Scientist Says Blowing Bubbles Could Cool the Earth

tiny water bubbles photo
Photo via Flickr

As anyone who has ever left an open can of soda out too long knows, some things are just better with a little fizz, and the world's oceans may be no exception. One physicist from Harvard University thinks that he's found a solution that may help curb the rate of global warming--and it comes in the form of tiny bubbles pumped into our planets water sources. Such microscopic bubbles, says the scientist, act as "mirrors made of air," reflecting sunlight from the water, generating a cooling effect that could be quite dramatic. Although computer models show the method would be effective, implementing it may be another story, so don't crack the champagne just yet--it may go flat before you see it happen.According to a report from Science, micro-bubbles are a naturally occurring phenomenon, and their 'undershine' already contributes to tiny fraction of the total amount of sunlight reflected back to space. The physicist, Russell Seitz, believes that pumping more bubbles into oceans will increase the reflectivity enough to cool the planet considerably--all without further damaging aquatic ecosystems.

I'm emulating a natural ocean phenomenon and amplifying it just by changing the physics--the ingredients remain the same.

In fact, when Seitz calculated the cooling effects of his bubble method, the results were actually quite extraordinary. An increase in ocean reflectivity, he said, could reduce global temperature by up to 3°C. Additionally, introducing bubbles to freshwater ecosystems will slow water loss from evaporation, which would be beneficial to drought prone regions.

Clearly such an undertaking to add bubbles to oceans would be wrought with difficulties, Seitz estimates that all the world's oceans could be 'bubbled' with the energy produced by as little as 1000 windmills--though current systems may be capable of only generating a 1-square-kilometer bubble patch. Still, other factors, such as the amount of particulate matter in the water, influence the lifespan of such bubbles, so more tests will be necessary in understanding the effectiveness of the method.

Along with the reflectivity of the added bubbles, previously published reports show that they may improve fuel efficiency of cargo ships, allowing them to virtually float on air.

Although Seitz idea may sound a bit far-fetched to some people, folks in the know are excited to see the notion being discussed. "It's something nobody's talked about," says oceanographer Peter Brewer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

And to think, similiar research has been going on for years by kids across the world--except with milk.

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