Geoengineering Downwelling Ocean Currents: A Cost Assessment
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Downwelling ocean currents carry carbon into the deep ocean (the solubility pump), and play a role in controlling the level of atmospheric carbon. The formation of North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) also releases heat to the atmosphere, which is a contributor to a mild climate in Europe. One possible response to the increase in anthropogenic carbon in the atmosphere and to the possible weakening of the NADW is modification of downwelling ocean currents, by an increase in carbon concentration or volume. This study assesses the costs of seven possible methods of modifying downwelling currents, including using existing industrial techniques for exchange of heat between water and air. Increasing carbon concentration in downwelling currents is not practical due to the high degree of saturation of high latitude surface water. Two of the methods for increasing the volume of downwelling currents were found to be impractical, and four were too expensive to warrant further consideration. Formation of thicker sea ice by pumping ocean water onto the surface of ice sheets is the least expensive of the methods identified for enhancing downwelling ocean currents. Modifying downwelling ocean currents is highly unlikely to ever be a competitive method of sequestering carbon in the deep ocean, but may find future application for climate modification.
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