Skip to comments.Professor: Moderately Fertilizing Ocean May Slow Global Warming
Posted on 07/10/2008 5:37:37 PM PDT by markomalley
New Mexico Tech chemistry professor Oliver Wingenter and his colleagues believe modest fertilization of the Southern Ocean with iron might help slow some of the effects of global warming.
The concept of climate engineering or geo-engineering has scientists, activists and politicians debating the ethics and merits of environmental manipulation.
Wingenter has conducted ship-board experiments, fertilizing two small patches of the Southern Ocean with iron to study the atmospheric effects.
He said small-scale fertilization may abate the loss of Antarctic ice. The general principle involves seeding the ocean with a liquid slurry of iron sulfide.
German and Indian scientists are causing a furor by carrying out a massive iron-fertilization experiment in the Southern Ocean, which is the globe-circling ring of ocean just north of Antarctica.
They have proposed fertilizing 100 percent of the Southern Ocean, which they say would return the oceanic ecosystem to its natural balance.
They are examining how much carbon dioxide is drawn down from the atmosphere into the ocean.
Wingenters proposal is much different. He is firmly in the middle of the debate. Instead of creating an artificial carbon sink, his research shows that minimal iron fertilization will create brighter clouds, which will help keep the Antarctic atmosphere colder.
He proposes fertilizing less than 2 percent of the Southern Ocean with iron but only after thorough computer modeling analyses can be completed and a slow field ramp up is implemented.
Were doing it slowly, in stages, he said. Were not foolish here. We need to do the modeling and small-scale studies before the environmental situation becomes desperate.
Wingenter is currently on sabbatical from his post as professor of chemistry at Tech. He, Tech student Juston Moore and Scott Elliot of Los Alamos National Laboratory are leading the effort to model Wingenters hypotheses.
His initial article elicited a written comment from his colleagues at the University of East Anglia in England, who disputed the veracity of Wingenters calculations. Their disagreement is about the margin of error. Their reply and Wingenters rebuttal will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Atmospheric Environment.
The science behind Wingenters proposal is like a domino effect. Phytoplankton consume iron, but the Southern Ocean lacks enough iron for the microorganisms to flourish. The plankton produces dimethyl sulfide, which evaporates and eventually becomes cloud-condensation nuclei. An elevated level of cloud-condensing nuclei in the atmosphere creates brighter-than-usual clouds, which reflect more sunlight back to space.
Wingenter hypothesizes that careful seeding could help suppress atmospheric warming around Antarctica.
That will be of great concern to coastal regions, because current forecasts predict the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could slide into the Southern Ocean within the next century, causing the global sea level to rise six meters.
Wingenters research aims to prevent that and buy time for the global scientific community and energy industries to mitigate the carbon-dioxide dilemma and to develop alternatives to fossil fuels.
Tech vice president of research and economic development Van Romero said Wingenters research is important for the understanding of complex global systems.
Iron fertilization is a hotly-debated issue among oceanographers. Some scientists propose wide-scale fertilization, while others consider it the worst form of geo-engineering.
Indian scientists say iron fertilization will encourage rapid growth of phytoplankton, microscopic animals that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Their goal is to fertilize the entire Southern Ocean. Experts largely suspect India and China will launch large-scale projects in an effort to buy carbon credits as they prepare to sign the Kyoto Protocol.
On the other hand, Ecuador wants to ban iron-fertilization altogether presumably because the process might have an adverse effect on its fishing industry.
The United Nations is discussing iron fertilization and is considering a ban.
By fertilizing a small portion of the Southern Ocean, the increased level of iron will only be noticeable for one season, Wingenter said.
He said fertilizing 2 percent of a large test area, perhaps 10 percent of the Southern Ocean, would cost as little as $1 million to $2 million.
He summarized his research in a 2007 article published in Atmospheric Environment. In that article, Wingenter explained his preliminary proposal. Citing other oceanic and atmospheric studies, he estimates that fertilizing 2 percent of the entire Southern Ocean would result in a 2 degrees Celsius decrease in average temperature over the Southern Ocean.
My proposal must only be viewed as a stop-gap measure, Wingenter said. The real cure for global warming will come only when we curtail emissions of greenhouse gases.
This is turning into a really bad sci-fi movie! Sheesh!
These idiots will screw things up royally. There is no global warming. And even if there were, the Earth would heal itself.
These clueless wonders will kill us all.
Hey Jesse Jackson isn’t busy, let him do the fertilizing...
The multi use of the word “may” in this story raise the BS flag.
No, they need iron, not brass.
Ummm....... from the standpoint of a former saltwater fishtank owner isn’t nitrogen, which is one of the primary ingredients of fertilizer, pretty much poisonous to fish?
The possibilities of upsetting the ecosystem of the ocean are frightening.
We're already cooling down -
Someone has got to stop these buffoons before they cause irreversible "unforeseen consequences" and the devil take the hindmost
Can't make up my mind if their motivation is from colossal hubris or the easy living from all that grant money they hope to generate.
We can get a start by sinking the Iranian navy.
“Professor: Moderately Fertilizing Ocean May Slow Global Warming”
EyeGuy: Dramatically cutting criminally non-productive “professors” from the taxpayer’s payroll would dramatically improve the American economy.
I can’t believe a chemist would buy into this nonsense. In the first place the Antartic ice cap is growing not shrinking. And carbon dioxide is not causing global warming.
I always get screamed at by idiots for saying this, but these kind of proposals are ultimately a good thing. Spend a couple mil to dump some iron in the ocean? Knock yourselves out.
Better this than subjecting every man, woman, and child in America to the carbon police, the way our politicians seem to want to.
Mississippi Dead Zone ... Summer rains wash nutrients, dissolved organic matter and sediment out of the mouths of rivers, into the sea, sparking large phytoplankton blooms. .... Enhanced phytoplankton blooms can create dead zones. Dead zones are areas of water so devoid of oxygen that sea life cannot live there. If phytoplankton productivity is enhanced by fertilizers or other nutrients, more organic matter is produced at the surface of the ocean. The organic matter sinks to the bottom, where bacteria break it down and release carbon dioxide. Bacteria thrive off excessive organic matter and absorb oxygen, the same oxygen that fish, crabs and other sea creatures rely on for life.
Wow, a chemistry professor! Whatever he says must be the absolute proof! All my chemistry professor did at my school was make the head cheerleader pregnant. Professors are cool!
If so, seeding, if the effect was synergistic as all the enviros say the environment is, this could bring on the over-due ice age.
THAT would be ironic.
It would be “Day After Tomorrow” in slow mo.
If scientists would be required to pay for their bad predictions or lame theories without basis with their lives, things would clarify in a generation.
Might be too late. There are probably dozens of covert Government programs being run around the globe in an effort to prevent Global Warming. This past few days, Los Angeles has been 3 to 5 degrees below normal and the MSM idiots had been running around proclaiming a deadly heat wave. Facts mean nothing anymore. All that matters is feelings. So even if the Earth enters a new Ice Age faster then ever due to the covert programs, all will be forgiven since they had their heart in the right place. Unfortunately, their heads were shoved up their, you know what.
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