Cloud cuckoo land in Silicon Valley

Posted: July 12, 2015 by oldbrew in Clouds, innovation, research

[image credit:]

[image credit:]

Are these people just mind-bogglingly naive, downright dangerous – or something else? You decide. And for the record we don’t support the ‘scientific consensus’ claim in this Mercury News report:

A team of elder Silicon Valley scientists is building an audacious device that might solve one of humanity’s most profound dilemmas — a “cloud whitener” designed to cool a warming planet.

The men — retired physicists, engineers, chemists and computer experts from some of Silicon Valley’s top tech companies — have been meeting four days a week for seven years in the Sunnyvale lab of the Marine Cloud Brightening Project to design a tool that creates perfectly suspended droplets of water resembling fog.

Their goal is to launch the nation’s first open-air field trial of controversial “geoengineering” at a still-unidentified site in Moss Landing. There, they would test the ability of an energy-efficient machine to hurl tiny seawater droplets into a graceful trajectory — the first step of a research project to boost the brightness of clouds to reflect rays of sunlight back into space.

“We are interested in an insurance policy for global warming,” said Jack Foster, 79, a physicist and laser pioneer. “We are not interested in deploying it unless it’s necessary. But we’d like to have something available, so we know what works and what doesn’t work.”

The effort to conduct even a small-scale test — overseen by the University of Washington, which has numerous experts in atmospheric science — represents a dramatic shift in thinking in the scientific community, which until recently resisted conversations about deliberate manipulation of the climate.

The reason for the change: There is scientific consensus that even if the world succeeds in shifting away from fossil fuels, warming of the planet is inevitable — and it may have catastrophic consequences. [Note: Talkshop disputes this view]

Critics of geo-engineering, however, warn against altering nature’s patterns, arguing that we don’t yet understand all the potential ramifications. And they worry that if people see a quick fix for climate change, they may not try as hard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Personally, I doubt that the world is ready for this,” said Stephen Gardiner, a University of Washington philosophy professor who studies the ethics of environmental policies. “Geoengineering raises huge ethical and political questions, nationally and internationally.”

But the Silicon Valley scientists say the world might not have a choice. “We need to research the technology,” said project leader Armand Neukermans, 74, whose achievements include the development of the earliest ink jet printers and who led teams at Xerox Labs, Hewlett-Packard, Tencor and Xros.

None of the men will be alive by the end of this century, when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is expected to be double what it is now — and temperatures are likely to be so high they will harm ecosystems and human health and welfare.

“But all of us have children or grandchildren,” Neukermans said. “We’ve got to preserve the future.”

The group favors an approach that wafts tiny aerosolized water droplets into the atmosphere, creating a natural mirror that increases clouds’ reflectivity.

The cloud-brightening concept was first proposed in 1990 by British physicist John Latham, who published an article in the journal Nature called “Control of global warming?” And in February, the prestigious National Academy of Sciences said the concept deserved greater research.

But no one has ever tried to deliberately brighten a cloud.

Full report here.
It seems sad that some people feel the need to mess around with this kind of nonsense.

  1. Jaime says:

    Ah, right, so if we are looking at a global environmental disaster in the next half-century – a real one that is, not an imaginary CO2 induced Thermageddon – it will probably be courtesy of an assortment of doddery pensioners whose relevant technical expertise includes inventing the inkjet printer, the supermarket scanner and a novel way of finding flaws in semiconductor wafers! Oh, and if that doesn’t inspire your supreme confidence, know also that they are doing this because – aside from the fact they believe a temperature rise of half a degree since 1950 which has flatlined since 1998 is irrefutable evidence of man-made global warming – they would “rather invent things than play golf.”
    This is what happens when you have a policy of day release from the Cuckoo’s Nest.

  2. I wasn’t ever scared before,
    But now I’m really frightened,
    Quite happy to go through my life
    Without the clouds being brightened.
    The world certainly now needs saving,
    But not from any global warming,
    But from the dangerous experiments
    These clowns could soon be performing!

    Sounds as mad as this:

  3. oldbrew says:

    ‘no one has ever tried to deliberately brighten a cloud’

    It all sounds a bit pathetic really.

  4. Richard111 says:

    Hmm… I’m wondering if these guys are not smarter than we are giving them credit for. Firstly, that ’cause’ guarantees funding for their work into their old age, and secondly, by developing that machine to produce tiny drops of ‘sea water’ strikes me as being just a step short of producing fresh water as too much salt in the air won’t be appreciated by local farmers and I believe that neck of the woods doesn’t have a lot of fresh water. Bears watching I think.

  5. steverichards1984 says:

    So people have, for years, considering clouds as having a major impact on surface temperatures!

    To think that weeks ago: was stating that clouds increase global warming…..

    However, I am all for practical experiments that will allow meaningful measurements to be taken to allow this one aspect of the earth’s climate to be better understood.

  6. Mike Sugar says:

    IMHO they are not mind-bogglingly mad. They are using the scientific method. Hypothesis first, then experiment. If it works, the theory is (until disproven) possibly correct. If it fails, back to the drawing board.

    I do not believe that they have ulterior motives. Given their career histories they likely already have good pensions and are avoiding senility by excercising their intellects – and good luck to them.

    The fact that I suspect that the whole thing is a futile waste of time to solve an insoluble fact of nature (climate always has and always will change) is irrelevant. In my mind catch and release fishing is equally futile, yet many thoroughly enjoy doing it. Leave them in peace.

  7. michael hart says:

    It strikes me as harmless. If people want to spray sea water into the air then they are welcome to do it, as long as it’s not where I am standing (which is nowhere near the beach).

    If they want to do it off the back of a boat in the middle of the ocean, then go ahead, be my guest.

    It ranks alongside the plan someone had to populate Antarctica with CO2-condensing machinery.
    Pathetic. But inconsequential.

  8. oldbrew says:

    Some people always seem to be fretting about supposed warming or cooling…

  9. M Simon says:

    I want to know what all these people have against Plant Food?

  10. Jaime says:

    “The large quantities of man-made particles produced by industrial activity are likely to be cooling the planet enough to significantly off-set warming caused by greenhouse gases, but this effect is not well quantified. The impact of aerosol particles on clouds remains one of the major sources of uncertainty hindering projections of climate change over this century.”

    I thought the effect of man-made aerosols had been quantified and found to be increasingly not significant wrt global warming. But anyway, if the team think this way, why are they so desperate to inject more aerosols into the atmosphere? Sea salt particles I might add. Correct me if i’m wrong, but low-lying clouds don’t naturally contain masses of salt. What happens when these salt particles rain out over land? Correct me if I’m wrong again, but isn’t it ever so slightly crazy even considering injecting salt particles 10 miles up into the stratosphere, which appears to be the ultimate aim of these experiments?

    “In 1990, cloud physicist John Latham proposed the idea that the amount of solar radiation reflected by clouds might be deliberately increased by augmenting the existing population of aerosol particles with salt particles created from seawater. Marine cloud brightening, as it is now termed, has been suggested as a possible approach to intentionally modifying the Earth’s climate (“climate intervention” or “climate engineering”) in order to counteract anthropogenic global warming.”

  11. Graeme No.3 says:

    It seems more than one flew over the cuckoo nest.

  12. oldbrew says:

    How many clouds would they want to brighten? Give us a number 😎

  13. Richard111 says:

    If people believe WV and clouds will warm up planet Earth they should go live in Singapore. Summer lasts all year and only noticeable seasonal events are monsoon rains which weaken slightly twice a year. Daily temperatures do not exceed 30C and night temperatures no lower than 23C. Humidity 95 to 100% all day and every day. I enjoyed my three years there. Very liveable climate. Just ensure you have a mosquito net over your bed. Drink whisky if you find the net too hot at night. Mosquitos hate that stuff.

  14. oldbrew says:

    Jaime says: ‘Correct me if I’m wrong again, but isn’t it ever so slightly crazy even considering injecting salt particles 10 miles up into the stratosphere, which appears to be the ultimate aim of these experiments?’

    Sorry to correct you: it’s completely bonkers 🙂

    As a rule of thumb I’d go with this comment by Miles Mathis: ‘unless we can move the Sun or Jupiter, we’re out of luck.’

  15. Just what is incorrect about the clouds that this atmosphere provides? Completely adjustable for the temperatures everywhere that this planet decides! Scientists have amply demonstrated they have not a clue, and no desire to have a clue!

  16. wayne says:

    I’ll take Freeman Dyson’s viewpoint… all co2 can be controlled, if we even really want to at all, by simple land management, a choice of which plants to grow and where determined by the root to above-ground mass ratio and minimizing plowing depths or the need to plow at all. According to Freeman just 1/10″ of additional top soil growth per year on farm land from roots would completely neutralize all of the oil and gas carbon we are going to burn until better, safer reactors are designed and online in the future.

    He was working on co2 at Oak Ridge NL many decades ago. That is why he is a skeptic physicist. He knows better.

    Plants generally don’t like salt raining down on the farm lands, forests carried by the winds. What an asinine idea.

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    There’s a reason we call that local paper The Murky News…

  18. wayne says:

    Reading E.M.’s comment and just noticed a missing term that should have read:

    “1/10″ of additional top soil increase per year” Even if the total 1/10″ were not achievable at least it would certainly cut the rate and leave more top soil to boot.
    [earlier comment amended – mod]

  19. jdmcl says:

    My paper published last year suggested that a reduction in total cloud cover was a likely cause of the 1988-1997 warming (which came after a period of ENSO-driven warming). Never mind that this is the opposite of what the comment by ‘steverichards1984’ says when he reports on the trusty source of climate science news (not!), The Guardian.

    On the basis of my paper I think geo-engineering would cause cooling but we’d probably have to reverse legislation about micro-particle emissions, legislation that probably was introduced in about 1985 and represented the first time in human history that we’d really tried hard to clean up the atmosphere.

    Cleaning a window lets more light through but who would have thought that reducing the emission of microparticles that form the nucleii for clouds would reduce cloud cover and cause warming? One would hope that every competent meteorologist and climatologist could have foreseen what would happen.

  20. jccarlton says:

    Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    I see something like this and I ask myself “where’s the money?” The old engineers playing with this aren’t the ones paying the bills. Back when my cousin was getting married, his in laws and their friends, all of whom were senior professors at MIT embarked on a similar venture to “save the world.” It was a big show at the time. Al Gore was even involved. Look up Molten Metal Technology to see how that worked out. The guy in charge of the money sort ran off with it, the technology was worthless and investors like my aunt and uncle were sort of left holding the bag. I get very wary when I see stories like this.

  21. DD More says:

    Salt spray in the air? Since it has been reported
    In densely populated coastal areas, reactions of polluted air with sea salt aerosol from the ocean can lead to high surface ozone levels that affect air quality.

    So the testing better not be close to coastal area or near pollution.