Clouding Global Warming

Clouds moderate global Temperature. An article from the McClatchy News Services outlines an invention by a man named Ron Ace intended to counter global warming, using simple water to do the trick.

I write about this article because of my previous study into global climate. In the course of this study I've found a couple of charts showing an interesting fact about pre-historical climate. Even at times when the atmospheric burden of greenhouse gasses was much higher than it is presently (as much as thirteen times higher) global climate stabilized. It has almost never in Earth's history been more than ten degrees Celsius higher than the present, and, as can bee seen from the charts, there was a stable equilibrium at those higer temperatures.

Now, would such higher temps be bad for us? Yes, undoubtedly. But they point to a stabilizing mechanism that Ace's process seeks to exploit. He proposes spraying large volumes of seawater into the air at various well-placed locations where the additional evaporation would be directed over drier land masses. This would encourage moisture transport over dry areas, reduce desertification, promote rainfall over currently marginal climates, and, in that process, soak up a lot of heat and re-radiate it into space as infared energy.

Sound nuts? It's not. A commonly used climate model, one of those used all the time to back up the claims of GW advocates, appears to back up Ace's claim.

Read the article at the head of this post. It's worth some thought.

Posted by Lee Emmerich Jamison at December 30, 2008 1:02 PM
Comment #272963

Lee E J, global warming is mostly good, and is already creating more rainfall, a net positive. The biggest problem is the destructive potential of high winds. The earth tries to clean itself, but Bush Made Global Warming has outpaced that ability, which may be temporary now that the EPA will actually be doing what it was intended to do, instead of exactly the opposite.

Updating fun and games on the home front, ABC news here is reporting that Blagojevich intends to appoint former IL AG Roland Burris to BHO’s vacated US Senate seat. IL SoS Jesse White intends to block it by not cosigning any appointment by the worthless gov. Rahm E is resigning his USHOR seat Friday. There will be a special election.

Posted by: ohrealy at December 30, 2008 4:08 PM
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Lee, that was an interesting article you linked. It will be interesting to see if this idea gathers any steam. Thanks.

Posted by: Jim M at December 30, 2008 5:27 PM
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UK Telegraph article following with this post. Note the debate.

Posted by: Honest at December 30, 2008 8:41 PM
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oh realy
” Mostly good,its already creating more rainfall”

I suppose that bdepends on where you live. If you live on an island that already gets too much rainfall, as I and a whole bunch of other people do, its not so good.

Interesting. One of the more likely farfetched ideas for a solution. We will no doubt be bombarded with many more. Anything to keep the oil oligarchs in power. That seems to be the biggest obstacle to ending fossil fuel dependance.

Posted by: bills at December 31, 2008 3:50 AM
Comment #272982


I guess the bottomline question is, are we all gonna die? I used to think we would make it, then the liberals scared the crap out of me. If we are ok, then can we start drilling again?

Posted by: Oldguy at December 31, 2008 10:30 AM
Comment #272983

Water vapor is as much a greenhouse gas as it is a component of reflective clouds. It’s quick movement in and out of the atmosphere, and the attendant formation of clouds are difficult to model in climate forecasts.

Even cloud formation is iffy. Clouds keep in warmth as well as keep it out. cumulus clouds reflect more than they keep in, Cirrus clouds do the opposite.

Also, I would be concerned about the effects of spraying salt water at certain locations. Salt water is corrosive to metals, and toxic at certain concentrations.

Who knows? It might be workable. But I would hesitant to jump on his band wagon without hearing more of the music.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 31, 2008 10:54 AM
Comment #273005

Lee -

First off, I see nothing stating that Ron Ace’s research took into account methane gas, which is twenty-five times more potent in its greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide. Currently there are studies showing that methane that was embedded in the seafloor and on the bottom of lakes is now bubbling up. Another worry is the single greatest source of man-made methane - cattle…or “cow farts” to put it crudely.

Ron Ace himself states that he thinks humankind is headed for disaster…and I see nothing to dispute him. And the article mentioned that while his invention might be effective if implemented, the idea of making it work on the scale necessary may well be beyond our industrial capacity.

Posted by: Glenn Contrarian at December 31, 2008 7:29 PM
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There was a little publicised study a number of years ago into whether clouds were a net positive (cooling) or negative. Remembering, of course, there is a difference between water vapor and clouds, the study found that clouds had a net cooling effect.

Where water in the atmosphere becomes a true mitigating factor is in the formation of substantial thunderstorms. In that instance the cloud tops reach above the vast majority of the atmosphere (and its store of insulating greenhouse gasses) and release infared radiation almost directly into space. This effect accounts for the stability of climate over the vast majority of the Earth’s history when the planet has been much warmer than it is today.

Here Ace’s theory is sound. He uses the heat reserve of otherwise dry land areas to force water vapor-laden air to higher levels so that heat absorbed in the evaporation process can be radiated into space as the water condenses.

Are there risks he has not forseen? The one that pops immediately to mind is the scheme’s effect on the thermohaline cycle. Ace would be evaporating salt-laden water over warm parts of the ocean. This is normally done in stormy conditions like hurricanes that thoroughly mix surface waters and spread the effect of increased saline content over large areas. If he achieves high evaporation rates with his fountains it is conceivable that the warm water with a high salt content could be left dense enough to sink below cooler layers of less dense seawater and disrupt marine ecologies below.


I don’t think it is beyond our industrial capacity at all. If it increased rainfall over central Africa and made the region into a farm belt it would more than pay for itself.

To address the methane issue you must change human cultures all across the globe. Short of a global war, which might have serious environmental consequences itself, I don’t see us being capable of doing that.

A second area of concern on methane, though, is in the stores of hydrocarbon gasses sequestered in clathrates, ice-like substances maintained as solids by low temperatures and high pressures near seeps on the ocean floor. Some estimates are that several times as much methane is stored in these formations than is currently in the atmosphere. Here there is considerable concern in the scientific community about the increase in ocean temperatures. As temperatures rise these clathrates release hydrocarbons into the water and they quickly are carried into the atmosphere. If Ace’s scheme results in a net cooling of ocean water it would also have the effect of reducing the increase of methane and other greenhouse hydrocarbons we experience over time.

By the way, methane, unlike CO2, has a fairly short half-life in the atmosphere, about ten years. If we reduce output the levels will begin to fall pretty rapidly.

As to the “are we all gonna die” question. The answer is no. There are levels of stability in the climate at higher temperatures, on of the reasons I trot these charts out from time to time. That is to compare with ice ages, where the evidence of the last two million years is that there is no stability in either global temperature or sea levels.

In the last ice age (or, to be more accurate, the last glacial period) sea levels fluctuated wildly from about twenty meters below their present level to more than 100 meters below their present level. I spoke to a research scientist a few years ago who believes islands like Sumatra and Java were colonized by people who simply walked there dring one of these periods of very low sea levels.

The real issue of global warming/cooling is that of sea levels. Our civilization is dependent on stable sea levels since half our population globally lives within fifty feet of sea level. A twenty meter rise in sea levels wouldn’t drown all of us since it would be gradual, but it would certainly displace industry and port facilities.

New Orleans and Venice (both actually victims of subsidence rather than rising sea levels to this point) are pictures of what rising sea levels can do to all of us. It is there that we can see the costs we face for the future. Would I spend enough worldwide to operate a medium-sized American state to prevent a world full of interventions like that we’ve seen in New Orleans?

You bet I would.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at January 1, 2009 11:25 AM
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Lee E J et al, fresh water and rainfall will always be a more significant issue for humans than rising sea levels, as long as we have to grow what we eat. Decades ago, there was a scheme that got nowhere, to build an artificial mountain range in Western Australia, hoping to create rainfall in the desert. Long ago, science fiction writers envisioned some kind of weather control satellites. People should understand how gravity works, and learn to live uphill from where the water comes in, build their homes on stilts, or live in houseboats.

Posted by: ohrealy at January 2, 2009 4:51 PM
Comment #273076

That, Lee, is a very interesting idea, which might just work. Now one thing that was not mentioned however, is the cost, and I am not just talking about money. It is true that the earth stabilized after it’s temperature fluctuations. Again, at what cost? During an Ice Age, many animals perished and became extinct, bringing new life onto this planet. So, it all worked out. Celebration time. Now, have that happen today. I highly doubt it will, but try putting it into perspective. Of course the human race will not become extinct. However, at what cost? Many lives will be lost. Loved ones, family, friends. In addition to this, I see the earth as a rechargeable battery. She can only fix herself so many times. One day, not in this life time or the next, if we continue on the route we are on, this little planet will not last much longer. She is only a planet, and compared to the vast universe, she is all we have. The idea you mentioned is a start to help our planet. Now the real question is, can we continue on this course for generations to come, making a better future for our sons and daughters?

Posted by: Rina LouAnne at January 3, 2009 12:49 AM
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The idea here would, according to the climate model I mention above, increase rainfall in a number of the areas that need it so badly, such as Australia, southern Africa, and the northern reaches of the Sahara.

Rina LouAnne,

The analogy of Earth and a rechargeable battery is a little weak. The battery is created in the best condition it will ever be in and use degrades it. The Earth is constantly remaking itself by tectonic forces and the actions of weather and the living environment.

It is clear, for example, that though the Sun is warmer than it has ever been and the Earth’s orbit has likely degraded somewhat over the last 600 million years the last twenty million years has been, for some reason, the coolest period since the close of the Carboniferous/Permian ages. The vast majority of the planet’s history in that 600 million years it has been much hotter than today. That remaking of the planet, that recharging of the battery, will always be happening.

What matters to us is whether can have a civilization in the world that happens as a result of our actions. I like Ace’s idea because- 1. it doesn’t throw away the whole economic foundation of civilization as we know it today so its cost is like giving blood rather than giving up our whole intestinal tract, and- 2. if it works better than hoped, too well, let’s say, it can be turned off or turned down.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at January 3, 2009 6:22 PM
Comment #273110

Hmm… now I have not heard it put that way. I appreciate the better inside look on it. Thanks to all that, I have a better understanding of it.

Posted by: Rina LouAnne at January 4, 2009 2:22 AM
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