A recent study stated that even if one had infinite power and could artificially cool the oceans enough to diminish a hurricane, the advantages would be negligible.
According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Miami’s (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science, using intervention technology to diminish a hurricane before it reaches landfall is an unproductive means to reduce the effects of disasters.
The main result from our study is that massive amounts of artificially cooled water would be needed for only a modest weakening in hurricane intensity before landfall. Plus, weakening the intensity by marginal amounts doesn’t necessarily mean that the likelihood for inland damages and safety risks would decrease as well.
James Hlywiak, Study Lead Author and Graduate Student, University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Hlywiak added, “While any amount of weakening before landfall is a good thing, for these reasons it makes more sense to direct focus towards adaptation strategies such as reinforcing infrastructure, improving the efficiency of evacuation procedures, and advancing the science around detection and prediction of impending storms.”
The researchers integrated air-sea interaction theories using an advanced computer model of the atmosphere to provide scientifically sound answers to questions concerning the efficacy of artificially cooling the ocean to weaken hurricanes.
They reduced ocean temperatures by up to 2 °C in regions up to 260,000 km2, which is larger than the state of Oregon and equal to 21,000 km3 of water. The simulated hurricanes weakened barely 15%, even with the most extensive cooling area.
This modest reduction required energy extraction from the ocean equal to more than 100 times the amount used in the whole United States in just 2019 alone.
You might think that the main finding of our article, that it is pointless to try to weaken hurricanes, should be obvious. And yet, various ideas for hurricane modification appear often in popular media and are even submitted for patents every few years. We are happy to be able to put something into the peer-reviewed literature that actually addresses this.
David Nolan, Study Senior Author and Professor, Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Nature Communications Earth & Environment published this study. It was funded by a National Science Foundation PREEVENTS grant (Award # 1663947) and a Graduate Fellowship from the University of Miami.
Hlywiak, J., et al. (2022) Targeted artificial ocean cooling to weaken tropical cyclones would be futile. Nature Communications Earth & Environment. doi:10.1038/s43247-022-00519-1.