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Micro-Bubbles Injected Into Oceans Reduce Global Warming, Physicist Says


Curbing global warming is like patching an open hole that gets bigger each day, and self-fooling ourselves that we can go on without getting any negative effects from the environment.

Russell Seitz, a physicist at the Harvard University, has thought of an ingenious way to fight global warming by cooling the planet by parts. The ingenious way Seitz wants to do this is by pumping vast swarms of tiny bubbles into the sea to increase its reflectivity, and thus lower the water’s temperatures: “Since water covers most of the earth, don’t dim the sun. Brighten the water.”

This is not a new phenomenon: naturally-occurring bubbles already brighten up turbulent seas since ages, and provide a luster known as “undershine” below the ocean’s surface.  These bubbles only account for 1% of Earth’s reflectivity, though, but what Seitz wants to do is pump bubbles with the size of one-five-hundredth of a millimeter in diameter, into the sea, “mirrors made of air”.

These bubble-mirrors could be created by boats, by using devices mixing water with compressed air into swirling jets of water. “I’m emulating a natural ocean phenomenon and amplifying it just by changing the physics-the ingredients remain the same.”

Simulated on the computer, the tiny bubbles injected this way would cool the planet by up to 3 °C. Seitz’s microbubbles could double the reflectivity of water at a concentration of only one part per million by volume. He named this concept “Bright Water”, and submitted it to the journal Climatic Change.

One feasible way that Seitz’s idea can be completed would be adding bubbles to a 1-square-kilometer of the ocean. Scaling it up may be technically difficult, though he estimates that 1000 wind turbines could do the job for an entire ocean in terms of energy used. Studying the impact of bubbles created in the wakes of ships could prove the overall viability of the technique Seitz proposed.

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  1. That is brilliant, but could it cause environmental problems with wildlife in addition to getting the oceans to absorb less heat? How does this affect fish and their oxygen intake? This would change what the fish take in through their gills. Organisms would have access to much more carbon. What could happen?


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