As the world grapples with COVID-19, the Great Barrier Reef is facing a crisis of its own – its third mass bleaching in five years. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world and is more than 2,300 kilometres long. For years, climate change has threatened the ecosystem considerably. Global warming and the resulting higher water temperatures are causing the corals to reject the algae that provide the colouration, without which they cannot survive and starve to death.
To help protect the Great Barrier Reef, a research team led by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and Southern Cross University has developed the innovative "Cloud Brightening" concept. The idea behind it: Every second trillion of small salt crystals are collected from the seawater and then sprayed into the air by a turbine. The salt crystals then mix with low-lying clouds so the clouds become brighter and reflect more sunlight back into space, therefore shading the reef and cooling the seawater.
In their search for a suitable partner to provide the turbine technology, the Australian research team came across EmiControls. Convinced of the idea, EmiControls has built a special turbine for this important project: the V22Cloud.
The first test run was carried out off the coast of Townsville at the end of March and was very positive. "If we could lighten the clouds a little all summer long, it would be possible to cool the water down enough to limit the bleaching of the corals," said project leader Dr Daniel Harrison of Southern Cross University.
Even if this project works, it is not a long-term solution for the Great Barrier Reef, Dr Daniel Harrison urges: "The cloud brightening concept can buy us time, but we must reduce our emissions. Reducing emissions is the only long term solution to save our precious reef systems from dying."
Photo and video credit: Sydney Institute of Marine Science and Southern Cross University