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Marine Cloud Brightening (MCB)

  • Context (TH): Marine cloud brightening (MCB) is a geoengineering technique that produces brighter and whiter low marine clouds.
  • Such clouds reflect sunlight away from the ocean’s surface and protect corals from bleaching.

How is a Cloud Brightened?

  • A warm cloud (as opposed to an ice cloud) is a collection of small water droplets floating in the air.
  • A cloud with numerous small droplets appears brighter than one with fewer large droplets, regardless of their total water content.
  • Each droplet is formed by condensation of water vapour around a nucleus.
  • The nucleus can be any tiny particle suspended in air.
  • In the lower atmosphere, there are thousands of tiny airborne particles called “aerosols”.
  • In very clean maritime air, aerosols available are mainly sulphates and sea salt crystals.
  • They are generally fewer in number, resulting in the formation of clouds with large droplets.
  • So, to boost marine aerosols, large volumes of tiny seawater droplets are sprayed into the air.
  • As the tiny seawater droplets evaporate, they leave behind sea salt. These additional sea salts, when incorporated into a cloud, brighten the cloud.
  • Aerosols can be:
    • Natural such as dust, sea salt, pollen, ash, and sulphates
    • Human-made such as from burning fossil fuels or vegetation, vehicle exhaust, & aerosol spray cans.

Benefits of Marine Cloud Brightening

Concerns with Marine Cloud Brightening

  • Alters precipitation patterns and weather systems.
  • Unintended consequences for ecosystems and human health.

For More Information on Coral Bleaching, refer to PMF IAS Environment 2nd Edition

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