Artificial cooling could do more harm than good, study reports

A group of researchers have found that proposed plans to cool the Earth and fight global warming could actually spark more severe weather patterns in certain parts of the world.

Stacey Carter | Oct 30, 2019

New proposals to artificially cool the world and reduce the effects of global warming could have devastating effects on global regions that are particularly prone to either strong storms or prolonged drought, a new study in Nature Communications reports.

Geoegineering -- which is the intentional manipulation of the climate to counter the effect of global warming -- has been claimed by some as a possible way to deal with growing climate change.However, researchers from the University of Exeter found that targeting geoengineering in one hemisphere could lead to big problems in the other.

The new study suggests that, while injecting aerosols into the northern hemisphere would reduce tropical cyclone activity, it would also lead to an increased likelihood for drought in the Sahel -- the area of sub-Saharan Africa just south of the Sahara desert.

"(There is) this dichotomy where doing geoengineering in the north would benefit the U.S. but it would be disastrous for Africa," lead author Anthony Jones, a climate science expert from the University of Exeter, toldNewsweek. "Three of the four years with the worst drought in Africa were immediately preceded by volcanic eruptions in the Northern Hemisphere. So we see this effect from observations as well."

The research looks at many different impacts that could come from solar geoengineering methods, but they specifically focus on how such process could affect the frequency of tropical cyclones

In the study, the team used sophisticated simulations in conjunction with atmosphere-ocean models to investigate the effect of hemispheric stratospheric aerosol injection on North Atlantic tropical cyclone frequency. This revealed that aerosols in the northern hemisphere would decrease North Atlantic tropical cyclone frequency, but injections contained to the southern hemisphere could potentially enhance it.

As a result, the scientists have called on policymakers around the world to strictly regulate any future geoengineering. This could help prevent man-created natural disasters and protect parts of the world that would be susceptible to such problems.

"Our results confirm that regional solar geoengineering is a highly risky strategy which could simultaneously benefit one region to the detriment of another," added Jones, according to Phys.org. "It is vital that policymakers take solar geoengineering seriously and act swiftly to install effective regulation."

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