Google’s Reflection Experiment

The fight against rising global average temperatures has two approaches. One is to try to stop adding heat trapping gasses, CO2 and Methane to the atmosphere. The other is to try to reduce the heat that can accumulate in our atmosphere by reflecting it back into space.

As long as solar energy is travelling as light and not absorbed by a greenhouse gas or other material and converted into molecular movement (heat), there is an opportunity to bounce it back to where
it came from. The term for this reflection of Earth of solar energy is called Albedo, and it is part of climate models.

We are seeing significant warming at the moment because sea ice on the poles has been reduced and the ocean absorbs most solar heat. Oceans also radiate heat at night, so they cool down, but some of it is mixed to lower layers and is slowly warming the oceans. On land dark features will absorb a lot of sunlight and warm the air, deserts are lighter so reflect more heat back. Deserts also lose heat fast at night making them quite cold. Clear skies are important for reflecting heat back, we already know that because nights are warmer when there are clouds overhead.

Many groups are involved in albedo enhancement, but many also lack the funds to take serious action. This while albedo enhancement seems the only way to keep land and oceans cool enough for life to survive in the near term. India and Spain and Niger are being baked, people can barely survive, water is disappearing in California, all because of heat being trapped by CO2. We need to reduce the heat that can ‘stick’ to our planet, and increase albedo/reflection.

There are questions that I can’t find answers too, which are related to actualy climate profit from albedo.

  1. If light is reflected and passes through the atmosphere twice, does it still cause less heating/warming compared say zero reflection (blackbody absorbtion). How much extra warming does reflecting cause?
  2. Can I cool a landzone reliably with mirrors, what is the effect on warming in a warm region, how much effect does air temperature have? Can we develop a model to predict the effect of reflection?

The above questions may be answerable by specialists, scientists, and I will try to find them. But the second question may be answered by a real world experiment by Google at Ivanpah.

Google could run a number of experiments where local ground and air temperatures are measured as the mirrors of its enormous solar power plant are tilted in different directions, mainly being aligned with the sun or perpendicular to it to see the difference between optimal and minimal reflection. By taking the ground abledo, the surface covered by the mirrors, the air temperature at different altitudes, a lot can be learned about abledo enhancement. Of course this comes at the cost of some energy production, however a more ready laboratory is hard to imagine, and its in line with Google’s attempts to contribute to the climate fight.

To do this one would need to create a team of modellers and meterological experts to weed out the possible ways the results can be wrong, then plan a sequence of mirror movements on specific days. Then over the course of a few weeks it should be possible to make enough measurements to build a model for morrir based albedo enhancement effect. If you think this is a good idea and want to contribute to the effort, or you are Google and agree this should be tried (or has been tried and you can send me a link), please get in touch with me at I am aware of some scientists and projects regarding Albedo, but maybe its best to keep this out of the academic sphere as it tends to slow things down. Treat it like R&D for climate solutions. Hope to hear from you!