Atmospheric control may not have been mastered quite as singularly as we once thought as a new mathematical model of the clouds over the planet Venus has been announced to bring forth the incredible tide of complex calculations that now exist over our own planet. Is Earth doomed to a similar sulfuric apocalypse? Or will we be able to pinpoint the exact chemical exchange that takes place on Venus in order to avoid a similar cloudy future?
As NASA scientists probed Venus’ atmosphere and discovered trace amounts of sulfur still hidden in a thick layer of cloud some 20 kilometers above the surface, it became immediately clear that something was amiss. Prior to the discovery an emergency method of climate control had been proposed that may in fact prove to be far less effective than we once thought.
In 1991, millions of miles away, on mount Pinatubo in the Philippines something was amiss. The massive volcano was about to erupt and send more ash and material into the sky than had been expected. Meanwhile, atmospheric sensors around the planet were transmitting changes in global temperature to various processing stations manned by scientists projecting a grim future of gradual increasing temperatures. And then something incredible happened. After Pinatubo erupted, the ensuing cloud of ash and Sulphur dioxide blanketed the Earth, shrouding it and reflecting a large portion of the sun’s thermal rays away from it. As scientists around the globe watched, they were shocked. The once rising temperature of Earth showed a marked decrease by this relatively simple -although extremely violent- act of nature. It seemed, after so many years, that the human race finally had a plan to combat global warming.
But then in 2008 something went wrong. The planet Venus was discovered to have trace amounts of Sulphur dioxide in its atmosphere. As scientists scrambled to explain this presence, the data was suspected to be quite possibly wrong. And yet there it was, each time they checked the surface. So now, California Institute of Technology’s Xi Zhang has come forward with computer simulation that explains this process. And it doesn’t look good. If we were to inject the massive amounts of Sulfur Dioxide into the atmosphere, it may actually remain up there for far longer than we anticipated, and in effect cause more problems than were previously suspected. For now, the Global Warming failsafe plan is on hold.
Of course geo-engineering is a relatively new science. To call it a science even now is a bit premature as there is only one experimental model we can currently feasibly work on: Earth. And if anything were to go wrong with this planet, it would be fairly difficult to correct. Still, scientists will have to remain enthusiastic about any potential methods of delivery to save the Earth from a Venus-like future. In the mean time, we can only hope discoveries like this come in time to prevent any premature experiments getting out of control.