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Sci-Fi Space Science

Scientist Are Working to 'Steer' Hurricanes 310

E++99 writes "In the wake of Katrina, two teams of climate scientists have been working to steer hurricanes. Both teams are using the technique of removing power and speed from strategic points in the hurricane, effectively refracting its path. The American team is approaching this by warming the areas of the tops of the hurricane clouds, either by dropping ash to absorb heat from the sun, or directly beaming microwaves on those areas from space. The Israeli team is taking the approach of cooling the bottom of the hurricane by releasing dust along its base."
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Scientist Are Working to 'Steer' Hurricanes

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  • by Saib0t ( 204692 )
    Now, steering hurricane from space, that's pushing the concept of MWD to a brand new level. And you can always deny that it's you who did it. Wonderful...
    • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @04:52PM (#21065803) Homepage
      I'm beginning to worry about weather forcasters. After years of being disparaged, belittled and made the butt of countless jokes, they now have a crack at revenge.

      Be very afraid.

  • Sounds dangerous (Score:4, Insightful)

    by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @04:50PM (#21065775) Homepage Journal
    Really. It sounds dangerous. It's not best to mess with Mother Nature. Especially when it comes to climate and weather. IMHO, weather control such as steering hurricanes will create more problems than it solves. Do you know what the results would be? Do you know what the long-term effects of hurricane steering would be? No, no one does because it hasn't been done.
    • Re:Sounds dangerous (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JebusIsLord ( 566856 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @04:54PM (#21065821)
      We get such bad hail in the summer here in Calgary, that they've been successfully seeding storm clouds for years. They spray something on the clouds before they hit the city, so that the hail stones form early.

      It seems to be working; I haven't seen or heard about hail damage in a few years now.

      There is a lot of energy in a thunderstorm... not hurricane energy, but I expect such a thing IS doable.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Not exactly the same as steering hurricanes, though. In your case, the thunderstorms still occur, they just don't produce hail, right? Hurricanes pack a lot of energy. Where will all of that energy go? What other types of damage would that cause? I'm not saying it can't be done, I'm saying that we might not like the repercussions.
      • Maybe, but what happens when they try to steer the storm and it veers into another country? I'd be pretty pissed if I was a farmer on the outskirts of Calgary and my entire crop was wiped out by hail due to seeding. Likewise, I don't think Mexico would much care that we managed to save Corpus Cristi at the expense of Tampico. If we were on less than amicable terms, it might even be considered an act of war. It seems like weather manipulation, if successful, could open up a whole new can of liability wor
        • If a bullet ricochets off of my armoured car, and hits an innocent bystander, will you blame my car?

          Sure, there would probably be lawsuits over storm steering just like there have been lawsuits over every other endeavour that humans have undertaken. Big deal.
    • Re:Sounds dangerous (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dr. Eggman ( 932300 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @05:09PM (#21065971)
      Sooner or later, world scale experimentation is going to be necessary. I'm not talking about Global warming or anything like that, just that one day our environment will have naturally changed in some way that won't support us as we currently are. Yeah, its dangerous, but so is leaving things to chance and trying to predict our way around them. The whole "no one knows" argument is the same garbage that's holding back Genetic Modified foods; the same argument that's held people back for ages. Of course no one knows, that's why we're trying to find out! If exploring, exploiting, and manipulating your environment is not something you are particularly fond of, you might be in the wrong species...
    • Does no one learn from Jurassic Park?!
  • by rtyhurst ( 460717 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @04:51PM (#21065787)
    CBC just did a program on this last night: []

    The linked page includes a program excerpt.

    Conclusion: none of the *nine* different methods considered will work on their own.

    Used all at the same time, they might make a difference.
    • Seems like the link you provided has issues (I.E. bad rendering, video link bad, etc.) because of the forward slash after it. Just remove the slash, and your good :) []
    • by rs79 ( 71822 ) <> on Sunday October 21, 2007 @06:21PM (#21066561) Homepage
      In 1994 I met a guy that told me this story. He was out of a masters program in argicultural science and wanted to do someting about the chicken problem whereby you have to feed them antibiotics when they're in close quarters otherwise they get sick. He reasoned that it was filty air that was doing so built a coup that had two walls charged with -15kv to electrostatically clean the air. He said it worked; the ait was clean, the chickens never got sick and there was a 4" thick coating of white fluffy dust.

      One day the coup was wiped out by one of the rare hurricanes up here. Specifically the one in the Fergus/Guelph corridor.

      He didn't think much of it other than "dammit".

      Not long after he got a visit by a bunch of government types (he never said who, but said he was scared from the moment they said "hello".

      They explained to him the hurricane was tracking a straight line then took a 10 mile south diversion, wiped out his coup then went back to it's original course. They wanted to know what on earth he had in that coup.

      He said "hey, if I could divert the course of a hurricane would I me messing around with chickens?" and they want away.

      • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:04PM (#21067869) Homepage
        When I was 8 or 9, a tornado touched down about a mile south of our house. It proceeded steadily north, directly toward us, but skipped right over our house at the last second, then immediately touched back down after it passed our house. Our neighbors' houses on either side were completely destroyed. A few hours later, 5 or 6 black SUVs pulled up in front of our house. A bunch of men got out, and started getting things out of the back of their vehicles while 2-3 came up and knocked on our door. They wanted to know how exactly we managed to prevent the tornado from destroying our house. My dad declined to tell them about the force field generator he had been working on in the basement, and fortunately it was disguised as a common microwave oven. I still remember his words to this day: "Hey, if I could divert the course of a tornado, would I be cooking frozen dinners in my basement?" The men looked displeased with his answer, and they went back to the group and said something in hushed voices. The next thing we knew, they proceeded to start demolishing our house with sledgehammers and crowbars. When they were done, our home looked no different than the splintered houses around us. They even took our refrigerator, trucked it a half mile up the road and dumped it in a field, to make it the damage look authentic. "Tell no one," they said, and left as quickly as they had come.

        Later that evening, we were driving around searching for food. We found a KFC open about 30 miles away, but there was a line halfway down the block -- apparently everyone else was doing the same. My dad decided we would just go to the 7-11 across the street instead. I got a hot dog, some milk, and some candy, and my dad got a couple of sodas and some nachos. Back in the car, I offered him some of my candy. "These things are amazing," I said, "You've got to try them!" He poured some Pop Rocks in his mouth, and washed them down with a swig of Pepsi. Almost immediately, he started crying out in pain. My mom rushed him to the nearest hospital, almost 20 minutes away. Fortunately, we got there in time, and the doctors successfully operated on his distended and ruptured stomach. Over the next few days, many well-wishers showed up, one of whom had found our family cat, Patches. The nurses made a special exception, and allowed the cat to sleep in the bed with my old man, who I imagine was rather depressed in light of recent events, though he never showed it. Unfortunately, that cat was NOT Patches, as we later learned, only too late. The next morning, we found my old man cold and still in his bed. The cat had eaten his soul.
  • um ... liability? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fractal Dice ( 696349 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @04:52PM (#21065793) Journal
    I hope they have good liability insurance.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by BrentWM ( 320879 )
      My insurance covers "acts of God," but I'm not so sure about acts of NOAA.
    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @05:17PM (#21066051)
      "We're sorry that the hurricane striked your state, we tried to stop it but could only redirect it. And no, the fact that your state voted against the prez in the last election and the one saved voted for him was in no way related to that."
  • Who needs economic sanctions against Cuba when you can steer every hurricane that comes down the pipe into downtown Havana? As if the conspiracy theorists don't have enough to do...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Colin Smith ( 2679 )
      Because economic sanctions have turned Cuba from a communist enclave to capitalist paradise.

  • by untree ( 851145 )
    I think the lawyers got this one right. There's no way any legal counsel would ever approve something like this. WEAKENING, perhaps, but not steering. I know I would sue if someone steered the next Katrina into my house.
  • Uhmmm...... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @04:52PM (#21065801) Homepage
    This presents a huge ethical dilemma.

    If you steer the hurricane away from the big city, but it still hits a small town 100 miles away, and kills 100 people, have you just murdered those 100 people? And at that rate, the ones who survived are going to be pretty pissed that the government shot a HURRICANE at them.

    What if we screw up, and send a Category 5 Hurricane on a collision course with Havana or Mexico City? That would have disastrous consequences.

    This sort of technology has terrifying military applications as well. Send a hurricane at *insert insular communist dictatorship here*, wait til it's passed, and then invade the nation while they're picking up the pieces.

    I'm generally for the advancement of science, but in this case, we're coming a bit too close to "playing God" for our own good.
    • This presents a huge ethical dilemma.

      Ethical? The path will be determined by what populace gave the most campaign donations to which ever party happens to have their appointees in charge of said the Department of Weather.
    • I agree it's an ethical dilemma, but what's easier: evacuating a big city or a small town?
      • Will there be time to do either?

        And on that note, given how long it took to finally give an evac order for New Orleans, does it really matter? (also, given the slow delay and the unpredictability of these storms, how quickly can the hurricane be "steered" away from a metropolitan area? Will we have to start the process the very moment a tropical storm pops up on the radar?

        It also makes the government directly responsible for any damages that occur.
        • Will there be time to do either?

          Pretty much always, yes. Just like now. A fast hurricane moves at 20MPH towards the shore, and most give warning many days in advance. Most are slower than that - especially the big, dangerous ones. Evacuating a city shouldn't take more than 48 hours.

          And on that note, given how long it took to finally give an evac order for New Orleans, does it really matter?

          Yes. New Orleans government was (and, considering that their mayor got reelected somehow, probably still is) fanta
    • Re:Uhmmm...... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mode_Locrian ( 1130249 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @07:06PM (#21066873)
      This is essentially a real-life, large scale version of the much discussed "Trolley Problem" (originally posed by Philippa Foot). (See [] for a more-or-less accurate sketch.)
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by moosesocks ( 264553 )
        Mod parent up. This is exactly what I was thinking of when I wrote my post (but couldn't remember the formal name by which it's referred).

        It's particularly interesting, because I'd initially dismissed the problem as another bit of "mental masturbation" for philosophers to obsess over to little effect, as the situation had no fathomable real-world analog. (Nothing quite makes you want to pull your hair out like getting stuck in the middle of an argument between two philosophy majors).

        But the real-world par
    • If you have the technology to steer the hurricane away from the big city, but are paralysed by tough ethical choices into inaction, and so allow the hurricane to hit the big city and kill 1,000 people, have you just murdered 1,000 people? Or just the 900 difference in body count? If failing to prevent a death is less ethically unsound than causing a death in the course of preventing ten other deaths, how MUCH less ethically unsound is it?

      Causing death while endeavoring to save lives is not murder. It's

      • If you want to define murder in that manner, then no, you haven't murdered them.

        However, you've most certainly killed them.

        Isn't this how BushCo has been justifying the staggering number of Iraqi civilian deaths? According to the relatively conservative (and verifiable) estimate of the Iraq Body Count [], we've killed 0.3% of the population. There have been smaller genocides.
        • Isn't this how BushCo has been justifying the staggering number of Iraqi civilian deaths? According to the relatively conservative (and verifiable) estimate of the Iraq Body Count, we've killed 0.3% of the population. There have been smaller genocides.

          Even worse, more than 17 million Americans have died since BushCo took power (8.26 per 1000 per year for 7 years). He's clearly attempting to ethnically cleanse the entire United States. Those evil bastards must be stopped!

  • Further Thoughts... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by E++99 ( 880734 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @04:53PM (#21065815) Homepage
    They are worried about getting sued by the small towns they direct the storms to in the effort to avoid large cities. But if the space-based approach can be done efficiently, and we methodically steer all tropical storms over a certain size, couldn't we theoretically get them all to end up harmlessly in the North Atlantic?

    Also for a gratuitous Star Trek II reference, "we are dealing with something that could be perverted into a dreadful weapon."
    • Well, as far as I can tell, these types of methods don't do much to reduce the size of the storms. They simply nudge it a little on the theory that a small shove early on means missing a city by 50 km later on.

      And as far as I understand, hurricanes and related storms gain energy while over water and really only start dissipating it over land. So, even if they could keep it circling in the Atlantic, the danger would be that the storm keeps growing and growing. Besides, there is so much shipping in the Atl
  • They've tried cloud seeding too and they even though about detonating hydrogen bombs in the hurricane. Hurricanes are very large heat engines that work off of a temperature gradient. Upset that gradient enough and the storm breaks up or destroys its self. DO it wrong and you can inadvertantly steer the hurricane the wrong way or make things a whole lot worse by actually strengthening it. That isn't to say we haven't tried before though, we've used cloud seeding on storms for years [started as a military
    • Would Nuclear detonation in strong hurricane make a slightly weaker, but now radioactive hurricane? Good news New Orleans, you only got hit by a cat 2 instead of a cat 3, but unfortunately you will have to stay out of the area for the next decade if you ever want kids because of the radiation.....
      • yes. that is why they never tried it. of course if we ever did, it could just as easily make a stronger hurricane but now with radiation spread all throughout the atmosphere
  • This sounds completely crazy. Unfortunately, it's impossible to prove it's crazy since you will never know where the hurricane would have gone if someone hadn't introduced these relatively small temperature differences.

    But I guess there's no harm in letting these scientists think they moved the hurricane. What's the worst that could happen, the universe slaps them? []
  • by frankmu ( 68782 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @04:58PM (#21065873) Homepage
    Hugo Chavez, the Bush Administration will get you yet!
    • I thought Fidel ought to check his hurricane shelter too.
    • Hugo Chavez, the Bush Administration will get you yet!
      Perhaps if all of the USA's neocons would get together in one place and hate him simultaneously, Mr. Chavez might actually burst into flames and.... uh..... wait... they tried that with Bill Clinton and it didn't work.
  • soot? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by peektwice ( 726616 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @04:59PM (#21065879)
    So how much carbon black or soot does it take to warm a hurricane to the point it changes direction? I'm picturing a hurricane that is redirected using this method dropping gobs of black rain on my car, house, driveway, yard, etc. That'll be fun.
    • tell me: what will your car, house, driveway and yard look like after a cat 5 hurricane that we didn't steer away?
      • Mine will work just fine, I'm not dumb enough to be living on a hurricane prone coastline.
        • hurricanes can cause damage to areas over 100 miles from the coast line, that's a very large chunk of the planet that can and is hit by hurricanes. many people living in those areas don't have the option of leaving. entire countries, cuba for one. It's better to develop tech to help people who can't move to survive at the least although it isn't possible at the moment to save everyone that way. If we found a way to break up or civert dangerous hurricanes, that could save a lot of lives and that is what
  • by fredricodagreat ( 1005203 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @05:05PM (#21065939) Homepage
    I know that the whole point is to save lives and all, but we really shouldn't be doing this. As it is we have screwed up the planet a lot. I'm sure there is some natural benefit to hurricanes (not that I know what it is) and by trying to control them, we are screwing with the ecosystem even more than we already have. At some point we're going to figure out how to control it and some guy is going to wipe out all of Florida in one big swoop because something didn't go exactly as planned. Don't screw with nature. Karma bites.
    • by snl2587 ( 1177409 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @05:14PM (#21066039)
      And I live in Florida. Central. Which brings up another point. Why is Florida the shape that it is? Because hurricanes tend to run on either side of it, but rarely up the middle (sometimes across it, but these tend to be weak ones). Is it any coincidence that the first few miles near the shore are nothing but palm trees and other hardy plants, while the center of Florida is dense forest? No, it's just nature, and hurricanes maintaining ecosystems. This is not something that needs to be controlled. The reason New Orleans had trouble is that the city is below sea level. By the ocean. In the Gulf. Blocked by man-made levees. Anyone else see the obvious problem?
  • by mritunjai ( 518932 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @05:08PM (#21065957) Homepage
    Sounds awfully like a scam to get government funding for research, actually.

    A typical hurricane packs a punch worth an "ordinary" atomic bomb exploding every minute. It would take an insane amount of energy to add/remove to even make a statistically significant difference.

    Mother nature is *really* powerful and not to be messed with!

    Ah, now if they could figure out how to remove some energy and convert into electricity, now THAT would be useful... a season's worth of storms can solve whole world's energy problem ;-)
    • by RodgerDodger ( 575834 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @06:19PM (#21066539)
      Not really.

      Cyclones have insane energy levels, true, but they are still storms and winds, and they obey natural laws. One of these laws says that they drift based on pressure differentials in the surrounding area - ie, if the air pressure is higher to the north than the south, the cyclone will head south.

      Air pressure is related to temperature; hot air rises, which will make the air pressure go down, while cold air sinks, making the air pressure go up (*warning: highly simplified explanation!*).

      Besides, this technique is what already causes cyclones to break up - when they hit land, the temperature grade becomes very uneven, because land absorbs heat differently to water. This creates an asymmetrical bulge or dip in the cyclone - which is bad for what is basically a rotating disk of air. This asymmetry forces the cyclone to rip itself apart - usually by sending storm systems deep inland. Nor does it take a huge difference to do this - cyclones are chaotic, unstable systems: science speak for saying that a small push can send it into a different state.

      For an easy analogy - imagine a motor biker rider. The motor bike, going at 100MPH, has insane amounts of kinetic energy, compared to what the rider could normally attain. But the bike is an unstable system - a small nudge of energy (rider shifting balance, for example) can make the bike change direction. Of course, get this wrong, and disaster strikes - too much energy causes the bike to fall over.
      • your argument is correct, but with fallacy-

        A fraction of a big fricking gargutan number is still a big fricking gargutan number!

        It is easy to imagine that it takes a small push to disbalance a speeding rider... but now try to do that with a speeding bullet, then imagine doing it with something a several orders of magnitude more energy!

        Sorry, no array of any space based energy beamers are going to cut it anytime soon! We're talking about an act of nature that just right embarrases whole world's stockpile of
        • A one degree Celsius temperature difference, over an area of a few hundred square kilometres, would steer a hurricance. We know that humans can generate many times this difference - the thermal plume of any city is considerable larger.

          It takes one calorie of energy to heat one gram of water by one degree C. One gram of water is one millilitre of water, or one cubic centimetre (approximately). A square meter of surface area, to one centimetre of depth, is 10000 cubic centimetres - 10 kilograms of water.

          • Um, Pa Sun already outputs around 1 kW/sq.m on earth's surface. Over 1 square-km that would be 1 GW... give or take ~300MW for particularly cloudy/sunny days.

            Said 50 MW might look a lot to you, but in nature's terms, it's just peanuts :P
            • Yes, but that's my exact point - the huge natural energies provided by the Earth's environment (including the Sun) can be manipulated by relatively small amounts of energy - of the level that humans can manipulate and control.

              It's actually the global warming debate in microcosm - yes, humans can change the environment.
    • We are adding energy to the system to redirect the energy present in the system. It's similar to what a fighter does when he pats a jab to one side instead of catching the punch. The energy remains in the system, but it no longer gets dissipated all at once in your face.

      What I'm really worried about is what happens when we direct one of these storms around the Atlantic for a few days and it builds up strength. As has been mentioned before, we industrialized nations could use this to unleash the storm from h
  • by ozbird ( 127571 )
    Attacking the hurricane is futile - and with increasing ocean temperatures due to global warming, the frequency and strength of hurricanes is only going to get worse.
    The real question is: what are they doing about the butterflies in Brazil []?
  • Say what you want about Richard Hogland, but he has an outdated blog about this very same subject. []
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @05:26PM (#21066115) Homepage Journal
    is to get a bunch of people on the shoreline and have them all blow really hard(Sorry, I couldn't think of a way to phrase the previous sentence that WASNT a double entendre.)
  • It has been two weeks since scientists first tried to take the offensive with hurricane Murphy, and it seems the worst is yet to come.

    Murphy was threatening the east coast as a, then, category 4 storm when scientists unleashed an assault of new techniques intended to thwart a disaster by gently steering the hurricane to a less populated portion of the coast. It became immediately clear that the efforts worked. Too well, in fact!

    Hurricane Murphy took a steep turn to the northeast into the Atlantic, pr

  • Think of the potential abuse by insurance companies. They hire private companies to steer the hurricanes to consistently hit a certain area, and then refuse to insure that area. The insurance companies get "free money" from everyone else for storm/hurricane insurance on the off chance the hurricane cannot be redirected.

  • by Hebbinator ( 1001954 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @05:45PM (#21066259)
    Listen, the hurricaine was only half the problem. The reason Katrina was a disaster was not because of direct hurricaine damage that this kind of thing may prevent. Moving the hurricaine to the east or west would not stop the water surge that caused the levees to break! This is not the direction we should be heading as a society.

    Why not spend this money on infrastructure and first responders? Or people to check to make sure mandatory evac's are carried out? Or insurance reform? If you had a hurricane coming at your house, would you rather have trained people to help you, make sure you get away safely and securely, and that your material things are protected... or would you rather count on beams from space? Are you kidding?
    • by 3waygeek ( 58990 )
      Helped? It could have caused [] Katrina.
    • Why not both? The more directions from which the problem is approached, the more likelyhood some sort of usable knowledge will be gained.

      Practice and theory can coexist quite well, each advancing the other. Even if it's discovered that weather control is inefficient and/or hardly possible at all, at least something will have been learned from it.
  • It's one thing to change the course of a hurricane -- it is quite another to do so in any sort of predictable fashion. Even storms that are (for now) unaffected by human intervention have a substantial margain of error on their predicted path. (That's why the maps show the classic "cone" instead of a straight line.) Remember that Katrina would have struck an even more devastating blow to New Orleans had it not veered from the predicted course at the last minute.

    So, what if the storm, left alone, would hav

  • ... the massive drought impacting the south east of the USA this year.

  • From Butterfly Effects.

    I hope they fail.
  • Interesting how reality is finally catching up to fiction. []

    Now we just need for them to start building a giant dome over New York City...
  • Nothing says "screw you" like, given the opportunity, steering a tornado *into* a major naval port or major industrial region of an economic or military enemy.
  • Satellites could also heat the cloud tops by beaming microwaves from space.

    I'm a bit concerned with this recent obsession to beam microwaves from space. First, it's some hare-brained plane for solar energy, now steering hurricanes. Give it up already: it simply is not going to happen.
  • How much you want to bet, once this is possible, suddenly we'll find that hurricanes only hit blue states and majority democrat neighborhoods/counties?

    What better way to ensure victory, then to obliterate your competition's voters?
  • by Normal_Deviate ( 807129 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @07:23PM (#21066981)
    Well over half the posts on this topic are variations on "Don't do it because something might go wrong", the modern version of "God did not intend man to meddle."

    Pointing out something that might go wrong does not require wit, only a desire to obstruct or to appear wise. Even less is required to point out that something vague and unspecified might go wrong. Even less, to refuse to notice that something massively valuable is likely to go right.

    Imagine the Slashdot posts on the "Man invents fire" story.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by hmccabe ( 465882 )

      Imagine the Slashdot posts on the "Man invents fire" story.

      Requires fuel. Less light than the daytime. Lame.

  • Claiming that they can "steer" a hurricane implies that they can ultimately control where it goes and when. That is not what they are doing... and as mentioned elsewhere, it also implies responsibility for the outcome.

    "Diverting" is a much better term. It implies only that you are changing the current course, and includes an implied purpose to prevent its collision with something or someone.

    Those who attempt to do this should keep in mind the "Butterfly Effect". They had better be careful that they kn
  • by k2backhoe ( 1092067 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @08:25PM (#21067329)
    You can steer hurricanes and tornadoes reliably and easily. You use a heavy lifter like an old B-52 and you approach the storm and drop mobile homes along the path you want the storm to travel. Anyone who has ever seen a TV story on these storms will understand the strong scientific basis for this method.
  • Here we go again (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Orp ( 6583 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @09:41PM (#21067755) Homepage
    It is highly doubtful whether human meddling will have a discernible influence on the morphology of any given hurricane. Hurricanes are simply too big and the amount of energy involved is too large. Have you ever seen a kid kick dust into a dust devil? The sucker continues merrily on its path. Think of the scale of dust-devil-to-kid and then think of the scale of a bunch of puny airplanes spewing dust to a hurricane!

    I am highly skeptical of any conclusions drawn from simulated data. As a cloud modeler running at very high resolutions (much higher than hurricane simulations since I am studying much smaller individual thunderstorms) I can tell you that even the most sophisticated cloud microphysics parameterizations are extremely crude. Clouds and rain are represented not by droplets, but mixing ratios, and gross assumptions are made about drop size distributions, transfer rates between species, etc. So, to say "we dropped some parameterized soot in the model and it made a difference" is not saying much.

    Small perturbations in a highly unstable chaotic simulations such as a hurricane simulation will result in noticeable changes in the simulation days down the road. This is not a surprise. But even a small perturbation in a model would involve a huge amount of matter or energy in the real world, and whether these perturbations could be orchestrated to create a predictable change in course is very highly doubtful.

    Another problem that plagues all forms of weather modifications is that you'll never know for sure if the modifications themselves caused a shift in storm evolution, or if an observed shift was something that would have happened anyway. Causality is the hardest thing to prove - even in a model where you know the state of your system to seven decimal points of precision.

    I really hope federal money is not spent on this kind of research. Is there a limit to the hubris of mankind?
  • by Comatose51 ( 687974 ) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:16PM (#21067951) Homepage
    To be honest, every time there is a hurricane, I am more relieved if it is headed towards the Florida Keys instead some where else that doesn't usually get hit by one. People who grew up in the Keys know about hurricanes. Our houses are mostly steel reinforced concrete and built on stilts. The flood water has to be a story high before it can reach the living room of my parent's house. Keys residents will laugh at anything that's category 3 or less. We know how to stock up on food and when to evacuate because it's something we have to do every couple of years.

    My point is that directing a hurricane else where will likely cause more damage and deaths because the places where hurricanes hit have developed "defenses" against them. This is not an useful idea if they're intending to do good. Plus a great deal of natural life actually depends on the occasional hurricane to replenish itself. Hurricanes are natural events in those areas and people and wildlife have adapted to them.
  • by jocknerd ( 29758 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @09:07AM (#21071077)
    Hurricanes, while destructive to the coastline where they make landfall are beneficial in the long run. Most hurricanes that come ashore in the Gulf of Mexico are beneficial to the Mid-Atlantic states. Because a few days after the hurricanes come ashore, the remnants of the storm move east and bring needed rain to the mountain regions of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The rainfall here helps the rivers and tributaries which move eastward towards the Chesapeake Bay.

    When will man learn to leave nature alone? Don't want destruction from hurricanes? Don't build on the coastline.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson