August 23, 2012

Evil Genius Science Turns Good By Reducing Hurricane Categories

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Scientists are turning what some could think of as "evil genius science", and using it for good, by developing a way to turn down the rage of a hurricane.

A team of scientists claim they have a technique that could reduce hurricane intensity by a category.

The authors wrote in the journal Atmospheric Science Letters that they could use cloud seeding as a technique to decrease sea surface temperatures, where hurricanes form.

During the research, they focused on the relationship between sea surface temperature and the energy associated with a hurricane. Rather than seeding storm clouds or hurricanes directly, the idea is to target marine stratocumulus clouds to prevent them from forming.

"Hurricanes derive their energy from the heat contained in the surface waters of the ocean," Dr. Alan Gadian from the University of Leeds said in a press release. "If we are able to increase the amount of sunlight reflected by clouds above the hurricane development region then there will be less energy to feed the hurricanes."

The authors believe that by using unmanned vehicles to spray tiny seawater droplets, increasing their droplet numbers, they could make mores sunlight bouncy back into space, therefore reducing sea surface temperature.

The team believes that based on a climate ocean atmosphere coupling model that this could reduce the power of developing hurricanes by one category.

Different cloud-seeding projects designed to influence rainfall amounts already exist, and they were famously used during the 2008 Beijing Olympics in China.

"Data shows that over the last three decades hurricane intensity has increased in the Northern Atlantic, the Indian and South-West Pacific Oceans," Gadian said in the release. "We simulated the impact of seeding on these three areas, with particular focus on the Atlantic hurricane months of August, September and October."

The researchers' calculations show that when targeting clouds in identified hurricane development regions, the technique could reduce an average sea surface temperature by a few degrees. This ultimately would be able to decrease the amount of energy available for the hurricane to form.

Seeding in the Atlantic could lead to a significant reduction of rainfall in the Amazon basin, but different patterns of seeding could be done in order to not affect this region.

"Much more research is needed and we are clear that cloud seeding should not be deployed until we are sure there will be no adverse consequences regarding rainfall," Gadian said in the release. "However if our calculations are correct, judicious seeding of maritime clouds could be invaluable for significantly reducing the destructive power of future hurricanes."