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Scientists doubt inventor's global cooling idea — but what if it works?

 
 
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 10:03 am
Scientists doubt inventor's global cooling idea " but what if it works?
Scientist Ron Ace explains his theory.
By Greg Gordon | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON " Ron Ace says that his breakthrough moments have come at unexpected times " while he lay in bed, eased his aging Cadillac across the Chesapeake Bay bridge or steered a tractor around his rustic, five-acre property.

In the seclusion of his Maryland home, Ace has spent three years glued to the Internet, studying the Earth's climate cycles and careening from one epiphany to another " a 69-year-old loner with the moxie to try to solve one of the greatest threats to mankind.

Now, backed by a computer model, the little-known inventor is making public a U.S. patent petition for what he calls the most "practical, nontoxic, affordable, rapidly achievable" and beneficial way to curb global warming and a resulting catastrophic ocean rise.

Spray gigatons of seawater into the air, mainly in the Northern Hemisphere, and let Mother Nature do the rest, he says.

The evaporating water, Ace said, would cool the Earth in multiple ways: First, the sprayed droplets would transform to water vapor, a change that absorbs thermal energy near ground level; then the rising vapor would condense into sunlight-reflecting clouds and cooling rain, releasing much of the stored energy into space in the form of infrared radiation.

McClatchy has followed Ace's work for three years and obtained a copy of his 2007 patent petition for what he calls "a colossal refrigeration system with a 100,000-fold performance multiplier."

"The Earth has a giant air-conditioning problem," he said. "I'm proposing to put a thermostat on the planet."

Although it might sound preposterous, a computer model run by an internationally known global warming scientist suggests that Ace's giant humidifier might just work.

Kenneth Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, roughly simulated Ace's idea in recent months on a model that's used extensively by top scientists to study global warming.

The simulated evaporation of about one-half inch of additional water everywhere in the world produced immediate planetary cooling effects that were projected to reach nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit within 20 or 30 years, Caldeira said.

"In the computer simulation, evaporating water was almost as effective as directly transferring ... energy to space, which was surprising to me," he said.

Ace said that the cooling effect would be several times greater if the model were refined to spray the same amount of seawater at strategic locations.

He proposes to install 1,000 or more devices that spray water 20 to 200 feet into the air, depending on conditions, from barren stretches of the West African coast, bluffs on deserted Atlantic Ocean isles, deserts adjoining the African, South American and Mediterranean coasts and other arid or windy sites. To maximize cloud formation, he'd avoid the already humid tropics, where most water vapor quickly turns to rain.

"It does seem like evaporating water outside the tropics would be more effective," Caldeira said.

The spraying would be targeted mainly at higher, northern latitudes, where Ace thinks that air currents known as Ferrel Cells could deliver heavy snow to the Arctic, offsetting the melting of the polar icecap.

It stretches the imagination " and perhaps credulity " to suggest that a solitary inventor with no government support could solve global warming, especially a man who never earned a degree despite studying physics for much of a decade at the University of Maryland.

Several scientists who reviewed Ace's patent petition for McClatchy reacted with caution to outright derision over its possibilities, but some softened their views upon learning of the computer model.

Ace's invention rests on some unconventional theories.

He contends that the planet is 5 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit too hot to stop the meltdown from the last ice age 20,000 years ago, not a couple of degrees too warm, as government scientists say. He proposes to lower the temperature by 3.5 degrees to 4 degrees, leaving a cushion to avoid tipping toward another ice age and always retaining the option of turning the sprayers down or off, if needed.

He suspects that deforestation is a major cause of global warming, not just because trees absorb carbon dioxide, but also because a large-leaf tree can wick up and evaporate hundreds of gallons of water in a single day. Ace said that the absence of tens of billions of trees, destroyed by southward-creeping glaciers thousands of years ago and again by man's recent timber cutting, has left the planet "slightly dehumidified," reducing cloud cover.

Ace points to recent research that found snow cover is shrinking even at below-freezing altitudes on Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro and other mountaintops, a change that's attributed to declining snowfall.

It would be relatively easy to design spraying equipment to carry out his plan to fill that water vapor deficit, but it would take a major international effort to install 1,000 large spraying devices, or thousands of smaller ones. If fully deployed, the 15,800 cubic meters of sprayed water per second would be equivalent to the flow at the mouth of the Mississippi River and would require enough energy to power a medium-sized city.

However, spraying only a portion of that amount for a decade would be enough to cool the equivalent of current man-made global warming, estimated to range up to 0.76 degrees Fahrenheit, Ace said. Such cooling, he said, could buy mankind decades of time for more research and precision.

Depending on its scale, the water evaporation scheme would cost anywhere from hundreds of millions of dollars to billions of dollars a year, but Ace said it still would have "a net positive financial effect." It would prevent global warming-related damage, he said, and the extra rainfall would provide the cheapest way to transport water to drought-stricken regions, counteract desert expansions, increase natural irrigation for crops and boost the output of hydroelectric power plants.

Added rainfall also would reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas levels, because cold raindrops carry more carbon dioxide back to the oceans than is released when water evaporates, he said.

Caldeira's computer results could surprise many scientists because water vapor is a greenhouse gas widely recognized to be more powerful than carbon dioxide. The simulation suggests, however, that water vapor's cooling effects overwhelm its heat-trapping properties.

Ace has his doubters, partly because he took the patent route rather than submitting his idea for scientific peer review. A patent certifies that an invention is unique, not that it would work.

Douglas Davis, an atmospheric chemist at Georgia Tech University who's known Ace for years, lauded some of his inventions but called his global cooling idea "big-time speculation" because so little is known about the behavior of water in the atmosphere.

"In the case of the computer models that are used for global warming, I know that the hydrological cycle is a critical component of those models, and the hydrological cycle is not well understood," Davis said, stressing that he's not a climate expert.

David Travis, a University of Wisconsin-Whitewater professor who's studied clouds extensively, praised Ace's innovation, but said he's "generally opposed to geo-engineering" solutions and can't imagine evaporating water on a large enough scale to have a near-term effect.

Caldeira, who plans to submit his computer findings in the spring for peer-reviewed publication, is among scientists so concerned about sluggish progress in curbing greenhouse gases that they met last year to consider geo-engineering options.

"Ideas such as Ron Ace's should be carefully and impartially evaluated," Caldeira told McClatchy. "Every brilliant innovation in the history of technology looked a little bit loony when first proposed."

Ace's invention looks less loony when compared with some others. NASA scientists conceived the multi-trillion-dollar idea of orbiting megaton mirrors in space to deflect sunlight. Other scientists have proposed reflecting solar energy by placing mirrors on thousands of high-altitude balloons, by foaming the oceans' surfaces or by filling the upper atmosphere with tiny sulfates or inert particles, or by adding water droplets to low-level ocean clouds from 1,500 unmanned boats.

Ace said he thinks that mankind is "headed straight for a disaster."

By focusing solely on solutions that deal with carbon in the atmosphere, Ace thinks that mankind won't prevent a "big glacier melt" that could lift ocean levels 20 feet and wipe out the world's seaports.

One thing is certain: Ace is dead serious. He's tenaciously compiled more than a thousand pages of research, sometimes during all-night binges despite a fight with cancer. He said he's invested large sums in patenting his global-warming inventions.

Ace said he's created more than 700 inventions, starting with a gravity-measuring machine he built in seventh grade to record passes of the sun and moon on cloudy days. He's won nearly 70 U.S. and foreign patents, but said he's lacked the time and money to submit petitions for all but about two dozen of his inventions. None has led to big commercial success.

Ace said that his unusual blend of expertise in physics, optics and heat transfer has helped him understand the role of light-scattering clouds and water's influence on climate.

Maintaining a hermit-like existence during the past three years, he's churned out more than half a dozen inventions that could help curb global warming, including several that he said would cut energy use.

He often speaks in professorial tones, but can quickly morph into a cynic or a feisty debater over the laws of physics, always mindful of the role of "the big heater" " the sun.

Ace said that he gradually steeped himself in the science of global warming because of "curiosity, nothing more."

"I never saw myself making a dime on it," said Ace, who said he'd donate his patent to the U.S. government if he gets one. "It's mostly that the data seemed to be incorrect, and I wanted to know what is right."

ON THE WEB

The Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology
http://dge.stanford.edu/DGE/CIWDGE/CIWDGE.HTML
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Type: Discussion • Score: 8 • Views: 2,317 • Replies: 24
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Reyn
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 10:19 am
We don't need no stinkin' cooling today. It's bloody cold enough, at least today. Mad
hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 10:42 am
@Reyn,
please stop spraying all that water into the air NOW !!!
it's MINUS 18 C and we've had enough snow (about 40 cm total) to last us for a while .
perhaps we are being used as a guinea pig ?
STOP IT !! i say !
hbg
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 11:25 am
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
Quote:
Spray gigatons of seawater into the air, mainly in the Northern Hemisphere, and let Mother Nature do the rest, he says.

How much energy will it take to spray gigatons of seawater into the air, and where will that energy come from? Gasoline?

If it takes a gallon of gas for energy, to put a gallon of water into the air, then for every gallon of water sprayed, you would also be spraying a gallon of noxious chemicals and CO2. The two things might cancel each other out and do nothing (except waste money and time).

Besides, once the thermohaline flow in the oceans shut down due to excessive glacial melt, the planet it going to rapidly crash back into a prolonged ice age anyway (see the Ice Core data). Global Warming is just the roller-coaster being dragged to the top of the hill, once we crest the hill it's going to be a fast dive to the bottom of the temperature curve.

BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 11:28 am
@rosborne979,
I was thinking the same thing about the ocean thermohaline flow that is expected.

BBB
0 Replies
 
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 11:49 am
@rosborne979,
rosborne979 wrote:
How much energy will it take to spray gigatons of seawater into the air, and where will that energy come from? Gasoline?


You didn't give it a serious thought, did you, Ros?

Mind how many high pressure pumps you could power with only one 1 MW windmill, let alone solar panels, both energies being available precisely where they are needed for the right placement of the sprayers.

In addition, the prospect of a thermohaline stop occurring soon is mere speculation..
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 01:37 pm
@Francis,
Hi Francis,

If you use solar and wind sources to lift the gigatons of water, then that same energy will not be used for other things. At present, we need natural sources of energy to offset the use of oil in our basic global economy. If we had extra natural energy just sitting around doing nothing, then I might think it was efficient to use it to lift gigotons of water into the air, but we don't.

The thermohaline cycle problem is an educates speculation on my part based in part on ice core histories which indicate that spikes in global temperature are consistently followed by rapid declines back into ice ages. Regardless of whether the thermohaline cycle is the driving force behind that ice ages, we do know from historic examples that temperature declines happen on a regular basis (following temperature spikes like our current one).


0 Replies
 
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 02:20 pm
Well, Ros, so now we have two issues here:

- Should we divert energy to counter the global warming, considering that the cost of said energy would be infinitely less that the cost of the global warming?

and

- Is the thermohaline circulation going to stop shortly?

I infer from your post that you are not in favor of changing the energy statuo quo, even if it is profitable to the climate stability. (assuming that Ace's idea works).

I'm aware of the thermohaline theories and you seem to think that I oppose them, as described by you.

It's not the case.

What I think is that given the level of world temperatures, a stop of the the main streams in the oceans, is not going to happen soon.
georgeob1
 
  2  
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 04:27 pm
I am constantly amazed at the credulity of people who should know better with respect to these truly speculative forecasts based on computer simulations and forecasts that are known beyond doubt to produce results that have only a random relationship to what actually occurs.

In mathematical terms these forecasts involve the numerical integration of highly non-linear, parabolic differential equations - a process known to be subject to "chaos" or the rapid propogation of even the smallest errors in the representation of initial conditions. Worse these errors quickly dominate the resulting forecasts, rendering them useless. That is the simple reason why after three decades of Moore's law and the attendant explosion of computing power, our numerical weather forecasts are still reliable for only a few days into the future. Insiduously, owing to some of the arcane dynamics of chaos, the results of long range forecasts look like realistic weather patterns, but don't match what actually unfolds at all.

In particular the application of standard numerical models for large ocean currents, to well known currents such as El Ninho in the South Pacific are known to fail to accurately predict their periodicity or accurately forecast their reappearance. Given this, why someone would base a forecast of the effects of some novel new proposal on these models - or why others would take them seriously - suggests some serious mental abberations among AGW devotees.

Finally, water vapor is a well-known and very effective greenhouse gas. Odd that there was no recognition of that in the account BBB quoted here.
Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 05:22 pm
@georgeob1,
georgeob1 wrote:

Finally, water vapor is a well-known and very effective greenhouse gas. Odd that there was no recognition of that in the account BBB quoted here.


From the article that was quoted above:

Quote:
Added rainfall also would reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas levels, because cold raindrops carry more carbon dioxide back to the oceans than is released when water evaporates, he said.

Caldeira's computer results could surprise many scientists because water vapor is a greenhouse gas widely recognized to be more powerful than carbon dioxide. The simulation suggests, however, that water vapor's cooling effects overwhelm its heat-trapping properties.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 06:51 pm
@Francis,
Quote:
- Should we divert energy to counter the global warming, considering that the cost of said energy would be infinitely less that the cost of the global warming?

I would think that the first thing we should do to reduce human impact on global warming would be to stop polluting. And the best way to do that is to develop other energy sources so we don't have to burn things.

Quote:
I infer from your post that you are not in favor of changing the energy statuo quo, even if it is profitable to the climate stability. (assuming that Ace's idea works).

I'm very much in favor of changing the energy status quo, but I prefer to do efficient things which will work, not silly things which won't. Ace's idea talks only about the effects of dispersing gigatons of water into the atmosphere (and even those predicted effects are questionable), but simple physics says that to lift gigatons of water to a particular altitude, that you have to expend energy to do it. And right now that energy is in short supply, and produced primarily from carbon producing mechanisms. In physics you can't get something for nothing, you can't lift gigatons without doing gigatons worth of work. And that work comes at the price of producing more CO2.

0 Replies
 
Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2008 07:38 pm
What if each person in the world's human population able to do so were to release a dozen helium-filled balloons, each with a few ounces of water in them? It could be advertised as another "hands across the ocean" type event for Earth Day. Of course we'd have to deal with the pollution of all those bits of balloon material.
0 Replies
 
Mr Stillwater
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Dec, 2008 02:27 am
My problem with this is that the salt left behind from the evaporation would be a possible pollutant. Also, just increasing the relative humidity of the air closest to the ground would not affect the 'big picture'. Worst case scenario is that as the heat in the water is released it might start adverse weather conditions - maybe not a problem to those in the Mid-West, but dangerous to folks prone to tidal events or flooding.
0 Replies
 
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Dec, 2008 02:28 am
@georgeob1,
georgeob1 wrote:
Given this, why someone would base a forecast of the effects of some novel new proposal on these models - or why others would take them seriously - suggests some serious mental abberations among AGW devotees.


George, I tend to think the same way as you do about the long term results of mathematical models.

However, I also think that you didn't read the article carefully, as Butlf'net suggested.

The fact that the credibility of his supporters is valueless, doesn't imply that the idea is valueless.

As a matter of fact, I do think that it is a topic to be watched closely.

By analogy with the fire extinguisher effects (and the cool down of temperatures) of water vapor, I think that some time and means should be allocated to dig on the idea.

georgeob1
 
  2  
Reply Mon 22 Dec, 2008 12:34 pm
@Francis,
Even discounting the known inaccuracy of the models with which he produced the forecasts of the effects he asserts will occur, I am skeptical. Spraying water into the air to facilitate vaporization will indeed cause significant local cooling - the energy required to vaporise a mass of liquid water at constant temperature is about one thousand times the energy required to raise its temperature 1 deg. C. However the resulting water vapor, if it is transported to altitude is itself a very potent greenhouse gas. When it inevitably recondenses, it releases the latent heat it absorbed in vaporizing, generally causing winds, storms and rain.

This is, at best, a means of producing local cooling and altering the transport of water vapor and thermal energy. How this might alter any quasi equilibrium state in the atmosphere is beyond our powers to predict. The device the author used to create his predictions is known to be unreliable.

However, all of this remains an interesting psychological phenominon.

This does sound patronizing, and that is not my intent. I am amazed by the intensity of human preoccupation with this phenominon in a world that (1) is known never to have been in a state of thermal or geological equilibrium; (2) known to currently be in an interglacial geological period; and (3) so filled with other far more proximate and lethal dangers for mankind.
georgeob1
 
  2  
Reply Mon 22 Dec, 2008 12:58 pm
@Francis,
OK I read the article again and more carefully. Shall I conclude that the spray induced formation of clouds on the coasts of (say) West Africa will necessarily be transported over the Sahara, providing more reflection of solar radiation to space than of terrestrial radiation back to the surface - and then magically condense only over some other ocean area, depositing slightly more CO2 back into the ocean than it took with it? Does that not strain your credulity?

It seems to me these are, at very best, marginal effects highly dependent on specific, local conditions. Moreover any net gain is necessarily dependent on the transport of the vapor in the atmosphere, and that is precisely the element in the numerical forecast that is known to be dominated by chaos.
roger
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Dec, 2008 01:04 pm
@georgeob1,
I think it's 540 calories/gram, but aside from that quibble, I agree completely. And if the gosh darn scheme did work, who's to say it wouldn't acquire its own momentum, and drag us into another ice age.
0 Replies
 
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Dec, 2008 01:22 pm
@georgeob1,
As I'm skeptical by essence, this idea doesn't strain my credulity.

I don't know if the outcome is worth the effort but I think we should try.

As you have yet to prove some of your assertions*, I do think that your position is, as well as those that oppose you, stained by partisanship.

* One thousand times the energy...?

Remember that one basic professional windmill can power 20 high pressure pumps that can spray each 12 cubic meters per hour to a height of 42 meters (20 bars).
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Dec, 2008 01:56 pm
The latent heat of vaporization of water is about 500 times the specific heat of water and one thousand times the specific heat of water vapor - just as I said.

The average power output of a properly designed wind turbine is (depending on the location & elevation) generally no more than 40% to 60% of its maximum capacity (often far less). A very common error of wind & solar power advocates is the confusion of maximum and effective net power outputs. The wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine all the time. (Moreover, if you are the owner of a 7 MW synchronous wind turbine, mounted on a 100M tower a mile or so out in the ocean, you are likely very worried that it might break or experience some kind of failure).

Wind power isn't free. It generally costs 2 -3 times that of coal or nuclear power in a comparison of plant requirements for steady, continuous power output.

I didn't prove my case because I am not advocating any particular case. However, I did accurately note the rather extraordinary dependence of his theories on very marginal effects and on mass transport phenomena that are known beyond doubt to be unpredictable.
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Dec, 2008 02:16 pm
@georgeob1,
George wrote:
OK I read the article again and more carefully.

No you didn't, George. And your inaccurateness invalidates your point.


George also wrote:
The latent heat of vaporization of water is about 500 times the specific heat of water and one thousand times the specific heat of water vapor - just as I said.



but the article says:
Quote:
First, the sprayed droplets would transform to water vapor, a change that absorbs thermal energy near ground level


So, if that is wrong, the other stuff maybe wrong too. Twisted Evil
 

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