Sunday, October 28, 2007

The clouds and the watermelons

I drive country roads a lot. Here´s a story of a day on which I felt I´d lost my path.

It happened one very warm day when I was driving back to the ranch. I had to stop the truck because I felt lost even with the paved road ahead. It was mostly because of the clouds. Not because they obstructed my vision it was more because of their reflections. And my own reflexions. While stretching my legs I thought that probably at that very moment about half of Earth was covered by clouds.

I remembered reading somewhere that they reflect more sunlight than land and water. I was dressed in my white clothes because it was Summer. Everybody knows that white keeps you cooler. I felt some relief thinking that those clouds by reflecting sunlight were keeping the Earth cooler too. And that was when I got completely lost: I was blinded by the A factor. The Albedo in them and in me.

I grabbed a piece of watermelon.
I had recently found some sites about counteracting global warming effects. Scientists no longer talking about it but rather on how to solve the problem. The civil society is more aware of it although finger pointing is such a common thing we do... Names like "ecowarriors", "alarmists", "climate change deniers", "skeptics", "anti-aviation campaigners", “conspiracy theorists”, "liberal activists", "manipulative ecologists", etc are all over the Internet.
I spitted some black seeds.

- "So now some scientists are talking about 'geoengineering' the planet", I said to myself. "It seems that some are thinking on injecting sulfate particles in the upper atmosphere to increase the albedo. Shooting the clouds with some poison that nobody knows what´s going to feed us back can´t be called a 'escape route' from global warming. So vapor trails left by aircrafts are environmentally friendly and cow farts are not?"
- "Hey, finally somebody advocates for us!", a voice said from behind me.
I looked around and saw nobody. There was only me, the truck, the clouds and a black Angus chewing some grass.

I took another bite of watermelon. Summers are so warm down here in the Pampas...

- "Some want to spray aerosol compounds into the atmosphere by utilizing commercial, military and private aircrafts and calves are condemned for belching? It´s not fair...", I thought and sighed.
- "That´s what I said, thank you", said the voice again.
- "Who´s there? Is bad enough that you don´t show yourself but reading my thoughts is something I won´t allow you"
- "Sorry, sorry I didn´t mean to disturb your thoughts. My name is Negrita and I think that since aerosols cut down sunlight by large amounts, they may be spinning down the hydrological cycle of the planet. That´s pure science distorsion, maddness based on volcanic eruptions, come on!", she said.
- "Well, nice to meet you Negrita, I´m 99", I told the cow.
- "Yeah, I know, I read your blog"
- "Well, thanks. So your opinion is...?"
- "I think that using sea water as a source for hygroscopic nuclei may produce enough cloud cover to provided an offset a year's worth of carbon increase"
- "I don´t understand..."
- "See, it´s about evaporating 50 kilograms of sea water per second. We could even, if we wished, drive the problem backwards. It is also fully controllable: you can switch it off!"
- "You mean it can be better than giant reflecting mirrors in space, or laying reflecting film in deserts, or floating white plastic islands in the ocean mimicking the reflective effect of sea?"
- "Yeah, I think it might work better"
- "So you think it´s all about the clouds?"
- "Yep. Clouds and opacity. Clouds and clouds lifetime. Clouds and albedo. Every thing's albedo is measured by how much they reflect sunlight. Bouncing back the light makes them shine, and the Earth shines like a diamond in the Universe. High thin clouds are better blankets in trapping warmth, while low thick clouds make better coolers. Want some grass?"- "Thanks no, I´m on a diet. How do you manage your weight?", I said as I steered at the sky and thought on how much clouds have changed during my lifetime. High, warming clouds had increased while low clouds had decreased"
- "I sweat. I like being black in Summer. Keeps me in shape"
- "Then again back to the subject. Sunlight heats the ocean, water escapes into the atmosphere and falls out as rain..."
- "... non-polluting, planet-saving mist..." - "Not a bad idea"
- "... or just cut the crap with the oil. It´s gonna rain, gotta go. Bye", and she left.
- "Bye Negrita, glad to meet you. See you around!"

I saved the rest of the watermelon for later and jumped back in the truck. I felt not so lost anymore.
Hot Summer days and watermelons just seem to go perfect together...


GMG said...

Nice text, 99! Perfect for a Saturday night... ;))
Have a great weekend!

99 said...

Thanks GMG!
Hope you didn´t get any "Saturday night´s fever" ;-)

miss tango in her eyes said...

Such a simple thing. Is it because there isn´t as much money to be made off this, that it isn´t done? Because sea water is practically free, right??

99 said...

Namaste Miss Tango.
I don´t know if money is the only reason but surely looks like a big one.
You might want to take a look at the BBC scientific explanation from the "cloudseeders" (atmospheric physicist Professor John Latham and engineer Stephen Salter)
You´ll find also the other theories there.
Thanks for the input!

Nikon said...

Hi, wondeful story and facts laced together.
I read about the "hosing" the upper atmosphere with sulfur - I'll bet somebody tries it.
Glad to see your name on Hem's blog - thanks for stopping by.

99 said...

Thanks again Nikon.
Yeah, it seems that some people are taking seriously the theory (whose Nobel prize inventor while launching it even says that´s not sure about the consequences).
Easy-gunners seem to have found something else to shoot at: the skies, and with sulfur!
It´s always a pleasure to have you here.