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Global Dimming and the Research in Maldives

Here is the tag line. Scientists have proven that the Northern atolls in the Maldives are getting about 10% less sunlight than the Southern atolls, and it is because of India! Weird and its real, but its not the real concern. It is part of the enviromental fondness known as Global Dimming, which is experienced in many parts across the globe as it says, and it is set to change almost everything we’ve previously thought about climate change - including Global Warming.

Sometime in the late 90s there was a group of scientists here in the Maldives doing a reasearch on the amount sunlight reaching the Indian Ocean. They spent 25 million dollars on the project, it took about 4 years and they used nearly all sorts of methods to measure. I saw it on the local news when they first started it, the project was called INDOEX. I always thought that it was a useless experiment and that those measurements would end up in some scientific library to be left unused for years - I saw no point in such a rush and such a huge undertaking just to get a figure on how much solar energy the Maldivian atolls were getting. What the heck eh? But obviously I never bothered to read much about it, now that I have seen the BBC documentary, I wish I did some references earlier.

That research was actually part of something that was quite new back then, known as Global Dimming, which refers to the observation that the amount of sunlight energy reaching Earth has significantly gone down in the past few decades; and scientists came here to the Maldives because this was the perfect location to find an answer to the phenomena.

They did find the answer indeed. They came here because there is a 3km thick layer of pollutants (ash particles from fumes, etc) that is trailing all the way from India into the atmosphere above the Northern Indian Ocean. Actually this layer is found above all major cities, but here in the Maldives only the Northern atolls are covered with a similar but weaker layer and the Southern atmosphere is clean with fresh air coming all the way from Antarctica - this was the perfect setup to measure any affects visible air pollution could be having on the amount of solar energy reaching Earth. When the researchers first started to measure they were hoping to see a difference of about 2% between the Northern and Southern atolls - but the results shocked them with a two digit figure: over 10%.

This discovery has given answers to other previously unanswered questions. Why did so many people die in Africa because of the draughts? Why did the African monsoon disappear for more than 15 years? The culprit was the dimming because of the air pollution from Europe and North America. The pollutants not only block a few rays but they also create much smaller water droplets than normal in the atmosphere and the resulting clouds become more like huge mirrors reflecting a big amount of sunlight back into space. This is what that took away the African rains killing millions of people and making entire landscapes completely useless. Now those scientists are warning that the same could happen to the Asian monsoons too, and the African monsoon thing ain’t fantasy or theory, it actually happened and those people did die! So for parts of Asia, imagine no rain for a decade or more, for more than a billion people.

The final catch is, the dimming has been having a cooling effect on the planet all these days, sortof cancelling out the effects of green house gases a little bit. That doesn’t make it a good thing, it means that when the dimming is reduced without taking care of the warming caused by green house gases, it will only multiply that warming in unknown numbers. So whats happening now is, with the advent of new ‘purifying’ technologies such as those used in vehicles, etc., the visible pollution is being dramatically reduced in many places, especially in Europe, and because of this there is yet another spike effect on temparatures. Seems like a never ending story.

If you are interested you can watch the BBC documentary on the web or download it for later viewing, it is available here - and read a few comments by one of the researchers about the BBC documentary are here.















5 Responses to “Global Dimming and the Research in Maldives”


  1. raggedyanne Says:

    yet another reason an island from Addu should be the capital of the Maldives; i’ll take fresh, clean air from the Antarctic anyday.

  2. Amin Says:

    i saw that too on local news when they started the program. And i used to wonder where it all ended up.Thanks.
    I think another important thing is all the stuff coming from the rivers into the indian ocean.

  3. rxs Says:

    i am glad i was part of this .. but its not something i was prouf of.. this started and went on as the ABC (Asian Brown Cloud http://www.rrcap.unep.org/abc/impactstudy/) phenomenon. similar tests were done in Africa too.. (another ABC).
    Kaashidhoo was the first observatory base. NASA, University of California and UNEP were involed among others. Super dudes worked there.. but due to lack of Government support (there I dared) it went kaput. The guys established a new observatory in Hanimaadhoo now. one of the best one of the kind on earth! there is a station in Addu as well. infact it is used to calibrate many other stations. Maldives is in the middle of this, both observation wise and “to be effectied” wise! clear skies gone = tourism down! among other things..

  4. primary0 Says:

    the Hanimadhoo base is in operation now? What is the Addu situation?

  5. rxs Says:

    dude, i am now in the dark on these but the last i knew (april 2005) both were in operation. recently i read on news that an unmanned craft crashed at hanimaadhoo while takin samples :) so i guess that is still operational. Addu had a sort of a world air quality and stuff calibration and observation point set up. dont know its current status.


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