In 2016, a heatwave killed 29 percent of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral. Scientists of all stripes have been working to reverse the damaging effects caused by the quickening pace of climate change. Daniel Harrison, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, has proposed an “outside-the-box” idea to buy the Great Barrier Reef a little more time, reports Peter Hess for Inverse.
Harrison suggests that making the clouds over the Great Barrier Reef brighter and more reflective will bounce more sunlight away from Earth. This will result in keeping the water around the reef from warming and subsequently bleaching the coral. The method to achieve this involves spraying seawater up at clouds, which would encourage water to condense around the salt molecules. The higher salt content in the clouds would make them brighter than average, consequently bouncing sunlight away from the reefs. Because atmospheric water droplets need to condense around something to form clouds, Harrison explains, as giant fans blow the saltwater through the air, it will provide the particles necessary for clouds to form.
Climate change may be progressing too rapidly for the reefs to keep up, writes Hess, so strange ideas like cloud brightening are receiving serious consideration. Alternative solutions like those proposed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that show evidence for scientists’ use of CRISPR gene editing to enhance beneficial traits in coral, may not work quickly enough. Harrison believes that geoengineering projects like the one he proposed may be the best hope for saving the Great Barrier Reef.