First of all, I should mention that hurricanes/typhoons are actually desired in certain localities, and may well be necessary in the natural ecology of life. These storms do generate upwelling of nutrient-rich water to spark blooms of phytoplankton to start the cycle leading to more seafood. Typhoon Kai-Tak is known to have changed water surface temperatures by 9 °C (16 °F) as it was churning over the South China Sea and increased ocean chlorophyll 300-fold four days after passage. Thus while civilizations are inconvenienced, marine life can be enhanced.
But, global warming is heating the ocean, and any kind of common sense will tell you that more frequent and larger hurricanes will be produced. In 1970 a cyclone (also known as hurricane or typhoon, depending on which part of which ocean) slammed into the Bay of Bengal and killed up to half a million and at least 300,000 people in Bangladesh. Then there is Katrina in 2005, responsible for 1500 deaths and causing up to a trillion dollars of damage and reconstruction, hopefully so that the next time the city will be able to withstand a Category 5 (higher than 155 MPH or 67 meters/second or 241 kilometers per hour) storm. Don't hold your breath for government to make New Orleans completely safe.
There remains, though, a reluctance to necessarily blame Man for this change, and skeptics abound, including Patrick Michael, who argues that sea temperatures have no effect on hurricanes when wind speeds of 116 MPH (50 meters/second) are attained. I would offer Katrina as an obvious exception. Philip Klotzbach of Colorado State University writes that the data used by Emanuel and Webster prior to the mid-80s were patchy. The science of future hurricanes is again mentioned in the next chapter on global warming.
Anticipating worst case scenarios, on May 24, 1993, Stanley Dunn, who was at that time chairman of the Ocean Engineering Department at Florida Atlantic University, and I co-chaired an exploratory discussion at the Department of Commerce in D.C. on the potential of forming a team to prepare a feasibility plan for the design, construction and operation of a fleet of OTEC-powered plant ships as a major defense conversion or National Institute of Science and Technology Advanced Technology Program initiative to retard the formation of hurricanes. There also were representatives from industry and government. The group was ambitious. We drew up a plan for 500 floating plant ships over the next 20 years to manufacture marine products, of course, but also to prevent the formation of hurricanes. In 1992 hurricanes had caused more than $20 billion of damage in the U.S. We surmised that global warming would only mean stronger hurricanes. As these storms do not form when the surface temperature is below 26.8 °C (80 °F), what are the prospects of placing these revenue generating platforms at susceptible sites to eliminate these environmental monsters?
A writing team was assigned to seek $875,000 in Phase One to:
o Identify realistic mechanisms for hurricane prevention.
o Develop preliminary computer models to optimize at-sea experiments.
o Form the industrial team capable of building and operating up to 500 floating platforms
o Recommend a financing mechanism to implement the program.
Upon completion, Phase Two, to cost $8 million over a two year period, would:
o Develop an engineering design of the plant ship.
o Produce an implementation plan.
o Gain the involvement of user and insurance industries.
Phase Three would be devoted to selecting up to three grazing systems for fabrication at a 50 MW scale, estimated to cost in those days $250 million each, but should be self-supporting through the production of seafood, biofuels, etc. Phase Four would extend over a decade to deploy 500 250 MW plant ships. Here I went again with another billion dollar scheme. I never learn.
In retrospect, half of these systems would have been in place by 2005. Could Hurricane Katrina have been diffused? As the expectation is that Katrina will eventually cost something on the order of $500 billion and perhaps double that to protect New Orleans, the expenses for these plant ships, which, again, would all be revenue-generating and Greenhouse Effect remediative, would have been in the ball park of those coming expenses. Needless to say, Phase One was not funded.
But there are budding heroes out there. A particularly dedicated savior is Richard LaRosa. He has a web site (http://sealevelcontrol.com), and is devoting his retirement years to, first, slowing sea level rise, and now, preventing the formation of hurricanes. His theory regarding the latter is that artificial upwelling can be utilized through ocean thermal energy conversion to cool surface waters where hurricanes are generated or pass to suppress these storms. The problem is that he is only focusing on the science and engineering fundamentals to build a strong case for his concept. First, his mobile hurricane terminator (my naming) will be built only for this task alone. No co-products. Second, he has no idea who will fund it, nor how much anything will cost. We have been communicating for a year or so, and my advice to him includes:
o Completing those calculations as soon as possible and begin focusing on the reality of
o As I don’t think he will secure funding only to suppress hurricanes, find a way to generate
o However, as Katrina could well cost a trillion dollars, if he can build a movable system to
o Find a younger person as dedicated as he is to be a close colleague, for Dr. LaRosa, I think,