Artificially cooling the oceans to weaken hurricanes can be futile

A new study found that even if we had the infinite power to artificially cool the ocean enough to weaken a hurricane, the benefits would be minimal. A study by scientists at the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Sciences at Miami (UM) found that the only energy needed to use response technology is to weaken a hurricane before it makes landfall, making it a very ineffective disaster response. mitigation.

“LThe main result of our research is that it would take huge amounts of artificially cooled water to slightly weaken the intensity of a hurricane before it makes landfall.said the study’s lead author, James Hlywiak, a graduate of UM’s Rosenstiel School.

Also, reducing intensity by threshold amounts does not necessarily mean that the likelihood of internal damage and security risks would be reduced. While any weakening before landfall 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 advancing science in detecting and predicting upcoming 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 ocean areas up to 260,000 square kilometers – larger than the state of Oregon and equivalent to 21,000 cubic kilometers of water – by up to 2 degrees Celsius. Even with the larger cooling zone, the simulated hurricanes only weakened by 15%. The amount of energy taken from the oceans to achieve this small reduction is more than 100 times the amount consumed in the entire United States in 2019 alone.

You would think that the main conclusion of our article, that it is futile to try to weaken hurricanes, should be obvious” said David Nolan, professor of atmospheric sciences at the UM Rosenstiel School and lead author of the study. “And yet, various hurricane modification ideas frequently appear in the popular media and are even the subject of patent applications every few years. We are pleased to publish a paper in the peer-reviewed literature that actually addresses this issue.

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

The University of Miami is a private research university and academic health system with a distinct geographic capability that enables it 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 that enroll 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 geographic, cultural and intellectual boundaries, bringing a passion for academic excellence, a spirit of innovation, a respect for including and elevating diverse voices, and a commitment to solving the challenges facing our world. . Founded in the 1940s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Sciences has grown into one of the world’s leading institutions for marine and atmospheric research. By offering dynamic interdisciplinary courses, the Rosenstiel School’s mission is to help communities better understand the planet, participate in the development of environmental policies, and contribute to the improvement of society and quality of life.

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