NWC REU 2021
May 24 - July 30



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Climatological Exploration Using Daisyworld as an Energy Balance Model; Extending the Parable to Geoengineering

Alethia Kielbasa and John T. Snow


What is already known:

  • Daisyworld is often used as a simple energy balance model with the purpose of demonstrating the coupling of life and the environment
  • Complex climate models can be used to simulate energy balance and transfer; however, the challenge with these models is that they are packed with complicated processes, and it is often difficult to isolate a single process to determine its impact
  • One highly considered climate modification technique is stratospheric seeding: injecting particles (i.e. sulfur dioxide) into the stratosphere to increase global albedo

What this study adds:

  • Extends the parable proposed by Watson and Lovelock to include climate modification, such as stratospheric aerosol injection
  • Takes a step back, exploring on a basic level, what impact geoengineering could have on Daisyworld, hopefully leading to discourse relating the results to Earth's climate
  • Provides a process to extend the interval of suitable temperatures for daisy survival while also exploring the unintended consequences of this modification


Many climate modification studies are being conducted to determine the most effective geoengineering methods to combat global temperature rise. This study uses Daisyworld, a model of a fictional planet, to first look at the climatological implications proposed by Watson and Lovelock (1983) and then extend the parable to explore potential impacts of geoengineering. The planet consists of two types of daisies (black daisies and white daisies) whose individual albedos work to balance the average planetary temperature for an interval of time even though Daisyworld’s sun continues to increase energy output that reaches the surface. The interplay between its components makes Daisyworld usable as a basic energy balance model, and was chosen because it is simple in its construction but offers insight into the interconnectedness of biota and the environment. These qualities make it suitable for the simulation of stratospheric seeding by generating a haze covering the modeled planet. This haze lowers the planetary albedo enough to extend the range of suitable temperatures, subsequently allowing the white daisies to last longer on Dasiyworld. While successful at increasing the duration of habitable conditions, increasing the planetary albedo also caused an initial severe temperature drop. Human manipulation of Earth’s climate, if done, should be gradual to prevent initial severe changes as well as potential over-correction. Additionally, at the point of conclusion of intervention, the modeled planet’s average temperatures drastically increase, indicating once intervention begins it must continue indefinitely.

Full Paper [PDF]