Ocean cooling debunked as a hurricane prevention idea

Using computer simulations, scientists in Florida have found that using technology to cool Earth’s oceans is unlikely to be an effective solution to preventing natural disasters such as hurricanes.

The study by scientists from the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science at the University of Miami (UM) showed that the amount of energy that would be needed to weaken a hurricane before it makes landfall would ocean cooling an ineffective solution to mitigating natural disasters.

“The main result of our study is that massive amounts of artificially cooled water would only be needed for a modest weakening of the hurricane’s intensity before it makes landfall,” said the lead author. study, James Hlywiak, graduate of the UM Rosenstiel School.

“Furthermore, lowering the intensity of marginal amounts does not necessarily mean that the likelihood of inland damage and security risks would also decrease.”

Hurricanes feed on warm waters and weaken once they hit land or cooler parts of the ocean. In light of this, some have suggested the artificial cooling of the oceans as a means of mitigating their devastation and the United States has even carried out Project Stormfury, to examine the feasibility of these ideas.

To study the effectiveness of ocean cooling in preventing disasters, the researchers used a computer model of the Earth’s atmosphere, as well as a combination of air-sea interaction theories.

In their computer simulations, they cooled areas of the ocean up to 260,000 km2 in size – larger than the state of Oregon and equivalent to 21,000 cubic kilometers of water – down to 2 degrees Celsius.

Even with the larger cooling zone, the simulated hurricanes only weakened by 15%. The amount of energy taken from the ocean to achieve this small reduction is more than 100 times the amount consumed in the entire United States in 2019 alone.

“You might think that the main conclusion of our paper, that there’s no point in trying to weaken hurricanes, should be obvious,” said David Nolan, professor of atmospheric science at UM Rosenstiel School and author. principal of the study.

“And yet, various ideas for modifying hurricanes often appear in popular media and are even subject to patents every few years. We are happy to be able to put something in the peer-reviewed literature that actually addresses this. »

Instead of looking for ways to weaken hurricanes before they make landfall (like President Trump’s proposed idea of ​​hitting them with nuclear bombs), the researchers recommended that policy decisions focus on adaptation strategies such as strengthening infrastructure, improving the efficiency of evacuation procedures and advancing the science around the detection and forecasting of impending storms.

The study, titled “Targeted ocean cooling to weaken tropical cyclones would be futile,” was published in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment.

Sign up for the E&T News email to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Comments are closed.