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Surprising Science

Big Balloon to Cool Earth

British scientists hope to use a huge balloon and hosepipe to shoot particles into the atmosphere–like an erupting volcano–and cool down Earth. A prototype is ready to try.

What’s the Latest Development?


Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption in the Philippines in 1991 led to the Earth cooling slightly for two years. Now British scientists are preparing to trial a potential solution to global warming that mimics the effect. This geo-engineering involves using an ordinary hosepipe and a football stadium-sized helium balloon, tethered to a ship, to shoot particles into the atmosphere—like an erupting volcano—and cool down Earth.

What’s the Big Idea?

A prototype balloon has been built and will be hoisted into the air next month from a disused airfield in Norfolk. The idea is that millions of tiny chemical particles will act as a mirror and reflect the Sun’s rays to stop the planet heating up. Scientists at Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Edinburgh Universities say that just ten balloons could achieve a drop in global temperature in two years.


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