10 Planet Hacking Schemes -- No. 1: Man-made Volcanoes


My father-in-law is a fan of the site and loves discussing article topics with me. A couple of months back, we wound up discussing methods of tinkering with the environment and brought up the ridiculous notion of setting off nuclear weapons to counter global warming. I blogged about this a while ago. Anyway, my father-in-law recommended another strategy: set off some volcanoes.

Trying to trigger a volcanic eruption may seem mad, but the idea is mostly sound.* As discussed previously on this list of 10 planet hacking schemes, ejected volcanic ash in the atmosphere has dropped regional and even global temperatures between 1 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit (0.6 and 5.6 degrees C). That would certainly go a long ways toward countering any global warming going on.

But my father-in-law is not alone in supporting this theory. While he's not in favor of actually dropping explosives down an active volcano, Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen is all for duplicating the effect by blasting dust particles up into the atmosphere with rockets, giant guns and -- yes -- with a giant man-made volcano, according to Wired. The technological marvel would blast gigatons of sulfur up into the sky

We've pretty much covered the concerns associated with this sort of scheme in the previous articles. Will it further disrupt atmospheric conditions and weather patterns? Is it worth the cost? Is it decades or even centuries away from being a reality? And underlying everything is the fact that, if we're actively doing something to damage the atmosphere, then merely doing more to counter the effects is only going to put off the inevitable. A little more warm water because the bath is too cold, a little more hot water because the bath is too chilly... and then you suddenly find yourself with an overflowing tub.

Well that's it for the two weeks of planet hacking posts -- and there are still more reasonable and harebrained schemes out there on the net. This Wired article even ranks some of them according to possible effectiveness.

Feel free to explore the previous entries in this series below or head back to HowStuffWorks.com for something completely different.

* Volcanic eruptions can also add CO2 to the atmosphere, but according to the San Diego State University Department of Geological Sciences, the amount is minuscule compared to the yearly man-made output.

No. 10: Foresting No. 9: Fake Plastic Trees No. 8: Reflective Crops No. 7: Space Mirrors No. 6: Stratospheric Aerosols No. 5: Giant Microwave No. 4: Add Limestone and Stir No. 3: Fertilize Some Ocean No. 2: Robot Ships


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.