In order to forestall global warming, a new team led by British academics will investigate the feasibility of a geo-engineering project by building an artificial volcano that would inject particles into the stratosphere and cool the planet.
Scientists and engineers from the universities of Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford, together with those from Marshall Aerospace, have initiated the three-year, 1.6 million pound ($2.5 million) project called SPICE (Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering).
The test, the first of its kind in the UK, is set to launch next month and it was announced Wednesday at the British Science Festival in Bradford.
The project will assess the feasibility of so-called solar radiation management (SRM) by mimicking volcanoes when they erupt. Eruptions can both warm and cool Earth's climateFix, depending on how sunlight interacts with volcanic material, Fox news reported.
Researchers plan to float a huge helium balloon the size of a football stadium, attached to the ground by a giant hosepipe. The pile will pump light-scattering particles into the stratosphere to reflect the sun's rays. It will cool Eearth relatively quickly, showing a similar effect to a large volcanic eruption spewing out clouds of sulphate droplets which can have an impact on the climate.
The technology test team, led by Dr Hugh Hunt from the University of Cambridge, will first send a scaled-down version of the balloon to a height of 1 km over an undisclosed location to pump water into the air. This will allow the engineers to study how the hose and balloon behave over time in a variety of weather conditions and so assess the feasibility of using this approach to potentially inject particles into the stratosphere at an altitude of 20km.
Another aim of the project is to test the impact of sulphates and other aerosol particles when they are sprayed directly into the stratosphere.
While the project has mainly received a warm welcome, environmental activists warn that the government's experiment could affect rainfall and food supplies, also adding that even if it successfully cools the planet by bouncing some of the sun's energy back into space, it would do nothing for the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere, which leads to increased ocean acidity.
Construction of artificial volcanoes to alter climate is considered as the last option to be used only when it is impossible to bring carbon emissions under control.
The three-year 1.6 million pound ($2.5 million) project is a controversial and potentially alarming subject, project leader Dr Matt Watson from Bristol University said. The project's cost, feasibility and sustainability are in need of further investigation.
We hope that by carrying out this research we will start to shed light on some of the uncertainties surrounding this controversial subject, and encourage mature and wide-ranging debate that will help inform any future research and decision-making.
To pump water to one kilometer you need a pressure of 100 bars. When we start thinking about 20 kilometers we're talking about 4,000 bar of pressure. You don't get that kind of pressure at B&Q, said Dr. Hugh Hunt, from Cambridge University, who will head the Sculthorpe test.
Large volcano eruptions in the past have proved to have a significant impact on decreasing global temperatures. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 decreased Earth's average temperature by 0.5 degrees Celsius over two years.
This was as a result of aerosols reflecting back the sun's radiation before it reached the atmosphere. SPICE will investigate the effectiveness of stratospheric particle injection, evaluating the best candidate particle and its ideal quantity, delivery method, and likely impacts of the injection.