Artificially Cooling Planet Could Be Risky Strategy, Scientists Warn

Posted: Nov 19 2017, 8:31am CST | by , Updated: Nov 19 2017, 8:36am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Artificially Cooling Planet could be Risky Strategy, Scientists Warn
Credit: NASA

The method designed to reverse global warming may increase the frequency of cyclones and droughts in some parts of the world

Cooling the planet by injecting aerosols into the atmosphere could have devastating effects on Earth. New research shows that artificial cooling could dramatically alter weather patterns and lead to either strong storms or prolonged season of drought in many parts of the world.

As Earth is warming at an unprecedented rate, governments around the world are planning to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels. But this strategy alone is not enough to counter climate change. Supplementary techniques are also required to slow down the progression of global warming.

One of the most popular techniques is solar geoengineering – injecting aerosols artificially into the Earth’s atmosphere and blocking sunlight. Researchers know that atmospheric aerosol concentration can significantly cool the planet and the effect has been observed after large volcanic eruptions. But targeting geoengineering in one hemisphere could have a detrimental impact for the other.

Researchers suggest that while injections of aerosols in the northern hemisphere would reduce severe tropical cyclones like Hurricane Katrina, it would at the same time increase the risk of drought in Africa. Therefore, such dramatic interventions should be used with caution.

"Our results confirm that regional solar geoengineering is a highly risky strategy which could simultaneously benefit one region to the detriment of another. It is vital that policymakers take solar geoengineering seriously and act swiftly to install effective regulation." Dr Anthony Jones, a climate science expert from the University of Exeter and lead author of the study said.

Researchers came to that conclusion after investigating the effect of aerosol injection on North Atlantic tropical cyclone frequency. Using sophisticated simulations and models, researchers suggested that injections of aerosols in the northern hemisphere would reduce North Atlantic tropical cyclone activity but it would lead to increased likelihood for drought in Sahel, the area just south of the Sahara desert.

The controversial method of aerosol injection mimics massive volcanic eruptions which release aerosol particles into the stratosphere and reflect some sunlight before it reaches the Earth’s surface. The natural process proves extremely efficient in cooling down the climate even up to years.

Professor Jim Haywood, a mathematician from the University of Exeter and co-author of the study says. “This research shows how a global temperature target such as 1.5 or 2C needs to be combined with information on a more regional scale to properly assess the full range of climate impacts.”

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