Ignorance Is Bliss

by Breanna Sewell

Retired NASA astrophysicist and former leader in humanist organizations, Jordan Stuart, discusses the willingness and ability of people to counter the effects of climate change in his 2014 paper, “Is Action to Mitigate Climate Change Possible Today?” He introduces the topic by addressing the unfortunate state of our planet in regards to increasing amounts of natural disasters, and then continues on to state that global climate change is undeniably caused by human activity. Stuart writes that scientists have done enough to prove that global warming is the cause of climate change and that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are the cause of global warming, therefore we, as a people, should admit that we are the cause of climate change. Continue reading

The Complications of Climate Engineering and International Law

by Emily Segal

As anthropogenic climate change continues to become an increasingly discussed social, political and environmental issue, some people are turning to climate engineering as a way to supplement the pre-existing strategies of mitigation and adaptation. In the paper reviewed here, Winter (2011) explores its relationship to international law. Geoengineering, or geological engineering, refers to the application of geoscience to shape our interaction with the earth. Some forms of geoengineering that have been around for a while are detrimental to the health of our planet. Examples include deforestation, the method of clearing forested land to create arable land for monocultures, and burning fossil fuels, a process that releases toxic substances into the atmosphere, which contribute to the greenhouse effect and speed up global warming. New forms of geoengineering, however, are different from these older forms because they do not encourage side-effects that are harmful to the environment. Instead, they have intended consequences that will help reduce climate change. Carbon capture and storage (CCS), a way of capturing CO2 after it is emitted and storing it in land, is an example of a more recent form of geoengineering that would aid in decelerating climate change. Solar Radiation Management (SRM) is another form of geoengineering intended to reduce climate change. SRM increases surface and cloud albedo, a kind of weather manipulation that could be effective if used on a large scale. Continue reading

Can Religion Figure Out Whether We Should Use Geoengineering?

by JP Kiefer

Clingerman and O’Brien (2014) believe that geoengineering has the potential to solve the disaster of climate change. Geoengineering is the process of changing the environment through any one of many diverse methods, like solar radiation management or fertilizing the ocean to create algae blooms as a means of combating climate change. Each of these methods has unintended side effects, but can be summarized as cheap, fast, and imperfect ways of reducing the effects of greenhouse gasses on the environment. Continue reading

The Implications of Geoengineering

by Jackson Cooney

A government-sponsored panel, assembled by NASA and other federal agencies, was assembled on February 10, 2015 to discuss the implications of using geoengin,,eering as a way to fight climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. Henry Fountain, writing in The New York Times summarizes as follows: geoengineering falls into two categories. One method captures and stores CO2 that has already been emitted. The other involves reflecting the sun’s rays back into the atmosphere so that less heat would enter the Earth. The first option has minimal risks, however it would be expensive and take time to see any noticeable effects. There would also be a need for more research in order to find a way to successfully store the CO2. The second option, solar radiation management, is more controversial. This involves dispersing sulfates into the atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays away from Earth. This method is inexpensive and the effects are seen quickly, however it would have to be repeated many times. It would also do nothing to solve global problems related to CO2 like Ocean Acidification. Continue reading

Fertilizing the Ocean to Trap CO2

by Emil Morhardt

One of the ways scientists have hoped to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere is by adding nutrients to the ocean that are limiting the growth of photosynthetic phytoplankton. The idea is that with the proper nutrients (iron being the main one experimented with so far) the plankton would capture CO2 photosynthetically, convert it to biomass, die, then sink to the ocean floor, “exporting” the new carbon in their bodies to a place where it couldn’t have any effect on global warming. There are a number of posts in this blog dealing with those experiments under the category “Ocean Fertilization”; they haven’t worked very well because, among other things, instead of sinking to seafloor, the phytoplankton get eaten by zooplankton which metabolically convert them back into energy and CO2 which can then diffuse back to the atmosphere, or at least contribute to ocean acidification.

A fascinating paper just published in Science, examines the nutrients limiting the growth of the photosynthetic marine cyanobacterium, Prochlorococcus, in a much more interesting and comprehensive way than previously possible, and although it doesn’t directly speak to the feasibility of fertilizing the ocean to trap CO2 (sorry about the somewhat misleading title to this post) it greatly increases the potential sophistication with which such a goal could be pursued. Continue reading

The Effects of Deep Ocean Carbon Sequestration on Different Oceanic Locations

Methods to mitigate global warming have been ineffective thus far. For this reason, geoengineering methods to combat climate change have become a topic of much interest. Because the ocean holds a significant amount of anthropogenic carbon, deep ocean carbon sequestration is proposed to be a long-term solution to reducing the amount of carbon accumulation in the atmosphere. However, this solution also enhances ocean acidification at the seafloor. The authors study the effectiveness and side effects of CO2injection at various locations using an Earth model system. They compare the effects at the injection sites to the effects that would occur without using this mitigation method at those sites. The authors conclude that sequestration of CO2 was more effective under climate change and with larger overall emission, but poorly chosen sites that are shallow and or less accessible to the ocean can exacerbate future climate change. There are also many obstacles to using this method: a lack of public acceptability, costly and under-developed technologies for ocean CO2 storage, and a lack of complete evaluation of the benefits and consequences. The authors conclude that more thorough research is needed before the method is employed. —Michela Isono
Ridgwell, A., Rodengen, T., Kohfeld, K. 2011. Geographical Variations in the Effectiveness and side Effects of Deep Ocean Carbon Sequestration. Geophysical Research Letters 38, doi:10.1029.

            The rising accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere has proven to affect the planet detrimentally . Methods to mitigate these effects have therefore been proposed and studied. Because the ocean holds a significant amount of carbon, deep ocean carbon sequestration is a specific technique of geoengineering. This method injects liquefied CO2thousands of meters deep into the ocean, where the carbon would sink and be stored. The geologic storage of CO2 in the ocean serves to prevent CO2 from entering the atmosphere and perpetuating the effects of global warming.  
            Methods: A low resolution Earth system model (GENIE) is used to represent ocean circulation and carbon cycling. Five models are used in total: a bathymetry of the Earth system model is used to track measurements of ocean depth; an observation model based on data-estimated observations from other studies; a control model based on a 10,000 year spin-up under pre-industrial boundary conditions which is continued to year 2010 where levels of atmospheric CO2are based on historical data; a model based on model-estimated distributions of water-column integrated anthropogenic CO2 inventory for year 1994; and an experimental model that incorporate SRES emission scenarios for years 2100 and 2000 where 10% of the emissions are directed towards the ocean and the other 90% enter the atmosphere. Seven location points for injection were used: Bay of Biscay, New York, Rio de Janerio, San Francisco, Tokyo, Jakarta, and Bombay. These points represented the Antlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Indian Ocean. The injected CO2, once dissolved, is referred to as Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC).
            Results and Discussion: CO2 that is injected at the ocean floor instead of being released into the atmosphere man interact with CO2 taken up at the ocean surface. Sequestration efficiency is therefore considered in the context of how much CO2 would invade the ocean from the atmosphere. In the San Francisco location, DIC extended outward from the injection point but there was also a reduced DIC in the North Atlantic because less CO2was taken up from the atmosphere. Higher DIC concentrations were found in the Pacific, but there was also a reduction in the amount of calcium carbonate saturation and an increase in the amount of seafloor area that had unsaturated conditions. However, in the Atlantic, the reduction of atmospheric CO2increased the amount of seafloor area that had saturated conditions. 
            Data regarding the variation in effectiveness of CO2 depletion and relative mitigation of the surface ocean acidification as a function of time, injection depth, and ocean sector demonstrate that carbon sequestration can fail to work. The Pacific and Indian Ocean point of injection sites were more likely to fail and result in a negative sequestration at year 3000 compared to unmitigated atmospheric CO2 release. However, the Atlantic injection sites did not have negative sequestration even though there were more shallow and intermediate ocean depth levels within this location.
            Sequestration efficiency was mapped to visualize the retention of injected CO2 in the entire ocean for the release at each grid point. The relative efficiency of carbon sequestration in percent (RE) at the beginning of the time period and located away from shallow continental margins was more or less the same at over 70%. However, later in the millennium, many inter-basin gradients in CO2 retention developed and RE approached zero because the carbon equilibrium was reestablished between the ocean and atmosphere.
            In locations where climate change was strongly prevalent, RE was enhanced.  In this case, carbon mitigation led to lower CO2 in the atmosphere and decreased the temperature of ocean surfaces. This increased the solubility of CO2 and improved CO2 uptake at the ocean surface. RE was higher for greater emissions. This means that carbon buffering is reduced when more CO2 is released and absorbed by the ocean surface. Thus, the results indicated that CO2 injection improved the ability for uptake from the atmosphere. Locations that included shallow sites and sites that are not well connected to the entire ocean exhibited an RE < 0.0.
            The choice of CO2injection site was also analyzed based on levels of under saturated waters. At year 2100, there was little changed by injection in the NW Pacific compared to the unmitigated case. Injections in the SE Pacific and S Atlantic experienced a 10% additional increase in the seafloor area that was under saturated. By the end of the millennium, injection led to less than a 2% increase in additional under saturated seafloor area.
Conclusion: Sequestration of CO2was more effective under climate change and with larger overall emissions. For higher emissions, the naturally occurring CO2 buffer of ocean surface waters is depleted faster. Overall, RE is better than 70% by year 2100 and in certain places can stay above 50% by year 3000. Poorly chosen sites that are shallow and or less accessible to the ocean can exacerbate future climate change. Injection in the deep NW Pacific (a high efficiency site) minimizes the exacerbation of under saturated seafloor conditions. There are many practical constraints that would limit the use of this geoengineering technique such as negative environmental impacts, harmful effects on organisms, and the method’s effect on other associated biotic impacts still need further research and analysis. 

The Effects of Sulfate Aerosol Injection Across Various Stratospheric Locations

The detrimental effects of global warming have become increasingly apparent, and the current mitigation methods have proven insufficient. Therefore, geoengineering techniques have been proposed as the necessary means to combat global warming. Specifically, solar radiation management using the sulfate aerosol has been named the most effective solution. The authors analyze temperature and precipitation responses to stratospheric sulfate aerosol as a function of both latitude and altitude of release. They model the injection of the sulfate aerosol (comprised of H2S rather than the commonly analyzed SO2) in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The authors conclude that sulfate aerosol injections at higher latitudes reduce global mean temperature, precipitation, and total ozone. They also conclude that warming in the stratosphere follows cooling in the troposphere. —Michela Isono
Volodin, E., Sergey, V., Ryaboshoapko, A. 2011. Climate Response to Aerosol Injection at Different Stratospheric Locations. Atmospheric Science Letters 12, 381–385.

            Model: The climate model used is Earth system model INMCM. This model includes the general circulation of the atmosphere and oceans. It is used to determine the most effective injection circumstances in order to reduce changes in temperature and precipitation in the Arctic and on a global scale. The observed climate changes in the 20th century will also be reproduced in the model. The model also has a sulfate aerosol component that describes the formation of the sulfate aerosol particles and their removal by gravitational settling. H2S was chosen instead of SO2 because it is a gas with the highest sulfur content by mass, and it has a prolonged lifetime that enables greater dispersion before the aerosol particles are formed and the reduction in particle concentrations by coagulation. Lastly, the gravitational settling velocity is calculated using the Stokes-Cunningham formula:
vg= 109Ccunngd2p / (18 µ), where Vg is gravitational velocity (m/s), g is acceleration due to gravity (9.8 m/s2), d is particle diameter (m), p is particle density (1.63 g/cm3), µ is dynamic viscosity of air (µPa s) and Ccunn is a correction factor.
            Geoengineering scenarios: Six scenarios in the Northern and Southern hemispheres are used in this study. They are at different altitudes above the tropopause and within different latitudinal belts. Each hemisphere experiences a continuous injection of 2 Mt per year. The sulfur injection is continued for 30 year in each model where the level of atmospheric CO2 is constant at 288 ppb. The climate response was determined by the average temperature and precipitation over the latter 20 years. Each model was then compared to a control model with no inclusion of geoengineering. The climate response was calculated as the difference between the temperature or precipitation in the models with geoengineering compared to the control model without geoengineering. The annual mean values were calculated separately for the globe and Arctic (north of 65˚N).
            Results: Scenario 1, 2, and 3 with injections near the equator at 26–28, 22–24, and 20–22 km respectively, were the most effective. Scenarios with lower injections towards the poles were less effective for global cooling. It was determined that injections at higher heights ranging from 20–28 km lead to a higher concentration of gaseous H2SO4 rather than the aerosol. The level of global precipitation reduction and cooling were proportional. The total ozone loss was also proportional to aerosol mass and global cooling. The Arctic temperature change, however, was two times more than the global temperature change. The models also demonstrated significant aerosol concentration located outside of the injection region. The equilibrium aerosol mass in the atmosphere is reached after about two to three years, where the lifetime of the aerosol was 0.9 years. The equilibrium temperature and precipitation response was achieved after 10–15 years.
            The annual mean cooling over land was stronger than over the ocean. The strongest cooling was over high latitude land and sea ice, above 2˚. There was a decrease in precipitation by 5–10% over parts of Eurasia, and North and South America. In contrast, there was an increase in precipitation by 10–20% over Mediterranean, tropical, and subtropical regions. Overall, as the aerosol cooled the troposphere, the stratosphere warmed by 2–8˚. This was due to the aerosols’ absorption of small amounts of visible radiation in the stratosphere.
            Conclusion: The authors concluded that the best scenarios for geoengineering with sulfate aerosol was when the aerosol was injected at 26–28, 22–24, and 20–22 km in the latitudinal band 0–10˚. Additional conclusions were that cooling is greater over land and high altitudes, the injection of aerosols decreases global mean precipitation and total ozone, the cooling in the troposphere is followed by warming in the stratosphere, and an increase of diffuse radiation increases vegetation primary production. 

Reducing the Solar Constant as a Mitigation Technique to the Increasing CO2 Levels

Due to the detrimental effects of global warming, in particular the drastically increasing levels of CO2, the Danish Climate Centre (DKC) focused on methods of mitigation. In particular, DKC focused on solar radiation management experiments. The DKC uses the EC-Earth climate model in their experiments because it includes a good representation of the stratosphere. Their experiment includes three simulations: a pre-industrial control simulation (Control), a quadrupled CO2 simulation (4CO2), and a quadrupled CO2 simulation balanced by a reduction of the solar constant (Balanced). The authors also considered the situation in the Northern Hemisphere extra-tropical winter. The mean temperature and precipitation responses in each simulation were analyzed. The authors conclude that reducing the solar constant can significantly mitigate the detrimental affects of increasing CO2 levels. However, they acknowledge that a better understanding about the effects of cooling on the stratospheric ozone is needed. —Michela Isono
Christiansen, B., Yang, S., 2011. Mitigating a Quadrupling of CO2 by a Reduction of the Solar Constant: A Geoengineering Experiment with the EC-Earth Climate Model. Danish Meteorological Institute, 1399–1973.

The solar radiation constant is a measure of the amount of incoming solar electromagnetic radiation per unit area. The experiment lasted for 50 years and the second 25 years are used for analysis purposes. A reduction of the solar constant of 56 W/m2 was used. This value was derived from the equation ∆F = (1-a) / 4∆S, where ∆F is the radiative forcing from the quadrupled CO2(~8.5 W/m2) and where a is the planetary albedo (0.33). The authors investigated the annual mean temperature responses and the annual mean precipitation responses, and acknowledged that their experiments have been performed in previous scientific studies. The authors determine the statistical significance of the differences among the simulations by using a t-test.
The authors chose to study the Northern Hemisphere extra-tropical winter region. In this area, the impact of the reduced solar radiation is minimal; however the indirect effects associated with dynamical changes were expected. The authors stated that changes in the stratospheric temperature cause changes in the stratospheric vortex, which causes changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and then affects the troposphere.
Annual Mean Temperature Responses
            The annual mean surface temperature responses were calculated over a 25-year time period. The 4CO2simulation showed significant warming across all regions (values ranged from 2 to over 16 K). The largest response was in the Arctic, and the smallest response was in the tropics and over the Southern Ocean. The Balance simulation showed a much lower response across all regions (values infrequently went above 1 K). The warming that occurred was located in the polar areas contrasted by the slight cooling in the tropics. The responses in the tropics and Arctic were statistically significant, however responses in many parts of the extra-tropics proved statistically insignificant.
            The zonal and annual mean temperature responses as a function of latitude and altitude were also performed. The 4CO2 simulation showed that the troposphere warmed ubiquitously. The most warming was observed in the mid-troposphere over the tropics. In contrast, the stratosphere cooled ubiquitously (values reached –15 K). The Balance simulation showed much smaller responses in the troposphere, although cooling was seen overall in the tropical and extra-tropical troposphere (values were statistically significant decreasing by –1 or –2 K). Comparatively, there was more cooling in the stratosphere in the Balance simulation than in the 4CO2 simulation.
Annual Precipitation Responses
            The monthly global mean precipitation as a function of time for the three simulations over 25 years was analyzed. The Control simulation showed a consistent value of about 2.85 mm/day/m2. The value in the 4CO2 simulation increased about 0.2 mm/day. The authors noted that this result could be caused by the fact that saturation water vapor pressure increases with temperature. The value in the Balance simulation decreased about 0.1 mm/day. The authors stated that this finding has been found in previous studies and is the result of the reduced solar radiation at the Earth’s surface, which ultimately slows the continuous movement of water on, above, and below the surface of the Earth (hydrologic cycle). 
            The geographical distributions of the annual mean precipitation responses were also shown. In the 4CO2simulation, the polar-regions and tropics showed the greatest increase in precipitation and were statistically significant. The extra-tropics showed a weaker change, in which there was a negative response in some locations. In the Balance simulation, a small decrease in precipitation response was generally shown. The response of only a small number of regions was statistically significant— over seas or the Western part of tropical Africa. 
NH Winter Responses
            The annual zonal mean temperature response showed that the troposphere warmed and the stratosphere cooled in the 4CO2 simulation. This occurrence is statistically significant in all regions except in the polar stratosphere. However, a greater response in the stratosphere in the winter towards the poles was found as well. This is the result of the induced temperature response that reduces the negative temperature gradient in the stratosphere, which reduces the stratospheric vortex. The results of the zonal mean wind responses support this idea.
Additionally, the Balance simulation for winter (December, January, and February) zonal mean temperature response over the last 25 years showed that the gradient in the stratosphere temperature response was almost gone. This is due to cooling in the polar stratosphere and causes smaller changes in the stratospheric vortex and no changes in the troposphere. The mean surface temperature and precipitation responses during the winter were determined as well. The results showed a significant response in the 4CO2 simulationbut not in the Balance simulation.
            These experiments showed that reducing the solar constant can mitigate the increase of the annual mean surface temperature that is caused by the drastically increasing levels of CO2. This mitigation method proved successful near the surface, and cooled both the troposphere and the stratosphere. However, the effects of significant cooling in the upper stratosphere could affect the stratospheric ozone.
The authors also took into account the NH winter response. In this case, the effect of reducing the solar constant was small. However, the surface temperature and precipitation was combated well.

The Effects of Different Aerosol Types and Sizes on Stratospheric Heating

There have been major changes in the Earth’s climate and attempts to mitigate the greenhouse effect have been ineffective thus far. For this reason, geoengineering has been proposed as another method to combat global warming. One common method of geoengineering is through solar radiation management (SRM). One such technique involves injecting aerosol particles into the stratosphere to increase planetary albedo. Studies have show that using SRM in the stratosphere using sulfate particles ultimately cools the planet. Ferraro et al. use a fixed dynamical heating model to examine the affects of various types and sizes of aerosols on stratospheric temperature change. The authors recognize that aerosols heat the tropical lower stratosphere, but can either heat, cool, or not affect the polar regions. They therefore employ various aerosol types and sizes during different seasons in order to further investigate the aerosols’ effect on atmospheric temperature change. The authors conclude that additional research in modeling the impacts of geoengineered aerosols is needed to better understand the effect of this method on stratospheric circulation. —Michela Isono

Ferraro, A., Highwood, E., Charlton-Perez, A. 2011. Stratospheric Heating by Potential Geoengineering Aerosols. Geophysical Research Letters 38, L24706, doi:10.1029/2011GL049761.


The majority of SRM research has taken into account the eruption of the Mt. Pinatubo volcano. This eruption increased the sulfate layer produced by the sulfur dioxide emission from the volcano, which ultimately decreased the stratospheric temperature. A change in the stratospheric temperature is also thought to affect the dynamics of the stratosphere; studies have showed irregular weather patterns in various parts of the world such as a warm winter in Northern Europe and a positive phase of the Arctic Oscillation (an index of opposing atmospheric pressure patterns in the Northern middle and high latitude). It is thought that these occurrences were the result of an intensified meridional (in the north-south direction) temperature gradient in the lower stratosphere, which was enhanced by ozone depletion and reduced planetary wave activity.

Ferraro et al. believe that it is necessary to quantify the radiative impact of SRM in the stratosphere before the potential dynamical changes are examined. The size distribution of aerosols is a key factor of which little is known and understood. Previous studies have indicated that the size distribution affects the surface cooling and the stratospheric radiative heating. The authors state that the compositions of aerosols are also significant and propose that soot, limestone dust, and titanium dioxide are viable alternatives. For this reason, the authors investigate the temperature change based on the type and size of aerosols used in order to better understand the impact of SMR in the stratosphere.


Model: When an aerosol layer is introduced into the stratosphere, the authors use a two-stream radiative transfer code to calculate radiative fluxes (measure of the flow of radiation from a given radioactive source) and heating rates. The temperature change in the stratosphere is calculated using the fixed dynamical heating approximation (FDH). The temperatures are then changed until the stratosphere meets the radiative equilibrium. This method differentiates the radiative impacts from dynamical changes. However, their model does not incorporate the radiative effects on the stratosphere of changing surface temperature. Their model instead shows the activity within the stratosphere before the surface temperature has changed.

Aerosol Layer Properties: When injecting at high altitudes, the amount of time the aerosol resides there is maximized. The authors indicated the existence of technological limits to the input altitude of geoengineering aerosols: plastic balloons burst at about 25 km, and the size of aerosols decrease due to decreasing amalgamation which enhances shortwave (SW) scattering. As a result, the authors introduced the aerosol between the tropopause and 22 km in a standardized layer. It is important to note that the standardized layer is an idealized model because in reality the layer would slope downwards towards the poles.

The authors used aerosols composed of sulfuric acid (sulfate), titanium dioxide (titania), limestone dust, and soot. They also used six size distributions for each type of aerosol, which they characterized as small, medium, and large, and narrow and wide. As a result of the parameters of the aerosols, the authors used Mie calculations (shows scattering of electromagnetic radiation by a sphere) of absorption and scattering. Because radiative properties are a function of aerosol size, the different aerosol distributions will show different radiative forcing (change in net power of electromagnetic radiation per unit area on a surface where a positive forcing warms the system and a negative forcing cools the system). Specifically for this reason, the authors chose the aerosol mass so that the small/wide cases all had instantaneous radiative forcing at the tropopause of –3.5 ± 0.1 Wm–2. Instantaneous radiative forcing measures radiative impact instead of changes in stratospheric temperatures. The authors stated that adjustments in the stratosphere do not significantly impact radiative forcing for most aerosol forms.


The result of the FDH stratospheric temperature adjustment for the small/wide case in the December-January-February (DJF) season and in the June-July-August (JJA) season are compared; the September-October-November and March-April-May seasons are not reported because these seasons include transitions between a warm and cold polar stratosphere. The DJF season and the JJA season showed a very similar patter except with the poles reversed. The mean temperature change in DJF for the small/wide aerosol size distribution for sulfate and soot aerosols showed the same instantaneous radiative forcing at the tropopause. The strong heating in the stratosphere increases downward longwave (LW) emission to the surface, which is why the differences between the instantaneous and stratosphere-adjusted radiative forcings fall under 10% of the instantaneous values, while soot demonstrated a forcing that is 48% less than the instantaneous farcing.

The authors note the importance of understanding the energy balance of a layer in the lower stratosphere when analyzing the data. The stratosphere cools be emitting LW radiation in proportion to the layer’s temperature. They also stated that the main input to the layer is from solar SW radiation. Although some LW radiation from the troposphere goes into the stratosphere, the amount of LW is usually smaller than the incoming SW. As a result, the authors stated that the temperature changes from the aerosols are ruled by LW emission and SW absorption.

The sulfate aerosol showed that the temperature change in the stratosphere correlated strongly with the result of the volcanic natural analogy. There was heating in the tropical lower stratosphere and cooling over the summer pole. The stratosphere is mildly warm over the summer pole, and sulfate emits strongly in the LW and radiative cooling occurs. It was also shown that sulfate absorbs moderately in the LW part of the spectrum. The authors stated the tropical heating was due to the absorption of LW radiation from the warm troposphere and the negligible emission from the cold tropical lower stratosphere.

The titania aerosol showed a temperature change of about 30% of sulfate’s. Heating occurred at all latitudes expect for at the winter pole. This occurrence was due to the fact that titania mainly absorbs the shortest wavelengths, which causes heating in latitudes with solar radiation. The LW cooling takes over, as there is no solar heating because the North Pole is under polar night conditions in DJF.

The limestone aerosol showed patterns similar to titania although they were enhanced; however, limestone showed cooling at lower levels over the South (summer) Pole. The authors noted that the absorption and scattering of incoming solar radiation decreases the radiation accessible for heating at lower latitudes. Therefore, cooling only occurs at the pole because this region is below the aerosol layer. The temperature of the troposphere could not be calculated because the FDH model only applies to the stratosphere.

The soot aerosol showed the most intense heating over the summer pole. This is because soot mainly absorbs SW so its heating pattern in limited by the latitudinal variation of solar radiation. The results showed that soot’s heating is significantly greater than the other aerosol types.

As previously stated, heating always occurs at the tropical lower stratosphere with aerosols, but either heating, cooling or a neutral effect can take place at the poles. Thus, the temperature difference between the Pole and the Equator is affected. The authors use the equation TTR-NP = TTR – TNP to define the difference in temperature between the Tropics (20N–20S) and the North Pole (90N–50N) per unit negative forcing. This is calculated by dividing the temperature change from each model performed by its instantaneous radiative forcing. A positive number indicates cooling at the Pole and warming at the Equator. The authors do not consider the Southern Hemisphere due to redundant characteristics and do not show the large/wide case for titania because the results are irrelevant to SRM.

The results showed that each aerosol type and size distribution increased TTR–NP. IN DJF, titania showed the smallest change in temperature difference (~0.3 K) whereas soot showed the largest change in temperature difference (~2.8 K). Sulfate and limestone both showed an increase in temperature change by approximately 1 K. In JJA, SW absorption heats the North Polar stratosphere. Therefore, sulfate showed a similar temperature change in both seasons, titania and limestone did not show a significant change in temperature, and soot showed a strong negative change (meaning warming at the Pole and cooling at the Equator) of about –5 K.

Results of change in regards to aerosol size distribution were also found. The majority of DJF cases showed that increasing the radius and size distribution increased the temperature change between the Tropics and the North Pole. The large/wide sulfate and limestone aerosol showed a significant change where their mass was ruled by large particles; large particles absorb LW. However, the narrow sulfate case showed negligible affects to changing size, the wide soot case showed negligible affect to radius changes, and the large radius showed the least impact.

In JJA, the temperature change depended on the size distribution of the aerosol. The titania aerosol showed an increased difference in temperature expect for in the small/narrow case (the poles does not cool because LW absorption is low). For this reason, the pole is warmer with this particular titian aerosol. The limestone aerosol also showed a change in the sign: the sign was positive for the small case and negative in the medium and large cases. This is also the result of polar heating, as the larger the limestone aerosol, the greater the absorption of SW radiation. In the JJA season, the pole receives consistent sunlight, which allows more SW radiation to be absorbed, heats the pole, and reduces the temperature difference between the Tropics and the North Pole. In all cases for the soot aerosol, significant SW heating over the poles were shown which decreased the temperature difference.


The study showed that different types of aerosols cause different patterns of stratospheric temperature change. The DJF small/wide aerosol types showed the same instantaneous radiative forcing at the tropopause. This means that they all have the same global cooling, however, the atmospheric cooling response may differ from case to case. Stratospheric temperature changes from aerosols result from their rates of SW absorption and LW emission. Aerosols also decrease the temperature of the surface and troposphere, however, because the authors’ model does not calculate temperatures for these regions, the result was not included. The authors focus on the stratospheric temperature changes because surface temperature changes occur over hundreds of years, whereas dynamical changes occur over months to years.

Because the soot aerosol heats the stratosphere intensely, a larger mass of soot is needed per unit radiative forcing despite the results of the calculations without stratospheric adjustment to aerosol heating. The titania aerosol was very responsive to size distributions in regards to its instantaneous radiative forcing- the large/wide aerosol produced a small positive forcing. Therefore, the authors stated that aerosol geoengineering could be ineffective if their thoughts about aerosol size distributions were wrong, which would ultimately alter the nature of regional and planetary responses to SRM.

The authors also compared their results with the yearly variability in the pole-Equator temperature differences. The calculation was based on the standard deviation of the difference in DJF and JJA over the same 20-year period. The yearly standard deviation was for DJF and JJA was 2.09 K and 0.64 K, respectively. To compare those standard deviations with their results, the authors multiplied TTR–NP by the radiative forcing, where the small/wide case was multiplied by 3.5 Wm–2. The calculations showed that in DJF sulfate, limestone, and soot increased the temperature difference more than the standard deviation. In JJA, sulfate increased the temperature difference, and soot decreased the temperature difference past the standard deviation. For the titanita aerosol, no changes in temperature difference were significant in either season.


The results showed strong heating disturbances in the stratosphere. Therefore, it is not adequate to model SRM in the stratosphere by only decreasing the amount of solar irradiance as the stratospheric aerosol heating will not be shown. The authors also conclude that using the same radiative forcing with various aerosol types will not have the same ultimate effect, and that different changes in the stratospheric temperature will lead to various dynamical responses and thus cause the climate to react subjectively. Additionally, the lower stratospheric temperature changes will affect the power of the polar vortex (a big cyclone near both of the earth’s poles in the middle and upper troposphere and the stratosphere). This affect could alter the Arctic Oscillation and various weather patterns. The authors conclude that more dynamical modeling is needed to examine the effect of aerosol radiative absorption on the circulation of the stratosphere and troposphere.

Geoengineering: An Effective Solution to Mitigate Global Warming but Current Climate Mitigation Efforts Should Continue Simultaneously if Implemented

Due to results of scientific studies that have indicated drastic climate changes, a scientific consensus has transpired that acknowledges the adverse consequences of global warming. As a result, methods to mitigate global warming have become widely deliberated. Resnik and Vallero (2011) addressed two basic policy options for responding to global warming and discussed the overall difficulties with climate change mitigation. The authors posed geoengineering as a useful method to combat global warming through carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management. Two proposals for solar radiation management are assessed, and the advantages and disadvantages of each compared. Objections to geoengineering are then recognized through discussion of pragmatic and ideological critiques. Because other methods to combat global warming have been ineffective thus far, Resnik and Vallero conclude that geoenginnering is a viable proposal. Further research and discussion are needed before geoengineering tactics are implemented, but other methods of mitigation should be undertaken in the meantime. The authors conclude that mitigate both the symptoms and causes of global warming should ultimately be pursued simultaneously. —Michela Isono

Resnik, D., Vallero, D., 2011. Geoengineering: An Idea Whose Time Has Come? Journal of Earth Science & Climate Change 1, 2157–7617.

The relationship between climate changes and global warming has been the subject of numerous studies that indicated record high surface temperatures and significant increases in sea levels. The emission of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), into the atmosphere is correlated with global warming. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere and prevent the earth from cooling. As a result, the earth’s surface temperature increases and polar ice sheets and glaciers melt causing sea levels to increase. Not only will the temperature and sea levels continue to rise, but numerous adverse consequences for human health and the environment will result if methods to lessen the production of human-produced (anthropogenic) greenhouse gases are not implemented.

Resnik and Vallero addressed two current policy options to counter global warming: mitigation and adaptation. The authors defined mitigation as a method to inhibit and repress climate change, and adaptation as a method to prepare for the effects of global warming. They cited efforts such as regulations to control emissions, carbon taxes, market-based incentives, changes in behavior, and control of population growth and development as mitigation techniques, and efforts such as building infrastructure to prepare for natural disasters, developing crops that can grow in a drought, increasing water supplies and improving responses to infectious diseases as adaptation techniques. These efforts proved difficult due to the demands and risks which included: major changes in human behavior and habits, potential adverse economic impacts, strict international cooperation, the responsibility of industrialized nations compared to developing nations, and the political debate surrounding the authenticity of climate change and global warming. Resnik and Vallero considered both options’ efforts ineffective as a result.

The authors then discussed the topic of geoengineering as an alternative method to combat global warming. They defined geoengineering as a method that would utilize technology to purposefully manipulate the planetary environment to mitigate the anthropogenic changes on a global scale. Two methods of geoengineering were cited: CO2 removal and solar radiation management. Carbon dioxide removal removes and stores excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Solar radiation management reflects sunlight by increasing the reflectivity of clouds. The main difference between the two types of geoengineering is that CO2 removal deals with a producer of climate change (the surplus of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere), whereas solar radiation management deals with the symptoms of climate changes that have already occurred.

Resnik and Vallero assessed and compared two proposals for solar radiation management. The first method was introduced by geochemist Paul Crutzen in 2006 and the second method was developed by David W. Keith in 2010. Crutzen’s proposal was developed based on findings from the eruption of Mount Pinatubo volcano in 1991. The eruption caused 10 million metric tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) to be emitted into the stratosphere. The SO2 then transformed into sulfate particles, which increased cloud-reflecting power (cloud albedo) by reflecting more sunlight into space, and ultimately cooled the planet by 0.5˚C. Crutzen thus proposed that airplanes should spray sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere to increase cloud albedo to cool the planet. Crutzen advocated that SO2 should be sprayed into the stratosphere rather than the troposphere because the particles would have a greater impact on cloud albedo and would last for 1–2 years. He estimated the cost would be $25–$50 billion per year in order to combat climate change; however the cost would be dependent on the amount of emitted greenhouse gases.

Crutzen also acknowledged the potential risks of his proposal. First, SO2 is considered an air pollutant and can lead to respiratory problems that increase the number of emergency department visits and hospitalizations. The Environmental Protection Agency also regulates SO2 in the United States. Second, spraying SO2 could disrupt the ozone chemistry and cause the protective ozone layer to thin. The ozone layer is important because it acts as a protector from harmful ultraviolet light radiation. Third, SO2 transforms into sulfuric acid and becomes acid rain. Acid rain decreases the pH of soil, which is detrimental to ecosystems and plant species. Fourth, spraying sulfur dioxide would cause a higher level of CO2 to remain in the atmosphere. When CO2 dissolves in the ocean, it increases the acidity of the water, which endangers plankton and species with shells, which would impact other marine species and ecosystems. Fifth, increasing cloud albedo could alter rain patterns, wind, storms, and temperature distribution in addition to increasing the amount of diffuse light that hits the earth. This would case the sky to appear whiter and could affect plant photosynthesis and solar power. Lastly, if too much SO2 is sprayed, too much cooling could occur which could initiate an ice age.

The second proposal was developed by Keith as an alternative to Crutzen’s proposal. Keith recommended that circular nanoparticles made up of layers of aluminum oxide, metallic aluminum, and barium titanate, should be dispensed into the stratosphere. The advantage to the nanoparticles was that they would rise above the stratosphere, which would reduce their ability to interfere with the ozone chemistry. This would enable the particles to stay in the atmosphere longer than sulfur dioxide and decrease the need for continual replenishment of the SO2. Additionally, the nanoparticles could be specifically engineered to release the right amount of diffuse light and not produce acid rain.

Keith’s proposal also had risks. First, the proposal had not been tested previously and no natural occurrence like the volcano provided supporting evidence of its potential effects. Second, it could also affect ocean acidification, rain patterns, wind, storms, and temperature distribution. Third, the health and environmental risks of the nanoparticles are not well known. Lastly, the proposal could be extremely expensive, as the exact amount of materials needed to create and perform the task is not entirely known.

Resnik and Vallero next recognized the objections to geoengineering through the discussion of pragmatic and ideological critiques. The authors defined pragmatic critiques to address the practical issues to employing geoengineering solutions, and defined ideological critiques to represent the opinion that geoenginnerring proposals should not be utilized even if practical difficulties were irrelevant. The pragmatic critiques encompassed problems that pertained to environmental and public health issues, monetary costs, and effectiveness. The authors also recognized the difficultly in acquiring and maintaining international cooperation as well as the low level of scientific understanding regarding the impact of many gases. Resnik and Vallero concluded that geoengineering methods should not be implemented unless there is sufficient evidence that assures safety and effectiveness. The authors stated that smaller-scale proposals with lower risks should be tried before larger-scale proposals with greater risks are used.

The addressed ideological critiques stated that geoengineering proposals would take away monetary and intellectual resources from other non-geoengineering methods to mitigate global warming. The authors disagreed with this critique and stated that people in favor of stopping global warming should agree to any technique that is safe, feasible and effective. Another critique stated that geoenginnering methods should not be utilized at all and that environmental policies should revert nature to its natural state. Other opponents argued that geoengineering would favor the industry producers of greenhouse gases and would detract from efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. Lastly, critics opposed the use of technology as a solution to fix climate change. The authors did not agree with the ideological critiques due to the controversial suppositions. They addressed how major benefits could be overlooked if the consequences of not utilizing geoengineering were ignored.

Because other methods to combat global warming have been ineffective thus far, Resnik and Vallero conclude that geoenginnering is a viable proposal. Further research and discussion is needed before geoengineering tactics are implemented, but they believe that other methods of mitigation should be undertaken ardently; both the symptoms and causes of global warming should be addressed and methods to mitigate both the symptoms and causes can and should be pursued simultaneously.