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Silicon Valley Scientists 'Brightening' Clouds To Combat Climate Change

SUNNYVALE (KPIX 5) -- In a Silicon Valley research lab, scientists are working on what might be considered the option of last resort for global warming.

"It's an insurance policy," said researcher Sudhanshu Jain.

It's called the Marine Cloud Brightening Project, and it's designed to fight global warming by making clouds over the ocean thicker and brighter so they reflect more sunlight and cool the planet.

The Sunnyvale team has reached a milestone with this high-pressure nozzle that uses salt water and looks like a normal water spray. But it took scientists a year to come up with the exact rate, flow and pressure so that the water droplets come out to the perfect size.

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The salt particles are so small that in order to see them with the naked eye, you have to turn off the lights and use a laser.

Once the nozzle is fine-tuned, the plan is to use a barge to shoot the salt particles into the sky and see what happens.

The researchers say you can already see the concept at work.

Satellite images show the shiptracks from vessels crisscrossing the ocean, spewing exhaust that turns into clouds and last up to a week.

The project needs several more years and millions of dollars in funding before its widespread use.

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In 2012, the National Academy of Sciences wrote, "the seriousness of the consequences of global warming merits research into the possibility of using cloud brightening for climate engineering."

Robert Wood, one of the top atmospheric scientists in the world, says we owe it to future generations to study it now.

"Now I don't think this should be a solution, but I think it's morally, for me, it's appropriate to at least do the research to find out more about it," Wood said.

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