Plans for the first ever geoengineering experiment of the atmosphere will begin next year, and could help scientists beat global warming. The test from Harvard University will see a balloon launched 12 miles above Earth in a layer of the atmosphere known as the stratosphere. Once there, the balloon will release tiny chalk particles across a kilometre long area which will hopefully reflect the sun’s rays away from Earth.
The researchers hope to mimic a small scale the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991.
That eruption released 20 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere which ultimately cooled the globe for 18 months.
If the Harvard mission is successful, it would prevent solar energy from adding to the heating globe which will eventually reduce climate change.
The project is known as the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx) and will cost $3million (£2,346,600).
SCoPEx explained on its website: “SCoPEx will address questions about how particles interact with one another, with the background stratospheric air, and with solar and infrared radiation.
“Improved understanding of these processes will help answer applied questions such as, is it possible to find aerosols that can reduce or eliminate ozone loss or stratospheric heating, without increasing other physical risks?”
There has been some opposition to the idea of geoengineering the atmosphere.
For example, there are fears that it could have a negative effect on crop growth, while other say it does not solve the problem of reducing fossil fuel emissions.
Team member and experimental physicist Professor David Keith, however, say that the positives massively outweigh the negatives.
He told Nature: “Despite all of the concerns, we can’t find any areas that would be definitely worse off.
“If solar geoengineering is as good as what is shown in these models, it would be crazy not to take it seriously.”