World War II-era ship docked in Alameda testing tool to combat global warming

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Tests on the USS Hornet will see if salt water particles can increase cloud reflectivity.

Dr. Rob Wood on the flight deck of the USS Hornet Museum with a Cloud Aerosol Research Instrument on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, in Alameda, Calif The flight deck of a decommissioned World War II-era aircraft carrier docked at Alameda has recently begun launching something other than airplanes: microscopic droplets of salt water that scientists hope will help counteract the effects of climate change.

The Marine Cloud Brightening Program has taken up residence on the USS Hornet, where scientists will spend the next several months testing equipment and creating computer models to find out if their lab results can be replicated in real atmospheric conditions. At the program’s official launch on Wednesday, scientists from around the world gathered to discuss the new technology and see the testing setup.

Cloud Aerosol Research Instrument on the flight deck of the USS Hornet Museum on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, in Alameda, Calif After being launched from nozzles in a spinning, fan-like machine, the spray of salt water—in which the droplets are broken down into tiny molecules only 1/1000th the width of a human hair — diffuses through the air and into the clouds, where it replicates the reflective effect of natural aerosols. Scientists theorize that with this increased reflectivity, clouds can block excess heat from making it to Earth’s surface and contributing to global warming.

Scientists plan to launch the molecules over open ocean, and working on the Hornet — specifically in the morning — allows them to match those atmospheric conditions, such as 70-80% humidity, Wood said. Higher humidity makes it more likely the salt water droplets will remain in liquid form instead of drying into salt crystals, which may interact differently with each other, he added.


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