Scientists 'salting' the clouds to cool the earth

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @gchittimK5

KING5.com

Posted on August 22, 2012 at 6:23 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 22 at 6:23 PM

SEATTLE -- Clouds are made up of billions of tiny water droplets. Each one acts like a mirror and reflects the sun’s rays back into the upper atmosphere.

Now a University of Washington researcher and 24 others are ready to find out if they can increase the number of those droplets to reflect even more sun rays away from the earth.

Atmospheric physicist Robert Wood believes it could be an effective way to cool the planet if climate change continues and threatens the planet.

It’s called cloud brightening. The more water droplets in a cloud, the brighter it appears from above as the sun rays are reflected.

The team of scientists from the U.W., University of Manchester, University of Leeds, University of Edinburgh and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will begin by finding the best way to shoot the salty mist into the ocean air to speed formation of water droplets in clouds. They will mount those devices on ships and test the theory in the cloudiest areas of the oceans.

There are no guarantees and it may not work at all, but if it does, Wood said it could be a valuable tool if climate change reaches crises levels.

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