Rebuild the Glaciers

In December of 2015, a large solar flare struck the arctic. I warned that this inflow of hot, ionized gas would have a huge negative impact upon the arctic: the ‘cold cap’ of air high above the arctic would be warmed, and the polar vortex would weaken. I predicted that the breakdown of the polar vortex would send waves of cold, ionized air down to the states; around the Hudson and Great Lakes, residents would be exposed to icy snowstorms which simultaneously displayed lightning. At the same time, this movement of cold air toward the temperate zone would be accompanied by globs of warm air moving north, which would accelerate arctic melt. Within a few weeks of my prediction, there was ‘thunder-snow’ across the Great Lakes region.

I supposed, back then, that the polar vortex would be unable to recover. Continued waves of cold from the north would displace the jet stream, and this would make hurricanes and major flood disasters more likely. While the weather channels estimated that we would have a ‘normal’ year, I warned friends and family from Texas to Florida to be ready. Unprecedented floods did arrive, as I predicted, and hurricane Matthew was the closer to the season.

It will get worse:

I also estimated, back in January 2016, that 2017 would not be as bad: the poles take turns being warmer and colder, and the arctic would have a year in reprieve. However, the additional melt from the solar flare would allow the waters of the arctic to warm — sunlight which was normally reflected by snow and ice would instead be absorbed by the open seas. 2018, when the polar oscillation returned, would be particularly bad.

I began drafting a plan to rebuild the glaciers and sea ice. You can see the illustrations of my plan, from spring of 2016, here, and here.(Many months later, a physicist in Arizona, Steve Desch, promoted a similar plan, which has garnered a lot of press, yet fails to identify the strong constraints on design which I outlined first… and he doesn’t have fancy illustrations by Liz Ray!)

How to Fix It:

Arctic waters must be re-frozen, quickly. The problem with re-freezing is that the ice acts as an insulating blanket, keeping the water from cooling. Arctic air is MUCH colder than the ice, and would be able to freeze surface waters rapidly, if that water was pumped up into the air.

I offered that we spray arctic waters into the air, and let those tiny droplets freeze by radiating heat into space (as infrared, or heat-radiation). This is superior to the pump-into-pond method offered by the Arizona team.

The water droplets, freezing in the air, would be allowed to fall back onto the ocean surface. There, they would melt, but they would also dramatically cool the surrounding water, forming a thick ‘slushy’ as surface waters approached the freezing point.

I stipulated that, without additional effort, this would be insufficient. We would also need a net, supported by buoys, which would roll that slushy-ice to shore, where it could be gathered and stored on land. (See illustrations at bottom of article) These ‘ice-logs’ would be a reserve of cold that would help maintain lower temperatures during the summer months, and assist in cooling and re-freezing in the winter.

Wouldn’t that be costly?

No. Again, my plan differs from the one proposed by the Arizona team: beneath the ice-catching net, a tarp captures the brine which descends when ice forms. This brine can be pumped to shore, sprayed into the air to freeze, and fall into ponds. A process of re-freezing and separation allows for the extraction of brine salts — potassium, magnesium, and lithium, in particular. Brine-freezing is already a source of these salts, and the design I proposed would allow a vast increase in salt production.

These salts have various industrial uses, and lithium in particular is essential for the battery systems used by green energy technologies. Moreover, the other salts have been observed to operate as batteries, though at a lower efficiency. I offered that these salts could be stored on-site, and would hold solar power that was collected by large, inflatable solar-thermal trough-collectors.

So, the entire operation would run on solar power collected by inflated troughs, and that solar energy would be stored in brine-batteries. The area collecting solar energy would also be protecting ice from that sunlight, allowing for additional cooling. The near-constant 10mph winds of the arctic would freeze brine-pools and open waters, generating ice and more brine. And the salts with industrial markets would pay for the entire operation.

Here are those visuals by Liz that I mentioned:

So, rather than pump sea water on top of the ice, as proposed by Steve Desch’s team from Arizona, we could extract valuable commodities which would pay for the entire operation, and build a reserve of ice faster, using this technique. The only problem is: we need to start immediately, before there isn’t any ice to save!