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Combatting Global Warming With Artificial Volcanos? 188

An anonymous reader writes, "Some scientists are suggesting that a short-term solution to global warming could be to inject sulfate-based aerosols into the stratosphere as a 'sunlight-reflecting, cooling foil.' Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research says that adding just 5 million metric tons of sulfur dioxide annually to the stratosphere 'would have a significant influence.'" From the article: "Constant aerosol production also could mean we wouldn't have blue skies anymore, and it could reduce incoming solar radiation enough to hobble such imperatives as replacing fossil fuel with solar energy technologies."
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Combatting Global Warming With Artificial Volcanos?

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  • by le0p ( 932717 ) * on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:41PM (#16140746)
    a preemptive strike against the machines!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Oh yer, great.

      Take away the only other viable power source from them.

      Good thing you look like a duracell.
      • Burning sulfur is not such a good idea.
        • I'm wondering how all these clean air regulations are actualy effecting "global warming" Or our perception of it when considering one of the most impacting events we have had on air quality is regulating low sulfur fuels and coal.

          I'm betting it is a case of bad verses worse. But if all the sulfur in the air will reflect sunlight or the suns warmth, then could the cleaner emissions be a reason for increased temperatures? And woudl this end up being a never ending cycle?
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Walt Dismal ( 534799 )
      This could be a much cheaper way than jets spraying chemtrails 24/7, which is what the US military is doing. Or haven't people noticed? I've watched very high altitude jets flying a geometrically regular pattern over Central California over the Central Valley. I once drove down I-5 and watched the sky for the better part of the day. The sky was clear at dawn. Shortly thereafter, jets began spraying. No, these were not commercial airliner trails. LAX was to the south, and SFO to the north, and these were no
  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <yayagu@gmail . c om> on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:42PM (#16140755) Journal

    Anyone who needs evidence science is an inexact science need only remember Carl Sagan [wikipedia.org] and his wrong prediction on the Kuwait oil fires (emphasis mine):

    Sagan famously predicted on ABC's Nightline in 1991 that smoky oil fires in Kuwait (set by Saddam Hussein's army) would cause a worldwide ecological disaster of black clouds resulting in global cooling. Retired atmospheric physicist and climate change skeptic Fred Singer dismissed Sagan's prediction as nonsense, predicting that the smoke would dissipate in a matter of days. In his book The Demon-Haunted World, Sagan gave a list of errors he had made (including his predictions about the effects of the Kuwaiti oil fires) as an example of how science is tentative.

    And that prediction explicitly about the effects of something on our atmosphere, ostensibly by one of our most noted intellects. The notion that we have any notion of what the effects of this effort would ulitmately be is indeterminant, and could introduce far more disastrous and devastating unforeseen results.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by 1992 Called ( 893858 )
      Ever notice that Sagan was one letter away from SATAN!? Coincidence?
    • by bradkittenbrink ( 608877 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:51PM (#16140844) Homepage Journal
      Wow, Carl Sagan made a prediction in a field that he wasn't an expert in and he was wrong. All that example proves to me is that astronomy and astrobiology are inexact climatology.
      • Not only that, but an actual expert in the field contradicted Sagan and made a correct prediction. I'd say that science is working quite well.
      • Uh, Sagan's field was planetary atmospheres. Earth is a planet and this was about its atmosphere.

        Now, admittedly the prediction was probably based on a very quick analysis of the situation, not a more careful, detailed one. Under those circumstances, the fact that he was wrong proves little about Sagan, Singer, or anyone else involved. The fact that Sagan owns up to having made been wrong, however, shows that he was a very good model of what a scientist should be. I wish more of us were as open about m
    • by nizo ( 81281 ) *
      Two words: Cane Toads [wikipedia.org].


      Actually now that I think about it, cane toads might work: simply put enough of them into orbit to block out the sun. Can Australia spare a few??

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Oh yes, introduce foreign wildlife into an inhospitible land to do natures dirty work. That never ends badly.

        Just look at what happened on Mars, we sent a Beagle there now the place is overrun with little pizza shaped robotic dogs.
        I mean, how long has it been since you saw a native martian?

      • by flewp ( 458359 )
        What about the turtles that support the earth all the way down? How do we know the cane toads won't introduce some disease that the turtles have no resistance to?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by khallow ( 566160 )

      ...and his wrong prediction on the Kuwait oil fires (emphasis mine)...

      You don't need to warn the reader when you are emphasizing parts of your own writing. Who else could it be? A helpful slashdot editor? A script kiddy from Belarus?
    • until as a child I heard him say that there was no way that aliens would ever visit Earth because it would take far too long to get here.

      At that point I realised that despite being brilliant he had limited imagination.

      (Either that or the aliens had bought him off and made him make that ridiculous statement so that people would think that the aliens wern't here already.)

      Either way he was just plain wrong to say something so absurd.

      Lack of imagination.

      Couldn't concieve of aliens that live tens of thousands of
    • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @07:09PM (#16142441)
      They were both wrong - which goes to show that people who study one feild do not usually know as much as people who study another and actually look at the evidence. It wasn't the end of the world but it was bad enough to turn snow black way off in the Himalayas for weeks after the fires started.

      As for sulphur dioxide - when it gets wet you get acid rain, which is why there is so much effort in removing it from flue gasses whenever a lot of stuff is burned.

      • To creat this effect of blocking enough sunlight to hold over global warming, I have to wonder how much would we need to use? I'm also wondering about how much of a reduction in those emisiosn we have reduced from the flue gasses compared to the amount needed and if there might be any co-orlation between that and our perception of global warming.

        There is no doubt something is happening to the weather, whats causing it is my only question.
    • Exactly.

      Here's a great idea - instead of chucking god-knows-what else into the atmosphere, because some of us think it might possibly help, why don't we... y'know... just stop belching out so much CO2[1] in the first place?

      I mean, lovely thought experiment and all, but exactly how retarded do we have to be to try to re-establish balance by effecting yet more change to the atmosphere? If everything works perfectly, then wonderful. But if one thing goes wrong we could be fucking our environment even more.

      Ju
  • by Linux_ho ( 205887 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:46PM (#16140776) Homepage
    The primary means of fixating atmospheric CO2...
    • by Shimmer ( 3036 )
      That's the first thing I thought of too. Diminishing the amount of sunlight that hits the earth's surface can't be good for the food chain.
  • Was shooting the bull with a friend, talking about the cold winters of our childhood in the early 80s. I've always heard that weather attributed to the St. Helens eruption, and jokingly suggested we shove a nuke down a volcano every few years to counter global warmning.

    It's funny how often my wacky ideas wind up being suggested by scientists shortly thereafter. Maybe they've got my office bugged.
    • Here's an article from 1997 [reason.com] discussing some of the other potential climate-altering things-to-do (some ideas being more grandiose and absurd than others). One of the things they hilighted here was simple global warming mitigation attempts like, say, painting rooftops white and adding recycled glass to standard asphalt to make it slightly more reflective. These not only reflect sunlight directly, but they generally result in cooler cities which need less energy (keeping carbon dioxide out of circulation to b
    • It's funny how often my wacky ideas wind up being suggested by scientists shortly thereafter.

      Funny? I think it's fucking crazy.

      Headline: Jack ass psuedo scientists get ideas from area man. Fuck up the entire planet in the process.
  • by Spazntwich ( 208070 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:46PM (#16140789)
    Fact of the matter is we still don't know a whole lot about the planet's temperature cycles. If we do this, and then run into a "random" cooling period, the effects could swing back around and be catastrophic.
    • They believe in Global Warming so strong, they'll do anything to prevent it. We'll probably end up detonating some sort of nuclear bomb to try to counter-act the forces of nature. Do you remember the movie (name escapes me) where they have to prevent the world's deadliest earthquake by digging deep underground and detonating a nuclear device?
      • Your first sentence and the ones following it don't seem to follow each other. At first you imply that global warming doesn't really exist -- I disagree, but I understand how this could be a concern. Certainly, we wouldn't want to take any sort of drastic action before we knew what we were getting into.

        But it's your second sentence that really bothers me: "We'll probably end up detonating some sort of nuclear bomb to try to counter-act the forces of nature." This sounds a lot like a sort of pastorialist, he
        • by x2A ( 858210 )
          "But it's your second sentence that really bothers me: "We'll probably end up detonating some sort of nuclear bomb to try to counter-act the forces of nature." This sounds a lot like a sort of pastorialist, head-in-sand point of view; in fact if you replace "nature" with "God," it starts to sound downright medeival"

          And if you change "detonate" to "sacrifice" and "nuclear bomb" to "goat", it sounds even older than that! Oo, and if you change all the words to pictures of eyes, chickens, people walking funny,
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by lunaslide ( 23601 )
          If we knew that some sort of disastrous climate change was imminent, and if we had the means to prevent it, don't you think we should?

          Herein lies the problem, with that word you used to start your sentence. I'm reasonably convinced that a global climate change of some sort is in progress, as are most people. But we are far from having proved that human beings had any significant amount to do with it. You can throw around figures of this much of x ppm is in the atmostphere and that the average tempertu
          • But we are far from having proved that human beings had any significant amount to do with it.

            Sigh*. Once again, I'm struck by how people who frequent a nerd site can be so ignorant of what the science community says. Look, the climate science community has spoken on this subject in about as much unison as a bunch of cranky scientists ever get to: a substantial component of warming is due to anthropogenic carbon inputs (read any statements or reports from climate science organizations and this will be evid

    • Those guys are really whacked, on the surface of it they are seriously sugesting we put enough SOx into the atmosphere to disolve every limestone structure on the earth and rot out the lungs of half the airbreather as well as burn the gills of all the fish, hello fucktards SOx + HOH make sulphuric acid and thats a bad thing. Also since when did sulpur oxides in the air cool things, I thought they were one of the strongest greenhouse gasses as in Venus atmosphere of sulphuric acid and surface temperature of
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 )

        Those guys are really whacked, on the surface of it they are seriously sugesting we put enough SOx into the atmosphere to disolve every limestone structure on the earth and rot out the lungs of half the airbreather as well as burn the gills of all the fish, hello fucktards SOx + HOH make sulphuric acid and thats a bad thing.

        From what I can find, it looks like US emissions of sulphur dioxide are somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 million tons (down about a third from its high, due to programs to prevent ac

        • by x2A ( 858210 )
          Wow, when the only way you can downplay negative effects of some action is by comparing it to what America already do, you know you're in trouble!!!

          On the other side of the coin, perhaps America aren't injecting their current 16M tons high enough into the atmosphere to have the effect these people are on about, which is why the difference? Maybe then just get the current SOx that's injected into the sky just injected a little further out instead, where it can reach to do what they are suggesting. This has g
    • by Goaway ( 82658 )
      You may not know a lot about the planet's temperature cycle. Don't pretend you speak for the rest of us.

      Here, learn about the planet's temperature cycles over the last 400000 years (the data record goes back more like 800000 years now, the graphic a bit old):

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Carbon_Dioxide_ 400kyr.png [wikipedia.org]

      See that spike? Over on the left? What do you figure that is?
  • Futurama (Score:3, Funny)

    by SWroclawski ( 95770 ) <serge@wroclaws[ ]org ['ki.' in gap]> on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:46PM (#16140792) Homepage
    There was an episode of Futurama where they combatted global warming by putting a giant ice cube in the ocean. As global warming became worse, they would use a bigger ice cube each year.

    This plan seems to have the same sort of thinking behind it.
  • Global dimming (Score:5, Informative)

    by syntax ( 2932 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:47PM (#16140795) Homepage
    This concept is also known as Global dimming [wikipedia.org], and has already been occurring for a while now. In fact, it's one of the reasons we haven't noticed global warming as much. A very unsurprising downside to global dimming is that it totally mucks with rain fall, casting some areas into complete drought.

    I recommend anyone that's interested in this concept check out the NOVA [pbs.org] on this issue.
  • Oh good (Score:5, Funny)

    by Catamaran ( 106796 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:47PM (#16140801)
    I can keep driving my Hummer!
  • Acid rain (Score:3, Informative)

    by 200_success ( 623160 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:47PM (#16140806)
    Sulfur dioxide is hardly a solution -- it just trades one problem for another [wikipedia.org].
  • Ummm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by ObligatoryUserName ( 126027 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:48PM (#16140814) Journal
    Didn't Venus try this?
    • Now wait a minute. Venus was a beta product. Pre-beta, really. Alpha. A test bed, if you will, to try out ideas and see what worked. Some things worked, and some didn't, and we learned a lot from that experience. We've worked the kinks out, debugged it, you know? Now what I've got here for you today is the final, finished product. This is version 1.0. Guaranteed* to work right the first time!

      * Not guaranteed, and no warranty express or implied is granted, including merchantability or fitness for pu
    • The cytherean [wikipedia.org] atmospheric pressure is also about 90 times earth's, and it's almost entirely carbon dioxide (while here we have about 380 parts per million, iirc), so it's not really a fair comparison.
    • Yea, well, Venus couldn't sustain liquid water on the surface for very long to begin with anyway.

      Back in my college astronomy classes, I remember hearing that both Venus and Earth had around the same amount of CO2 in their early days, the difference with Earth is our water vapor in the atmosphere was able to condense and the bulk of the CO2 dissolved into the oceans.
  • by R2.0 ( 532027 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:48PM (#16140815)
    Way back when, one of the suggested "fixes" for nuclear weapons was to loft a few tons of gravel into LEO. ICBM's would be destroyed upon hitting the gravel lair, and the threat of nuclear annihilation would be gone forever. Except:

    1) Wouldn't do anything for bombers or other delivery methods.
    2) Would forever close off space exploration, thereby stranding us here and cutting us off from sending out probes, etc.

    The worst thing is, some considered the second a small price to pay to guarantee their safety.
    • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @04:06PM (#16140994) Homepage
      1) Wouldn't do anything for bombers or other delivery methods.
      2) Would forever close off space exploration, thereby stranding us here and cutting us off from sending out probes, etc.

      The worst thing is, some considered the second a small price to pay to guarantee their safety.


      To me the worst thing is that they'd make the decision to sacrifice access to space for safety... but then completely ignore point #1, meaning they aren't sacrificing access to space for safety, but for an illusion of safety.
    • by joggle ( 594025 )

      Would forever close off space exploration, thereby stranding us here and cutting us off from sending out probes, etc.

      Nothing stays in LEO for long without propulsion. There is still a little atmosphere there which will cause the objects to deorbit in time. Depending on the altitude, this could range from a year to a few years for LEO. Now once you get to GSO (~38,000km) you're there essentially forever.

      • by ek_adam ( 442283 )
        Even the geosynchronous orbits aren't stable, all communication satellites need occasional nudges from station keeping thrusters. The Lagrange points are the only places for stable orbits in the Earth-Moon system.
        • by joggle ( 594025 )
          I know they aren't stable, but it would take an enormous amount of time before they would re-enter the earth's atmosphere. This is why those satellites get a bit of an orbit boost at the end of their mission rather than to deorbit like satellites at a lower altitude. That, and it would take a large amount of propellant to deorbit GSO satellites in a short amount of time.
  • by Frumious Wombat ( 845680 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:53PM (#16140865)
    This sounds similar to the idea floated a few years back about fertilizing the antarctic and other polar oceans with iron compounds to induce a plankton bloom. The plankton would then suck up the CO2, and either use it personally or turn it into calcium carbonate, die, and fall to the bottom of the ocean.

    Unfortunately, these are the same phytoplankton which produce volatile haloorganics, on roughly the same scale as anthropogenic sources. End result; we stop global warming and blow away the ozone layer. A sub-optimal trade, to say the least.

    Personally, I say it's time we start to cut back on the warming gases, and get ready to live with a warmer world with higher sea levels. Unless, of course, shutting down the Gulf Stream cools western Europe off enough that it starts snowing, reflecting heat back into space, and induces a new ice-age. The joys of climatology; we won't know until we finish the experiment.
    • by linzeal ( 197905 )
      The real question is will all this ozone depletion see the rise of mutations giving rise tothree breasted [amazon.com] aussies and swedish women? If so, than I am all for it.
    • Yes but the Halo-Organics have a strong tendency to concentrate over the poles due to the natural air circulation patterns which makes it much easier to sequester them with chemical packs in balloons and even ground stations. Considering the dynamics of the equilibrium of halogen-monoxides to ozone, I'm surprised they don't do it now.
    • On the one hand, Earth is a fragile system which will break at the slightest touch. On the other hand, let's monkey with it until it's fixed!

      The ham-handed "fixes" proposed scare me more than any evidence of global warming. I actually find some solace in America's unwillingness to combat global warming. If we won't employ even modest measures, then we sure won't try these schemes. I hope.

    • by nizo ( 81281 ) *
      Maybe we should get outta the test tube [space.com] already?
  • Dinosaurs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wampus ( 1932 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:54PM (#16140879)
    Anyone remember the TV show Dinosaurs, and what they did to combat global warming caused by deforestation? Yeah, they blew up a bunch of volcanoes, thus causing the end of the show... and mass extinction of the title characters.
    • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )
      Indeed, and if my mod points hadn't expired yesterday, you'd have them. The episode was "Changing Nature". The volcanos were detonated to make clouds to make it rain to make the forests regrow. Instead, here are some quotes from the episode:

      Earl Sinclair: It's so easy to take advantage of nature because it's always there, and technology is so bright and shiny and new.

      Charlene Sinclair: Your stupid spray wiped out every plant in the world last night.
      Earl Sinclair: What're you complaining about? You never
  • So, in order to compensate for the CO2 we're spewing into the atmosphere we should now spew sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere as well? Sounds like we're trying to make our planet look and smell like we're living in hell. Besides, what is sulfur dioxide going to do to our lungs?
    • Besides, what is sulfur dioxide going to do to our lungs?

      By the time you get up to the stratosphere, which is the level where they're talking about doing the sulphur-dioxide business, your lungs will have worse things to worry about than the smell.

    • by treeves ( 963993 )
      According to TS(short)FA: "The 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption belched twice that amount of sulfur into the stratosphere and had a temporary cooling effect for a few years."

      So five million MT, while it sounds like a lot, may not even have a significant effect, certainly not very long lasting.

      More. . .Six months after the eruption, Crutzen notes, about 6 billion kg of sulfur (from the volcano's initial injection of 10 billion kg) in the form of aerosol-forming sulfate remained in the stratosphere. The result o
  • Look children the sky is falling, run around and be scared. But don't you worry the new religion will save you. It's called science and it will solve all your problems. Just trust the men in white coats after all they are all knowing!

    Wake up, fer crisakes, wake up.
  • What could possibly go wrong? Sounds like a Global Warming solution that's "Good to go!"
  • That'll attract more Pirates.

    Arrgh!

  • by bananaendian ( 928499 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @04:21PM (#16141157) Homepage Journal

    " She swallowed the cow to catch the goat. She swallowed the goat to catch the dog. She swallowed the dog to catch the cat. She swallowed the cat to catch the bird. She swallowed the bird to catch the spider. That wriggled and jiggled and wiggled inside her. She swallowed the spider to catch the fly..."

    "Each and every problem we face today is the direct and inevitable result of yesterday's brilliant solutions."

  • I think we just need more elctrolytes in the atmosphere...
  • My understanding is that the sulphur compunds have a relatively low residence time as shown by the fact that by taking away the inefficent Soviet coal stations, dimming diminished in the mid to late 90s. This means that the sulphate drops into the lower atmosphere, combines with water and precipitates as acid rain.

    Brilliant

    • This article from 1997 or so [reason.com] discusses:

      Tinkering with such a mammoth natural process is daunting, but in fact about 400 medium-sized coal-fired power plants give off enough sulfur in a year to do the job for the whole Earth. (This in itself suggests just how much we are already perturbing the planet.) There are problems with using coal: Arguing that more air pollution is good for Mother Earth sounds intuitively wrong. Coal plants sit on land, and the clouds would be most effective over the oceans. A savvy i

  • Just what we need, more acid rain. That will fix the environment!
  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @05:03PM (#16141544)
    Can't we have some other type of section, maybe for dumb pseudo-scientific ideas? Like a 'creationism' section or something...
  • by Ingolfke ( 515826 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @05:03PM (#16141547) Journal
    These guys are almost as bad as "area man". They lurk around trying to foist the most asinine ideas on the rest of us. The only thing they're doing is combatting the general betterment of the human intellect.

    I heard "some scientists" suggested we should build a giant space elevator (w/ a kick-ass carbon nanotube teather) and then send up a few guys to ask the sun to cool it for a little while.

    Jack asses.
  • Hey - if we don't mess around doing experiments with our atmosphere, how will ever learn anything? If we mess it up, we can always just replace it, right?
    • by Feanturi ( 99866 )
      If we mess it up, we can always just replace it, right?

      Does anybody know if we remembered to extend the planet's warranty? It's been a very long time to have kept a receipt. And what if they don't stock the parts anymore because of newer models?
    • Just imagine the business opportunities if there's no natural breathable air!
  • So, in order to slow down global warming (not stop, or reverse, simply delay), let's artificially induce global dimming by pumping particulate matter into the atmosphere.

    So then, not only will the temperature continue to increase (albeit more slowly), but we also get massive, widespread drought due to plummetting evaporation rates. Great plan.
  • Do it gradually (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SiliconEntity ( 448450 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:53PM (#16143068)
    The key idea here would be to start gradually. One good thing about sulphur dioxide is that it is cleared from the atmosphere quickly, so if something bad starts happening you can reverse what you are doing and things will clear up.

    I saw a proposal from Greg Benford that the arctic would be a good test bed. Concentrate the SO2 emissions over the arctic during the summer and see if we can reduce the rate of shrinkage of the northern ice cap. It's much less expensive than trying to do the whole earth and should provide immediate benefit. Plus you only have to do it during the summer since the arctic gets little sunlight in winter. So each season you can adjust the amount and see what effects it has on temperatures, precipitation, etc. It's a good natural laboratory to start getting experience with the technology.
  • We messed things up once by chucking stuff into the atmosphere. So this guy's solution is to chuck more stuff into the atmosphere to counterbalance what we've already chuucked up there. This is madness.
    • by amorsen ( 7485 )
      So this guy's solution is to chuck more stuff into the atmosphere to counterbalance what we've already chuucked up there. This is madness.

      Better solutions welcome. Stopping the chucking isn't a solution that will happen (except naturally, when the planet becomes uninhabitable for humans. That should lower emissions.)
  • Gee, just inject 5 MILLION TONS of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, where it will promptly turn into sulfuric acid [geocities.com] and rain back down on the world, making it look like a disaster area [wikipedia.org]. Good thinking!
  • In 1815, Mt. Tambora http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Tambora/ [wikipedia.org] erupted, launching millions of tons of sulfuric dioxide into the stratosphere (sound familiar). 1816 was known as "The Year Without A Summer" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Without_a_Summer [wikipedia.org]

    What a GREAT idea!

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