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Pioneering NOAA Mission Explores Solar Geoengineering

Pioneering NOAA Mission Explores Solar Geoengineering

Pioneering NOAA Mission Explores Solar Geoengineering

This month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is set to launch a comprehensive, multi-year investigation using a repurposed Air Force bomber, the WB-57, to study aerosols and other elements in the stratosphere that may contribute to solar geoengineering. The purpose of solar geoengineering is to combat global warming by artificially altering Earth’s atmosphere to reflect more sunlight back into space. This pioneering study aims to collect vital data to understand the potential advantages and risks of solar geoengineering and assess its viability and effectiveness in addressing climate change and related ecological and societal concerns.

The WB-57, originally designed for upper atmospheric use during the Korean War, has been equipped with 17 unique sampling devices from NOAA, NASA, Harvard University, and the University of Vienna. The research team expects this mission to provide valuable data for the United States and other United Nations members, enabling informed discussions about solar geoengineering. The upgraded WB-57 will help scientists gather crucial information on the impact of solar radiation on our atmosphere and possible ways to combat climate change. Through data from these advanced instruments, researchers hope to contribute to developing innovative approaches to tackle global warming and encourage international collaboration for environmental sustainability.

Karen Rosenlof, a lead scientist at NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Laboratory, stresses the significance of understanding aerosols’ role in the climate system to grasp the potential pros and cons of climate intervention. By using advanced research and monitoring methods, scientists aim to unravel the complexities associated with aerosols, including cloud formation and radiative forcing interactions. This will help develop a holistic framework for evaluating the feasibility and potential impacts of climate intervention measures.

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The study seeks to address concerns raised by U.N. leaders about the limited evidence available for making informed decisions about solar radiation modification. Consequently, researchers will rigorously investigate the potential risks, benefits, and societal implications of solar radiation modification techniques. This in-depth analysis will support policymakers in making science-based decisions and contribute to the global discourse on climate change mitigation strategies.

The WB-57 is scheduled to conduct research flights over Alaska and the Arctic before studying the stratosphere above the tropics in 2023, with additional flights planned in the Southern Hemisphere between 2024 and 2025. These high-altitude research flights will support data collection on Earth’s atmosphere, focusing on climate change, air quality, and greenhouse gases. By covering diverse regions, scientists aim to improve our understanding of complex atmospheric dynamics and their impact on the global environment.

Previous U.S. studies on the effects of volcanic eruptions, wildfires, and global emissions reductions during the Covid-19 pandemic have provided valuable insight into large-scale aerosol injection on Earth’s atmosphere and climate system. Additionally, the collected data has helped to better understand the intricate relationships between human-caused and natural aerosol sources and their implications for future climate engineering strategies.

First reported on: scientificamerican.com

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the study using the WB-57 bomber?

The study aims to collect vital data to understand the potential advantages and risks of solar geoengineering, assess its viability and effectiveness in addressing climate change and related ecological and societal concerns. The research involves studying aerosols and other elements in the stratosphere that may contribute to solar geoengineering.

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What is solar geoengineering?

Solar geoengineering is an approach to combat global warming by artificially altering Earth’s atmosphere to reflect more sunlight back into space. It aims at reducing the impact of climate change.

What is the role of aerosols in this study?

Aerosols play a significant role in understanding the pros and cons of climate intervention. The study aims to unravel the complexities associated with aerosols, including cloud formation and radiative forcing interactions. This understanding will help develop a holistic framework for evaluating the feasibility and potential impacts of climate intervention measures.

What are the sampling devices equipped on the WB-57?

The WB-57 has been equipped with 17 unique sampling devices from NOAA, NASA, Harvard University, and the University of Vienna. These advanced instruments will help researchers gather crucial information on the impact of solar radiation on our atmosphere and possible ways to combat climate change.

What is the significance of this study in the global discourse on climate change mitigation strategies?

This study will provide valuable data for the United States and other United Nations members, enabling informed discussions about solar geoengineering. It seeks to address concerns raised by U.N. leaders about the limited evidence available for making informed decisions about solar radiation modification. The in-depth analysis will support policymakers in making science-based decisions and contribute to the global discourse on climate change mitigation strategies.

Where and when will the WB-57 conduct research flights?

The WB-57 is scheduled to conduct research flights over Alaska and the Arctic before studying the stratosphere above the tropics in 2023. Additional flights are planned in the Southern Hemisphere between 2024 and 2025. These high-altitude research flights will support data collection on Earth’s atmosphere, focusing on climate change, air quality, and greenhouse gases.

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Featured Image Credit: ActionVance; Unsplash; Thank you!

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