Discovery of the Day: How to Weaken a Hurricane

The answer lies in Marine Cloud Brightening, exactly what it sounds like.

Image
NASA Goddard Photo/Flickr

As Republicans weigh the chances of rain on their parade, and researchers in Miami test an $8 million wind simulator, scientists at the University of Leeds have figured out a way to weaken hurricanes.

The study, by John Latham, Ben Parkes, Alan Gadian and Steven Salter, was published today in Atmospheric Science Letters, and the idea seems surprisingly simple - though execution may be years away. Hurricanes acquire energy from the heat of the surface of the sea, so the researchers set out to lower the temperature of the sea surface. To do so, they propose using a technique called "cloud-seeding," the man-made creation of clouds on display at the Beijing Olympics that soaked rural areas of China to keep the opening ceremony dry.

Unmanned vehicles spray tiny droplets of sea-water over hurricane-prone sea zones, whose rise through the atmosphere increases the density of existing stratocumulus clouds. Denser clouds would reflect the sun's light and heat back into the stratosphere, keeping the ocean in the shade. Ocean temperatures could then drop by as much a few degrees, decreasing the potential energy sources for hurricanes, and sapping their strength. It's a localized application of a technique called Marine Cloud Brightening, which has been proposed as a tool to fight global warming.

H/T ScienceBlog.

Top image courtesy of Flickr user NASA Goddard Photo.

About the Author

  • Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.