Above the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the first phase of an ambitious cloud-lightening experiment was carried out. Scientists hope that in this way in the future they will be able to protect corals from the devastating effects of global warming. The experiment was aimed at cooling the water around the reef by making the clouds above it reflect more sunlight. The researchers used a giant snow-cannon-type fan on the ship to launch many salt crystals into the air.
The test results were "encouraging, " project lead researcher Daniel Harrison of Southern Cross University said Friday. He also stressed that despite the experiment's success, it would take at least four years of further research to prove the theory behind it.
The change in seawater temperature caused by global warming has already wreaked havoc on the health of the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral system. When healthy corals are stressed by changes in ocean temperature, they lose their color as they have to expel color-producing algae. This year marks the third massive bleaching event in five years, raising fears that most of the coral reefs may be lost forever in the very near future.
To have a significant impact on the reef, Harrison said a full-scale experiment would need to be deployed 10 times wider. And one cannon should be replaced by several large turbines on a barge. If everything works out as it should, the scientist says, the team could reduce coral mortality by about 70 percent. However, the effectiveness of the cloud-lightening technology will not be effective if the ocean continues to heat up further. Thus, this is just a way to put the reef “on life support” while solving the real problem of climate change. If humanity does not moderate the amount of emissions into the atmosphere, then the new technology will only present a few additional decades before coral reefs are completely lost.