Climate Change

A plan to install 10 million fans for "refreezing" Arctic

The plan costs a massive US $400 billion, but is this what we need? 

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 20 February 2017

The lowest extent of ice in winter season in the Arctic—at 14.54 million sq km—was recorded in 2015

After alarming levels of ice cap melting recorded from the Earth’s poles, scientists have proposed a plan to refreeze the Arctic ice to potentially battle climate change. The US $400 billion plan was published as a paper in Earth’s Future by Arizona State University researchers.

Researchers say that installing 10 million wind-powered pumps over the ice cap to spray sea water over the surface and replenish melting ice may keep the shrinking of poles in check.

The pumps can be switched on in the winter months to draw water from the ocean under the ice and deposit saltwater on ice surface. The seawater would freeze, forming an extra layer on the ice mass.

Lead author of the study, Steven Desch says this process can add ice layer up to one metre thick. To give a sense of scale, current thickness of ice is commonly around 2-3 metres.

Desch adds that believes that although the plan is expensive, it may be what needs to be done. “This loss of sea ice represents one of the most severe positive feedbacks in the climate system, as sunlight that would otherwise be reflected by sea ice is absorbed by open ocean. It is unlikely that CO2 levels and mean temperatures can be decreased in time to prevent this loss, so restoring sea ice artificially is an imperative,” the research paper says.

Melting Arctic

A recent report by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) claims that the Arctic region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. Going by the report, the onset of surface melt ranked second (after only 2012) over the 37-year-period of satellite record (1979 - 2016). The duration of the melting season was 30-40 days longer than usual in the northeast and 15-20 days longer along the west coast, when compared to the 1981-2010 average.

As per another estimate, the lowest extent of ice in winter season in the Arctic—at 14.54 million sq km—was recorded in 2015. The five-year period also saw summer surface melting of the Greenland ice sheet at above-average levels. In fact, the summer melting exceeded the 1981–2010 average in all five years from 2011 to 2015.

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