Friday, April 21, 2017

Scientists Consider Brighter Clouds to Preserve the Great Barrier Reef

As bleaching devastates the critical ecosystem for a second year in a row, marine scientists are getting desperate.

A scientist surveys bleaching damage on the Great Barrier Reef. (Credit: Tane Sinclair-Taylor | ARC Center of Excellence Coral Reef Studies) Click to Enlarge.
A group of Australian marine scientists believe that altering clouds might offer one of the best hopes for saving the Great Barrier Reef.

For the last six months, researchers at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and the University of Sydney School of Geosciences have been meeting regularly to explore the possibility of making low-lying clouds off the northeastern coast of Australia more reflective in order to cool the waters surrounding the world’s biggest coral reef system. 

During the last two years, the Great Barrier Reef has been devastated by wide-scale bleaching, which occurs as warm ocean waters cause corals to discharge the algae that live in symbiosis with them.  Last year, as El NiƱo events cranked up ocean temperatures, at least 20 percent of the reef died and more than 90 percent of it was damaged.

The Australian researchers took a hard look at a number of potential ways to preserve the reefs.  But at this point, making clouds more reflective looks like the most feasible way to protect an ecosystem that stretches across more than 130,000 square miles, says Daniel Harrison, a postdoctoral research associate with the Ocean Technology Group at the University of Sydney.  “Cloud brightening is the only thing we’ve identified that’s scalable, sensible, and relatively environmentally benign,” he says.

Read more at Scientists Consider Brighter Clouds to Preserve the Great Barrier Reef

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