Deactivating a hurricane
Hurricanes are extraordinarily powerful, releasing as much heat energy as a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes. But some scientists think there may be ways to stop or weaken them. Several companies have developed systems that use pumps to replace warm surface water—from which hurricanes derive their strength—with cooler water from the ocean depths. But it would be extremely difficult and costly to transport, say, 100,000 pumps to the required location when a hurricane begins gathering strength. Another possible solution is to use aerosols to make clouds reflect more sunlight in areas where storms are brewing; in theory, this would curb evaporation and prevent the waters below from warming up. Alas, most scientists believe neither ocean cooling nor cloud brightening is practical. Mark Bourassa of the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies at Florida State University warns that attempts to interfere with powerful hurricanes could have dangerous unintended consequences. “I’d be really nervous about trying them,” he says.