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Here at Inhabitat, we’ve covered many unusual geoengineering schemes that all claim to reverse the effects of climate change and potentially save the world. But this proposal from three U.C.L.A. scientists is one of the weirdest. They believe that injecting large amounts of sulfate aerosols in to the atmosphere — in other words, creating a fake volcano — might be the key to staving off the effects of global warming.
The idea, which has submitted in a paper entitled ‘Could aerosol emissions be used for regional heat wave mitigation?’ to the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, was inspired by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. When the volcano erupted, it blasted about 20 megatons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) into the atmosphere, which amazingly cooled the entirety of Northern Europe by about four degrees Fahrenheit for the summer.
It is this that the science team are hoping to replicate. Back in 2006, when California was suffering a heat wave that lasted more than two weeks, the three scientists ran a computer model to see if blowing sulfur 12km into the atmosphere would cool the state. The results were positive with the simulation showing that afternoon temperatures would decline significantly in conjunction with the amount of particles boosted to the stratosphere. The team found, for example, that emitting aerosols at rates of 30 micrograms per meter-squared led to a decrease of roughly 7 degrees Celsius during the hottest part of the day.
Of course, the biggest challenge would be figuring out how to get the sulfur into the atmosphere. It’s not like you can make natural volcanoes erupt on cue. There is also the question of side-effects, as the sulfates could potentially dissolve the ozone layer causing massive damage.
So what’s the solution? Well, it’s still in the research phase. The team are sure their method would work but acknowledge that it raises “substantial concerns,” so in the meantime they propose a much more reasonable solution to global warming: cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.