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