How to cool the Arctic

This page gives some history behind calls for ways to cool the Arctic and a comprehensive plan of action to deal with climate change.

Earlier calls for action included the March 2009 Open Letter to Dr Pachauri (IPCC head). The open letter called for lines of action including:

  • Emissions reduction
  • Carbon stock management (Reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere below 350 ppm over next three decades, halt ocean acidification and protect carbon sinks).
  • Heat transfer and radiation management

Adaptation was added as a further line of action in the Open Letter to Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate. Concerns for the exponential decline of sea ice volume were voiced in the 2010 Open Letter on Arctic Sea Ice Loss. Further signatories were added later, while efforts to act on the threat of methane releases from the Arctic seabed had also been discussed among signatories for years (as reflected in documents such as this one), resulting in the formation of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG).

How to cool the Arctic

by John Nissen.
December 2011

Which is the most viable method of emergency cooling of the Arctic to prevent runaway global heating? There are several approaches for cooling the Arctic and saving the sea ice, some involving the reduction of heat flux into the Arctic and others involving the increase in heat flux out.

Probably we will need a combination.

Reduction of heat in

1. SRM (solar radiation management, by increasing albedo to reflect more sunlight back into space)

1.1 Stratospheric aerosols

1.1.2 TiO2 *
1.1.3 Other materials, e.g. silicate (*?)

1.2 Cloud brightening *

1.3 Tropospheric aerosols
1.3.1 Add sulphate aerosols (* if can't get into stratosphere, see 1.1.1)
1.3.2 Don't remove sulphate aerosols
(Encourage ships and aircraft to burn fuel with high/higher sulphur content! **)

1.4 Increase surface albedo
1.4.1 Cloud seeding to make it snow on bare ground *
1.4.2 LAIR to put frost on ground (* if study shows viable method)
1.4.3 Drain pools, ponds and lakes

1.5 Water brightening
1.5.1 Bubbles in the surface water
1.5.2 Reflective layer, e.g. bio material

2. Reduction of heat transfer into Arctic

2.1 Reduction of river flow into the Arctic Ocean

2.2 Reduction of ocean currents into the Arctic
2.2.1 Slow the current through the Bering Strait (*?)

2.3 Block ice exit
Ice 'coolth' out of the Arctic is equivalent to water warmth into the Arctic.

3. TRM (thermal radiation management, by allowing more thermal radiation into space)

3.1 Cloud removal 
3.1.1 Stratus cloud removal *

3.2 Exposing water at a time when the net heat is outgoing
3.2.1 Removing ice in the autumn (but study is needed on net effect)

The above all amount to cooling action. There's also the possibility to thicken the ice in order to make it take longer to melt away in the summer.

The methods marked with '*' are most promising for some deployment by spring 2013, given enough determination. And the methods marked '**' should be implemented immediately - as largely a matter of changing or not changing regulations.

Above diagram was produced by John Nissen, with artwork by Sam Carana, as part of the brochure Arctic Methane Alert, distributed by the Arctic Methane Emergency Group during the AGU Fall Meeting, 2011. A copy of the brochure (pdf) can be downloaded from:
and viewed online at:

A later version of this diagram is displayed below.

The four colored areas in above image fit into part 2 and part 3 of the Climate Action Plan pictured in the diagram below.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
Above diagram shows seven lines of action at the top, picturing a comprehensive plan of action. These lines of action are also incorporated in the diagram below, picturing the threat (at the top, red lines), lines of action (green) and recommended policies (yellow) all in one image.

For an analysis of the above diagram, see the ClimatePlan Blog.

Further reading

Comprehensive Plan of Action

Decomposing Arctic Methane

Arctic Methane Management