Hurricane are always in control
I’m sure that many people have experienced what it is like to live through a hurricane, especially if you reside along the Gulf Coast. They are truly terrifying forces of nature, bringing catastrophic flooding and incredible wind speeds roaring through our communities. Over the past couple of years, we have seen several devastating tropical systems hit the eastern and Gulf Coast states, including Harvey, Irma, Florence, Michael, and Maria in Puerto Rico. When we hear that a hurricane is headed our way, we prepare, evacuate, or stick it out. We understand that once we are in a hurricane’s crosshairs, there is nothing that we can do but board our windows and hope for the best. But is that really all that we as humans can do, or all that we have done? In our ever-advancing society, shouldn’t we be able to apply our vast scientific knowledge to deal with hurricanes?
It sounds like an impossible feat, but many individuals have tried to control and destabilize hurricanes before they are able to make landfall. One of the most well-known instances of an attempt to modify a hurricane was known as Project Cirrus, a collaboration between General Electric, the US Army, Navy, and Air Force that began in 1947. It involved a team flying an aircraft into a hurricane and releasing dry ice in order to cool the storm and weaken it. The results of this experiment were inconclusive and the project was terminated, but that didn’t stop the US government from trying again. Between ‘62 and ‘83 Project Stormfury was implemented and involved “seeding hurricanes” with silver iodide to disrupt the eyewall and decrease windspeed. As with Cirrus, Stormfury was eventually ruled to be an ineffectual experiment and was discontinued. Other ideas have included dropping nuclear weapons into a hurricane, piping cold water to the ocean’s surface where a storm is likely to develop, dragging icebergs into their path, cooling the entire planet through increased solar reflection, or flying supersonic jets through a storm to disrupt its powerful warm winds.
Ideas like these are considered “geoengineering,” whereby humans attempt to influence large-scale climate conditions. While altering the trajectory or strength of hurricanes sounds beneficial to society, the adverse effects must be considered. Hurricanes are necessary natural phenomena that carry massive amounts of energy from the equator to the poles to equalize heat distribution across the planet. The consequences that could result from tampering with the oceans and atmosphere are currently unknown and must be thoroughly studied before any plans can be implemented.