Guest essay by Eric Worrall
h/t JoNova – just in case you thought the climate community had run out of absurd ideas to waste taxpayer’s money, here is an academic plan to rebuild Arctic ice, by deploying 100 million wind turbines into the Arctic Ocean.
Save the Arctic with $5 trillion of floating, wind-powered ice machines, researchers recommend
Tristin Hopper | February 16, 2017 | Last Updated: Feb 17 9:34 AM ET
With the Arctic warming faster than anywhere else on Earth, a new scientific paper is proposing a radical scheme to thicken the ice cap: millions upon millions of autonomous ice machines.
Specifically, between 10 and 100 million floating, wind-powered pumps designed to spray water over sea ice during the winter.
“These are expensive propositions, but within the means of governments to carry out on a scale comparable to the Manhattan Project,” reads the paper published in the Jan. 24 edition of Earth’s Future, a journal published by the American Geophysical Union.
The plan would be one of the most expensive single projects in world history, an endeavour on the scale of the International Space Station, the entire U.S. auto industry or a major world conflict such as the Iraq War.
In the most ambitious version of the plan, 100 million devices would be deployed across the Arctic.
Nevertheless, given the end goal, the researchers from Arizona State University call the cost “economically achievable” and the environmental impact “negligible.”
However, they also costed a scaled-down, $500-billion plan that would deploy ice machines to only 10 per cent of the Arctic.
“The need is urgent, as the normal cooling effects of summer sea ice are already lessened and may disappear in less than two decades,” reads the paper.
The fleet of ice machines would be designed to add an extra metre of sea ice to the Arctic every winter.
The report contains no specific designs on the water pump, but described it as wind turbine and tank assembly mounted atop a buoy.
The abstract of the referenced study;
Earth’s Future Arctic ice management
Steven J. Desch, Nathan Smith, Christopher Groppi, Perry Vargas, Rebecca Jackson,Anusha Kalyaan, Peter Nguyen, Luke Probst, Mark E. Rubin, Heather Singleton, Alexander Spacek, Amanda Truitt,PyePyeZaw, and Hilairy E. Hartnett
As the Earth’s climate has changed, Arctic sea ice extent has decreased drastically. It is likely that the late-summer Arctic will be ice-free as soon as the 2030s. This loss of sea ice represents one of the most severe positive feedbacks in the climate system, as sunlight that would otherwise be reﬂected bysea ice is absorbed by open ocean. It is unlikely that CO2 levels and mean temperatures can be decreased in time to prevent this loss, so restoring sea ice artiﬁcially is an imperative. Here we investigate a means for enhancing Arctic sea ice production by using wind power during the Arctic winter to pump water to the surface, where it will freeze more rapidly. We show that where appropriate devices are employed, it is possible to increase ice thickness above natural levels, by about 1m over the course of the winter. We examine the eﬀects this has in the Arctic climate, concluding that deployment over 10% of the Arctic, especially where ice survival is marginal, could more than reverse current trends of ice loss in the Arctic, using existing industrial capacity. We propose that winter ice thickening by wind-powered pumps be considered and assessed as part of a multipronged strategy for restoring sea ice and arresting the strongest feedbacks in the climate system.
The whole idea is absurd, but even if we accept that for whatever reason it one day becomes necessary to pump water on to sea ice on that scale, it would be much easier to use nuclear power than wind power.
The energy budget mentioned in sections 1.3 of the study is 1300GW of power, 7% of the current global energy budget. The largest nuclear reactors currently in use produce around 8GW of power. If you assume $5 billion per reactor construction cost (think mass production), the total construction bill would be $800 billion – well short of the $5 trillion estimated by the study.
In addition, nuclear plants would be less likely to ice up, like the turbine in the picture above.
I’m not even going to consider the prohibitive cost of maintaining all those wind turbines in the harsh, unforgiving arctic environment.