According to researchers, ocean cooling is an effectively impossible solution to mitigate disasters.
According to recent research, even if we had infinite power to artificially chill the oceans enough to weaken a hurricane, the benefits would be minimal. The research, headed by experts at the University of Miami’s (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science, found that using intervention technology to weaken a hurricane before impact is an extremely inefficient way to mitigate disasters.
“The main result from our study is that massive amounts of artificially cooled water would be needed for only a modest weakening in hurricane intensity before landfall,” said the study’s lead author James Hlywiak, a graduate of the UM Rosenstiel School.
“Plus, weakening the intensity by marginal amounts doesn’t necessarily mean that the likelihood for inland damages and safety risks would decrease as well. While any amount of weakening before landfall is a good thing, for these reasons it makes more sense to direct focus towards adaptation strategies such as reinforcing infrastructure, improving the efficiency of evacuation procedures, and advancing the science around detection and prediction of impending storms.”
The scientists combined air-sea interaction theories with a highly sophisticated computer model of the atmosphere to provide valid scientific answers to questions concerning the efficacy of artificially chilling the ocean to weaken hurricanes.
They cooled regions of the ocean up to 260,000 km2 in size, which is bigger than the state of Oregon and equals 21,000 cubic kilometers of water, by up to 2 degrees Celsius in their computer simulations. Even with the largest cooling area, the simulated hurricanes only weakened by 15%. The amount of energy extracted from the ocean to accomplish this slight reduction is more than 100 times that used in the entire United States in 2019.
“You might think that the main finding of our article, that it’s pointless to try to weaken hurricanes, should be obvious,” said David Nolan, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the UM Rosenstiel School and senior author of the study. “And yet, various ideas for hurricane modification appear often in popular media and are even submitted for patents every few years. We’re happy to be able to put something into the peer-reviewed literature that actually addresses this.”
Reference: “Targeted artificial ocean cooling to weaken tropical cyclones would be futile” by James Hlywiak and David S. Nolan, 19 August 2022, Communications Earth & Environment.
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the University of Miami.