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Thursday, 01 November 2007 20:09

Boston-area scientists study controlling hurricanes with soot

Moshe Alamaro and Ross Hoffman say that if airplanes drop soot over clouds, then the carbon particles could absorb sunlight that would warm up the cold clouds. Such action would reduce wind speeds and possibly prevent hurricanes from causing damage like Katrina did to New Orleans.       

Computer simulations, based on chaos theory, performed by Moshe Alamaro, at Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge), and Ross Hoffman, at Prediction and Radiation Studies and Data Assimilation & Prediction Group (Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc., Lexington), show that temperature changes in violent storms can change their paths and reduce their intensities.
[Chaos theory is a theory that contends that natural systems, such as hurricanes, obey physical laws of nature but are so sensitive to their initial conditions that any tiny change of parameters, such as a small change in temperature, can drastically change their them to an unexpected result. Thus, their complex actions look to be random, but are not in reality.]

Hurricanes form when warm air near the surface of ocean waters meet colder air higher in the atmosphere. The mixing of the two air masses with dramatic temperature differences causes winds and rains to form.

However, by mixing the top layers of the storm with black carbon particles (like soot or pulverized black rubber), the researchers contend that they can warm up the cold air of an impending hurricane and stop, or at least reduce, the severe winds that result, which can cause severe damage and death to property and persons in their paths.

Alamaro states in a FoxNews.com article, "Several hundred tons of soot per hour would need to be dropped into the storm. Large cargo planes can carry about 125 tons each, so two sorties an hour could be enough."

Alamaro and Hoffman also contend that satellites could beam down microwave radiation onto the clouds, which would also heat up the tops of hurricanes to slow them down.

Before starting any actual experiments on small weather systems, the two men have hired technical advisors to recommend ways to protect themselves if such a venture caused a hurricane to be diverted away form a large city, like New Orleans, only to hit a smaller community at a smaller category wind force, but still cause death and destruction to its buildings and people.

In a society willing to bring lawsuits against just about anything or anybody, Alamaro and Hoffman’s biggest problem may not be with actually succeeding in producing the necessary technology and devices to divert hurricanes but, instead, to wade through the complicated legal system (in hip boots and raincoats) of the United States and other countries around the world in order to protect themselves from being sued.

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