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Thu Sep 24, 2020, 11:58 AM

The daring plan to save the Arctic ice with glass

BBC Future Planet
By Katya Zimmer
23rd September 2020

One of the most important, yet underappreciated, features of the Arctic sea ice is the ability of its blindingly white surfaces to reflect sunlight. For at least as long as our species has existed, the frozen seas at the top of our world have acted as a massive parasol that helps keep the planet cool and its climate stable.

Yet now, much of that ice is rapidly vanishing. Rising temperatures have locked the Arctic in a self-destructive feedback loop: the warmer it gets, the reflective white ice dissolves into darker, blue water, which absorbs more of the Sun’s warmth rather than reflecting it back into space. Warmer water accelerates melting, which means yet more absorption of heat, which drives further melting – and so on in a vicious cycle that is part of the reason why the Arctic is warming around twice as fast as the rest of the planet. This July, ice cover was as low as it had ever been at that time of the year.

As planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, some have been driven to explore desperate measures. One proposal put forward by the California-based non-profit Arctic Ice Project appears as daring as it is bizarre: to scatter a thin layer of reflective glass powder over parts of the Arctic, in an effort to protect it from the Sun’s rays and help ice grow back. “We’re trying to break [that] feedback loop and start rebuilding,” says engineer Leslie Field, an adjunct lecturer at Stanford University and chief technical officer of the organisation.

The melting of the sea ice has impacts far beyond the Arctic and its inhabitants. It will contribute to rising sea levels, and some say it’s already disrupting weather patterns around the globe. If we lose our protective white shield entirely – which some reckon could happen just decades from now – it could have the same warming effect as another 25 years of fossil fuel emissions at current rates, which would mean more intense droughts, flooding and heat waves. By rebuilding sea ice, Field hopes her approach will also restore its ancient function as a planetary air-conditioner and help counteract the effects of global warming.

More at link.

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200923-could-geoengineering-save-the-arctic-sea-ice

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Arrow 8 replies Author Time Post
Reply The daring plan to save the Arctic ice with glass (Original post)
Wicked Blue Sep 2020 OP
NNadir Sep 2020 #1
Delmette2.0 Sep 2020 #2
Judi Lynn Sep 2020 #5
ihas2stinkyfeet Sep 2020 #6
Boomer Sep 2020 #3
ihas2stinkyfeet Sep 2020 #7
MFM008 Sep 2020 #4
Warpy Sep 2020 #8

Response to Wicked Blue (Original post)

Thu Sep 24, 2020, 12:06 PM

1. A facile way of dismissing this proposal is to consider the energy requirements of executing...

...this idea.

If it were successful - and it won't be largely because it won't happen - it would need to be repeated annually, since the silica would be embedded in the ice.

I would put this one along side proposals to fill the skies with even more sulfates than are there already.

Any proposal to address climate change must start with banning dangerous fossil fuels on an emergency basis followed by the far more difficult engineering challenge of removing excess carbon dioxide from the air.

It would also help to photochemically destroy, with high energy radiation, persistent greenhouse gases like sulfur fluorides, HFC's, CFC's and nitrous oxide.

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Response to Wicked Blue (Original post)

Thu Sep 24, 2020, 12:15 PM

2. What about the fish and other animals that ingest the glass?

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Response to Delmette2.0 (Reply #2)

Thu Sep 24, 2020, 01:19 PM

5. It's no small matter, is it? I found this in the article:

Scientists agree that the beads are well-intentioned, but worry about their potential effects on the Arctic ecosystem. If they float around there indefinitely, “it’s just going to clog up the ocean and mess with the ecosystem,” says Cecilia Bitz, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington who specialises in Arctic sea ice.

Field argues that the balls are safe because silica is so abundant in nature – indeed, it routinely washes from weathered rocks via rivers into the sea. And according to some safety testing as part of her 2018 study, the beads, when ingested, cause no ill effects in at least two species – sheepshead minnow fish and northern bobwhite birds.

However, some biologists are concerned about the potential effects on the creatures at the base of the Arctic food chain. Depending on how much light the silica beads reflect, they could block sunlight from photosynthesising plankton, such as diatoms, algae that live under the sea ice and around it. Any change in plankton abundance could cascade up the food web and have unpredictable effects on organisms from fish to seals and polar bears, notes Karina Giesbrecht, an ocean chemist and ecologist at Canada’s University of Victoria who has studied the role of silica in Arctic ecosystems.

. . .

On top of that, the silica balls are similar in size to diatoms, which are eaten by zooplankton known as copepods, Giesbrecht notes. If the beads sank into the water column, copepods might consume them thinking they are diatoms, without gaining any nutrition. In the worst case, the copepods could starve, with knock-on effects for other members of the Arctic ecosystem.

So far, Field has been using beads that mostly stay afloat (though some inevitably sink each season), and she is planning to test their impact on plankton ecosystems. If there are any harmful effects, she’ll explore ways of tailoring the beads to make them ecologically safer, she says. One option she is considering is whether to tweak their composition such that they dissolve after a period of time. There are many other questions that her team, which is about to undertake further testing in seawater-filled pools in Alaska, will have to answer to convince the world that the approach is safe and effective.

Never have had a reason to look up "plankton" images before reading this article, was surprised at the incredible variety of lifeforms:

https://tinyurl.com/y694ozbw

It's good to know they are working on this. My first thought was stories I've heard of people dying after ingesting ground glass. Yikes.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Reply #5)

Thu Sep 24, 2020, 03:36 PM

6. i dont think there will be enough of them that low in the water column to have any effect, but

 

that's why you test that shit.

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Response to Wicked Blue (Original post)

Thu Sep 24, 2020, 12:40 PM

3. I just love these "solutions"....

...that require even MORE energy use -- not to mention insane quantities of resources and effort -- to try to compensate for all the problems we've created by using too much energy in the first place.

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Response to Boomer (Reply #3)

Thu Sep 24, 2020, 03:37 PM

7. seems like fine white sand would work just as well.

 

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Response to Wicked Blue (Original post)

Thu Sep 24, 2020, 12:47 PM

4. Hey

At least they're working on it, which is more than maggot
Is doing...

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Response to Wicked Blue (Original post)

Thu Sep 24, 2020, 05:54 PM

8. This really is one of the sillier things I've read

Fabricating the reflective glass would be energy intensive, vastly increasing net carbon released into the atmosphere, and to achieve its purpose, it would have to float and stay put, both things the currents and storms would quickly overcome.

About the only thing that would work well is a massive injection of SO2 into the upper atmosphere on a huge volcanic scale. While I know of four candidates out there that are showing increased activity and are capable of doing this (and no, none of them is Yellowstone), it's unlikely that any of them will blow up soon or reliably at that scale and it wouldn't be pleasant if they did.

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