Author: Seth Borenstein

Scientists create new idea on how to hack a warming planet: Drying the upper atmosphere

Source(s): Associated Press

Government scientists have cooked up a new concept for how to potentially cool an overheating Earth: Fiddle with the upper atmosphere to make it a bit drier.

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Water vapor—water in its gas form—is a natural greenhouse gas that traps heat, just like carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and gas. So researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA figure if they can just inject ice high up in the air, water vapor in the upper atmosphere would get a bit drier and that could counteract a small amount of the human-caused warmth.

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The idea of drying the upper atmosphere is the newest addition to what some scientists are calling a last-ditch toolbox to deal with climate change by manipulating the world's atmosphere or oceans. Known as geoengineering, it's often rejected because of potential side effects, and is usually mentioned not as an alternative to reducing carbon pollution, but in addition to emission cuts.

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Purposely tinkering with Earth's atmosphere to fix climate change is likely to create cascading new problems, said University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver, who wasn't part of the study. 

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