September 14, 2011
Scientists Launching Giant Balloons To Study Climate Change
Scientists and engineers from the universities of Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford are launching a gigantic helium balloon to investigate the feasibility of climate engineering.
The balloon is being launched in October and will investigate the engineering challenges posed by such a project.
The university scientists will also be working with Marshall Aerospace on the Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE) project.
The 65-foot long balloon will rise 12 miles and pump light-scattering particles into the atmosphere by using a 0.6-mile long hose to reflect the sun's rays and cool the Earth.
The test will take place on a disused airfield at Sculthorpe, Norfolk, using a dirigible "blimp" balloon of the type commonly used to carry adverts or to take photos.
The scientists believe that using 10 to 20 giant balloons each filled with 10 million tons of material could help achieve about a 30 degree drop in global temperature.
The $2.5 million SPICE project is aimed at creating the solar radiation management (SRM) by mimicking volcanoes when they erupt.
"In 1991, a large eruption at Mount Pinatubo injected around 18 million tons of SO2 (sulphur oxide) to a 30-km altitude," project leader Matt Watson told reporters.
"That had the effect of cooling the global climate by around half a degree over two years."
The research plans were annoucned today at the British Science Festival in Bradford.
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