This past hurricane season has been one of the worst in history with more named storms in the first three and a half months than there have ever been in previous seasons. The tropical storms and hurricanes destroyed countless homes and displaced thousands of people, including the people of Puerto Rico and citizens of many islands in the Bahamas. We can not afford to have more storms and hurricanes of this caliber destroying these fragile communities again.
In the early ’90s a few scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO theorized possible ways to weaken and possibly destroy these tropical storms and hurricanes. A method they came up with was a process called marine cloud brightening (MCB). MCB mitigates one of the most dangerous parts of a hurricane- the warm water. Scientists are able to make clouds by infusing water vapor with sea salt and the water vapor would then be able to condense, creating a more white cloud that reflect sunlight more effectively. By creating clouds, we are able to place them over bodies of water in hurricane-prone areas so they can reflect the sunlight back up instead of letting it heat up the water. If these clouds were deployed prior to hurricane season, they could cause many of those category 5 hurricanes to lose their steam before they hit the shores of some poor island. Additionally, this method would not cause further damage to the environment or the aquatic ecosystem.
Pipeline companies are also throwing in their two cents about what could stop these hurricanes. They start on the same basis that the abnormally warm water is to blame for these particularly disastrous storms, so their solution is to bring cold water to the surface. They plan to build pipes that go to the lower levels of the sea, where the water is much colder than the water on the surface, and pump the warmer surface water down in an attempt to draw the cold water to the surface. An alternative use for the pipes is to array long vertical tubes from floating rings. As the waves lap against the rings, the water level in them rises to sea level which pushes the water in the pipe down and forces the cold water to the surface. One drawback of this plan is that there is no real way to anchor them securely during a storm, so they would drift around. Also, that displacement of water could be harmful to the creatures that reside in the cool depths as well as the ones that remain close to the surface. If these animals and plants are not used to the warmer temperature, then they could be harmed in this process.
This is what would happen to coral reefs if they were exposed to warmer water:
The final of cooling the oceans is also the most extreme. Some scientists believe that by pumping aerosols into the stratosphere, so they can reflect the sunlight back into space. The aerosols can weaken the development of hurricanes and wind speeds and, in some areas, can even cause them to fall apart. Studies have only been conducted in areas where there is a high aerosol concentration and the results have been promising. Typically, people have a negative connotation of “aerosols” because of the CFC’s that were banned in the ’70s. While other aerosols are not as dangerous as CFC’s, they are still harmful to our ozone layer and trap greenhouse gases, making this method a little circular. However, at this point, humans would need to make a drastic change to our lifestyle to make any real impact on global warming and other effects of climate change. We need to decide if this would be the right method to use for right now even if it may harm us in the future. Is the future of our planet more important than the lives of people on tropical islands or are we to hope the other methods may be more effective against the next extreme hurricane season?