October 5, 2022

The following excerpt was printed in the Concord Monitor’s Granite Geek column on Oct. 5, 2023.

Tracey Lesser, biology professor at NHTI, and students Chris Roy (left) and Ainsley Rennie work on burying the sensor lines for mirrors in a field south of the campus last week. The team is setting up a climate-mitigation experiment that uses mirrors to reflect heat. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

When it comes to the climate emergency, heat-trapping gases like CO2 and methane are the cause but not the problem. The problem is the buildup of heat that is changing global weather at an alarming rate.

So maybe we should be trying to reduce the heat as well as the greenhouse gases. How? By reflecting sunlight back into space with mirrors on the ground, of course!

That’s the crazy-sounding idea being tested in a field at NHTI and alongside the airport in Plymouth. I don’t use the adjective “crazy-sounding” lightly.

“That’s the first reaction I had, the first reaction of everybody I’ve introduced the idea to,” admitted Lisa Doner, associate professor of environmental science at Plymouth State University, who is leading the New Hampshire experiments of Mirrors for Earth’s Energy Rebalancing or MEER. “But the more we explore the idea, the more we think that sometimes these simple solutions can be more effective than you give them credit for.”

Doner has overseen the installation of 235 mirrors on glass rods laid out in various patterns on a field roughly three football fields long and one field wide next to the Plymouth airport, which was the only field they could find that wasn’t shaded and didn’t get mowed for hay. Under those mirrors are a whole network of buried sensors to record what happens to the temperature and moisture in the soil in coming years.

A similar series of arrays are being installed near the Sycamore Community Garden at NHTI. Tracey Lesser, a professor of chemistry at Concord’s community college, who coordinates its Environmental Science and Sustainable Agriculture program, was out there last week overseeing students placing stands and mirrors and sensors.

“We’re hoping to have some data pulled by the spring, maybe in time to start analyzing for (students’) capstone research project,” Lesser said.

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