Pluto’s Mysterious Atmosphere Could Help Us Fix Global Warming

Pluto’s haze is incredibly effective at cooling the planet and scientists think we can apply its principles on Earth to fight climate change. Do you think it can work?

In July of 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto. Among the wealth of data the spacecraft gathered was the dwarf planet’s global temperature, and it was a strange result.

From ground-based measurements taking into account Pluto’s atmosphere and how much that atmospheric composition would reflect and absorb solar radiation, scientists had estimated the planet would be on the order of about 100 degrees Kelvin. But the data that came back said otherwise. Pluto was colder, on average, just 70 K.

A team of researchers suspects that the cause is not Pluto’s atmosphere, but a haze that surrounds the planet. The haze is caused by heavy hydrocarbon particles that form in the atmosphere and work to cool the planet.

What’s really interesting here is the degree to which these particles cool Pluto. The temperature difference is more than a factor of 10 greater than the impact humans have had on Earth’s atmosphere with greenhouse gases. So, what if we took this idea and brought it home? What if a similar process on Earth could curb global temperature rise?

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