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Great Pykrete Pyramid of Ellesmere

Carbon reinforced synthetic icecaps
  (+10, -1)(+10, -1)
(+10, -1)
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Far beyond the Arctic circle, an army of tracked vehicles make their way, powered by their internal nuclear piles, trundling slowly to their destination to begin their work.

At a point determined by the thickness of the Earth's crust, geological stability, access to the coast and railheads, and predicted climatic conditions over the next millenium, they meet in a clearing. At other locations splayed roughly equally around the North Pole, in Scandinavia, Siberia, Alaska, Greenland and Iceland, another army, each a mirror of this one, has also gathered. There is a pause, as if for a moment of cybernetic reflection.

The six largest snow making machines ever constructed, and the largest wood chipper ever conceived, set out upon their planet saving endeavour. Like the giant bucket excavators that first tore the ancient carbon from the earth and flung it into the burning gullet of civilisation, they dwarf the accompanying host of supporting machinery, thousands of engineers, technicians and labourers, and the slew of dignitaries and scientists.

Conveyer belts, pipelines and railways stretch beyond the horizon to the south.

Further south, robotic tree harvesting machines set to work in Belgium-sized plantations. Their mighty jaws rip whole fir, spruce and pine trees from their roots, and transfer them to the flatbed carriers waiting alongside.

Out in the warmer waters of the north Atlantic and Pacific, gigantic automated algae farms have been working for years already, pulling down gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Floating processing plants have extracted cellulose fibres from the algae, spun them into thousands of miles of rayon thread, and woven it into mile after mile of fabric.

Parallel plants have produced algae-derived paper in equal prodigy. Giant barges have been inflated around the enormous rolls of cellulosic geotextiles, so they can be kite-sailed and towed into the harbours of Vladivostok, Anchorage, and the northern ports of Canada, and airlifted - by Zeppelin of course - to the waiting roll-laying machines.

Thousand kilometer bobbins of carbon fibre thread sit atop their carriers. Under heavy military guard from the Mitsubishi/Raytheon Space Elevator Corporation, the world's largest stockpile of carbon nanotube thread glistens like spun diamond as the first light of dawn peeks over the forest.

Under more casual guard is the world's largest stockpile of waste paper.

Between them are mountainous stacks of whole trees; firs, spruce, pine, complete to the last twig, needle and root bundle; bamboo poles, polystyrene packaging, used dental floss, disposed chopsticks, toothpicks, fraying fishing nets and long lines, rotting tatami and seagrass matting, sugar cane waste and corn stalks, kelp, and pellets of plastic harvested from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

A signal flare comets brightly skyward. And it begins.

With a thunder, the fountain of snow begins to emerge from each of the snow-blowers. Water is one of two essential resources for this endeavour for which Nature has furnished its own transport mechanism - the atmosphere. Extracting water in situ from the air, they gulp down cubic miles of it, like howling baleen whales, cool it, and jet forth torrential snowstorms upon the landscape.

The chipper, dubbed Chippersaurus by her keepers, screams into life, with a sound like a billion grade school teachers dragging their fingernails down a billion chalkboards in a billion hurricanes. The celebrity contingent choose to depart, backload for the waiting cargo Zepellins.

Dump trucks, dozers, cranes, helicopters, conveyors and reconstituted Siberian mammoths push, pull, drag, drop and haul the assembled, variform biomass and carbonaceous waste material into the center of the snow/sawdust storm. Rolling machines plough back and forth, back and forth, layering paper, cloth and thread through the snow, and compacting it under their weight.

In the center, a mound begins to form. As it grows, the seven giants begin their dance. They circle the center - Chippersaurus seems to lead the snowblowers in some eldritch Arctic witchcraft, infinitesimaly crawling their way widdershins, almost imperceptible to human observers, except the patient, the exhausted, and the lazy.

~-~-~-~-~-~

Over the weeks, months and years - indeed the century - to follow, the barrowmound rises. Service vehicles trundle up and down its slopes and burrow beneath it. At seven kilometers radius, it holds around 110 cubic kilometers of ice - equivalent to a film a mere third of a millimeter thick removed from the surface of the world's oceans.

Yet as volume grows as the cube of radius, by the time the mound is 150 kilometers from side to side - and a staggering 70 kilometers high, it has frozen in place a meter's worth of sea level rise, saving millions of square kilometers of the world's most productive, most inhabited land, at a loss of a mere 200-odd square kilometers of Arctic rock and tundra. The seven sister sites together have mitigated a seven meter rise.

~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~

Now comes the clever bit:

A long ramping tunnel leads from the surface of the mound, down into a facility called the Sarcophagus, an enormous cavern at - or even below - the base of the mound. Other tunnels, pipes and chambers, laid down as the mound was constructed, lead at various bearings and elevations from the Sarcophagus to the outside. The entire mound, the Sarcophagus, ancilliary voids, and the tunnels between them, form a gigantic, geothermally powered atmospheric fractionation engine.

Such a huge artificial icecap will of course trap rising geological heat underneath it. Unless that heat is diverted or put to good use, it threatens the lifespan of the whole mound.

Air is drawn continuously down the main tunnel, deep into the sarcophagus. Some of the tunnels and voids are arranged as a giant Stirling engine to drive the whole process. Others form a massive heat exchanger, venting the geological heat to enormous heatsink farms on the dark, northward slopes of the mound.

The air at the base of the stack is so cold that carbon dioxide condenses, falling as a snow of dry ice. It can be sequestered in situ, beneath the mound. Manual gathering of carbonaceous waste can begin to taper off, as the howling caverns of the Mound distill raw CO2 out of the skies. As the dry ice snow fills the cavern, the winds slow in proportion, providing a self-regulating negative feedback.

After a century or two, it is stifled altogether. Gigatonnes of CO2 sit frozen beneath the mound like the chewy toffee center of an icecream, safely entombed for generations.

Earth's climate stabilises. Agriculture, industry, nature and man resume their course. We can get on with the 21st century's tasks - liberating the poor, colonising the stars, fixing that death thing.

At the summit, 70km above the Earth's surface, powered by stratospheric winds and near continuous sunlight, is a kick-ass spaceport and ski resort.

BunsenHoneydew, Jul 09 2009

Ellesmere http://en.wikipedia...ki/Ellesmere_Island
[BunsenHoneydew, Jul 09 2009]

Pykrete http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pykrete
... and the Mythbusters-formulated, paper reinforced version [BunsenHoneydew, Jul 09 2009]

Ocean Pump Ocean_20Pump
[seanbo]'s precursor and inspiration. Here be maths [BunsenHoneydew, Jul 09 2009]

Vostok Solid-State Sequestation Vostok_20Solid-State_20Sequestation
Prior art [BunsenHoneydew, Jul 09 2009]

Autophagic Heavy-Pykrete Starship Autophagic_20Heavy-Pykrete_20Starship
Aimless elf slowmotion [BunsenHoneydew, Jul 09 2009, last modified Jul 10 2009]

not 'ere http://en.wikipedia...hropshire#Geography
.. although it does 'ave a mighty big icehole [BunsenHoneydew, Jul 10 2009]

[link]






       Summary; giant mounds of ice and cellulose fibre, wind tunnels to fractionate CO2 out of the atmosphere, sequester in place.
BunsenHoneydew, Jul 09 2009
  

       Airdrop a few gigalitres of strawberry syrup, shredded chocolate and brandy on top, and fire off another signal flare. Viola - Baked Alaska!   

       I take your point about crustal subsidence. In fact, one of the reasons I selected Ellesmere Island is that // The Ellesmere Ice Shelf was reduced by 90 percent in the twentieth century due to global warming / It further decreased by 27% in thickness (13 m (43 ft)) between 1967 and 1999.[12] / The breakup of the Ellesmere Ice Shelves has continued in the 21st century: // [link]   

       70km of anything will not be stable, especially at a 1:1 slope. Something more like 1:6 seems more feasible, reducing height proportionally and increasing land area covered by the square.   

       Even then it won't be stable over geological timescale - gravity is the reason Earth has nothing as high as Mars' Olympus Mons. I'm merely hoping for stability over a generation to a few centuries, so we can avoid catastrophic effects while we transition to a low-carbon economy and proceed to think up other, more permanent sequestration techniques.   

       An alternative mode of attack is a large number of much smaller mounds - 700, or 700,000 - with correspondingly lower local geological stress. And/or replacing the top layers of existing, diminishing icecaps and permafrost with a Pykrete layer at strategic points, to slow or reverse melting, which should be geostress neutral.   

       Shovelling at-risk snow and ice into cellulose reinforced mounds or layers would help to slow local melting as well. Pykrete floating ice shelves and bergs to replenish Arctic polar bear habitat, for example   

       I just prefer to think big is all [link]
BunsenHoneydew, Jul 09 2009
  

       Might be a tad easier to keep them frozen a little further north than Florida, hm?   

       I'm not at all sure what you mean by //salination side effects//
BunsenHoneydew, Jul 09 2009
  

       Ah, excellent.   

       Yes, I initially proposed building the mounds on land rather than at sea because it seemed much less likely to have adverse environmental conesequences, for example freshwater melt interrupting the thermohaline circuit. Which incidentally would be a ~de~salination side effect.   

       Perhaps well inland in central Siberia and Canada is best.
BunsenHoneydew, Jul 10 2009
  

       //70km of the stuff, might just break the crust.//
I'm assuming that you consider that A Bad Thing?

On first reading, I thought this was to be a Merseyside tourist attraction, and I'm somewhat disappointed that it's not.
coprocephalous, Jul 10 2009
  

       That's exactly what I was thinking - although I'm still not sure it might not be.
Ian Tindale, Jul 10 2009
  

       [Ian] and [copro], you're welcome to set up the Cheshire and Shropshire franchise if you wish. 10% off the top of the ski-lift takings should keep yer kneecaps attached to yer legs, chuck.   

       // //break the crust// A Bad Thing? //   

       Well, it would make the underside of the mound a smidge warmer than might be considered optimal.
BunsenHoneydew, Jul 10 2009
  

       Epic! [+] - will it have an all-seeing, flaming eye at the top, like the giant pyramid on the US dollar bill?
hippo, Jul 10 2009
  

       Kinda, in fact. A giant rotating solar concentrating dish. Close enough? I suppose it could be made to shoot a death ray of sorts, if it was flexible enough.
BunsenHoneydew, Jul 10 2009
  

       That'll do - you'll need to make it look like an eye though.
hippo, Jul 10 2009
  

       + nice story... (although I am intested to know where the heat extracted from the atmosphere went...)
madness, Jul 10 2009
  

       Um, um ... well .. I, that is ...   

       Mars. It went to Mars. What? It did too. Quiet down the back you.
BunsenHoneydew, Jul 10 2009
  

       Well written. [+]
david_scothern, Jul 10 2009
  

       Cheers, [d_s].   

       It occurs to me that perhaps that is where our carbon's final resting place out to be - Mars. That joint could do with a bit of a greenhouse effect.
BunsenHoneydew, Jul 10 2009
  

       (+) Them Inuit aren't going to like it though.   

       [bunsen] I believe that they've been teleporting photons for a while now, and are considering working their way up to simple molecules. CO2's a pretty simple molecule.   

       So ... here's their first commercial application.   

       They claim that teleportation (achieved via quantum entanglement) can be done over 'any distance'. Not quite sure that they meant ANY distance!!
kindachewy, Jul 10 2009
  

       far be it from me to mention that the power required to toss a CO2 molecule anywhere would be far greater than that required to deconstruct it.
FlyingToaster, Jul 10 2009
  

       Unfortunately, the kind of teleportation you're describing requires you to already have a CO2 molecule at the other end. If I understand correctly, the only thing transmitted is information about quantum states, that are then superimposed on the target particle. It's not quite a Star Trek matter transporter, alas.
BunsenHoneydew, Jul 11 2009
  

       How much CO2 would the woodchipper chuck if a woodchipper could chip wood?
RayfordSteele, Jul 14 2009
  

       Rather a lot. And as a conesequence, the unnamed lady can continue her retail trade in aquatic exoskeletons in the littoral environment.
BunsenHoneydew, Sep 27 2009
  
      
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