London: Hurricanes are among the most destructive natural forces on earth, but now scientists are working to tame their fury – through clouds.
Rather than seeding storm clouds or hurricanes directly, the idea is to target marine stratocumulus clouds, which cover a quarter of the world’s oceans, to prevent their formation.
“Data shows that over the last three decades, hurricane intensity has increased in the Northern Atlantic, the Indian and South-West Pacific Oceans,” said Alan Gadian from the University of Leeds, who led the study, the journal Atmospheric Science Letters reports.
“We simulated the impact of seeding on these three areas, with particular focus on the Atlantic hurricane months of August, September and October,” said Gadian, according to a Leeds statement.
“Hurricanes derive their energy from the heat contained in the surface waters of the ocean. If we are able to increase the amount of sunlight reflected by clouds above the hurricane development region, then there will be less energy to feed the hurricanes,” said Gadian.
Using a technique known as Marine Cloud Brightening (MCB), the scientists proposed that unmanned vehicles could spray tiny seawater droplets, a good fraction of which would rise into the clouds above, increasing their droplet numbers and thereby the cloud reflectivity and duration.
In this way, more sunlight is bounced back into space, thereby reducing sea surface temperature. The team’s calculations, based on a climate ocean atmosphere coupling model (HadGEM1) suggest this could reduce the power of developing hurricanes by one category.
Somewhat different cloud-seeding projects, designed to directly influence rainfall amounts, already exist around the world and were most famously used in China during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.