Our planets temperature is rising every year. Scientists and thinkers alike have been trying to come up with a way to reverse this trajectory of rising temperatures. It seems that they may have just figured out how to…at east in a small way.
Reported in Science Advances, it’s been discovered that zapping tiny ice particles within cirrus clouds breaks them into smaller ice particles. This could be very beneficial to combating climate change as clouds with lots of small ice particles reflect more light than those with larger one. This in turn would reflect more of the suns light back into space, keeping our planet just a bit cooler.
By cooling a chamber and placing water droplets in it, Scientists at the University of Geneva and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany were able to replicate the cold conditions of high altitude atmosphere, where cirrus clouds are located. At this altitude and temperature, water freezes into spherical ice particles. The team shot these spherical particles with short bursts of intense laser light.
The laser hitting these small sphere actually causes a super-hot plasma to form at its center. This plasma builds up and then bursts, sending out a shock wave of vaporized ice. This mist of vapor then re-cools, forming new smaller ice crystals. These smaller non spherical crystals reflect much more light than their spherical counter parts.
Unfortunately the implementation of this technique is still a ways off. Our current technology in the laser field is not capable of zapping clouds on a large scale.
“What we are hoping for is that the advances in laser technology, which are moving faster and faster all the time, will enable high-powered, mobile lasers,” – Matthews
A few scientist such as David Mitchell of the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev and Trude Storelvmo of Yale University warn that breaking up ice particles could actually warm the Earth by trapping even more heat in them i.e. the greenhouse effect.
The method “could potentially work, but only if you target certain types of cirrus clouds,“ she says, such as those that are very thick. – Science News/Trude Storelvmo
Regardless of skeptisism, it’s still great research and will be good to know as our lasers come into being powerful enough. Implementing it on a small scale and testing it’s effects will show if it does indeed cool the planet as lab tests have shown.