Science Questions

Can cooler water from the deep oceans be used to stop hurricanes?

Sun, 28th Mar 2010

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Question

James Hamlin asked:

Hi Chris

 

Is it tangible to churn up cooler waters from the depths of the sea to cool the surface water and prevent or calm hurricanes?

 

Answer

Dave -   In theory, if you could reduce the temperature of the surface of the sea, thatís going to give less energy to the air above it, less upwelling of air, so you're going to get much weaker upwelling, and you could stop a hurricane forming.  However, hurricanes, as Moshe was saying, can form anywhere over the whole of the Atlantic, all the way into the Gulf of Mexico.  So you'd have to cool down the whole of the surface of the ocean which is going to be a ridiculously huge engineering job.  Also, it would only work for a few years because eventually you would warm up the deep ocean, you would cause all sorts of havoc and alter the balance of nutrients of the ocean.  And, as Moshe was saying, small storms are actually very important for us because they bring water, rain, into the whole of the west side of the Atlantic.

Ben -   Not to mention the fact that the temperature structure of the oceans are actually incredibly important for the currents, and things like what we call the conveyor system that moves warm and cold water around the world.

Dave -   If you're not careful, youíd end up freezing Northern Europe where we are because you might break the north Atlantic conveyor, the gulf stream.

Ben -   Thatís another reason why this is unethical and legal minefield.  Not only could you send a hurricane into somebody but you could also freeze England by accident. 

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