Innovations That Matter

The Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its third coral bleaching event in five years | Photo source Daniel Pelaez Duque on Unsplash

First-ever cloud-brightening trial over Great Barrier Reef

Science

Reflecting some of the Sun’s energy away from the Great Barrier Reef could help alleviate the impact of ocean warming on corals

Spotted: A team of researchers at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and Southern Cross University have carried out a cloud-brightening trial, to see whether reflecting some of the Sun’s energy away could help alleviate the impact of ocean warming on corals.

A recent study has revealed that the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its third coral bleaching event in five years, which has come as a surprise given that this should have been a non-El Nino, non-bleaching year. The current episode is more severe and widespread than the previous two in 2016 and 2017.

The type of cloud-seeding technology trialled by the researchers involves spraying microscopic seawater droplets into the air,  which act as seeds onto which the water vapour can cling, becoming droplets and forming brighter, more reflective clouds.

“Cloud brightening could potentially protect the entire Great Barrier Reef from coral bleaching in a relatively cost-effective way, buying precious time for longer-term climate change mitigation to lower the stress on this irreplaceable ecosystem,” said Southern Cross University Senior Lecturer Dr Daniel Harrison. 

Whilst the team believe that the technology’s potential is as bright as its effects, they will spend four years assessing possible various environmental impacts, including whether or not it could change rainfall patterns around the world.

Explore more: Science Innovations | Sustainability Innovations

Email: Daniel.Harrison@scu.edu.au

Website: scu.edu.au

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