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Deflecting Hurricanes

With yet another hurricane barreling down on the southeastern United States, it is time for the “can’t they do something about these things” stories. The latest comes courtesy of MSNBC, which tells us that amateur meteorologists have come up with…
September 15, 2004

With yet another hurricane barreling down on the southeastern United States, it is time for the “can’t they do something about these things” stories. The latest comes courtesy of MSNBC, which tells us that amateur meteorologists have come up with several amusing schemes for deflecting or disappointing hurricanes. Among them: blowing hurricanes away with giant fans, blowing them up with nuclear warheads, towing an iceberg into southern waters to lower the water temperature, spreading an oily substance on affected waters, or bombing it with absorbent powder. Needless to say, all are fairly iffy, because hurricanes pack a real wallop: according to NOAA the total kinetic energy of a spinning hurricane is about a trillion watts, with about 100 trillion watts released through cloud and rain formation. Note that 1 kiloton of TNT (the Hiroshima bomb was roughly 15 kilotons) generates about one trillion joules of energy–that is, about as much as a hurricane generates every second. So you begin to understand the scale of the problem, and the futility of the proposed solutions.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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