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Man-made ice fields may mitigate global warming, by storing heat. Fund the publication of a paper exploring the possibilities.

Here's what caught my attention initially.  A November 2011 ‘News of the Week’ article in Science detailed the creation of artificial ice beds for summertime cooling and water supplies in Ulan Bator.[1,2]  Water was pumped in from a nearby river and allowed to freeze, having been sprayed in thin layers to build up a tall ice field. Springtime thawing will allow for fresh water for irrigation and drinking.

That got me thinking about how a system of temporary ice fields may have a damping effect on global warming.  The water would release heat as it freezes in the fall and winter, and absorb heat in the spring and summer as it thaws.  Moreover, it would have an effect on the hydrologic cycle, and perhaps cause a net removal of the number one greenhouse gas (water vapor) from the atmosphere for a part of the year.  Water vapor accounts for more than 60% of the greenhouse gas effect, and is intimately related to temperature.  The hotter the air, the more water it can hold.  Removing water vapor should have some good effect.

These man-made ice fields would perhaps serve to make the climate more stable.

This project is a study -- (1.) to see how much land is available and suitable for man-made temporary ice fields; (2.) to see how much heat might be trapped seasonally by these fields; (3.) to see how much water vapor might be removed from the atmosphere, as a result of the influence on the hydrologic cycle, and (4.) to see what a climate simulation would predict, if artificial ice-fields were implemented.

There are logistical questions as well -- such as where the water is to come from, and how it is to get where it's going.  And, more important -- it will be essential to note what the effects will be on the local, regional and global weather systems.  It would be a pretty bad idea to try and mitigate the effects of climate change if that would lead to extreme winter storms in the mid-latitudes, and stronger Indian monsoons, for example.  So the modeling must be robust.

I can't predict what the outcome of the study will be, but -- for goodness' sake, it seems like an easy idea to pursue.  The goal is to see what volume of temporary ice fields would be needed to sequester enough heat to effectively stop global warming.

That is the project -- to fund a science research project looking at these topics, and to quantify the possibility.  The end result will be modest: a paper in a peer-reviewed journal.  But such things can influence political and journalistic trends, and will certainly further the debate towards sustainable solutions to climate change.

I am really thrilled to be presenting this here.  It is along the lines of another paper I've published: "Catching lightning for alternative energy."[3]  I don't think we are doing enough to combat global warming.  At the very least, everyone should be planting a few trees per year, and a tree per month might have a real impact, as the saplings take up carbon dioxide during photosynthesis.  Thanks so much for your time!

[1] News of the Week: Random Sample: Mongolia’s ‘Ice Shield’ Science 25 November 2011: Vol. 334 no. 6059 p. 1039 DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6059.1039-b http://www.sciencemag.org/content/334/6059/1039.2.full

[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/15/mongolia-ice-shield-geoengineering

[3] Helman, D.S. "Catching lightning for alternative energy." Renewable Energy 36: 1311-1314. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960148110004982   (Send me an email if you can't access it and want me to send you the PDF.)

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