Friday, June 01, 2012

Goodbye blue sky

The recent study showing that geoengineering via aerosols would make our planet's sky whitish, like what's seen in urban environments, is making the rounds.  It'll be interesting to see if we get some sky color denialism as a push back.  I also haven't seen whether urban skies would be even more altered as a result.

I expect this new study could have political repercussions.  The "don't worry about your SUV, we'll just partially blot out the sun and turn the sky a different color" crowd might find it a hard sell.  Especially when this change is from a human perspective, forever.  It will take centuries of pumping pollution in the atmosphere to balance the effect while the majority of extra CO2 is slowly eliminated.

Despite all this, I think we can't rule out the possibility that things will get so bad that we'll have to consider it.

UPDATE:  by comment request:


dbostrom said...

One of the pleasant things about moving back to the NW from the SE was the return of blue skies. If you want to see what a white sky on clear day looks like, try Atlanta on a late summer day when Plant Bowen and the rest of the paleo generating system are straining to keep all the AC compressors thrumming away.

Anonymous said...

But!But!But! surely the idea that the sky is blue is just a matter of opinion.

The fact is that the sky is orange and you have no right to tell me that my opinion is wrong.

John McManus

Hank Roberts said... -- visibility, however you measure it, was getting worse through the past century.

DrTskoul said...

Reminds me of one of the Highlander movie's (3rd?) where they shielded the sky because of too much UV

Anonymous said...

Eli and Brian.

You missed a most excellent opportunity to include a reference to Pink Floyd, and in the process to put the cat amongst the pigeons:

Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII, Esq.

Anonymous said...


Take 2.

Just tried posting a link wherein I spoke of Eli and Brian missing the opportunity to put the cat amongst the pigeons with a Pink Floyd link:

Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII, Esq.

Hank Roberts said...

I wonder if there will be a measurable reduction in photosynthesis from adding a white haze. I suspect something like that, while ocean pH continues to change, will end up finding a way to screw up primary productivity and we'll actually have the carbon in the air longer as a result.

Just cynicism, no biology behind that.

Brian said...

Hank - the authors actually expect the reverse:

"There are several larger environmental implications to the group's findings, too. Because plants grow more efficiently under diffuse light conditions such as this, global photosynthetic activity could increase, pulling more of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. On the other hand, the effectiveness of solar power could be diminished, as less sunlight would reach solar-power generators."

Hank Roberts said...

> diffuse light

That's for trees and bushes, not for plankton! But half the primary productivity is from the oceans.

Contrariwise, I just came across this suggestion light may be the limiting factor (other studies say nitrogen or other nutrients)

Anonymous said...

"Horatio and the Blue crayon"

If geo-engineering
Should turn the blue sky white
It's relatively easy
To get the color right
Inject blue dye
Into the sky
At stratospheric height

Anonymous said...

Hank's comment about photosynthesis raises a more general question about biological effects. Many species, both plants and animal, are sensitive to different wavelengths of light, and use them for phenological and other cues.

Altering the spectrum that reaches the earth's surface would have severe impacts for many species, and when added to the other anthropogenic pressures that are being inflicted on the biosphere, many species would inevitably dwindle to extinction.

The only question is how severe it would all be.

Oo, and sorry for the doubling up about Pink Floyd. For some reason my posts come up on the first refresh, and then disappear on subsequent ones. WUWT? ;-)

Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII, Esq.

Anonymous said...

Well color me stoopid, that is why they call me "Hey Stoopid".

Now, watt could possibly go wrong with injecting sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere.

Now, history tells us of a volcano eruption in 1783, in a place called Iceland.


Or, does the attempted short term cure, have an even bigger bite, on those who live underneath and down wind?

Anonymous said...

Snow Bunny says:

The sky is noticeably whitish as of the last few years, they should study what the effects are already. Even at the zenith it's a pale blue color, as of the last 6 or 7 years.

The jet contrails persist in the sky -- they used to vanish behind the silvery jet, now they last long after the plane has gone.

It's hard to find a day with a bright blue sky. I think the blue sky comes after an arctic front or a severe rainstorm. Also, the billowy summer clouds that scud across the sky have been replaced by streaks that don't move much. Sorry, I watch the sky for fun, not to analyze scientifically. That is, I used to watch the sky, it's not so fun now.