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Save The World's Corals: Can Marine Cloud Brightening Help Them?

12 July, 2013


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MessageToEagle.com - How can we save the world's corals to protect them from danger caused by warming ocean waters?

Now, researchers have a very ambitious plan. They propose a form of geo-engineering called "Marine Cloud Brightening".

The seeding of marine clouds to cool sea surface temperatures could protect threatened coral reefs from being bleached by warming oceans and give coral a fifty year 'breathing space' to recover from acidification and warming, scientists say.



"Coral bleaching over the last few decades has been caused by rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification," said Dr Alan Gadian, from Leeds University.

"Our research focuses on how Marine Cloud Brightening (MCB) could quickly lower sea temperatures in targeted areas."

Bleaching is most likely to occur when a 1?C temperature rise over a prolonged period, typically a 12-week period.

The most vulnerable regions of our planet are Caribbean, French Polynesia, and the Great Barrier Reef.

To brighten clouds unmanned vehicles are used to spray tiny seawater droplets, which rise into the cloud, thereby increasing their reflectivity and duration. In this way, more sunlight is bounced back into space, resulting in a cooling sea surface temperature.

Mild and severe coral bleaching events were projected over a 20-year period for the three target regions. Without MCB the amount of coral bleaching was seen to be severe; however, simultaneous deployment of MCB eliminated the risk of extra bleaching.

"We estimate that MCB would have an annual cost of $400 million, however political, social and ethical costs make a true figure difficult to estimate, said Gadian. "Whatever the final figure, it will be less expensive than the damage the destruction of coral would wreck on neighboring countries, the local food chain and global biodiversity."



Public and political skepticism of geo-engineering projects remains a hurdle to their development. The researchers believe small-scale use of MCB for conservation would be unlikely to generate public opposition. It's also important to avoid significant climate effects.



Aside from cost, the main disadvantage of this technique is that it would not tackle ocean acidification, a direct result of CO2 emissions.

"Reducing and removing atmospheric CO2 remains the long term solution to acidification and warming oceans, however, even if this process began tomorrow the coral may be destroyed by the time we see the results," concluded Gadian.

"Our results show that targeted use of cloud brightening could offer a short term breathing space, which could be vital for countries which rely on corals for their livelihoods."

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