Killing Hurricanes

Tackling hurricanes before they make landfall by calming them down or steering them off course may be a good way to prevent a storm striking a city. Experts are working on numerous ways to do this but it may take some time – and it has never been done before.

Hurricanes are fuelled by the warm waters they pass over. So hurricane mitigation strategies all focus on depriving hurricanes of this fuel.

In April 2005, Moshe Alamaro at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, outlined a plan to use an array of floating jet engines to trigger miniature cyclones in the atmosphere ahead of a hurricane. The idea is to drain the ocean and atmosphere of energy before the hurricane arrives….

Another strategy is to cover the ocean ahead of the hurricane with a thin layer of fish oil that disrupts the flow of energy into the atmosphere.

Then there is the idea of triggering storms with soot…

Emanuel says the best idea may be to exploit the chaotic features of weather systems to steer them away from populated centres, an idea put forward by Ross Hoffman, a researcher at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, a research and development company based in Lexington, Massachusetts. Meteorologists first need better hurricane measurements and models to forecast the effect of any “nudge”. They also need a way to do the nudging, possibly with space-based reflectors to heat up the atmosphere; something that Hoffman believes is a long way off.

But nudge a hurricane and the danger is that scientists may get blamed and sued wherever it goes…