Discussion: View Thread

  • 1.  Mitigation of Climate Change

    Posted 10-09-2021 11:52 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 10-09-2021 11:53 AM
    I recently read an article from the Washington Post which contained the following excerpt:

    "Climate scientist Jason Box has proposed covering Greenland's glaciers with white blankets to reflect sunlight, keeping the ice frozen. In a documentary for Discovery UK, Box and colleagues demonstrated the concept by unrolling a special white polypropylene blanket over about two and a half acres atop Greenland, totaling 31 rolls. It may sound crazy, but on a much tinier scale, a similar project is saving about 1 percent of the Northern Schneeferner, the largest glacier in Germany. Greenland, however, is 7 million times that glacier in area."

    It made me wonder about the efficacy of using recycled plastic, which is piling up due to lack of appropriate uses, to make up the plastic rolls to cover glaciers. The obstacle might be achieving the appropriate white color to reflect the sunlight. What do members of this group think of this idea?

    Bevin Beaudet P.E., M.ASCE
    Bevin A. Beaudet, P.E., LLC.
    Bethlehem PA

  • 2.  RE: Mitigation of Climate Change

    Posted 10-11-2021 10:39 AM
    There are 3 possible issues with this approach.
    1. Polypropylene is a hydrocarbon product and ironically requires oil extraction and refining to produce.
    2. Blankets like this would have to be UV stabilized.  The best UV stabilizer is carbon black which would absorb solar energy.
    3. If not UV stabilized, the plastic, whether virgin or recycled, would degrade due to solar action, entering the ecosystem and becoming trash, likely blown into the sea where it would cause havoc by choking sealife attempting to eat it or snaring them causing them to drown.

    Konrad Mech P.Eng
    Director, Sensors and Robotics Channel Management
    Kongsberg Maritime AS
    Port Coquitlam BC

  • 3.  RE: Mitigation of Climate Change

    Posted 12-20-2021 03:41 PM
    Here's a 4th issue - why would a white blanket be better than the glacier itself (is it blue and therefore absorbs radiation?) Are there sensitive real-time, measuring techniques that can show whether the blanket is effective?

    Sarah Simon P.E., ENV SP, M.ASCE
    Founding Partner
    Ipswich MA

  • 4.  RE: Mitigation of Climate Change

    Posted 10-11-2021 10:39 AM
    Dear Bevin, as I was reading your article, I had the same thought about plastic. Wouldn't it be wonderful to harvest the plastic from the ocean gyres to make blankets?! Therese Baer, P.E.

    Therese Baer P.E., M.ASCE
    Baer Engineering & Environmental Consulting, Inc.
    Austin TX

  • 5.  RE: Mitigation of Climate Change

    Posted 10-12-2021 07:48 AM

    I think we should layout the various alternatives, determine the extraneous constraints & consequences and t select that ones that give us the biggest bang for the buck. 

    This is the standard approach to engineering problems. 

    in this case what are you going to do the covering deteriorates and the wind tears it up and blows it into the ocean. 

    its ok to come up with ideas. Just make the decisions logically, considering all the possible consequences over the lifetime of the improvement. 

    Anthony Lusich P.E., F.ASCE
    Engineering Manager
    Bakersfield CA

  • 6.  RE: Mitigation of Climate Change

    Posted 10-13-2021 02:55 PM

    The idea is very simple in concept – but no doubt daringly novel. Hope it will work, although as far as the material is concerned, the efficacy of polypropylene with other reinforcements was questioned (e.g. by Konrad Mech). But seems to be working on a small scale in Germany (As Bevin pointed out)!

    From the energy balance perspective, I wonder how energy transferred (one way – hot to cold according to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics) from the boundaries of the covered glacier is addressed. These boundaries are: (1) the uncovered adjacent sides of grounds/glaciers, and (2) perhaps even the bottom that may be connected to open warm water. Are these boundary effects found negligible to justify the undertaking? In addition, one may wonder how much energy is predicted to be reflected as opposed to the expected absorption/retention of some.





    Google Scholar

    Dr. Dilip Barua, Ph.D, P.Eng, M. ASCE
    Vancouver, BC, Canada

  • 7.  RE: Mitigation of Climate Change

    Posted 10-14-2021 11:08 AM
    This may be a solution, but I think it's needs to be put into a more robust decision framework including clarity on the problem being solved and alternatives. It also calls for deep issue raising and evaluation across both the full range of issue space including technical, operational, environmental, economic and political. My gut feeling is that the law of unintended consequences will overwhelm and destroy any possible value. I also think of practical considerations. The areal extent to be covered  is overwhelming. It's analogous to trying to clean up the plastic garbage in the oceans.

    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX

  • 8.  RE: Mitigation of Climate Change

    Posted 10-14-2021 06:29 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 10-14-2021 06:28 PM
    And, yet, engineers continue to work on ways to clean up the ocean gyres.
    In days gone by, no one thought going to the Moon, let alone Mars, would ever be possible. Decades later, who would have thought a palm-sized electronic device would hold more power than the supercomputer at Rice University that put the first men on the Moon?
    Never say never...especially to an engineer. ��
    Therese Baer, PE