Can man-made clouds really keep our oceans cool?

By April 25, 2024 Environment, Science

We came across a post on X that appears to challenge a claim that man-made clouds can be used to help reduce the temperatures of the ocean off the Australian coast.

The post cites a clip from MSNBC – an American television news channel – which highlights a cloud seeding project from a boat, with the presenter remarking that it is a work of “science fiction”.

To exacerbate the skepticism, the author of the post insinuates that these efforts are part of a wider conspiracy theory known as Project Blue Beam, by tagging @project.bluebeam.official in the post and adding a logo of the alleged movement above the clip.

With recent speculations around freak weather events around the world, including the devasting rain event in Dubai a week ago, Black Dot Research has noticed an uptick in climate-related misinformation, including speculation on human cloud formation. We took a deep dive to understand what the cloud seeding process is and whether there is any credibility to claims challenging its scientific efficacy.

Did MSNBC really cover a cloud formation project in Australia?

A reverse Google image search traces the clip to a news broadcast dated 31 January 2024, where Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau previews his new documentary, “An Optimist’s Guide to the Planet”.

The preview includes a snippet of Coster-Waldau joining Australian scientists as they release compressed air to blast a plume over the ocean surface, which encourages cloud formation. This is the same clip that was shared in the X post, where Coster-Waldau states that the purpose of these clouds is to act as a “band-aid” over rising temperatures in vulnerable sites like the Great Barrier Reef.

Can clouds really cool the oceans?

An article by Wired in January 2022 goes into depth to explain how “super-reflective clouds” can “act as parasols” to diffuse the direct heat from the Sun onto areas such as the ocean. In particular, there is a strong movement towards “marine cloud brightening”  which aims to reflect sunlight away from the ocean’s surface to protect marine wildlife and help combat global warming, which dates back to 2016.

Marine cloud brightening, also known as marine cloud seeding or marine cloud engineering, is a strategy of spraying seawater, or sea salt aerosols, to form “denser” marine clouds – or clouds with a higher concentration of water droplets – to increase the cloud’s solar reflectivity. In this way, these marine clouds act as an additional layer of protection against radiation.

A diagram that highlights how marine cloud brightening can reduce the temperature of the ocean. Image Credit: Sorooshian et al. 2019, via NOAA Research


Moreover, most of the scientific discourse around marine cloud brightening cites the process as a necessary stop-gap solution to give us more time to address more fundamental climate-related issues, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Hence, the claim that man-made clouds can cool our oceans is, in fact, true. Scientists first started testing the idea in 2016, and backed up by scientific evidence, have started utilising it more over the past two to three years.

So, what is Project Blue Beam?

Project Blue Beam is a conspiracy theory propagated by Serge Monast, a Canadian conspiracy theorist, who claimed that the United Nations and NASA were aiming to create a “new age religion” by using technology to deceive people into believing the new religion. The theory, which was first talked about in the mid-1990s, has recently resurfaced with reports of alleged UFO sightings and has been tied to propagating other climate-related conspiracies, including the existence of chemtrails.

Much like other conspiracy theories, such as the speculation about the New World Order, Project Blue Beam undermines our sense of agency by suggesting that our world is controlled by a cabal of elites, who utilise practices, such as cloud seeding or vaccination, to disseminate mind-control devices to subjugate the general population.

However, there are no credible sources to substantiate the association between marine cloud seeding with concepts like Project Blue Beam.

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