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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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  • Cue Don Ho song... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:02PM (#31632386)
    Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles)
    In the sea (in the sea)
    Make me happy (make me happy)
    Make me feel free (make me feel free)

    Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles)
    Make me warm all over
    With a feeling that I'm gonna
    Love you till the end of time

    So here's to the golden moon
    And here's to the silver sea
    And mostly here's a toast
    To you and me

    So here's to the ginger lei
    I give to you today
    And here's a kiss
    That will not fade away

    Poor guy, Don Ho... I haven't the heart to tell him, but all the women in his family are Hos!
  • Bermuda Ocean (Score:5, Interesting)

    by engineer_uhg ( 880695 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:12PM (#31632552)
    Tiny bubbles are also good for sinking ships. Decrease the density of the water, decrease the buoyant force on the boats. Source []
  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:13PM (#31632562)

    Before you start mucking about with geo-engineering the temperature, you'd better make damn sure you can UN-muck it or we're all seriously mucked!

    What this means is:

    1) Thousands of gyroscopically positionable mirrors in space allowing you to control sunlight = Good!

    2) Planting oodles of trees everywhere we can do distribute the heat that we do have = "Well, OK, it'll work for most of the planet as long as you don't plant trees that are disease vectors for other organisms."

    3) Throwing thousands of tons of [Insert favorite substance here] into the atmosphere/Ocean/Volcanoes and hoping it works and not having a clue as to the knock-on effects down the road = BAD, BAD, BAD.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:18PM (#31632672)

    Nearly all sea life resides within a few dozen miles of land. The vast majority of oceans are empty and vacant, even of microbes like algae and krill. True, there are a few organisms that travel the large open expanses of water, but most stay near the coastlines.
      light however, hits indiscrimnately. The end result is that in the right locations (far away from coastlines and major currents), large areas of bubbles could be made with no significant effect on any sea organisms.

  • Re:Crazy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by maxwell demon ( 590494 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:27PM (#31632798) Journal

    Actually you would not need to go to the spectrum. Since the bubbling water reflects more sunlight (which is what the cooling effect is based on), less sunlight enters the water. Less sunlight = less photosynthesis.

    Less photosynthesis means less production of biomass, which I'd guess has a negative effect on the ecosystem. But less photosynthesis also has the effect of less consumption of CO2, so at the end this idea may actually have the opposite effect from what was intended.

  • by Ron Bennett ( 14590 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:34PM (#31632872) Homepage

    What if the planet is already (or on the near verge of) getting colder?

    Personally, I'm far more concerned about global cooling than global warming.

    Global warming, on the whole, is more favorable to growing food / living things. Anyone doubting that need only read up on the effects of the various ice ages in the relatively extremely recent geological past. Even a very minor cooling period, such as the "little ice age" in the mid 1600s, while very minimal, had horrendous, adverse effects for humans... []

    The "climate change" folks seeking to cool the earth should be wary - nature may respond with far more cooling than they'd bargained for!


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

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @05:39PM (#31632938)

    It makes a lot of sense. If there's no life on the planet, no one cares about the temperature. Problem solved.

    Yeah. Well, life will repopulate after we've fucked up the planet. And millions of years from now, that life will wonder what happened during this brief 20,000 year segment of history on this rock, chalk it up as a mass-extinction event like all the others, and the universe will have forgotten all our hopes and dreams.

    That's "problem solved".... It makes you wonder if it hasn't happened before.

  • Re:Crazy (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @06:34PM (#31633568)

    Wouldn't the constant pumping raise the concentration of atmospheric gases in the water? I doubt the sea-life will ignore the sudden abundance of oxygen/nitrogen in the water.

  • Re:Crazy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blackraven14250 ( 902843 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:29PM (#31634674)
    I'd be more worried about the sea life that gets injured by air bubbles outright. Fish die in saltwater tanks if their gills get exposed to too much air. I had a "bubble outbreak" in my tank yesterday due to some epoxy changing the surface tension of the water with a byproduct of the reaction, and all of my corals shriveled up until the bubbles were gone for a good 2 hours.

Air is water with holes in it.