These clouds could have a silver lining for barrier reef
SCIENTISTS are looking at turning clouds into the personal shade cloth for coral on the Great Barrier Reef in a bid to halt coral bleaching.
The process, called "cloud brightening" involves spraying microscopic sea water droplets into the air, which then evaporate leaving just nano-sized sea salt crystals which act as seeds for cloud droplets.
Researchers from Southern Cross University's National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour have teamed up with the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS), the University of Sydney and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to test prototype equipment developed in partnership with EmiControls of Italy.
Project leader and Southern Cross University senior lecturer, Dr Daniel Harrison, said the process was completely different to cloud seeding which uses silver iodide and aims to target a type of cloud with a lot of moisture in it.
By contrast, this process uses seawater and no chemicals and essentially is "brightening the clouds" to refract sunlight thereby shading the coral and lowering the water temperature.
He said while technically it is possible to build a shade cloth over different sections of coral, this process would ultimately allow them to target an area the size of Italy.
Dr Harrison said it was "mind-boggling" to scale up the process from the lab which would see 100 trillion droplets per second sent into the air which would increase the atmospheric nuclei.
He said part of the reason for the low nuclei concentration was the air coming in from deep in the south of the Pacific Ocean, which has some of the lowest concentration of nuclei in the world and ultimately coincides perfectly to test the project on the reef.
"We were amazed to see that the numbers of natural atmospheric nuclei were far lower than even I had suspected," Dr Harrison said.
Future trials will be funded through the Federal Government's $150m Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program Research and Development phase announced on Thursday.