HOW IT WORKS Other ideas to stop nat­u­ral dis­as­ters have had mixed re­sults

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Science -

PROJECT STORMFURY

Be­tween 1962 and 1983, US sci­en­tists tried to weaken hur­ri­canes by seed­ing them from air­craft us­ing sil­ver io­dide. The chem­i­cal was sup­posed to freeze su­per­cooled wa­ter in the hur­ri­cane, thereby dis­rupt­ing its struc­ture. Nice idea, but un­for­tu­nately there was not enough su­per­cooled wa­ter for the sil­ver io­dide to act upon, so the project was a fail­ure.

NUKE A HUR­RI­CANE

There is al­ways some­one out there for whom a nu­clear blast is the so­lu­tion, in this case for stop­ping a hur­ri­cane in its tracks. The prob­lem is that the en­ergy locked up in a hur­ri­cane dwarfs that of even the big­gest nu­clear bomb. In fact,

an es­tab­lished hur­ri­cane re­leases as much heat en­ergy ev­ery 20 min­utes as a

10-mega­tonne nu­clear de­vice.

BOMB A VOL­CANO

Be­fore his ex­ploits in WWII, US Gen­eral Ge­orge Pat­ton fought a bat­tle with the lava flow­ing from Hawaii’s Ki­lauea vol­cano, which threat­ened the town of Hilo in 1935. The plan was to dis­rupt the lava chan­nels and tubes that car­ried fresh lava to the flow front. Un­for­tu­nately, the bomb craters just filled up with lava. Hilo was saved, but only be­cause the erup­tion had co­in­ci­den­tally stopped.

STOP A TSUNAMI IN ITS TRACKS

Math­e­ma­ti­cian Dr Usama Kadri thinks that

tsunamis could be weak­ened with deep-ocean acous­tic waves. These nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring waves travel at the

speed of sound – if they could be fo­cused on a tsunami, they could re­duce its height. But trans­lat­ing it into prac­tice

would likely prove im­pos­si­ble.

JUST ADD WA­TER

Dur­ing 1973’s erup­tion of the Eld­fell vol­cano on the Ice­landic is­land of Heimaey, a lava flow that was threat­en­ing to de­stroy the har­bour was kept at bay for five months by spray­ing it with wa­ter, caus­ing the flow front to so­lid­ify. Luck­ily, the lava was slow-mov­ing and there was un­lim­ited wa­ter. If the erup­tion hadn’t stopped, the har­bour would even­tu­ally have been over­whelmed.

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