Can we stop hurricanes?

courtesy CNN

Every hurricane season, I get emails or questions during my speeches about stopping a hurricane, especially when they are still small disturbances. Before they grow into these large, deadly, destructive monsters, isn’t there something we can do to stop them dead in their tracks?

That question has been around a long time and the short answer, for now, is “no”. They are just too powerful!

Project Storm Fury

The first such attempt went from 1962-1983 with the simple idea of seeding the hurricane clouds. Why not create an outer ring of moisture with seeding thus robbing the eye of the storm of its moisture? After all, the eye is where the strongest winds are and this idea would decrease the wind speeds. In fact, four hurricanes were seeded with Project Storm Fury with inconclusive results and the idea was abandoned. The main drawback is that seeding requires cold moisture and a tropical system is just too warm.

So if warmth is the issue, why not put something cold in there?

Bill Gates suggested draining the warm water at the surface with very long tubes while a newer idea from just last year is pushing for a Bubble Curtain. As such, perforated pipes use compressed air to bubble deep cold water to the surface.

Experimenting with the Bubble Curtain idea

Scientists are skeptical (wouldn’t the sun’s heat counteract the cold water--after all, the storm itself churns up cold water from the ocean depths but it doesn’t matter). And the cost is hundreds of millions but the creators say they are in talks with Florida officials. Here is a thorough story on the idea from the Florida Sun Sentinel.

Counter Wind with Wind?

The wind farm idea to rob wind energy from the storm seems like a cost-effective measure--after all, the wind farms would create electricity and that can be sold to pay for the wind turbines (you’d need 78,000 of them so we’re talking a lot of money). The plan was first proposed in 2014 and I haven’t heard much about it since, so I’m guessing this was a no go. Check out more on that idea here from Scientific American.

What Else?

You’ve probably heard the ideas of nuking a hurricane, or dropping sonic bombs around it, block sunlight with oil-burning ships, or put an oily film on the water’s surface. Clearly, these come with environmental concerns (can you imagine how many dead fish you’d have?) and they are expensive and they wouldn’t work. According to NOAA, hurricane energy equals 10-megaton bombs every 20 minutes so a couple of nukes won’t make a blip--not to mention you’d have a radioactive hurricane on your hands. An article from Florida Today explored many of these options to no avail.

And what if all you did was re-direct the storm--for instance, if a storm is heading to Florida and you now accidentally turn it toward Texas! That wouldn’t go over.

Bottom Line

There may be a time when we come up with the technology to control hurricanes, but for now we can only improve what we can control: building codes, levees, bayou improvements, seawalls and common sense.

Be safe and prayers for our neighbors to the east.

Frank

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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.