The impact of a hurricane can be felt for decades. With human lives and billions of dollars at stake every year, the question is always asked, “can we stop or weaken a hurricane?”
Government and even private-sector scientists have tried numerous experiments to weaken hurricanes to limit damage to life and property.
The idea is that if we know the ingredients of a hurricane, we can alter them or possibly diminish them. But it’s not easy.
The idea that made the news lately… dropping a nuclear bomb into a hurricane. This has been an idea the government tossed around many decades ago. According to NOAA, the energy released in a hurricane is the equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb going off every 20 minutes or one going off 72 times a day. So you can see why one nuclear bomb wouldn’t be strong enough to impact it.
That’s also not taking into consideration the human and environmental impacts of radiation carried through the trade winds and impacting the ocean. That would do more damage to lives than an actual hurricane.
Another attempt at controlling a hurricane was through cloud seeding… something many North Dakotans are familiar with. From the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, scientists seeded eyewalls in certain hurricanes. The idea was that a new eyewall could form essentially strangling the old eyewall and stunting the hurricane’s growth or weakening it. There was not enough concrete evidence that it was working since eyewalls are formed all the time on their own. There wasn’t a way to know whether it was from the seeding or the natural formation.
An idea that hasn’t been tested yet is called the Salter Sink Theory, named after the man who invented it. It’s a contraption that would bring cooler water from deep in the ocean to the top, cooling the surface water and weakening the hurricane. Remember, the eye is the engine and the hot water is like fuel. Cooling the water would essentially cut off the energy supply. The problem? You’d have to have the placement just right in front of the path of a hurricane. It would cost billions each year but hasn’t had enough funding to be adequately tested. It works well on paper. With backers like Bill Gates, this method may be something you hear about in the future.
The takeaway here is that hurricane modification has been attempted for decades. We just haven’t found one that works. Only with time and funding will we know if we’re able to at all.