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back to article Cloud engineering could SAVE HUMANITY, suggests boffin

Experiments should be carried out into creating artificial clouds to fight global warming, scientists have argued. Clouds generated by special ships at sea would reflect solar heat back into space, so serving to cool the planet. Atmospheric physicist Rob Wood and his colleagues think that the idea of artificial cumulo-mirrors is …

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salt rain?

"...which would spout huge amounts of sea salt particles - generated from the ocean - into the air as they went along."

does that mean salt rain? I don't think the crops would like that...

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Re: salt rain?

How saline are we talking?

I would imagine that most crops and other plants could tolerate a little salt in their water.

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Devil

Re: salt rain?

In an interview, the crops stated that they weren't as concerned about a little salt as they were about getting less sunlight.

Seriously though, I've not seen any mention of whether this could effect plant/phytoplankton growth.

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Self-solving problem

> ... consume huge amounts more energy.

There's only a limited amount of fossil fuels in the planet. There's only a fraction of that which is technologically or economically (at any cost) worth extracting. Once that's gone ... it's gone and the global warming phenomenon will start to reduce all by itself - probably, well maybe, at least there's a chance, you never know: it *could* happen.

How long it will take to spray gigatonnes of water into the atmosphere and keep it there in sufficient quantities to increase the planet's albedo is not reported, but if it's any more than (guess) 100 years it'll be too late as the wells will have run dry by then, anyway - though umbrella sales could increase enormously - if there's any spare energy to manufacture such luxuries.

So, fast forwarding to 2112, what will we see? Probably very little as either the planet will be engulfed in a permanent fog; or even less as the lights will all have gone out years ago. Maybe the best solution is to use these terra-(re)forming water-pistols, not to try and head off an impending disaster, but to periodically increase and then decrease the Earth's reflectivity. This won't help "cure" excess temperatures, but it might mean we can send an SOS in Morse code that will be picked up by planet hunters in another inhabited solar-system. At least we could serve as a warning to others.

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Re: "So, fast forwarding to 2112, what will we see?"

I should imagine that by then we will have assumed control.

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Re: Self-solving problem

"There's only a limited amount of fossil fuels in the planet. There's only a fraction of that which is technologically or economically (at any cost) worth extracting. Once that's gone ..."

... we will make some more, using CO2 and water and energy from nukular power stations (fission or fusion, doesn't matter).

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Re: "So, fast forwarding to 2112, what will we see?"

"Our world is doing fine."

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@Captain Hogwash

Look out for the priests of the Temple of Syrinx...

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Run for your life!

Chemtrails are coming!

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Anonymous Coward

Err...

"...Experiments should be carried out into creating artificial clouds to fight global warming, scientists have argued. Clouds generated by special ships at sea would reflect solar heat back into space, so serving to cool the planet...."

Clouds aren't just reflective on the top, they reflect energy back to the Earth from underneath as well as away from it from the top.

Geo-engineering also has very serious potential consequences, such as the placing of a massive artificial cloud in one place, may well result in the lack of a critical weather event (such as monsoon) in another place.

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Nev

Re: Err...

"placing of a massive artificial cloud in one place, may well result in the lack of a critical weather event (such as monsoon) in another place."

yes, but scientists have very accurate and fool-proof computer modelling to predict exactly what would happen.....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Err...

I suspect you're being sarcastic, but:

The modeling that is undertaken isn't designed to predict what happens if you stick a massive cloud in a particular place. A serious amount of work would have to take place to develop applicable models.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Err...

"I suspect you're being sarcastic"

Nothing gets by you - you have a mind like a steel trap, as we say!

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Scotland

has quite enough clouds already thankyouverymuch.

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How much fossil fuels will need to be used by these ships? How will solar panels work with so much cloud (I assume it will move over land).

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Good Grief

Geohacking Is NOT the solution.

For crying out loud. Read the literature.

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Geohacking Is NOT the solution.

I was going to post saying that if we really think global warming is going to happen and be a problem we should already be trialling this idea.

Also that it hasn't and won't ever happen because the Luddites, eco green tossers, and politicians that appease them think the technology that has given us comfortable lives is the cause of the problem and won't accept any technological solution.

Thanks for making my point.

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Anonymous Coward

Weaponization

I could see a lot of military spending going on this type of tech....

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The Matrix here we come.

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This is an old idea

I read about it in a Soviet popular science magazine back in the '70s.

I personally don't think that artificial cloud making for the purpose of reflecting sunlight is practical or desirable.

However, perhaps as a way of transporting large quantities of water without having to lay a lot of pipework? Maybe if you place a nuclear-powered evaporator so that it could inject a lot of vapour into the trade winds, the moisture could be transported down-wind and delivered as rain where you wanted it...

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This post has been deleted by its author

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Salter clouds

Stephen Salter, Graham Sortino and John Latham proposed fleets of specially designed ships to do just this about 5 years ago.

http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/366/1882/3989.full

and

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotor_Ship

No fuel required.

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TRT
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Facepalm

So although whether or not we're /currently/ interfering with the planet's natural systems is unknown this wag is suggesting that a cure for possible interference is to interfere even more.

What could possibly go wrong?

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Since we are already messing things up big time, it may be necessary to do all sorts of things to mitigate the damage. The good thing about this method is that you can just stop spraying the water if it had any undesirable effects, and within a few days or months at the worst any problems would just go away.

However, it may not work because clouds can trap heat as well as reflect it. So they just have to do some experiments to see whether it works or not.

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Trollface

>Since we are already messing things up big time

It's finally been proven? Did I miss an announcement or memo or something?

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Airships.

Huge dirigibles floating around the upper atmosphere sucking up sea water and turning it into clouds. What a concept...

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GBE

Almost missed this article.

I almost missed the subtitle. Usually when my eyes hit the word "cloud" in a title I just skip to the next article without even parsing the rest of the line. Not that I'm fundamentally opposed to cloudy computing, I'm just sick to death of hearing/reading about it.

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Mr. Lewis somehow knows more than actual scientists?

Mr. Lewis can't help himself -- he always has to get a snide word in with his weird anti-science biases. So renewable energy is "crippling expensive" even though there's abundant research showing that many technologies are nearly as inexpensive as fossil fuels.

He also just has to assume for the moment that global warming exists because he actually knows better.

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Re: Mr. Lewis somehow knows more than actual scientists?

I'd be very interested in knowing about at least a few of those many inexpensive technologies.

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"even though there's abundant research showing that many technologies are nearly as inexpensive as fossil fuels."

So where are they, and why does the technology actually in use here need such massive subsidies for tiny intermittent output? If you can deliver renewable power so much more cheaply than the current renewables, please do so, so we can scrap all the windfarms and solar panel handouts.

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Wind power is already at grid parity

Where have you been? Solar is getting very close too, so give it a few more years as prices are falling rapidly. And yes it is fair to subsidise renewable energy given fossil fuels and nuclear power are getting much higher subsidies (note that the subsidies are already being reduced due to wind and solar maturing and reaching grid parity). The most recent estimate for cleaning up the UK's nuclear mess was £72 billion, all funded by the taxpayer - if nuclear power were so cheap why don't the nuclear power companies fund it themselves?

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Re: Wind power is already at grid parity

There are two main reasons why the UK has such a large legacy of nuclear waste. Attitudes in early years were somewhat cavalier and there was huge pressure to develop and produce weapons. But even if these defence and development costs were to be entirely offset against consumer electricity production to date, it amounts to only 2.8 p/KWh.

I can't immediately lay my hand on the figure for total UK consumption since nuclear energy first went on line, or the reference showing 2.8 p/KWh as the cost of disposal of waste, but it's easy enough to check. Last year the UK generated 69 TWh from nuclear energy.

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/EE-Nuclear_helped_UK_cut_emissions_in_2011-3003125.html

Assuming that production can be represented by straight-line growth over 50 years - it's actually somewhat higher than this - the £72 billion cleanup would work out at:

(72 x 10e9 x100) /(0.5 x 50 x 69 x 10e9) or about 4 p/KWh.

So the figure that I recall of 2.8 p/KWh is likely to be correct.

In comparison, the feed in tariff for domestic wind and solar PV had initially been set at 43 p/KWh. The snouts who found this trough will be payed, guaranteed and inflation-proofed, for 25 years by a levy on other consumers.

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Re: Wind power is already at grid parity

You sound like you are really disappointed about missing out on solar subsidies... The nuclear subsidy of 2.8p/KWh applies to ALL electricity generated by the UK over 50 years. The solar feed in tarrifs apply to a tiny fraction of electricity generated by small domestic solar panels over at most 25 years, and add up to £8.50 per year per electricity consumer. That's about 0.25p/KWh based on the average consumption of 3300KWh per year. That means the nuclear subsidy is at least 20 times larger (and that's just the subsidy for the cleanup). I know which subsidy I prefer based on cost alone.

But the really good thing about feed-in tarrifs is that in 5-10 years you don't need them anymore as solar will be at grid parity - precisely due to having small subsidies initially. In contrast, nuclear operators are asking for ever more handouts to subsidise the building of more nuclear power stations, to decommission old reactors and foot the bill if things go horribly wrong (it's telling nobody is willing to insure a nuclear reactor - none of the current designs are inherently safe). With nuclear it seems you can either have safety or cheap electricity but not both.

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Re: Wind power is already at grid parity

Data for electricity supplied by nuclear power in the UK is available here; peak annual nuclear production was 90.6 TWh in 1998, which represented 29.2% of the total, falling to 62.7 TWh by 2011:

www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN03631.pdf

Am I disappointed? Perhaps affronted would be a more appropriate description. If it really was necessary to kick-start volume production of PV generation with a subsidy then this could have been applied far, far more effectively as an aid programme to developing countries: where there is several times more sunshine; where there is less annual fluctuation; where there is a real need for 'portable' technology such as solar, with low infrastructure costs; where rather than unbalancing the grid and displacing baseload generation the power can be used directly.

The situation I imagine is where PV.electricity could be used for such things as pumping water and to drive agricultural machinery, plus a proportion of battery powered lighting to replace kerosine.

The carbon efficiency from the funded start-up of production applied somewhat like this would have been five or ten times greater than in the UK. And it could have made a huge difference to those using it, together with an increase in world prosperity. Instead it fills the pockets of fat cats who gloat over their guaranteed ten percent margin, in part being paid by those less well-off, while preening themselves over their environmental munificence.

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Re: Wind power is already at grid parity

I don't think giving aid to developing countries would work. The market simply isn't there, few people can afford anything but a tiny panel (and don't need 4KWhp either), which means you never get the required volume to drive the costs down. On the other hand, the large takeup in Europe and US following subsidies has increased volume and driven prices down far more than direct aid to developing countries could ever achieve. So I don't agree that developing countries have lost out somehow, they greatly benefit from the much lower prices.

A 10 percent margin is all that common and it's far from guaranteed (panels and inverters can break). I did the sums myself a few years back, got a 15-20 year payback, and figured that improving my loft and wall insulation would be far more cost effective: an immediate noticeable benefit, payback well under 10 years, all at a fraction of the cost. Given the ~17% yearly cost reduction of solar PV, in 5-10 years it will be a similar no-brainer without any subsidies. The feed-in subsidies ensure we will be getting to that point much quicker than otherwise. I don't see people making money out of it as a big issue as you seem to. We all benefit from their investment in the long term.

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Pint

maybe we should just whitewash our cities and roads?

how about we just cover everything we build with white paint, all our rooftops, parking lots, highways and roads. Change the albedo of all the ever increasing human habitation infrastructure.

Sure it'll be toxic and use up trillions of tons of petrochemicals, but if I can get some politicos to invest in duPont, I'm sure we can green..err..whitewash the public to pay for it.

And unlike screwing with weather, the effects will stay local and can be reversed a lot easier when it's shown to be a bad idea, like controlling pest populations in Australia :P

beer icon because it takes intoxication to understand WTF these 'geoengineers' are thinking and how they get paid such big bank for it.

"we're painting the roses red, we're painting the roses red...."

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Re: maybe we should just whitewash our cities and roads?

Bermuda already has white roofs on all of its housing. It's for a different reason though - there is no freshwater, so every house collects its rainwater in a big tank for use in drinking, washing, cooking etc. The white roofs are limestone (often painted too, but still white) and stepped. It helps kill the bacteria in the rain. Allegedly.

I have no data on how effective that is for the albedo of Bermuda, but collecting water like that is a seriously handy proposition for anywhere with rainfall but constant hosepipe bans and water restrictions (ahem, UK, I am looking at you).

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Re: maybe we should just whitewash our cities and roads?

I looked up some numbers for a ballpark estimate. Only about 3% of the land is urbanized meaning only 0.9% of the Earth's surface is. The Earth's surface as a whole absorbs about 168wm-2 sunlight and reflects 30wm-2.

If we assume urban areas absorb 100% sunlight and by painting it white it would switch instead to reflecting 00% sunlight, I calculate the amount of sunlight absorbed by the Earth's surface as a whole would only decrease by 0.3wm-2 which would only offset 10% of the warming from a doubling of CO2 and I believe this calculation is quite liberal on getting that contribution as high as possible (in reality urban areas don't absorb 100% sunlight).

So unless we can paint the cities "whiter than white" I don't think this is going to work (not that I expected we'd be able to paint all urban areas in the world white anyway).

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Re: maybe we should just whitewash our cities and roads?

The main reason why it helps to paint roofs and roads with reflective paint in hot climes is to reduce incoming heat so city temperatures stay lower. This can significantly reduce the amount of energy that is used to provide air conditioning.

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Prior art

Heat, by Arthur Herzog ( ISBN-13: 978-0595271498, check your favorite online book seller.)

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OMG

BUT BUT

the models and theories regarding climate change all ASSUME clouds give POSITIVE feedback to warming - this is how they manage to take the 0.5 to 1.0 C possibly caused by CO2 and turn it into 3 to 5 C - by POSITIVE feedback. Of course they have never managed to prove this by empirical research.

And now they are claiming that clouds will cause NEGATIVE feedback ?? my oh my ! Mr Hansen and Mr Jones are NOT going to be amused ! On the other hand the CERN CLOUD experiment people will no doubt be made up; finally some one from the CAGW brigade is taking notice of science (ie physics and chemistry experiments done at CERN)

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Re: OMG

1) You are confusing feedbacks with forcings. This article is not saying clouds cause negative feedback. This article is about cloud forcing, not feedback. Clouds cause a negative (cooling) forcing even if cloud feedback is positive.

2) The models don't ASSUME clouds give positive feedback, the cloud approximations in models (because models are not fine grained enough to simulate small-scale clouds) are based on parameterizations based on observations of the climate. Calling that an assumption as if scientists just pulled it out of a hat is wrong.

3) Clouds aren't the only feedback. When a climate model shows 3C warming for a doubling of CO2 a large part of that is positive ice albedo and positive water vapor feedback. Water vapor and ice albedo feedbacks are known with high confidence to be positive. Therefore if you take what is known warming from a doubling of CO2 is almost certainly going to be higher than 0.5C-1C. Even 0.5C-1C warming would dominate over natural temperature changes.

4) The CERN CLOUD stuff isn't about cloud feedbacks, it's about cloud forcing.

5) Your perception that this article is somehow shocking or surprising to anyone but yourself is wrong.

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Re: OMG --NomNomNom Posted Tuesday 21st August 2012 22:45 GMT

oh dear

POSITIVE feed back from clouds is documented in the Climate models. It is documented as a POSITIVE feedback (ie it acts in the same direction as the original signal ie WARMING). I used the term Positve feedback NOT forcing very deliberately; since the theory here assumes that the change by adding clouds will change the feedback parameters NOT the forcing parameters. Forcing requires the input of energy from OUTSIDE the system - do clouds magically create energy ? Of course not; - so they are feedback.

There is NO empirical research backing the ASSUMPTION that clouds provide POSITIVE FEEDBACK; and you are right; the excuse given for this is that the models are not fine grained enough. All that is apparent is NONE of the GCM get cloud feedback correct.

Of course clouds aren't the only feedback - we do NOT KNOW what constitutes all the feedbacks. In fact we know there are far more than are represented in the GCM. We also know that we do not understand all the feedbacks in the real world climate; that is why the GCM can not accurately model the climate. The system the GCM try to model is a complex chaotic system. The GCM have arbitrarily decided that Clouds are positive FEEDBACK and CO2 is a key POSITIVE forcing - they actually weight CO2 higher than the main Green house gas - water. But since the models do not accurately match reality (tropo hot spot for starters - it is in every model but NOT in the real world) we already know they are like any other simplistic model of a complex system - no use for anything except for playing with ideas and concepts; but for prediction - useless. We can not even model a 'simple' refinery distillation column where we KNOW 90% of the variable and can treat as being non-chaotic; how the hell can we model the climate where we know we DON'T know 90% of the variables ?

Of course the CERN CLOUD experiment is about seeing if it is possible for cosmic rays to cause clouds - that is what the CLOUD EXPERIMENT (science) demonstrated - there MAY be a valid path to get from Cosmic RAYS to cloud nucleation - which may cause clouds. Which may explain why there is a correlation between GCR density AND Climate change. If CLOUD can show cloud nucleation really does take place (using SCIENCE) then the correlation MAY be considered to be a VIABLE cause of climate change. In other words we will have some empirical PROOF of a theory attempting to explain how the earth's climate has always been changing (GCR modulate the cloud cover which modulate the albedo which modulates the amount of energy from the sun arriving at the earth's surface; which will either allow the earth to cool or will warm it;). The climate models are not based on empirical science; which requires predictions to be made and then checked against reality. No; the sea level is not rising at stupid rate - it is rising at the same rate (or SLOWER) that it has done for over 200 years. No the Greenland Ice Cap did not melt this year; and the North Pole was Ice free in 1955 and Antarctic ice cap is INCREASING at about the same rate the Arctic ice is shrinking; Staten Island was NOT under 20 feet of water in 2010 as predicted by Al Gore; nor were there millions of 'climate refugees' in 2000 - model results prove didly - look at the unadulterated data - and if the data is missing or is based on ONE tree out of hundreds then the science is not science. If the people proposing the theory will nor release the data nor the method; then the data can not be examined and checked and so is NOT science.

The perception is that some people are suggesting that throwing water vapour and salt into the air which will cause clouds to form which will produce COOLING. The GCM all say this would cause WARMING.

The effects of clouds on the climate system is a a feedback - is it positive or negative ? Cloud measurements in the Tropics suggest it is a NEGATIVE feedback. Clouds nearer the poles (temperate zones and below) act as both negative AND positive feedback. However there is probably more positive feedback from clouds globally - we need some more experiments to find the magnitude of both signals. This work SHOULD have been done by the Climate Science team to prove their models. Where is the science backing up their claims ?

Science -- look at data; propose theory; make prediction using theory; measure results. PUBLICISE method; data and results. IF the predictions are true - then the theory MAY be correct - publish the whole lot and ask other people to check your work - not just your pals - everyone. (Remember the not faster than light neutrons ? now that was science in action)

.If the prediction is not true then the THEORY is wrong. If you can not make a testable prediction - then there is no theory. What you don't do is mangle the data to prove the models that support your theory; because models ain't science.

By the way do you have any idea what the 'natural temperature' changes you mention are ? Over what time period ? What is the 'right' average global temperature ? That during an Ice House earth or that during a Hot House earth ?

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Re: OMG --NomNomNom Posted Tuesday 21st August 2012 22:45 GMT

"The perception is that some people are suggesting that throwing water vapour and salt into the air which will cause clouds to form which will produce COOLING. The GCM all say this would cause WARMING."

That's completely wrong. The GCMs say it would cause cooling. In fact these geo-engineering ideas are backed up by GCMs.

1) You don't understand what forcings and feedbacks are in context of climate. If the change in clouds is caused by a change in temperature then that change in clouds is a feedback. If the change in clouds is caused independently of temperature (ie by GCRs or by ships spewing sea water into the atmosphere) then that change in clouds is a forcing.

2) There is empirical research showing positive feedback on short timescales. There is empirical research backing positive cloud feedback on long time scales. The GCM behavior is based on calculations made upon empirical cloud data.

3) The North Pole was not ice free in 1955.

4) The Antarctic Ice Cap is shrinking, not growing.

5) Water vapor is a feedback, not a forcing.

6) Big feedbacks like water vapor and ice albedo are known to be positive. The uncertainty in cloud feedbacks merely means total feedback in climate is either weakly positive or strongly positive. Overall negative feedback isn't on the table, unless you want to believe all the unknown tiny feedbacks will all coincidently sum up as largely negative. Believe in such an unlikely possibility if you want but don't pretend it is likely or has an equal chance.

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Re: OMG --NomNomNom Posted Wednesday 22nd August 2012 13:42 GMT

oops -- you are right it was not 1955

It was 1959

On 17 March 1959, Skate (SSN-578) surfaced at the North Pole to commit the ashes of the famed explorer Sir Hubert Wilkins to the Arctic waste.

Commemorative postal cover issued on the occasion of the Skate (SSN-578), as the first Submarine to surface at the North Pole, 17 March 1959.

see http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/08578.htm

or do you think the USN tells lies of such astounding magnitude. So tell me do; what is abnormal about an ice free North Pole ? What grounds do you have to assume that an ice free North Pole did not occur before 1959 as well ? Did any one go there and measure it ??

I suggest you do your research; the GCMs all assume clouds give an overall positiver feedback; where they can be bothered to 'estimate' the cloud effect at all. They are models; so far they have a tenuous agreement with reality; mainly because we DO NOT know what the correct inputs should be; or even how much effect each input has.

I don't care if you wish to misuse the term feedback - it is an engineering term; not subject to political tricks; sorry.

Ice albedo is a negative feedback - which is why there is a panic about losing ice from the artic - less ice lower albedo higher temperature.Water vapour is a greenhouse gas; at least 10 times a potent as CO2 and at least 100 times larger on average in ppm - I wonder how CO2 could possible swamp such a large (at least a 1000 times) feedback ? Go on; look up the relative green house gas constants and concentrations; Or are you going to say I don't understand basic maths and applied science ? (Engineering is applied science)

By the way that is exactly the problem - all the UNKNOWN feedbacks. I am so glad you agree that there are so many of them.

Here is another engineering consideration for you to consider; if the climate system is so sensitive; how come we ever get ice ages ? The climate system appears to be a bistable system; that spends more time in Ice House mode than it does in Hot House mode. Incidental; since there is STILL ice at the poles we are still technically in an Ice House period - albeit in an InterGlacial period. We have plenty of evidence than in the past the Earth has been entirely Ice Free. We also have plenty of evidence that the current interglacial is already been around longer than the average interglacial period; the next Ice Age is (over)due. Go on look up all the ice ages and interglacials; then look at what an Ice Age does to life on earth; as against a Hot House period or even a nice warmer than present normal interglacial

The Antarctic PENISULA is losing ice - probably due to sub sea volcanic activity nearby; the Antartic icecap (the whole thing; not a chery picked portion f it) is gaining ice - at about the same rate that the artic has been losing ice.

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Sure, what could possibly go wrong?

Hm, massive cloud cover to cool the planet, that worked so well on Venus, didn't it?

And isn't water vapor a pretty potent green house gas in itself? The only plus side is that it does tend to precipitate out fairly quickly, when it condenses into big enough droplets. OTOH, vastly increasing the number of airborne particles could cause the size of individual droplets to decrease, keeping them aloft longer, making them more prone to re-evaporate when the weather conditions change, leading a net increase.

That would raise temperature, leading to more vapour, which would lead to bigger droplets and more rain, which would mean a net result of warmer, with less cloud cover, leaving us a bit behind in the game.

And the expected responce?

"Well, it initially showed a brief decrease in temperature before before it started climbing higher, so obviously, we just need to do more of it, since the infrastructure's already in place!"

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My question is

How do they separate the salt from the seawater? Giant vats of boiling water aboard?

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Re: My question is

Previous proposals involved sailing ships with tall chimneys. Solar heating at the bottom causing updraught into which a small amount of seawater is sprayed to form a mist. The mist is lifted and evaporated by the updraught leaving microscopic salt crystals to be emitted from the top.

It isn't rocket science or expensive and the effects on cloud formation (if not the effects of the formed clouds) are easily measured.

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