Artificial active

Artificial cooling of the oceans to weaken hurricanes

Image: A satellite image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration captures an active hurricane season that included Hurricanes Katia and Irma and Tropical Storm Jose (left to right) on September 8, 2017
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Credit: NOAA

A new study has found that even if we had the infinite power to artificially cool enough oceans to weaken a hurricane, the benefits would be minimal. The study by scientists from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science showed that the only energy needed to use response technology to weaken a hurricane before it makes landfall makes it a very inefficient solution to disaster mitigation.

“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 by marginal amounts does not necessarily mean that the likelihood of inland damage and safety risks would also decrease. While any weakening before landing is a good thing, for these reasons it makes more sense to focus on coping strategies such as strengthening infrastructure, improving the efficiency of evacuation procedures and the advancement of science around the detection and forecasting of impending storms.

To scientifically answer questions about the effectiveness of artificial ocean cooling in weakening hurricanes, the authors used a combination of air-sea interaction theories and a highly sophisticated computer model of the atmosphere.

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. »

The study, titled “Targeted ocean cooling to weaken tropical cyclones would be futile,” was published in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment. The study was supported by a graduate scholarship from the University of Miami and a PREEVENTS grant from the National Science Foundation (award #1663947).

The University of Miami is a private research university and academic health system with a distinct geographic capability to connect institutions, individuals, and ideas across the hemisphere and around the world. The University’s vibrant and diverse academic community includes 12 schools and colleges serving more than 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students in more than 180 majors and programs. Located in one of the most dynamic and multicultural cities in the world, the University builds new bridges across geographical, cultural and intellectual boundaries, bringing a passion for academic excellence, a spirit of innovation, a respect for inclusion and elevating diverse voices, and a commitment to addressing the challenges facing our world. Founded in the 1940s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science has grown to become one of the world’s leading marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary scholars, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities better understand the planet, participate in shaping environmental policy, and contribute to improving society and the quality of life.

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