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Bill Gates Funds Seawater-Spraying Cloud Machines

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the blue-sky-of-death dept.

Earth 403

lucidkoan writes "Environmentalists have long argued about whether geoengineering (using technology to alter the climate) is a good way to tackle climate change. But the tactic has some heavy hitters on its side, including Bill Gates. The Microsoft founder recently announced plans to invest $300,000 into research for machines that suck up seawater and spray it into the air, seeding white clouds that reflect rays of sunlight away from Earth. The machines, developed by a San Francisco-based research group called Silver Lining, turn seawater into tiny particles that can be shot up over 3,000 feet in the air. The particles increase the density of clouds by increasing the amount of nuclei contained within."

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403 comments

What could (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162230)

OK, let's ignore for a moment the fact that water vapor is a greenhouse gas responsible for up to 76% of the greenhouse effect (as opposed to CO2 which is responsible for 1/3) of that. Let's also ignore the magical energy source required to pump all this water into the air. What could possibly go wrong? Where can I buy stock? /sarcasm

Re:What could (1, Informative)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162334)

Lets also ignore the possible impact of having that much salt pumped into the air...

Re:What could (3, Funny)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162398)

Well, let's see. The salt falls back down. A proportion of it falls to the ground, slowly salting farmland. Famine sets in, and after the temporary greenhouse impact of a few hundreds of millions of corpses decaying, anthropogenic global warming reduces by virtue of less "anthropo" to "genic" that carbon dioxide.

Problem solved.

Re:What could (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162602)

Should this have been +1 Funny?
Because last time I checked, when I stuck my tongue out when it rained, I didn't taste any salt at all, and I am 99.9% sure that the rainwater I drank used to be in the salty seas not too long before. Just because it seems to fulfil symbolic logic doesn't mean it's true.

Re:What could (5, Informative)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162778)

Because last time I checked, when I stuck my tongue out when it rained, I didn't taste any salt at all, and I am 99.9% sure that the rainwater I drank used to be in the salty seas not too long before. Just because it seems to fulfil symbolic logic doesn't mean it's true.

      You obviously have never lived near the ocean. The rain isn't "salty" enough to be tasted, but there is salt in the air. Anything that can be corroded will be corroded faster near a body of salt water.

Re:What could (4, Informative)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162782)

The rainwater you drink is condensed water that evaporated naturally. Unless they forgot to mention a filtering step they're talking about shoving atomized saltwater directly into the air.

Re:What could (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162590)

Lets also ignore the possible impact of having that much salt pumped into the air...

Could be interesting; microscopic salt crystals from the ocean are a major source of the nuclei that precipitation condenses around. Deliberately throwing more could have some unexpected results.

Re:What could (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162600)

That should have read "Deliberately throwing more in the air could have some unexpected results."

Remember: always use the preview option, kids.

Re:What could (4, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162744)

Hey, I'm all for blocking more sunlight. That way we can just acidify our oceans in peace. Who needs those pesky "corals"?(/snark)

Any global warming "solution" that doesn't involve actually lowering the CO2 level of the atmosphere isn't a solution. And I agree with those who are concerned about the ramifications of this. Increased planetary cloudcover. Less sunlight reaching the surface. The temperature drop being only masking and contingent on the continued operation of an ever-increasing number of devices with finite lifespan. What could go wrong? ;)

Re:What could (5, Funny)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162514)

Let's also ignore the magical energy source required to pump all this water into the air.

      I suggest unicorns on a treadmill.

        Brett

Re:What could (3, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162530)

OK, let's ignore for a moment the fact that water vapor is a greenhouse gas responsible for up to 76% of the greenhouse effect (as opposed to CO2 which is responsible for 1/3) of that.

Water vapor traps in a lot of heat on the earth, but water vapor in the form of clouds reflects a lot of energy; raising albedo by seeding clouds for a net loss of heat could actually work. Better yet the amount of water vapor in the air is naturally regulated, so excess water vapor and clouds are not so difficult to remove as CO2.

Let's also ignore the magical energy source required to pump all this water into the air.

Clean Coal, with the magic of Mr. Clean! =D

What could possibly go wrong? Where can I buy stock? /sarcasm

Yeah, cus Bill Gates has never been wrong before! Wait, what was that about a chasm? Yaaaaaaaah!

Re:What could (1)

berzerke (319205) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162802)

...let's ignore for a moment the fact that water vapor is a greenhouse gas responsible for up to 76% of the greenhouse effect (as opposed to CO2 which is responsible for 1/3)

Lets also ignore 76 + 33 = 109%. Let's also ignore methane, another potent greenhouse gas.

...but water vapor in the form of clouds reflects a lot of energy...

I actually studied this as part of my Master's. IIRC, the number is around 13 watts per square meter overall (this is a net loss of energy, aka cooling). This number includes the net heat gain from the clouds at night. (Clouds at night prevent IR radiation from escaping into space, thereby warming the Earth.)

Re:What could (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162532)

76%+33%=109%

Re:What could (1)

SomeJoel (1061138) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162736)

76%+33%=109%

Good point, you need to give 110% to be successful!

Re:What could (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162746)

76%+(76*.333)=101.333%
And here I set out to prove your math wrong and insult your reading comprehension (he said 1/3 of that not 1/3 of total) but the maths still borked, now I'm sad.

Re:What could (5, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162536)

How were you modded insightful? The simple fact is, that the h20 is not the issue. It goes up, it comes down. In addition, when water is in the form of CLOUDS, it COOLS the planet. It is when it has a high vapor, but not enough to form clouds, that you get warming. OTH, the CO2 is an issue because it stays around and around and around. As such, a VERY small amount goes a long ways. So, the global warming issue is just garbage.

I will say that there are OTHER possible side effects, for example, the clouds WILL block sun from getting to the crops, so there will be less food. And I am sure that there are other ones that are not thought about.

Re:What could (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162626)

The fact that by pumping saltwater into the air, much (or at least some) of the salt will fall back down to the earth NOT into the original source of water, and thus slowly salt the earth?

Re:What could (3, Interesting)

Ao_42 (1808558) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162554)

Water vapor isn't considered to have much radiative warming potential mainly because the Earth's emission spectrum is already saturated at the wavelengths at which water absorbs (See Houghton's Global Physical Climatology text for a detailed discussion). -- from a student in meteorology & climatology at Cornell

Re:What could (4, Interesting)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162556)

Water vapor concentration depends directly on the temperature of the air, and has a life cycle of about 2 weeks. In other words, it is not part of a positive feedback loop. If you pump too much into the air, it just rains out. Once the sun goes down, water vapor condensates out.

You can make Global Warming worse by adding water vapor to the air, but if enough sunlight gets reflected back out through cloud formation, it's a good deal. The cost of putting enough water into the air though.... is a different matter. Not sure if that's a cost-effective way of going about it.

Yep, airplanes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162582)

Yep, it turns out that con-trails are a great way to seed cloud formation. NASA already has data that shows the daily temperature variation in the no-fly week following 9/11 increase quite a bit. And then there's my anecdotal evidence of the crystal clear blue sky over Michigan that week (very unusual). Yes, I am of the position that air travel has caused most of the "climate change" over the last 50 years - if there is such a change. Adding water to the atmosphere would just increase this effect, not reduce it. I like the people asking what the salt would do too...

Re:What could (1)

mujadaddy (1238164) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162622)

I guess desalinization plants are SO last century.

Re:What could (5, Insightful)

yariv (1107831) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162634)

I know it's slashdot, but I would still like to point out your remarks have nothing to do with the technique described. Besides that, 76% + 1/3 > 1, so you should go over your numbers again...

They talk about producing clouds, not water vapor. Clouds are made of liquid water in tiny drops, forming from vapor around some sort of nuclei, it's actually mentioned even in the summary! The energy issue need not be that much of a problem. Energy is needed, but how much? Probably nothing relevant to global warming, so it's just a matter of cost.

The problem of salt is also insignificant, given the task is done deep in the ocean. The salt will not get carried for 5,000 kilometers without a huge drop in concentration, if at all.

Having said all that, further tests must be carried out, of course, we still have no backup planet. From what I understand, that is the whole point in investing in research.

Re:What could (0, Flamebait)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162716)

Besides that, 76% + 1/3 > 1, so you should go over your numbers again...

      I guess you don't understand what "UP TO" means.

They talk about producing clouds, not water vapor. Clouds are made of liquid water in tiny drops

      I guess you don't understand what SURFACE AREA means, and how having (up to) billions upon billions of tiny drops of water increases the surface area for evaporation therefore increases the total evaporation (I suggest you read up on partial pressure, vapor pressure, and dalton's law) and increases the WATER VAPOR in the atmosphere.

      In fact if you fail to grasp even such basic concepts, what the hell are you doing here? You're no nerd.

300 HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS! (4, Funny)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162232)

finally, he's acting like a proper evil mastermind...

Re:300 HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS! (2, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162326)

I think MS has finally found a use for all those Zunes ... seawater-squirting cloud machines, now with 'SquirtsForSure'!

Re:300 HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS! (4, Funny)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162500)

seawater-squirting cloud machines, now with 'SquirtsForSure'!

Off to register 'squirtsforsure.com' Soon to the the hottest pr0n site on the internet.

Re:300 HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162428)

Those aren't seawater squirt guns... it's a trap, you insensitve clod!

In reality, it's a launching mechanism for deploying sharks with frikin' laser beams to any where on the globe in a manner of picoseconds!

But don't blame me, I voted for ballmer... in soviet russia, where VOTES choose YOU!

Hmmm (2, Funny)

Spad (470073) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162242)

I believe the phrase is "What could possibly go wrong..."

Re:Hmmm (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162482)

Getting salt in our eyes?

Minnesotans aren't amused. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162250)

SNOW in the month of May. It's too darned cold here!

Has some heavy hitters on its side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162254)

Warren Buffet and Dr. Evil are on the board.

Re:Has some heavy hitters on its side (3, Interesting)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162372)

I understand that Dr Horrible is supplying the wonderflonium required for the machines to operate.

You know what this reminds me of? (2)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162276)

This reminds me of an application user who has no idea what they're doing. Once things start going wrong and the app starts doing unexpected things, they just try a bunch of random actions and hope that by pushing enough buttons and clicking enough things on the screen, they will eventually solve the problem.

Re:You know what this reminds me of? (3, Insightful)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162400)

Precisely! On the other hand, we've rather fallen into climate engineering, and we really have no choice but to blunder around not knowing what we're doing. If we could quick scrub carbon dioxide from the air, and put it back to what it was in 1850 and keep it there, we could take this slowly and with proper experimentation.

Re:You know what this reminds me of? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162552)

Like growing more trees?

Re:You know what this reminds me of? (1)

M8e (1008767) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162766)

,cutting them down and store them somewhere.

Re:You know what this reminds me of? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162586)

Isn't that how genetic algorithms start out?

But anyway, get a thousand start-ups trying a thousand different compensation mechanisms (that's what this is, after all, not doing anything about the underlying cause). Some fail spectacularly. Some don't really do anything cost-effectively. A small few are successful, and change the world.

Who knows. For $300k, no big deal. Worth a shot.

Re:You know what this reminds me of? (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162618)

That's how I learned to use most software, like . . . well, that's actually how I learned how to use all software. To learn about a program the best, you must be willing to royally screw it up in every possible way. Then again, that's probably not the best way to go about treating an entire planet, but we know that it at least works in the end. Assuming all parties survive in the end.

Other solution: Send all of our phone cleaners, politicians, telemarketers, and other human leeches to another planet. Or into our sun.

Salt the Earth (0, Troll)

KiwiCanuck (1075767) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162286)

Great idea! Should do wonders for crops.

Wait, what? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162288)

Undersea computing?

Drop in the bucket? (1)

BigDXLT (1218924) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162300)

Really, how many of these would be needed to actually make a measurable difference? And how much energy is required to build and run the damn things?

Fatal flaw (5, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162302)

The Microsoft founder recently announced plans to invest $300,000 into research for machines that suck up seawater and spray it into the air, seeding white clouds that reflect rays of sunlight away from Earth.

Unfortunately, the machines are solar-powered.

Re:Fatal flaw (1)

LincolnQ (648660) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162420)

That's why it's a perfect negative feedback system. Genius.

Re:Fatal flaw (2, Funny)

MouseR (3264) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162696)

But they shoot up 100 tons of plankton per hour to their death.

Isn't water vapor... (1, Insightful)

Gunfighter (1944) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162314)

... also considered a greenhouse gas?

Re:Isn't water vapor... (1)

ari_j (90255) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162462)

Why the hell is this moderated Troll? It's a valid question and based in reality, or at least in wikiality [wikipedia.org] . Atmospheric water vapor, both in clouds and otherwise, plays a major role in determining Earth's climate.

Re:Isn't water vapor... (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162606)

Why the hell is this moderated Troll?.

An ignorant person with mod points.

But, see the GP's user number? He's probably got so much fucking karma that he could post "Linux sucks" and "FOSS is for commie fags" until 2020 before he goes negative. So, I don't think the karma hit will bother him too much.

But it's good point out out mod ignorance, anyway.

Re:Isn't water vapor... (5, Informative)

bunratty (545641) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162676)

Yes, water vapor is a greenhouse gas. But putting more water vapor in the atmosphere will not contribute to global warming, because any excess water vapor put into the atmosphere precipitates out as rain, snow, or dew within about a week. In other words, water vapor is not a forcing.

Excess carbon dioxide, on the other hand, can remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. That's why burning fossil fuels has the effect of increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to warming.

Re:Isn't water vapor... (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162790)

But the benefit of increased albedo from the new clouds is also a temporary effect. Therefore, it is important to determine if the project will have a net improvement. Otherwise, what's the point?

Re:Isn't water vapor... (2, Funny)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162714)

No fool, ever seen a cloud? Water vapor is a whitehouse gas.

Re:Isn't water vapor... (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162762)

This is a good point, but clouds have high albedo which reflect significant amounts of sunlight off the Earth. The question is which effect is stronger? My guess is albedo; if most of the sunlight never reaches the Earth it can't be trapped by water vapor.

As the summary says, geoengineering is controversial. It is also incredibly complex. The research is in very early stages (300K is nothing for a project this size), and I'm sure water vapor's greenhouse effect is one of the things they will watch closely.

Bill Gates announces World's Largest Supersoaker! (3, Funny)

jpcarter (1098791) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162338)

Awesome.

How about... (2, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162342)

How about we fund research into not messing up the biosphere instead? Reforestation and pollution cleanup will go a lot further towards restoring nature's balance than spraying a bunch of water into the air.

Re:How about... (5, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162460)

The problem is, nature is never in a "balance". Forest fires, wild fires, volcanos, tsunamis, global cooling, ice ages, global warming, desertification, floods, forestation, those things all happened before, during and after man.

I'm from South Dakota, so I've looked alot at the geological history there. It used to be under the sea, under glaciers, partially under glaciers, burned by wild fires that crossed the entire region, forested, then less forested, it used to have volcanos, it's been covered by ash from other volcanos, it will be covered by ash when Yellowstone cooks off.

I just blew a seal... (4, Funny)

deathcow (455995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162362)

...700 feet into the air

Re:I just blew a seal... (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162562)

That's what happens when you sleep face down after eating a super burrito.

Re:I just blew a seal... (0, Offtopic)

Jahmbo (807363) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162638)

as if clubbing seals isn't bad enough....

Re:I just blew a seal... (-1, Flamebait)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162666)

Your peculiar sexual predilections are of no interest to those of us here on Slashdot...

Re:I just blew a seal... (4, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162678)

This Eskimo is having engine problems, so he takes his car into the mechanic to investigate. While it's being worked on, he wonders next door to the ice cream parlor and has a vanilla ice cream cone. When he returns, the mechanic solemnly says to him "It looks like you blew a seal,", to which the Eskimo replies, "No, no, no... I was just eating ice cream!"

Re:I just blew a seal... (0, Offtopic)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162796)

I hope it at least took you out to dinner first.

cue lawsuits for flood damage (1)

RichMan (8097) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162366)

I just don't see why we can't have lawsuits over the the stuff that caused the warming in the first place?

Oh yeah, all those people fighting to not have CO2 be a controlled emission.

Seriously, there are far to many people on this planet and we need to be careful of everything we do. It all has consequences.

Solar Power? (1)

birukun (145245) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162370)

Since this will decrease solar cell efficiency, is he signing off on a coal-burning plant nearby to power this wonderful device?

No more acid rain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162414)

Instead of Acid Rain we'll now have Salt Rain, what a lovely thought is that :D Wonder what kind of effects the salt will have on the environment...

Re:No more acid rain (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162616)

There is just something about /.. Over the last decade, the average intelligence here has dropped greatly. Just a real dumb question. Exactly WHERE do you think that the current h20 vapor comes from? Fresh water lakes only?

Re:No more acid rain (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162756)

If you think high blood pressure is a problem now, just you wait.

Salt in the air? (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162416)

As someone that has lived near the ocean for his entire life; I am not exactly happy about having salt infused water vapor in the air. If you live near the shore, you have to deal with house paint, car finishes, wooden surfaces decaying, wearing away and failing...

Anybody from an area of the world that has salt applied to their roads in the winter care to share stories about salt corroding their car's undercarriage?

Re:Salt in the air? (1)

Seedy2 (126078) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162516)

Like dipping your car in acid... oh wait.

Re:Salt in the air? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162644)

Anybody from an area of the world that has salt applied to their roads in the winter care to share stories about salt corroding their car's undercarriage?

Hasn't been a problem for me at all. I'm driving my wife's old Civic for commuting, it's a mid-90s model with some 220k miles on it. No problems with rust or corrosion on it, despite having been driven on wet salty roads each winter for a decade and a half.

Re:Salt in the air? (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162720)

Anybody from an area of the world that has salt applied to their roads in the winter care to share stories about salt corroding their car's undercarriage?

How about someone who's worked at a facility that extracts salt from seawater using solar evaporation? Just parking my car out front a couple of hundred feet from the nearest evaporation pond for three years was enough to make it rust. Even metal inside the vehicle has rusted to the point that I can't adjust the passenger seat anymore.

Re:Salt in the air? (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162804)

Anybody from an area of the world that has salt applied to their roads in the winter care to share stories about salt corroding their car's undercarriage?

I was in this car once, you see, and the floor had a hole in it, on account of the rust from all that road salt.

Fascinating stuff, right? I don't usually bring it up because it's sure to threadjack and derail any ongoing conversation with the implacably captivating qualities of such an anecdote, but you brought it up.

Vaporware (5, Funny)

owlnation (858981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162424)

Vaporware -- the perfect business for him to be investing in! He has some experience.

3000 feet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162430)

...should be enough for anybody.

Ao (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162440)

I did my senior thesis work on this topic using coupled climate models. Long story short, the dynamical responses are significant and have hitherto not been explored in the literature (See Jones et al 2009 and Rasch et al 2010). Hopefully I'll get published soon and the climate science community will realize more of the risks associated with this kind of geoengineering, including heightened risks of Atlantic hurricanes.

From tfa (2, Insightful)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162446)

Many methods of cooling the planet, collectively known as geoengineering, have been proposed. They include rockets to deploy millions of mirrors in the stratosphere and artificial trees to suck carbon dioxide from the air.

You're joking...right? Rockets deploying millions oof mirrors into the stratosphere? Artificial trees??? What about the real one's which do the job just fine? Seriously though, who let the mad scientist out of his lab?

Highlander 2? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162448)

Where's my artificial red atmosphere?!

$7 billion is peanuts to stop global warming (5, Interesting)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162464)

The article says that 3 ships is nothing. We need $7 billion worth of ships to stop the temperature from increasing.

WHAT? We can stop warming in its tracks for just $7 billion? That's very little money.

Operational cost (2, Interesting)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162612)

Sorry, responding to my own post: I wonder what the operational cost would be for this. What fuel are these things supposed to use? Shoving all that water into the air would take a crapload of power.

They can't take fossil fuels -- that would be a logistics issue, and would be counter-productive (though possibly still the most efficient approach).

I have this image of 3000 nuclear-powered boats, and I wonder what the mean-time between failures on such a system would be.

Re:Operational cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162816)

Put some turbines at the spray point to generate some energy!

Something tells me there will be a side effect (1, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162788)

They are talking about spraying SALT water into the air. Normally when clouds form it comes from normally evaporating water that leaves the salt behind. That is the reason the dead sea is so salty and for that matter how salt planes form.

So, what does this system mean for salt in the rain? I seem to remember that to make a point you tear down your enemies city, plow the ground and sow it with salt so that everyone gets the point. Salt and agriculture don't mix.

It is possible that the salt will fall down quickly into the ocean, but this is not mentioned. In fact the article is very light on the details. How does it shoot water so high, how much energy does it cost? What is going to happen to our planet when it is covered in clouds? More clouds might mean more rain, rain isn't always good. Or it might fall back as snow and be locked up for millenia on a cooling planet with ever saltier seas.

I also get the feeling that it is indeed very cheap. Sea going vessels ain't cheap especially if they have to run on auto on the ocean. Manning so many vessels alone would cost a fortune alone. 3 vessels with 300.000? You can barely get a sail boat, a small one.

And a move along this path would give the US even less reason to cut its emissions, 7 billion to curb todays emission, but how much if that keeps on going? It reminds me of the futurama episode where the problem of global warming is solved FOREVER by dropping an ever larger ice-cube into the ocean. Is Bill Gates under the impression that Futurama is a howto guide?

This is useful for other things (4, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162472)

Here in the west USA, we have long droughts. We count on reservoirs having enough water. The problem is that we have also been depending for far too long on aquifers. So, we regularly talk about pipelines. Well, there is ZERO chance that an economical large pipeline can be developed. HOWEVER, this has the ability to put a lot more moisture in the air. When it is known that a cold front is going to hit an area, then we simply bump up the amount of moisture in the air. It will mean LARGE snow dumps, but that is needed. It will allow us to fill the aquifers as well as reservoirs.

Generally, I think that Gates is causing more issues than solving (trying to stop hurricanes is a HORRIBLE mistake; it brings up nutrients from deep down; likewise, killing mosquitoes may actually stop evolution), but this one will help bring fresh water throughout the world as well as temporaly help with the global warming issues until we switch off of fossil fuels. Interestingly, if China, the worlds largest polluter of nearly everything, was to clean up their h2so4, then it would raise global temps quickly. With the clouds, it allows us to not worry about temps, while we go back to encouraging all nations to clean up their act.

Re:This is useful for other things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162648)

So everything Gates does is evil... unless it help's keep your lawn green...

Re:This is useful for other things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162708)

Not enough moisture to solve water problems.

10 tons per second? Unfortunately, that's nothing. 1 inch of water spread across California (about 100,000 square miles) would take 625 million seconds (20 years) to spew out with this system. An extra 0.05 inches per year of rainfall isn't going to make any difference.

Re:This is useful for other things (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162772)

Adding more moisture to the air increase the RH. As such, all we need to do is increase it enough to cause the water to fall in the mountains, rather than continuing on to the east coast. Obviously, we do not want to do it all the time, but during an el nino, we receive little water, while the east coast gets massive floods (like this current el nino). Had we used this to drop out the moisture on the rockies, then Tennessee would not have the issues that it has this year.

Cloudy environment (1)

dacarr (562277) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162484)

You know, I really hope that he does not test this using the waters of the Puget Sound, which is stupidly close to where he lives - the greater Seattle area. Besides, it's not like we don't already have enough clouds around here.

ah-HA! (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162486)

That explains how i get hit with fish while hang-gliding.

Oh, great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162518)

Good lord - he wants to BSOD the whole damned planet.

Brawndo - it's got what plants crave! (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162522)

Sea water sprayed into the air, salt drops on land, crops die.

Re:Brawndo - it's got what plants crave! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162792)

But it's got electrolytes!

Ohhhhhhh.... (1)

LaggingTom (1219200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162526)

This is what they mean when they say cloud computing!

Seems stupid... (2, Interesting)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162548)

The idea that spraying some water 3000ft into the air in the hopes that it will aid cloud formation seems ... stupid.

3000ft isn't very far and if there isn't enough convection, it isn't going to go up much further... The colder denser air would descend and stay near the ground. This idea sounds about as smart as setting up thousands of Van de Graaff generators all over town, hoping that the ozone generated would plug the ozone hole.

I think a much simpler solution would be this:

1. Cover a large area, perhaps the area of 10 football pitches, with good old fashioned black tarmac.
2. Have a simple sprinkler system, not too dissimilar to a lawn sprinkler system, covering the entire area.
3. When the sun shines, turn on the water.
4. Hopefully, the large area, heated by the sun, will cause enough convection to carry the water vapour up through the atmosphere, where it can form clouds.

There is a problem with salt buildup if using seawater, changing the albino of the tarmac ... but I'm guessing that if there is some form of drainage system in place where slightly saltier water could drain away, that should suffice.

Re:Seems stupid... (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162748)

I've got a better idea -- paint all the asphalt in the world with silver paint, thus increasing the reflectivity of the Earth, and lowering the temperature just as effectively as increased cloud cover would.

Moisture drift and salt (1)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162550)

In many places on the Earth, air moves (on average) in predictable ways. This leads me to a number of questions.

Can we put these ships in a position so that those clouds pass over areas which need more rain?

Would that cause rain there?

Would that rain be salty?

Is this a way to (as a secondary benefit) bring fresh water to areas needing rain, or would it destroy the land downwind by slowly coating it with more and more salt?

one has to wonder... (1)

buddyglass (925859) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162572)

Is he short selling solar? More clouds, less light, etc.

Re:one has to wonder... (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162758)

Nope. He just watched The Animatrix last night.

In other news ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32162650)

California is hit with record rainfall and flooding. Did he miss the record snowfall that paralyzed the central US or the heavy rains that hit the west coast? There already IS more cloud cover due to warmer oceans. Record rain and snow are a side effect. The problem is too much rain can be just as bad as too little. The real problem is we keep expecting technology to save us from our bad habits. Why can't they just come up with an anti fat pill so we can keep eating junk food? How about a way to remove CO2 so we can keep driving SUVs and using coal? Earth warming up? How about less sun? You know the thing that makes plants grow. The fix always seems to come down to instead of spending millions to correct a problem lets spend billions bandaging it hoping it'll go away. We as a civilization have learned to treat symptoms and not the root disease. If the music is too loud we take asprin for the headache and buy hearing aids when it damages our hearing instead of turning the music down. It's how we handle sickness and the environment. It's obvious cloud machines will cause as many problems as they correct and they in no way address the root problem so why spend millions and more likely billions on something we know won't help?

Is this a joke? (4, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162652)

Is this a joke?

The rate of evaporation from the oceans is about 400,000 cubic kilometers per year.

To increase that by just one percent would mean pumping 4,000 km^3 of water.

Just raising that much water to 3,000 feet would take approximately, oh let's see, carry the 0x100,
about 1,651,445,966.51 horsepower. One Point Six BILLION horsepower.

Dynamical responses (2, Interesting)

Ao_42 (1808558) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162726)

I'm publishing a paper quite soon, hopefully, which examines cloud whitening and the dynamical responses. Previous researchers (eg Jones et al 2009, Rasch et al 2010) have examined the potential surface response, which gives a fairly rosy picture. I found that when you look more closely at the dynamical responses in the atmosphere, there are significant changes associated with this kind of geoengineering, including possible enhancement of Atlantic hurricanes. I hope Gates reads the literature on this before undertaking the proposed course of action. -- from a student in meteorology & climatology at Cornell University. Thesis work performed at Princeton University & Cornell, presented at AMS conference in January.

Been looked at before.... (1)

jtcampbell (199660) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162764)

This [bbc.co.uk] article from the BBC talks about doing something similar to make rain rather than just clouds.

Pissing in the Wind (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162768)

Been there, done that. Also pissed out the Window, perhaps never to this scale.

Cloud Services, LOL (4, Funny)

lcreech (1491) | more than 4 years ago | (#32162776)

No relataionship to the Microsoft Cloud Services advertized here on /.

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