SYDNEY, July 16 (Xinhua) -- Australian oceanographer Daniel Harrison told Xinhua on Monday about his technology designed to increase cloud covering over the Great Barrier Reef to protect it from coral bleaching.
Harrison's strategy, called "Marine cloud brightening" will be presented to 200 experts on Tuesday as they meet in the Australian State of Queensland to discuss the protection of the critically damaged reef.
The method involves spraying seawater to assist in the formation of clouds and is being developed by Harrison and colleagues at the Marine Studies Institute at the University of Sydney and the National Marine Science Center at Southern Cross University in Coffs Harbour.
Harrison explained, in a cloud, every single droplet needs a little tiny speck of dust in the atmosphere to condense onto.
"Over the land there's a lot from dust and everything. Over the ocean they're largely formed by sea salt. The idea is that we'd take sea water and we'd spray it out as these nano-sized droplets and they evaporate leaving the sea salt crystal behind."
Specifically designed nozzles spray a fine mist of 3 trillion droplets per second which is then mixed into the atmosphere and carried to around a kilometer above the ocean.
Harrison said the process will "brighten" the clouds over the reef so that when the clouds form they will reflect more sunlight back into space.
Coral reefs bleach from a combination of warmer water and sunlight.
"So if you shade corals, even if they're warmer they won't bleach," Harrison said.
This strategy aims at protecting the reef from the damage already being done by climate change, rather than attempt to stop climate change itself.
Pressures on the reef are reaching a critical point in history, according to Harrison.
"The amount of climate change that's locked in now, even if we were able to suddenly and drastically cut emissions, means that the waters on the reef are going to keep warming over the next decade or two no matter what."
Coral reefs cover less than 0.1 percent of the ocean surface, yet up to 25 percent of all marine life spends at least part of its life cycle using coral reefs as a habitat.
"If we lose the coral reefs we don't really know the flow on effects that's going to have on marine life in the ocean in general," Harrison said.