back to article Bill Gates chucks cash at climate cooling cloud creator

Boffins want to curb climate change by building a $7bn fleet of 1,900 ships to crisscross the oceans as each sucks up ten tons of seawater per second and blasts it a kilometer into the sky to create clouds to absorb sunlight and cool the earth. And Bill Gates is funding them. No, really. The Times Online reports that a San …


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  1. Albert Gonzalez

    Solar powered of course

    The ships will be solar powered, as to stop automatically functioning when there are enough clouds.

    On the other side, i don't like a bit the idea of pumping NaCl to the sky.

    Salted farm fileds ?

  2. Trevor Pott o_O Gold badge

    Alternate effects?

    Wouldn't this alter global rain patterns? If so, I wonder by how much.

  3. Bruce Hoult

    cheap at ten times the price

    3.5m a ship is pretty cheap.

    More to the point, the total cost is hugely cheap -- far far less that the world is poised to spend on carbon credits.

    Will it work? I don't know if it would be enough, but it clearly ties in with all the research that says clouds cool the earth.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    "to create clouds to absorb sunlight and cool the earth"

    man made climate change right there.. did you see it?

    "Neukermanns didn't mention whether the ships would be diesel-powered."

    defiantly not solar powered... perhaps nuclear powered?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    reality check

    10 tons per second * 1 km high = about 100 Megawatts of output power

    That will reduce CO2 emissions, then...

  6. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    PerlyGatesPython Power Flowers

    "Neukermanns didn't mention whether the ships would be diesel-powered. "

    Why ever not Astute NEUKlearer Powered and Protected for Secured Windows 7 Master Control?

    amfM makes Microsoft an Offer .... which is not presently a Hostile Advanced Probe of Core Drivers for Source/Ore/Lode/SMART Nodes/Virtual Gene Machines for Human Robots.

    With Core Driver CodeXSSXXXXPosed is any Operating System Overtaken by Events which were earlier Unimagined or Dismissed.

  7. Tom Adair

    Not thought through

    I guess they didn't read the bit in their Dummies Guide to Climate Engineering about water actually being a greenhouse gas, so if you're increasing the amount of water vapour at lower altitudes, some will be forced up to higher altitudes where its less humid simply by natural equilibriums, and at these higher altitudes it will keep more heat inside the atmosphere.

    Then there's the weather influences these actions will have, the most obvious detrimental effect would be flooding, perhaps even flash floods, and the legal repercussions of this once the damage is determined to be from a cloud formed by these machines. There's also the question of how much impact this will have on regional and global climate processes over the short term, will it affect crop growing seasons, will the increased cloud cause rain to fall before it reaches areas it used to reach, thus creating new arid regions.

    IMO this seems as badly thought out as the idea several years ago of just dumping millions of tons of iron dust into the oceans to encourage algal blooms (consuming CO2, but using up nutrients and killing whole areas of the ocean ecosystem). Natural systems operate in a fine balance, they can counteract or stabilise changes over a long period (hence past climate change), but its far better for us to reduce our impact on the climate than to try and tinker with these systems even more in the hope that we fix something, and can carry on polluting without a care.

    1. strum

      Not thought at all

      Er. Water vapour isn't the same thing as water clouds. Clouds keep out the sun, water vapour keeps in the heat.

  8. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    If they make all these new clouds...

    ...where does the water come down? Can countries sue them if there are damaging flash-floods?

    ...does it affect the heating of the oceans? If so, how does that affect occean currents? Will the gulf-stream switch-off?

    Oh and hate to be a pedant, but I think they want to couds to reflect the sunlight away from Earth, not absorb it (which would heat the Earth more).

  9. vandenbudenmayer


    One could argue that adding more water vapour to the atmosphere would increase the greenhouse effect, since the most abundant greenhouse gas is... water vapour

    And when I read the name Neukermanns, I thought 'nomen est omen', but that's because I speak Dutch, hahahaha.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Saucy Source

      "And when I read the name Neukermanns, I thought 'nomen est omen', but that's because I speak Dutch, hahahaha." .... vandenbudenmayer Posted Tuesday 11th May 2010 09:43 GMT

      You should also have enjoyed "PerlyGatesPython Power Flowers" then, vandenbudenmayer

  10. lglethal Silver badge
    Gates Horns

    Brilliant idea

    Lets perform an action whose consequences globally we cant even begin to predict and which could potenitally effect the entire planets weather system.

    Somehow i knew Bill Gates would eventually try and take over the world, but using weather control technology is so 1960's! He must be laughing all the way to his secret volcanic island base...

  11. Chemist

    "create clouds to absorb sunlight"

    Reflect sunlight I think

  12. The BigYin


    And in 50-odd years the headlines will read "Turn everything on! Heat the planet before we all freeze to death!"

    This idea is, of course, is nothing more than a salve to the American conscience. Something to make the Yanks think it is still A-OK to drive their 5-litre behemoth the 250 metres to the gym every other day. Because, yea, there is a ship at sea "off-setting" all that "heat".

    Why not just blast a giant filter into space, place it between us and the sun. You could even make the opacity controllable. Heck, I am sure a clever person could even use it to write messages "Today brought to you by XYX Ltd. Yes, we commoditised the sun".

    Either way, it amounts to the same thing. The Yanks can keep chugging that oil down (until the local supply runs low, then it's just a few wars to secure more) and do the square root of feck all to actually help the situation. Same holds true for China, S.Korea etc and will hold true for India et al.

    Unless a politician can see a way of getting a tax from it, they don't care. In Europe we have the taxes, but they don't go to investment in viable renewables or anything. Nope, it's there to subsidise the champagne. You can tell that because the idiots still can't make up their mind where to have the EU parliament. If they really did see global warming (or whatever they call it this week) as a threat they would stay put in ONE building. And not a new one at that. Something recycled.

    I suggest Sealand.

    Then we can torpedo it and be done with the entire horde of parasites.

    [Note to the CPS: The last line is not to be taken as a serious threat to torpedo Sealand or any other [ex-]military structure. Nor is is to be taken as a serious threat to attack MEPs or any of their unelected and secret committees. It is meant in as a satirical (well, OK, sarcastic) statement and a point of discussion, nothing more.]

  13. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Long range weather forecast

    Rain, rain rain and cloudy weather.

    So not much change there. Although I'm not clear what or who gives this guy the right to turn off the sunshine for the whole planet. Maybe he should try it out near the shores of California and Florida first, see how the people who caused most of this problem like it when their holidays get clouded over.

  14. moonface

    Ridiculous expenditure!!

    Might as well buy a whole load of white elephants. At least it's a proven system of squirting water.

  15. Ivan Slavkov

    A truck of fertilisier on a glacier in Iceland is cheaper.

    A truck of fertiliser in a suitable location on Iceland every couple of weeks or so. Meltwater entering the crater. A bit of woof, a bit of ash, a bit of ash-based cooling. Voila, job done.

    As far as the plane industry they can happily switch to building diesel powered ground effect craft. Or diesel powered blimps.

    I am not being flippant by the way. Economically and environmentally the combination of both will deliver both the required travel (who cares if it takes 16h to get to NYC instead of 5, your day is screwed anyway) and environmental effect. At a fraction of the cost.

    The problem is that the "murder everyone from above" AKA "aviation industry" lobby has continued to have lots of undue influence since the days of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki and air transportation tech that does not have double use for mass murder is continuously being sidelined by all parties involved.

  16. QQ

    Use brains

    Do these people actually use their brains?

    Do they know that our only way to turn CO2 back into oil-gas-coal etc… is by photosynthesis and that therefore more clouds=less sun=bad?

    Do they know that water vapour is one of the worst greenhouse gas ? the fact that clouds reflects light DOESN'T compensate for the increased greenhouse effect.

    If billionnaires continue to think having money makes them smart, our planet will soon look like Venus…

    Here are a few quotes from wikipedia (yeah...yeah...) about Venus :


    Studies have suggested that several billion years ago Venus's atmosphere was much more like Earth's than it is now, and that there were probably substantial quantities of liquid water on the surface, but a runaway greenhouse effect was caused by the evaporation of that original water, which generated a critical level of greenhouse gases in its atmosphere.


    These clouds reflect about 60% of the sunlight that falls on them back into space


    Without the greenhouse effect caused by the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the temperature at the surface of Venus would be quite similar to that on Earth.


    The CO2-rich atmosphere, along with thick clouds of sulfur dioxide, generates the strongest greenhouse effect in the Solar System, creating surface temperatures of over 460 °C (860 °F). This makes Venus's surface hotter than Mercury's which has a minimum surface temperature of −220 °C and maximum surface temperature of 420 °C, even though Venus is nearly twice Mercury's distance from the Sun and thus receives only 25% of Mercury's solar irradiance.

    (end of quotes)

    So yeah, creating more clouds is going to have the exact opposite effect of what they want. :/

    1. Eddy Ito

      Re: Use brains

      "... makes Venus's surface hotter than Mercury's... even though Venus is nearly twice Mercury's distance from the Sun and thus receives only 25% of Mercury's solar irradiance."

      Ah, smell that? It's what comes from the south end of a northbound bovine. It is true and anyone who looks it up will be aghast but they probably won't look up the definition of solar irradiance and finds its units, W/m^2. A bit of quick math will show the area of Mercury to be roughly 1/6 that of Venus and carrying that a bit further shows that 4 times the irradiance on 1/6 the area results in 2/3 the power. Could it be that Venus is hotter because it receives more solar energy than Mercury? Flames because somewhere a straw man burning.

      Bring on the thumbs down wiki brigade!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo


    Couldnt they use those huge kite sails and therefore be mostly carbon free??

    Hopefully they wont be sailing these around the shores of the UK it rains enough as it is :(

  18. Steve hardy

    Slight error here I think

    Rik, I think you mean "reflect" instead of "absorb" at the end of the first sentence.


  19. Filippo Silver badge

    not a shabby idea

    It may or may not stop global warming, but if it does anything at all, it'll be a good proof of concept that geoengineering is not just for science fiction any more. Perhaps that can be the starting point for something. It's also easily reversible (just stop doing it, the water will fall down quickly) and unlikely to do anything dramatic anyway, which makes it a very good choice for an experiment that deals with global climate.

  20. Stone Fox

    oh dear.

    I thought all the fuss with climate gate stuff lately had essentially illustrated that we DON'T know what's really going on with the climate, what we have are guesses and theories not facts and rules.

    So now people want to start tampering with the earths albedo levels? This sound marginally less intelligent than the Merkins efforts to 'improve' the ecosystem of yellowstone park by removing the main predators. (wolves)

    And there are no rules to prevent people doing this? I know, I think I'll go see what I can do to create as much micro particulates as possible because I have a theory that global warming will save us from an ice age! Can I legally do this? (not that I'm actually that stupid, just making a point before I get flamed for the micro-particulate thing)

  21. Paul Gannon
    Gates Halo


    What a brilliant idea :)

  22. DJ 2

    Wouldn't that cause more problems

    It's sea water, with salt in it, and they fire that up into the atmosphere, won't the salty clouds rain down and contaminate coastal regions?

    1. Thomas 18
      Thumb Down


      The vast majority of rain comes from evaporated sea water as it is. Salt doesn't evaporate, that's how desalination plants work and why you end up with tide lines on your jacket when you've been sweating a ton.

      Someone didn't study the climate cycle enough during geography!

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Someone didn't read the question

        The natural process is evaporation of sea water (as you correctly surmise), however this system is talking about squirting sea water. I doubt they'll be desalinating it first.

        1. Thomas 18


          "Stephen Salter, Emeritus Professor of Engineering Design at the University of Edinburgh, said that there was no need to wait for regulations because the trials would not add chemicals to the atmosphere"

          So presumably whatever method they use to form the micro droplets (evaporation would be a nice easy one), gets rid of the salt.

  23. JimC
    Thumb Up

    Makes more sense than frigging carbon capture etc...

    If global warming is occuring sufficiently to be dmaging that it doesn't matter a damn whether its man made or not, and the most economical engineering solution should be sought. The doctrinaire stuff about manmade this and trying to reverse CO2 ommissions needs to be junked in favour of the most effective engineering solution...

  24. MostlyHarmless

    Errrm... we've got one already

    There's a system in place which accomplishes far more across every ocean, lake and river, and at zero cost - it's called WIND.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    what about the rain??

    I am the only one who thinks that its cold and wet wnough over here without the need for more artificial clouds.

    Plus the current climate change model needs updating before we know if this action is indeed required.

  26. Thomas 18
    Thumb Up

    7 billion eh

    That's a drop in the ocean... or the sky maybe? Given an aircraft carrier costs ~3 billion.

    And hey theres no reason we can't strap some guns to the front so we can o 2 jobs at once.

  27. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. Tim Jenkins
    Gates Halo

    More IT angle than just Bill G

    The challenge of micron-size droplets

    Ultimately, to counteract the effects of a doubling of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from preindustrial levels... each of the 1,500 ships must do something no one has ever attempted — transform 30 liters of seawater per second into a uniform spray of micron-size droplets... the saltwater droplets sprayed into the atmosphere must be between 0.8 and two microns across. (For reference, two microns is about the size of an Escherichia coli bacterium.)

    "Trying to make these droplets is really the crucial part, and it remains to be seen if it's going to work," says Armand Neukermans, an engineer and serial entrepreneur who is attempting to lead the U.S.-based effort to create a suitable spray system. Neukermans, a veteran of Xerox and Hewlett–Packard, has gathered a team of a dozen engineers who, like him, have expertise in creating micron-size particles for printing and micro-fabrication. The group includes John Vaught, who was the primary inventor of thermal inkjet printing while at HP. Many of the group's members are semi-retired, and all are working on a mostly volunteer basis.

    "We're the plumbers," Neukermans says. "It's an eclectic group."

  29. breakfast Silver badge

    Power etcetera

    If they're going to need a lot of power and potentially heat, could this be combined with the sea-cooled datacentres that Google were talking about a couple of year ago to create true cloud computing?

  30. Anonymous Coward


    When its hot, water evaporates. The planet is ~2/3rds water (by surface), so 2/3rds of the suns rays heat water throughout the day, evaporating it and therefore bringing this water vapour into the sky. (This as a Patent troll, I have the Patent on by the way - just incase any of you lot are about to copy this idea!) So this 'heat' from the Sun should self regulate the entire planet (I also have this Patent!), creating more evaporation, and therefore increasing the reflected rays back into space, thus reducing the global warming.

    Problem is that it does not work. Otherwise global warming would self regulate - though we would just have a more polluted planet, but the same temperature.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      How can you be so sure global warming won't self-regulate?

  31. Valerion

    I think they've already started

    Judging by the look of the sky outside of my window.

  32. Kirstian K
    Thumb Up


    I agree with all the comments about this not seeming to be thought through very well, but as an RnD project, thats the point they will hopefully think this through properly.

    my first thought was also about not needing more clouds in the UK etc, and its all a bit Mr burns, blocking out the sun, but you could also put clouds where you wanted too presumably. so maybe all that un-used desert space / lack of water in the likes of etheopa etc, if we could give them water by tactically creating clouds and cool the planet all in one, in a 'thought through' system, then some RnD is a good thing surely..!

    just imagne, no more live aid concerts, its worth it just for that surely......!

  33. fLaMePrOoF

    It's about time...

    Somebody started exploring real practical solutions to global warming rather than fannying around with carbon emissions policies which are nothing more than ecconomic / limited resource preservation trojan horses.

  34. Brian Miller

    No website for Silver Lining R&D?

    Well, I wanted to see what the firm itself says about its proposal, but I can't find a thing. Bill plops down $300K for a sea-going humidifier (atomized sea water blown into the atmosphere) but I didn't see if someone had actually built anything yet. Really, not even a simple one-stack prototype unit?

    By the way, anybody else notice something horribly wrong with that ship? Such as, how a little ship is supposed to keep enormous stacks like that upright? I would be amazed to see those remain upright in calm seas, let alone a storm. Maybe those stacks collapse back down. Anyways, I'd love to see plans for this money pit.

  35. LoPath
    Gates Halo

    Flying fish!

    It's raining fish!! Or will they grind them up before they spit them into the air?? Eww... Thanks for the chuckle, Uncle Bill!

  36. Graham Jordan

    Want to fix global warming? Easy. And it won't cost you a penny.

    Bill Gates, if you're reading this, if you want to save yourself 3 billion dollars and be known as the man that *reversed man made climate change*, take note.

    Are you ready? It's quick, it's easy, can be done with minimal effort and with no damage to your wallet.

    Wipe 2 billion people off the planet.

    There we go wasn't that easy!!!

    If there aren't people here to drive big 5ltr cars or fly around the world because they can then it's not possible to dump crap into the atmosphere.

    Sterilised at birth, an IQ test before being reversed and only one child per couple gets my vote. Oh and no gingers. Unless they're fit... and willing to take their clothes off to entertain IT nerds like me.

  37. Captain DaFt


    Just more of the usual "throw cash and a hare-brained scheme at it" solution.

    If reflecting more sunlight back into space to cool the Earth is what they're after, why not just insist that all new roof construction and replacement be done in white?

    Just quick round guesstimating says that should produce a reflective surface about the size of Texas.

    1. Andy Dent 2

      Black roofs down under

      In one of the most incredibly silly examples of fashion over function I've seen, the dominant house design in Perth, Western Australia, features a black tile roof and insufficient eaves to keep the sun off the windows in summer.

      This depressing state of affairs has continue to grow over the last decade and the government's wimpy attempts to legislate "climate-friendly" points systems don't impose sufficient penalty to reverse it.

      The roar of air-conditioning in summer drowns out the traffic noise in our street.

  38. Adrian Midgley 1

    The stacks are the sails - Flettner rotors?

    Those stacks are in any case not taller than sailing ship masts, nor larger than sailing ship sails.

  39. Rob Bruins Slot
    Gates Halo

    google "Discovery Project Earth"

    They've actually created a prototype of this ship and tested the possibilities. It's a nice program although I'm quite sceptic about the idea of us changing the planets climate. Then again, this could be tested relatively small so any mishaps should not trigger the next ice age.

  40. cleanwater

    What a waste of money to correct a Non problem!!!

    If anyone looks at real temperature data for the last 12 years, global temperature are going down. Even as Mojib Latif an AGW non scientist who predicts that the world will be cooling for the next 30-40 years without anyone doing anything.

    One small hurricane puts more water into the air and removes it in one hour than all these imaginaire cloud formers can do in 10 years. Mother Nature has had the system worked out for 10 billion years- it's called evaproation and rain. -the weather. Climate is an accumulation of thousands of weather days.


    We need more honest scientists like Alan Carlin of EPA.

  41. gmland

    The Climate Change boondoggle continues...

    Global stupidity on full display! No such thing as climate change... these buoyant barges of buffoonery will amount to nothing but shipping lane obstacles and monumental waste of money. How can someone that created so much wealth be so gullible at the same time...


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