Posts Tagged ‘hackers’

Climate Hackers dump iron into ocean, tests global warming solution

Monday, January 12th, 2009

By Rick C. Hodgin
Monday, January 12, 2009 09:29
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Scotia Sea - A three month study began last Wednesday as a geoengineering expedition set sail for the waters off Antarctica. Despite UN objections, the Indian-German expedition is seeking to validate one theory on CO2 sequestering. Can iron injected into the ocean waters help a massive plankton bloom solve man’s CO2 problem and subsequent global warming?

The LOHAFEX experiment plans to spread out 20 tons of iron sulphate particles over a 300 square kilometer region of the northern Antarctica waters, a place called Scotia Sea. The particles are being added to the oceanic waters as part of a test to see if rapid plankton growth in iron-deficient waters can help absorb carbon from the atmosphere into their bodies. Theoretically, once they die they will fall to the bottom of the ocean taking the trapped carbon with them.

According to their website, the rationale behind this effort is study. The site reads, “The spreading of tonnes of iron over the southern ocean is expected to trigger oversized blooms of phytoplankton. The team of physicists, chemists, biologists and geochemists will then study for seven weeks the effects of the algal bloom on the exchange of carbon dioxide (CO2) between ocean and atmosphere as well as on the planktonic food chain and the organisms of the underlying sea floor.”

While this theory is one of the leading “global warming reversal” ideas, it is not known how much of the plankton will make it to the bottom of the ocean. In addition, it is believed the carbon will be sequestered there “for decades,” but not indefinitely. This could cause a future re-release trapping carbon back in the active environmental system.

In May, 2008, more than 200 countries agreed to a temporary ban on projects designed to fight global warming change. German’s Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel hosted the talks and was quoted as saying, “It’s a very strange idea that technology can solve everything. It’s very risky and shows what humans are ready to do. I’m glad we came to a de facto moratorium.” In October, 2008, an exception was created, signed by 88 countries, that allows “legitimate scientific study” to could be carried out.

Despite the 200 country moratorium and the general view held by the original signers, the Indian-German group is moving ahead with their plans under the allowance. This has given them the name “Climate Hackers” by many, because they will conduct a study which, despite the original UN resolution’s conclusion that man may not have yet achieved a wide enough understanding to fully realize his impact, could have unforeseen side effects in marine life.

Their project will run from January 7, 2009 through March 17, 2009. According to their white paper, the area near Antarctica was chosen due to its stability. The team also needed a place where oceanic iron concentrations were low enough to have an effect by an artificial introduction.

The team will not only study the effects of CO2 sequestering, but also dissolved oxygen and nitrous oxide. These gases are part of the natural cycle occurring in oceanic water which, through the normal course of life, are constantly absorbed from and released back into the atmosphere, according to the paper.