The coral turned skeleton pale white when stressed from the temperature change in the waters. Image taken from santech360.com

An experiment was done in the university and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, wherein the “cloud brightening” experiment has finally settled over Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in its early-stage trial as a way that scientists believe to be a futuristic way in protecting coral from global warming. Cooling the waters around the reef by putting clouds as canopy to reflect intense sunlight, scientists stated they used a boat-mounted fan akin to a snow cannon to shoot salt crystal into the air.

Based on the results from the trial, it was “really, really encouraging”, said scientist Daniel Harrison from Southern Cross University who leads the project.

“All the research is theoretical… so this an absolute world first to go out and actually try and take seawater and turn it into these cloud condensation nuclei,” he divulged, adding that while the experiment yield promising results, it still required four years of more research to prove the theory.

The experiment was done due to concerns involving the world’s largest coral system, the Great Barrier Reef, in terms of its health and warmer seas indicating records it had suffered its most widespread coral bleaching caused by the climate change.

Infographic shows how coral bleaching occurs. Image courtesy of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program.

Coral bleaching happens when healthy corals become stressed by changes in ocean temperatures that will cause them to expel algae which will then drains them of their vibrant colors. In the past five years, the reef had undertaken third mass bleaching, raising fears that much of the reef’s coral could be permanently damaged.

According to Harrison, for the reef to be saved from further damage, full-scale experiment is required amounting 10 times bigger than what’s done and also involves using of several big barge-mounted turbines, Harrison said.

“If it works as well as we hope then maybe we could reduce the bleaching stress by about 70 percent… potentially nearly all of the mortality,” Harrison related, however, adding that the effectiveness of the experiment will drop significantly the more the ocean warms further.

The experiment then, is only putting the reef on life-support while awaiting on the underlying challenge of climate change to be addressed accordingly.

“If we keep going on business-as-usual-type emission scenarios, then at most this technology can just buy a couple of extra decades before we see the complete loss of the reef,” he warned.