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Apr 03, 2017 11:33 AM EDT

Harvard Scientists Plan World's Largest Geoengineering Study

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Harvard scientists are planning to release aerosols in the stratosphere in an attempt to assess what materials could be used for geoengineering the earth t save it from climate change.
(Photo : Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A pair of climate scientists from Harvard plans to undertake an ambitious $20 million project to seed the atmosphere with aerosols to simulate the atmospheric cooling effects of a volcanic eruption, touted as the world's largest solar geoengineering program that will officially launch within a few weeks.

The Aerosol injections are planned to be administered 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) up into the stratosphere aiming to assess the proposed technique's feasibility as a fix for global warming.

Harvard professors David Keith and Frank Keutsch hope to execute two small-scale dispersals via a high- altitude balloon, tethered to a gondola with propellers and sensors. It would then spray a mist of materials, first utilizing water and then shifting to calcium carbonate particles.

Once dispersed, the sensors would then measure the reflectivity of the particles. The degree to which they coalesce or disperse would also be measured, including the way the particles interact with other compounds found in the atmosphere, MIT Technology Review reported.

The Harvard scientists first pitched their proposed balloon experiments in 2014 and published an accompanying paper about it the journal of The Royal Society. In collaboration with World View Enterprises, Keith said they have begun on the engineering design of the balloon.

The basic idea of the experiment in spraying certain types of particles into the stratosphere is to determine what materials could be used to reflect more heat back into space. The scientists believe the experiment could work because nature already does it.

However, many people are worried about the implications and impact of such widespread manipulation. Accordingly, the project is so complex that it would be very difficult to predict its effects.

The prospect of employing solar geoengineering is in itself a terrifying admits Harvard professor Daniel P. Schrag. He said the possibility of something going amiss is "really scary." A study such as the one from the Met Office Hadley Centre asserted that seeding the atmosphere could have adverse results such as inducing droughts in the Sahel region of North Africa.

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