Hurricanes form in warm tropical waters, drawing strength from the heat of the ocean surface — that's why they are expected to worsen as sea surface temperatures increase. But if we could cool them off, they may chill out and decrease in strength. Cloud seeding the areas in front of their path might be a way to do this, a new study says.
The idea is to target marine stratocumulus clouds, which cover about a fourth of the world's oceans. Reflecting more light away from the sea surface would theoretically prevent it from getting as warm. "Then there will be less energy to feed the hurricanes," said Alan Gadian of the University of Leeds.
In this concept, a fleet of drones at or near the surface could spray sprinkles of seawater droplets, some of which would rise into the atmosphere. The increased droplet concentration would make the clouds thicker, causing them to last longer and reflect more sunlight, the Leeds scientists say. By the way, this is the same basic technique Beijing officials used to create rain during the 2008 Olympics.
The scientists ran calculations and found this cloud-brightening technique could decrease the sea surface's temperature by a few degrees, and thereby drop hurricanes' strength down an entire category.
One major downside: Cloud seeding interferes with the atmosphere's natural cycles, so laying a path for new clouds over the ocean would draw moisture away from nearby areas. Like, for instance, the Amazon rainforest. Any future cloud seeding efforts would have to be very careful.
The new study appears in Atmospheric Science Letters.
That insane rant aside, the article only briefly mentions the problem with the plan:
HURRICANES ARE GOOD THINGS.
They take large amounts of salt water and turn it fresh through evaporation and then deposit it on land in the form of rain.
Most of the east coast of the US depends on tropical systems to drive moisture up - otherwise dry summers would always be droughts.
A single hurricane system running up the Mississipi Valley would turn one of the worst droughts in a century into flooding.
The amazone depends not only on tropical moisture, but its ability to carry and drop mineral nutrients lifted from Africa to suppliment poor underlying soil.
Yes, hurricanes are bad for human structures, but solid building practices away from shorelines and the massive warning given by these storms make hurricanes one of the most passive of natural disasters.
I agree with Oak, that hurricanes are a good and natural part of our planet. All the environmentalists who go nuts if we harm the environment of a single desert tortoise should be outraged that we could consider upsetting the ecosystems of hundreds of billions of plants, animals, and bugs, just to avoid some extra work on our part.
And that's indeed what it is. We can build structures and entire cities that are pretty much hurricane-proof if we want to. Or we can choose to live in different places. But instead we want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to live in a hurricane zone without paying the extra time, work, and money to have a hurricane-resistant dwelling and area. We want to live in a tornado zone without building a tornado-resistant structure, etc. We take these risks of our own free will, and some people want everyone else to pay for a bazillion drones to change their environment? I don't think so.
I chose to move to an area that was free from all flooding concerns, all hurricane concerns, virtually all tornado concerns, and a slight earthquake risk. I then paid a little extra to have my house built to where it could stand through an 8.0 earthquake, and I pay for a separate earthquake insurance policy. I certainly don't expect others to work their tails off to prepare for me or to clean up after me.
Aside from all that, I doubt this technology is actually feasible. These storms are the size of entire countries. It's one thing to seed clouds over a large city like Beijing, but a hurricane area is much larger. The city Beijing is very large at 6,500 sq miles (which they had weeks to seed), but even an average hurricane will cover 72,500 sq miles every single day as it travels. And it changes direction! You'd have to do some extreme seeding to get any effect at all, and you'd have to do it in a very small window. Because of that direction changing ability, you'd probably have to cover a bit bigger area. So in essence you'd need to seed an area the size of the UK in a single day!
Now, as a practical matter, you'd have to have a vast airbase with serious and specialized heavy equipment that is able to fill with fuel and water tens of thousands of planes at once. Why so many? Well... you do need to cover an area the size of the UK, and do it within 24 hours. And that area is going to be many hundreds of miles away, requiring 3-5 hours flight time each way at a minimum. That also limits your payload. It's basically impossible to do it practically, regardless of how much money you throw at it. But economically, it would never be feasible.
And how much effect would it really have? Would knocking a hurricane down by 1 on the scale (say from a 4 to a 3) really make that much difference? Enough to justify the insane cost?
So let's just move on from the amateurish idea that we can somehow use our brains to control or defeat hurricanes. How about we instead use our brains to build smarter? In better places, with better materials, with better techniques, etc. While it is much more boring, and thus not as fun to read about, it's actually got a shot at working.
WHAT?! You did not end on "...Have a great day!"?
Okay, so someone somewhere wants to save lives and property by actively decreasing the severity of storms, I get it. But do all of you get the unintended consequences of doing so? I sincerely doubt it. I live in Oklahoma and the only times we receive rain during the summer is when a strong storm system sweeps our way. Generally this is a hurricane through Louisiana or Texas, or a severe storm front moving down off of the rockies. If someone starts playing God with their weather, it WILL affect my weather patterns. Furthermore, does anyone stop to think that life in these areas evolved with hurricanes as part of the natural cycle of life? What happens when you stop all hurricanes and there are no longer dead trees for that endangered owl to live in in the wild?
I'll stick with Dr. Michio Kaku's theory. We are a type 0 civilization, We will soon become a type 1 civilizition, and part of a type 1 civilization is indeed controling the weather... last time I checked a hurricane definately counts as weather.
That being said, Not sure cloud seeding is the way to go.
Dr. Kaku spoke of controling the weather, this is more of a crude slapping around of the weather. You havn't controlled her - she still has your money and is going to spend it, she is just going to spend it with a busted face.
Now, when we are putting the gentle rains of Spain on Oklahoma's burning plains, every Christmas is white, and the 4th of July is always sunny - THEN we are in that class 1 kind of world.
We could make New Orleans flood proof by landfilling it to 100' above sea level, but that doesn't mean we have done anything about the causes of flooding.
Cmon. This becomes weather as a weapon. We already see the effects of seeding on large scale, and ain't none of it good. Screwing with hurricanes that look like they are gonna hit land is insanity. Don't screw with the planetary evaporation process. Don't screw with our heat convection. What you do to ANY hurricane WILL have killer consequences somewhere else, it's a plain fact. Seeding should be classified an act of war.
Too late. Seeding has been used for peacetime weather alteration for over 50 years already. I just read this article that shows the industry: The Emerging Industry of Cloud Seeding.
It's worrisome. Cloud seeding is doing some good things, but at what cost? You all are right that messing with big projects like modifying hurricanes can cause problems, but you should see what China is doing! And they're not even touching hurricanes.