popular Mechanics ponders geoengineering solutions to ‘the potentially devastating consequences of climate change’: specifically, reproducing through artificial means the cooling effects of major volcanic eruptions, such as that of Pinatubo in 1991:

One popular geoengineering scenario is to create an artificial volcano. Thomas Wigley, an expert on climate change based at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., has created computer simulations that replicate the 1991 ‘Mount Pinatubo effect’ — a temporary cooling period created by the launch of 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere.

Wigley proposes mimicking the natural process by injecting sulfur dioxide or hydrogen sulfide into the same region, 60,000 to 70,000 ft. above the earth’s surface. The compound would react to form a cloud of sulfuric acid droplets that would in turn reflect sunlight and cool the globe. Exactly how the material would be delivered isn’t clear—cannons, balloons and high-flying military planes are some ‘highly speculative’ options, he says.

These ideas aren’t ‘popular’ with everyone, however. Alan Robock, a meteorologist at Rutgers University, suggests that such grandiose notions just serve to distract attention from humbler, readily-available but politically difficult remedies: ‘It takes political will to lower carbon dioxide emissions. There are plenty of solutions already available’. Furthermore, Robock points out, artificial volcanoes will be ‘very expensive and locally polluting’.

It’s only a matter of time before someone suggests combating global warming by moving planet Earth ‘a bit further away from the sun’.

Expert Solutions to Global Warming – Geoengineering as Way to Prevent Global WarmingPopular Mechanics, 5 June 2008

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1. ChrisR - 6 June 2008

There’s also the fact that dumping lots of sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere would bugger up the ozone layer and cause acid rain – and they’re the problems we’re aware of.

As for the moving the Earth thing, read under ‘Acts of hostility’ here, although I don’t think the guy who did the calculation was seriously proposing we do it…

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