Scientists have found a new way to cool down a planet that is getting warmer: lowering the amount of water vapor in the air.

Another type of greenhouse gas is water vapor, which is mostly found in the atmosphere and makes the greenhouse effect stronger.

new way to cool down a planet that is getting warmer

As a key amplifier that makes the warming of our world stronger, water vapor is a powerful part of the Earth’s greenhouse effect. NASA says that without greenhouse gases, the Earth’s surface would be about 33 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer. The greenhouse effect is a natural process that helps keep the temperature of Earth where living things can survive. But over the past few years, the surface temperature has been going up because people are doing things like burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees, which is called global warming. Scientists have now found a new way to cool down a planet that is getting too hot: they can lower the amount of water vapor in the air.

As per a study published in Science Advances, scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) want to add ice to the upper atmosphere to make the water vapor there a bit drier. This might help counteract some of the warming that humans have caused.

New to what some scientists are calling a “last-ditch toolbox” of ways to deal with climate change by changing the world’s oceans or atmosphere is the thought of drying out the upper atmosphere. It’s called geoengineering, and it’s generally not supported because it might have negative effects. It’s also not talked about as an alternative to lowering carbon emissions, but along with them.

We might not even be able to do this right now. “We want to find out what research topics would be useful in the future and think about what might be possible,” said Joshua Schwarz, the lead author of the study and a scientist at NOAA.

The Scheme

Scientists who study climate change are planning to use high-tech planes to drop ice particles about 11 miles (17 km) above the Earth’s surface, just below the stratosphere, which is where the air slowly rises. Then, the cold air and ice rise to where it’s coldest. This makes the water vapor freeze and fall, drying out the atmosphere.

new way to cool down a planet that is getting warmer

What good does that do?

Injecting two tons a week would be the most it could do. That amount of water vapor could possibly be taken out to lower warmth by a small amount, about five percent of the total warming caused by carbon from burning fossil fuels. The study did say, though, that it wasn’t much and shouldn’t be used instead of lowering smog.

Other scientists said that the trouble is that the team doesn’t know what side effects might happen.

Changling Earth’s atmosphere on purpose to stop climate change is likely to lead to a lot of new problems, according to Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria who wasn’t involved in the study. He said that this makes sense from an engineering point of view, but he compared it to a children’s story about a king who loves cheese and is swarmed by mice. The king gets cats to kill the mice, dogs to scare off the dogs, lions to kill the lions, and then goes back to the mice to scare off the elephants.

How Does Water Vapor Keep Heat In?

Water vapor is also a greenhouse gas, and it is most common in the atmosphere. However, NASA says that it is not the main cause of Earth’s warming right now. This is a result of it, not the cause.

The space agency talked about how water vapor makes the heat from gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane even worse.

new way to cool down a planet that is getting warmer
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If the amounts of methane and CO2 in the air rise, more water vapor is made because more water evaporates. The amount of water vapor in hot air goes up because it holds more water. NASA said this happens because during warmer temperatures, water vapor does not easily collect and fall to the ground from the air.

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