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Earth Science

Cooling the Planet With a Bubble Bath 219

cremeglace writes "A Harvard University physicist has come up with a new way to cool parts of the planet: pump vast swarms of tiny bubbles into the sea to increase its reflectivity and lower water temperatures. 'Since water covers most of the earth, don't dim the sun,' says the scientist, Russell Seitz, speaking from an international meeting on geoengineering research. 'Brighten the water.' From ScienceNOW: 'Computer simulations show that tiny bubbles could have a profound cooling effect. Using a model that simulates how light, water, and air interact, Seitz found that microbubbles could double the reflectivity of water at a concentration of only one part per million by volume. When Seitz plugged that data into a climate model, he found that the microbubble strategy could cool the planet by up to 3C. He has submitted a paper on the concept he calls “Bright Water" to the journal Climatic Change.'"
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Cooling the Planet With a Bubble Bath

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  • Crazy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:02PM (#31632396)
    What about the sea life that relies on that heat?
  • Same problems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bozzio ( 183974 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:05PM (#31632440)

    Don't all these crazy "reflect back light somewhere in the ocean" have the same problem?
    Whether you're covering the ocean with a white tarp, stretching tin-foil over a large number of floaters, or creating loads of tiny bubbles you're still depriving the ecosystem of light it is most likely dependent on.

    No light, no plankton, no life.

    Am I wrong?

  • Good idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:09PM (#31632516)

    Now all we have to do is build huge industrial complexes and ships to spend huge amounts of energy pumping tiny bubbles into the entire world ocean.

    Well, I guess we've solved global warming. That was easy.

  • Yesbut... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:09PM (#31632524)

    It would also increase evaporation and thusly the amount of water vapor in the air. Water vapor is more effective than CO2 at increasing global warming.

    Have you thought of that? No? Didn't *think* so!

    He also says that energy is not a limiting factor. He's a kook.


  • by ebuck ( 585470 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:12PM (#31632558)

    Neither problem is new, nor has either problem gone away. It's just that the public mind can only contain one global issue at a time. I would try to prove it, but you've proved my point better than I could.

  • Re:Crazy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by glavenoid ( 636808 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:18PM (#31632670) Journal
    Not only heat but the specific spectra of light that reach below the water surface. Seems to me that affecting the surface reflectivity would by necessity change the light that reaches into the sea, and who knows what effect that would have on photosynthetic aquatic plant life.
  • Re:Crazy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aurispector ( 530273 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:31PM (#31632830)

    Geoengineering is such a spectacularly bad idea as to warrant armed revolt in order to prevent it. History has shown again and again that scientists understand far less about the complexity of natural systems than they think they do. Just look at the eggs: back in the day they were considered good, nutritious food. Then suddenly they were demonized for their cholesterol content. Oops! Guess again! They're a good source of omega fatty acids and really are good for you!

    The law of unintended consequences comes into play as well. They guy is using a mathematical model. What's the model missing? "Garbage in, garbage out" is not a principle we want to apply to altering the global environment.

    Any efforts to reverse "Anthropogenic global warming" should be confined to reducing the supposed causes. What's our incentive to stop polluting if we can "fix" it by blowing bubbles in the ocean?

  • Re:Same problems (Score:3, Insightful)

    by osu-neko ( 2604 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:40PM (#31632946)

    Well, bubbles might also mean no oxygen exchange. So we'll wind up killing 80% of the planet's ecosystem off when the oceans die, to stop global warming. Yeah. That makes sense.

    Yeah... this is why people put bubble-making aerators in fish-tanks: to starve the fish of oxygen.


  • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionary.yahoo@com> on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:46PM (#31633048) Journal

    Geoengineering is such a spectacularly bad idea as to warrant armed revolt in order to prevent it.

    I'm as green as the next guy, but that's a bit harsh. It seems you are advocating violence against companies like Shell, Exon, Mobile, and others that are engaged in large scale geoengineering projects such as pumping gigatons of CO2 into the air. While I agree they need to stop, I think legislation should be the first step. Only if they won't take the hint should we send in the government with tanks and bombs and such.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:48PM (#31633084) Journal

    Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles)

    I never realized what a hip song this is until I started playing the tenor ukulele.

    Seriously, if any of you would love to play music but don't want to spend 20 years becoming a virtuoso, pick up a halfway decent ukulele (spend about $100). There are dozens of excellent sites and organizations you can find on the web that will teach you how to play. You can start playing songs the first day. And it's better than prozac for chasing away the blues. And the ukulele is a cool instrument, played by musicians as diverse as Kurt Cobain, George Harrison, Elvis Costello, virtuoso guitarist Eric Johnson and many more.

    Plus, chicks dig musicians. Go to a party, pull out your uke and do just about any tune, from some old Ink Spots to Nine Inch Nails. I guarantee you'll get laid.

    Regarding the topic at hand, whenever I hear someone propose some mechanical method for reversing the warming of the planet, it makes me really nervous. Whether by putting gigantic mirrors into orbit or kicking up more dust than Mt St Helens, I always feel like they're not really thinking through all the possible ramifications. Bubbles in the Sea? It might be worth thinking about what that would do to ocean life. It might be perfectly harmless, I don't know. But please, let's get someone besides physicists involved in the discussion, too. I know some physicists and while they may be great people, they're not known for thinking through all the ramifications of their theories on living creatures.

  • Re:Crazy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cheekyboy ( 598084 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:59PM (#31633206) Homepage Journal

    I heard that the actual planet was going into an ice age, and that the recent global warming by man saved us all from 1000 years of frozen hell.

    Seriously though, more heat is better than less heat, a run away cooling/frozen world is real bad, nothing grows at sub zero temps.

    But a hotter planet with more co2, well plants grow faster, and who knows cows could grow to the size of dinasours :)

  • Re:Yesbut... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @06:01PM (#31633224)

    I read the article.

    He says the bubbles would slow down evaporation in lakes and streams (i.e., where he's not using the system). This is only because he's increased overall humidity from the evaporation of the ocean with his bubble toy.

    Ever see bubbles burst with fast film? They create droplets which increases surface area. Evaporation is dependent upon surface area, temperature, vapor pressure, and barometric pressure. Increase any of these and you increase the amount of water vapor in the air. Doing this over a large area increases the surface area for evaporation to happen by a large amount

    It's like you people have forgotten the most basic physics.

    And yes, he's a kook. Only a nutjob would come up with something as ridiculous as this.


  • Re:Same problems (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @06:52PM (#31633736) Homepage Journal

    It did not happen before the way that you are implying.

    For a civilization to start creating a change in the global climate, the civilization has to be numerous and it has to possess various technologies.

    We would have noticed the following:

    1. Previous excavations of various Earth minerals starting with metals: iron, nickel, copper, uranium, gold, cadmium.

    2. Previous energy production attempts: the oil would have been much smaller if they were pumped before, we know of the exact mass extinctions and time periods where coal, oil and gas were created. So during those times it would not be possible for such a civilization to exist, because it's nearly impossible to coexist with giant lizards and the lizards wouldn't dominate the planet to deposit all those carcasses that formed the oil, gas and coal stores.

    3. Our excavations at various rocky mountain sites would have shown this age and we would have found similar excavations from those past civilizations.

    4. Certainly some structures would have been found preserved, some machinery, roads, after all, we find skeletons of dinosaurs, so why not tools of the long gone civilizations?

    5. Uranium probably would have been gone as well as some other heavy metals, converted to other forms by those energy users, who would have had to use various types of energy to achieve climate level shifts.

  • by spazdor ( 902907 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @06:59PM (#31633804)

    What amazing insights you have into the environmentalist mind!

    Please, tell me more about why I believe things!

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:16PM (#31634000)

    From TFA:

    Seitz says adding bubbles to a 1-square-kilometer patch of ocean is feasible, but scaling it up may be technically difficult.

          No shit, Sherlock. I'm glad he goes to Harvard!

    When Seitz plugged that data into a climate model, he found that the microbubble strategy could cool the planet by up to 3C.

          Well I'll be damned. It's too bad he failed to mention how many millions of square miles that need to be filled with bubbles to achieve this (hint: it's more than 1-square-kilometer), and of course like all good theoreticians there is no mention of the energy required to create this amount of bubbles 12 hours per day, what power source will be used, and of course how much equipment and manpower required and what THAT would cost.

          I have my own hypothesis: Climate Science research leads to severe degeneration of higher brain functions.

  • Cue Aesop's fable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LandruBek ( 792512 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:37PM (#31634192)

    A MAN (apparently Don Ho) and a Satyr once drank together [soupsong.com] in token of a bond of alliance being formed between them. One very cold wintry day, as they talked, Don Ho put his fingers to his mouth and blew tiny bubbles. When the Satyr asked the reason for this, he told him that he did it to make himself feel warm all over, because it was so cold. Later on in the day the Satyr went to the beach, and but the ocean was sat too warm at the surface. Some other man blew tiny bubbles into it. When the Satyr again inquired the reason, he said that he did it to cool the planet, which was too hot. "I can no longer consider you as a friend," said the Satyr, "a fellow who with the same breath bubbles hot and cold."

    tee hee hee

  • by mswhippingboy ( 754599 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:51PM (#31634338)
    I can't believe you left out the late great Tiny Tim!
    Tiptoeing beneath the tulips now I suppose.

It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's