Flutterby™! : 100 tonnes of iron sulphate

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100 tonnes of iron sulphate

2012-10-16 17:11:32.76528+00 by Dan Lyke 6 comments

A massive and illegal geoengineering project has been detected off Canada’s west coast.

I'm getting kind of a Lex Luthor supervillain feel off this: This is what happens when someone aware of only a few of the issues goes off and does some giant project to change the world forever.

While everyone else is afraid of bad guys with suitcase nukes, we've got people who think they're going to be heroes massively mucking about with poorly understood ecosystems.

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comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2012-10-26 21:03:08.021849+00 by: Dan Lyke

Scientific American article on the incident: Can Controversial Ocean Iron Fertilization Save Salmon?, and Interview with Russ George.

#Comment Re: made: 2012-10-19 15:26:21.780396+00 by: Dan Lyke

So apparently this was tried back in 2009, and didn't work. The press release Lohafex provides new insights on plankton ecology - Only small amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide fixed says:

The Indo-German team of scientists from the National Institute of Oceaonography and the Alfred Wegener Institute has returned from its expedition on research vessel Polarstern. The cooperative project Lohafex has yielded new insights on how ocean ecosystems function. But it has dampened hopes on the potential of the Southern Ocean to sequester significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and thus mitigate global warming. On 17 March the scientists reached Punta Arenas, Chile, together with colleagues from five other countries. They carried out an ocean iron fertilization experiment in the south-western Atlantic for arduous two and a half months in the notorious Roaring Forties. The scientists fertilized a 300 square kilometre patch of ocean inside the core of an eddy (a clockwise rotating water column with an area of about 10,000 square kilometres) with six tonnes of dissolved iron. They followed the effects of the fertilization on the plankton continuously for 39 days. Additionally they investigated ocean chemistry, particularly concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

And BBC News: Setback for climate technical fix suggests that this just worked its way up the food chain:

But within two weeks, the algae were being eaten by tiny creatures called copepods, which were then in turn eaten by amphipods, a larger type of crustacean.

The net result was that far less carbon dioxide was absorbed and sent to the sea floor than scientists had anticipated.

Over on JWZ's blog mention of the mad science aspects of this, commenter "James" points to the U.S. Navy looking to plankton for a carbon-neutral fuel source, but that page is loading slowly for me right now.

#Comment Re: made: 2012-10-17 14:52:35.011142+00 by: petronius

This is hilarious. Indian tribes, traditional holy guardians of the Earth Mother help out a guy trying to game the carbon credit racket. It reminds me a bit of rogue lobbyist Jack Amromov, who's main crime seems to have been pitting 2 tribes trying to set up gambling casinos against each other.

#Comment Re: made: 2012-10-17 00:31:19.880459+00 by: TheSHAD0W

Bah. Gotta disagree.

The experiment was less "massive" than described. Note the map on the page. It's a relatively small piece of the ocean.

My question is, how well are they following up on the experiment? Are they measuring plankton, oxygen, carbon dioxide levels, at various depths? Are they monitoring fish populations?

I'm less enthused about this project generating carbon credits than it potentially increasing biological yield up the chain. We're doing a good job of fishing the oceans dry, and this may wind up being a good way to balance things out. The only alternative, restricting fishing, is both difficult to enforce and likely to cause global nutritional problems.

#Comment Re: made: 2012-10-16 23:43:11.14467+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think the primary concern is that the resulting algae bloom is likely to suck a lot of oxygen out of the water, and then the falling detritus is likely to kill a lot of the ecosystem at lower depths.

Yeah, there are good ways to biologically sequester carbon. This is likely not one of them.

#Comment Re: made: 2012-10-16 23:27:04.272823+00 by: m

Something tells me this will not turn out well. Iron is rather toxic. At the more dilute edges it is a growth limiting factor. So it will both kill many organisms, and cause blooms that will themselves upset the environment. Idiots acting rashly, not unlike a three year old with a loaded gun. I suspect the proverbial two year old may not have the strength to pull the trigger.