It's a Series of (Ocean) Tubes

giant ocean tubesRest assured we're not talking about Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens' latest musings on the "interwebs" here (though this does share some of that nuttiness). No, this latest proposal from James Lovelock, the originator of the Gaia hypothesis, and Chris Rapley, the director of London's Science Museum, deals with something entirely different: erecting a network of giant pipes in the oceans that would pump up deep, nutrient-rich water to stimulate algae blooms in the surface waters, thus helping draw down more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

According to their initial calculations, the scheme would require the installation of between 10,000 and 100,000 pipes, each around 33 ft (10 m) in width and 330 ft (100 m) in length. Prompted by wave energy, one-way valves in the pipes would force the circulation of cold, nutrient-rich water from the deep to the surface. In addition to absorbing more atmospheric carbon dioxide, the large algal blooms could also produce dimethyl sulfide, a chemical shown to help form sunlight-reflecting clouds."Global warming appears to be an irreversible process, and if we don't do anything then the world will just heat up to a stable, hot state. The stakes are now so high that we have to act," said Lovelock. Though they agree with the general thrust of his argument, other scientists are dubious of his scheme's potential to absorb more carbon dioxide, arguing that it could in fact release more than it draws down while simultaneously putting marine organisms at risk.

"Pumping deep water to the surface not only pumps nutrients up, but also carbon dioxide," said Penny Chisholm, an environmental engineer at MIT. Furthermore, Eric Achterberg, an oceanographer at the University of Southampton, points out that: "Only after the outgassing is complete will the surface ocean start to take up carbon dioxide, and it is unclear whether there will actually be a net transfer of carbon dioxide to the deep ocean."

Rapley and Lovelock are already hard at work building a prototype that they hope will help prove naysayers wrong. If their plans come to fruition, they hope to install networks of pipes in the Gulf of Mexico and the Coral Sea off of northeast Australia to get started. Keep your fingers crossed...

Via ::National Geographic News: Giant Ocean Tubes Proposed as Global Warming Fix (news website)

See also: ::Sounds Risky to Us: Simulating a Volcanic Eruption to Counter Global Warming, ::50 Years Ago in TreeHugger: Atomizing the Arctic
Image courtesy of National Geographic

Tags: Geoengineering | London | United Kingdom


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