Artificial Volcano to Help Cool the Planet. What?

Illustration for article titled Artificial Volcano to Help Cool the Planet. What?

Here's the plan: A giant garden hose 12.4 miles long, tethered to a ship and attached to a 650-foot (about two football fields) balloon, which will pump out hundreds of tons of chemical particles into the stratosphere to mimic a volcano.

Why? Because even though a volcano is hot, the volcanic ash reflects sunlight. Scientists want to mimic that action to combat increasing global temperatures.

So researchers in the United Kingdom are testing out their theory in October with a smaller scale device that will just pump out water at a lower altitude. They say it won't change the weather but will be proof of their concept.


One of the scientists, Oxford's Hugh Hunt, is excited about the hose. "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."

Quite nice indeed!

But not everyone thinks so. Some environmentalists say it's "harebrained."

"This is a huge waste of time and money and shows the UK government's disregard for UN processes. It is the first step in readying the hardware to inject particles into the stratosphere. It has no other purpose and it should not be allowed to go ahead," Pat Mooney, chair of ETC Group in Canada, told The Guardian.


The scheme doesn't address the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which some say is a bigger problem than the rising temperature, because excess carbon dioxide increases ocean acidity.

Sir Martin Rees, the former president of Royal Society (which is funding the work with a $2.6 million grant), strongly supports the balloon approach as a plan B to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


If it works, awesome, because it's pretty clear that changing human behavior is even harder than building a giant balloon attached to a miles-long hose contraption.

[The Guardian via PhysOrg; Image: Shutterstock/Pavel Svoboda]

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Suppose it works, and then a real, very large volcano blows up. Is an ice age better than global warming? I do prefer colder weather, but that might be overkill.