A Hur­ri­cane Choke­hold

Popular Science - - FEATURES - MHH

Hur­ri­canes feed off warm wa­ter. As our oceans grow steamier, these whirl­winds gain power like su­pervil­lains. Chok­ing off their ther­mal en­ergy can sap their strength, which in turn can save lives, while also less­en­ing the bil­lions of dol­lars in dam­ages they in­flict with ev­ery sea­son’s new land­fall.

Stephen Salter, an en­gi­neer at the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh, cre­ated a pump that sits atop the ocean and uses wave en­ergy to send warm wa­ter to the cold depths, where it be­comes luke­warm, rises, and thus cools the sur­face. But to achieve the storm-stop­ping tem­per­a­tures you need in the At­lantic Ocean’s Hur­ri­cane Al­ley, you’d have to de­ploy “wave sinks” over thou­sands of square miles.

As with all geo­engi­neer­ing in­ter­ven­tions, this re­quires more re­search to un­der­stand col­lat­eral effects; the pumps could boost nu­tri­ent and oxy­gen flow and ben­e­fit marine crea­tures. But chang­ing tem­per­a­ture could change the ecosys­tem, bring­ing harm to those crea­tures. The pumps might find other uses; its early back­ers have used them in lakes to com­bat zero-oxy­gen zones.

Far-Out Plans for Tam­ing Our Weather

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