10 January 2010

Well, Dam the Arctic Ocean Anyway!

Okay, not the entire Arctic Ocean. Just build a dam across the Bering Strait. If you do that, you can control the climate of the entire Arctic! Once you have the dam, you can either make the Arctic colder -- or make it so warm that the ice cap melts and the Greenland ice sheets begin melting in earnest.

Back in the cold, icy 1950s and 1960s, Soviet climatologists were told to devise a plan for melting the Arctic ice cap. They came up with several ideas, including damming the Bering Strait and pumping cold Arctic water out into the Pacific, drawing warm Atlantic water into the Arctic.

But now in the 21st century, climatologists are oriented toward preserving the Arctic ice cap and the Greenland ice sheets. Here is a proposal involving the damming of the Bering Strait, in order to save the Arctic ice cap (see PDF report at bottom). (via Global Warming)

A recent modeling study at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) supports the idea that the Bering Strait has been at the center of significant climate changes -- most recently at the end of the last glaciation.
The computer simulations showed that North America and Eurasia warmed significantly during the times when the Bering Strait was open, with the tropical and subtropical Indian and Pacific Oceans, as well as Antarctica, warming slightly. _Physorg
Remember that at least twice during the most recent glaciation, sea levels were low enough to create a land bridge across the Bering Strait. This allowed the migration of Siberian tribesmen (and perhaps other groups) across the strait from Asia into North America.  Here is a scientific examination of the effect of the Bering Strait -- open vs. closed -- on the Arctic climate.

Intentional damming the Bering Strait is an example of geoengineering. Fear over the prospects of catastrophic global warming has spawned a variety of ideas for geoengineering the planet. Here are 10 (via WattsUPWithThat):
10. Ocean Iron Fertilization

“Give me half a tanker of iron, and I’ll give you an ice age” ~John Martin, discoverer of the Ocean Iron Fertilization Idea.

Introduce iron into the ocean’s upper layer and increase the amount of phytoplankton (plant plankton) in the ocean. This in turn will increase the amount of food for ocean life, strengthen the ecosystem and most importantly, take in CO2 and release oxygen. The problem however, is not just the process but the scale on which it has to be done to make an impact.

9. Cloud Reflectivity Enhancement

Making clouds whiter. How? Apparently the “viable plan” by Stephen Salter of the University of Edinburgh is to have 1500 special ships known as Flettner ships to spray ocean water into the atmosphere. The ocean spray would work within a concept known as the Twomey Effect.

8. Scatterers – Stratospheric Sulfate Aerosols

Release microparticles into the atmosphere at the rate of 1 million metric tons a year through the use of jumbo jets and military artillery. The idea is to reflect some of the sunlight entering our atmosphere, thus reducing warming effects and helping us keep nice and cool.

7. Sun-blocking Space Crafts

Some people have been watching way too many movies; Stephen Schneider of Stanford University to be precise. He suggests building 60,000 shiny space crafts and putting them into orbit. This is yet another proposed process to avert some of the sun’s rays (10% to be exact) and cool the earth. Cost: $100 billion a year.

6. The CO2 Scrubber

Like the concept of terraforming was introduced in the movie Total Recall, the idea here is to create 250,000 C02 scrubbers and deploy them around the world. The greenhouse gases would be stored underground and used to fuel industries.

5. Artificial Trees

The concept of building artificial trees around the world and allowing them to filter out the carbon monoxide is just the ticket.

4. The Sulfur Dioxide Hose

The idea is to loft baloons into the air and have them just floating around. The huge balloons would have several air hoses attached to them that would spray sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere creating a nice red hue at sunset.

The technology is available right now and could be readily deployed.

3. Space Frisbees to Save Earth

The idea has been proposed to shoot millions of reflective disks into orbit around the Earth. We’re talking in the neighborhood of 80,000 discs per minute over the course of years. Hasbro, an American Toy maker, is firmly behind this idea, as are skeet shooting clubs around the world.

2. The Volcano Idea

To create manmade volcanoes and use them to spew forth enough particles to help cool the Earth: This is an ongoing project by the British Royal Society that would require an eruption every few months for the rest of our time here on Earth or at least until we can figure out how to reduce our emissions and clean up what we’ve already done.

1. The “Farting Tank” for Cows

Though this isn’t strictly Geo-engineering, Scientists figure that one steak dinner for a family of four equals the same amount of greenhouse gas emission as a long drive in a SUV. The thought is to either figure out a way to reduce the methane production of cattle or reduce the amount of cattle being herded. One proposed way to reduce the gas production of cattle is to feed them garlic. Another is to attach plastic tanks to the cow to encapsulate its farts. _TotallyTop10
Yes, the writers at TotallyTop10 were attempting to be humorous, at least in part. But the 10 ideas presented have likely involved hundreds of scientists, and many millions of dollars in grant money. Some of the projects listed would cost $billions to implement, if not more.

When taxpayers sit down to write the check for the actual project, the time for asking themselves "is all this really necessary?" may have long passed. Al Fin climatologists suggests that taxpayers not wait to study the issue for themselves.

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Blogger neil craig said...

I suspect that brfore this could be done putting up square miles of tinfoil to reflect sunlight there, or anywhere else, will be easier.

Nonetheless the potential we forego from refusing to do such grand projects is considerable. The North American Water & Power project, which could make 1/3rd of the continental USA fertile by taking water in Canada that flows north, is a case in point.

Monday, 11 January, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Yes. I've also heard that some in the Obama administration are looking at painting all roofs white to reflect solar energy back to space.

Stealing water from Canada doesn't seem quite kosher, although I wouldn't put it past Californians. ;-) Big parts of Montana, the Dakotas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and Utah could sure use the Arctic tending Canadian water for crops.

But doing that would tend to draw more Atlantic and Pacific water up into the Arctic, so enviros would veto the idea. Also, think of all the Arctic wetlands that would dry up.

Nuclear powered desalination and irrigation makes a lot of sense for coastal areas.

Monday, 11 January, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Artificial trees. Why? I mean, we have perfectly good natural trees, proven to work with minimal human intervention. And since we're talking *global* CO2 levels we can put them where there's water and soil and everything they need to grow.

As for the rest, I'd urge everyone to stick to the easily removable methods - as there is accumulating evidence that *gasp* the climate is oscillating back the other direction, all on its own. Just like it's done for billions of years.

Monday, 11 January, 2010  

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