September 18, 2019

Can Science Conquer Hurricanes Before They Strike?

Weather modification has a long, sordid history and hurricanes have inspired some of the more far-fetched proposals, from bombarding cyclones with sonic booms from aircraft to beaming down microwaves from space into nascent storms.

In one of the most infamous attempts to slay a hurricane, Nobel laureate Irving Langmuir led a US military experiment in 1947 to seed Hurricane King with ice in hopes of sapping its vigor. The storm at the time was sliding away from the United States and losing strength.

In an excerpt in the Atlantic from his book Caesar’s Last Breath, author Sam Kean explained Langmuir’s idea: Growing ice in the eye of the hurricane would make the eye grow wider and collapse the storm. But Hurricane King didn’t respond as expected. “To everyone’s horror, it then pivoted—taking an impossible 135-degree turn—and began racing into Savannah, Georgia, causing $3 million in damage ($32 million today) and killing one person,” Kean writes.

Other meteorologists at the time were skeptical that Langmuir’s experiment made the storm change course.

US scientists continued to study seeding clouds inside hurricanes as late as 1983 under Project STORMFURY. But they concluded, according to NOAA, that “cloud seeding had little prospect of success because hurricanes contained too much natural ice and too little supercooled water.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"Tired of the presidential election? Ready to scream if you hear another word from Marianne Williamson? So beaten down that the sight of 10 candidates on another debate stage might send you to counseling? Just another reason to flee across the..."

"It’s already been widely noted that the New York Times buried breaking news about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged tendency, as a college student, to touch people with his penis when intoxicated. On Sunday, when the Times ran a..."

"Ask Americans about what they think is the biggest problem with their diets and you'll probably hear a variety of responses... "Too many calories." There's certainly a strong case for this. Americans consume an estimated 3,800 calories per day..."

"Ialways said I'd never get married and absolutely would never have children. Lots of people say that as kids, of course, but I graduated college having never gone on a single date, and as 30 approached, I detected no ticking of any biological..."

"Jennifer Morton was born in Lima, Peru, raised in a household that she considers “somewhere between working class and middle class,” and—thanks in part to the generosity of some extended-family members—went to a premier private school. Her..."

"A few years ago, I was given a Muppet Show Season 1 DVD. My expectations—or, rather, recollections, since I first met the Muppets back in 1977—was that I’d see a puppet-based variety show that had aged well in some ways and poorly in others. As..."

"If we get a rerun of the previous round, someone will have to break their promise and sit in a government with someone they vowed to eschew, otherwise the country will be dragged into a third election and it just won't be funny anymore..."

"Virtual reality management training is the latest development in the modern history of feeling better about capitalism. Barry exists to be fired. Over and over again, Barry pops into simulated existence with one purpose: Teach management...