Mother Nature can save the Great Barrier Reef... if we help her.

Daniel Harrison thinks he has an answer to saving Australia's Great Barrier Reef from rising ocean temperatures: a high-powered water cannon. 

Harrison, a research fellow at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, wants to shoot salt particles into the sky above the reef. To do that, a US team he collaborates with has created a nozzle that can shoot a spray comprising incredibly small droplets. 

Now they need a cannon that can use these nozzles to shoot water carrying nano-sized salt particles into the air. About 5 percent of the salt, if all goes to plan, will float up into the sky. As it floats, Harrison hopes, the salt will be absorbed by the clouds above.

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There's still time to save the Great Barrier Reef from dying.

No one would challenge the majesty of Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Nearly 1,500 miles long, the reef is alight with a kaleidoscope of vivid colours. It's home to roughly 9,000 species of fish, molluscs, whales and other creatures. In 1981, the reef was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a status that helps it draw 2 million visitors a year. 

It's also dying. At our own hands. 

Two major bleaching events have wracked the Great Barrier Reef over the last two years, leaving chunks of it dead. Bleachings happen when the coral expels tiny algae, called zooxanthellae, that live inside it and provide its food and create its rainbow hues. Without zooxanthellae, the reef's tissue turns transparent and the coral starves.

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Significant coral decline and habitat loss on the Great Barrier Reef.

Global coral bleaching over the last two years has led to widespread coral decline and habitat loss on the Great Barrier Reef.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman Russell Reichelt said ongoing and future climate impacts were concerning.

“As has been the case with reefs across the world, the Great Barrier Reef has experienced significant and widespread impacts over the last two years,” he said.

“We’re very concerned about what this means for the Great Barrier Reef itself and what it means for the communities and industries that depend on it.

“The amount of coral that died from bleaching in 2016 is up from our original estimates and, at this stage, although reports are still being finalised, it’s expected we’ll also see an overall further coral cover decline by the end of 2017.”

Throughout 2016 the Marine Park Authority, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies conducted extensive surveys of the mass bleaching.

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Decline of Great Barrier Reef Provokes Calls for Geoengineering Techniques

Altering clouds and artificially increasing water movement around stressed corals are two radical solutions that scientists are looking at in order to preserve the Great Barrier Reef.
Back-to-back coral bleaching events, caused by abnormally high sea surface temperatures, have devastated the UNESCO world heritage site, turning once-colourful coral bone white and killing vast swathes of the ecosystem at its northern reaches.
Aerial surveys conducted early this year found severe bleaching had hit two thirds of the reef for the second time in 12 months.
With climate modeling suggesting things are only going to get worse, scientists are looking at a number of ways to engineer a solution.

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Could man-made clouds save the Great Barrier Reef?

The future of the Great Barrier Reef is in doubt, as it struggles to recover from a second severe bleaching event as a result of warmer ocean temperatures thought to be linked to climate change.

But a group of marine scientists in Australia are hopeful the reef could yet be saved - by artificially engineering brighter clouds to reflect back the sun's rays and keep the waters cool.

Over the past six months, researchers at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and the Ocean Technology Group at the University of Sydney have been investigating the use of marine cloud brightening technology (MCB) on low-lying clouds over the Great Barrier Reef.

The idea is that spraying salt into the atmosphere will encourage greater droplet formation, resulting in larger, denser clouds.

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Great Barrier Reef: Making clouds brighter could help to curb coral bleaching, scientists say

Marine scientists have upped the ante in their fight to save the Great Barrier Reef from the devastating effects of coral bleaching.

Key points:

  • Cloud brightening involves making larger and more reflective clouds over the ocean
  • The more reflective clouds help to cool the water underneath
  • Researcher Daniel Harrison says it should be a temporary, stop-gap measure only

A team of Australian researchers at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science is working on plans to alter the clouds above the reef in a bid to save the delicate coral communities below.

Marine cloud brightening is the process of making larger and more reflective clouds over the ocean to cool the water underneath.

It may seem far-fetched, but Daniel Harrison, a postdoctoral research associate with the Ocean Technology Group at the University of Sydney, believes it could work.

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The MIT technology review: Scientists Consider Brighter Clouds to Preserve the Great Barrier Reef

For the last six months, researchers at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and the University of Sydney School of Geosciences have been meeting regularly to explore the possibility of making low-lying clouds off the northeastern coast of Australia more reflective in order to cool the waters surrounding the world’s biggest coral reef system. 

During the last two years, the Great Barrier Reef has been devastated by wide-scale bleaching, which occurs as warm ocean waters cause corals to discharge the algae that live in symbiosis with them. Last year, as El Niño events cranked up ocean temperatures, at least 20 percent of the reef died and more than 90 percent of it was damaged.

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