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Business News/ Science / News/  Climate change: Scientists explore ‘injecting ice’ to reduce water vapor and cool Earth
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Climate change: Scientists explore ‘injecting ice’ to reduce water vapor and cool Earth

Recent study suggests a climate intervention strategy to decrease water vapor concentrations in the atmosphere to cool Earth and counteract human-caused warmth.

According to NASA, Earth's surface temperature would be about 59 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius) colder without the greenhouse gases. (AFP)Premium
According to NASA, Earth's surface temperature would be about 59 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius) colder without the greenhouse gases. (AFP)

Climate Change from Global Warming are not unknown phenomenon. However, a recent study has said a climate intervention strategy focused on decreasing water vapor (WV) concentrations near the tropopause and in the stratosphere could potentially cool down the rapidly heating up Earth. 

According to a study published in Science Advances, researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA plan to inject ice high up in the air so that water vapour in the upper atmosphere would get a bit drier and that could counteract a small amount of the human-caused warmth.

Notably, Water Vapour is a potent player in the Earth's greenhouse effect that eventually leads to the increase in the planet's surface temperature. 

According to NASA, Earth's surface temperature would be about 59 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius) colder without the greenhouse gases.

What is the Greenhouse Effect?

The greenhouse effect is a natural process that helps maintain Earth's temperature within a habitable range. But in recent years, the surface temperature has been rising because of human activities like burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, leading to global warming. Now, scientists have found a new way to cool an overheating earth - by reducing the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere.

How does Water Vapour trap heat?

NASA has explained that water vapour amplifies the warming of Earth's surface caused by other greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane.

Water vapour is generated when the amount of methane and CO2 go up in the atmosphere, which leads to increased evaporation. Since warmer air holds more moisture, its concentration of water vapour increases. Specifically, this happens because water vapour does not condense and precipitate out of the atmosphere as easily at higher temperatures, said NASA.

The water vapour then absorbs heat radiated from Earth and prevents it from escaping out to space. This further warms the atmosphere, resulting in even more water vapour in the atmosphere - something the agency dubbed as a "positive feedback loop".

What is the ‘New Plan’ to reduce Earth's surface temperature?

In what is being touted as the last ditch effort to control the vehemently rising temperatures of the Earth's surface, scientists will dry the upper atmosphere, also known as geoengineering

This branch has often been rejected owing to its potential side effects. This branch is usually mentioned not as an alternative to reducing carbon pollution, but in addition to emission cuts.

How will scientists dehydrate the stratosphere?

Climate scientists plan to send high-tech planes to inject ice particles about 11 miles (17 kilometres) high, just below the stratosphere, where the air slowly rises. Then the ice and cold air rise to where it's coldest and gets the water vapour to turn to ice and fall, dehydrating the stratosphere.

However, there is no workable injection made yet.

How does dehydrating the Atmosphere help?

At its maximum, injecting 2 tons a week, it could conceivably take out enough water vapour to reduce heating a small amount, about five per cent of the overall warming created by carbon from the burning of fossil fuel. But the study added that it is not much and shouldn't be used as an alternative to cutting pollution.

What problems can this cause?

Purposely tinkering with Earth's atmosphere to fix climate change is likely to create cascading new problems, said University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver, who wasn't part of the study. He said the engineering side of this makes sense, but he compared the concept to a children's story where a king who loves cheese is overrun with mice, gets cats to deal with the mice, then dogs to chase away the cats, lions to get rid of the dogs and elephants to eliminate the lions and then goes back to mice to scare off the elephants.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sayantani Biswas
Sayantani is an editor with Livemint. She covers stories of International and Indian politics, conflict
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Published: 01 Mar 2024, 09:51 PM IST
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