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Saturday, July 26, 2014

CAN OTEC NEUTRALIZE HURRICANES?

Yesterday, I suggested that ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) could well remediate global warming.  Today, I extend the benefit further with a contention that OTEC can also  neutralize hurricanes (and cyclones and typhoons).   I use neutralize, for the effect might well be two-fold:  prevent the formation of this damaging storm and diminish the severity if one forms.

It must have been twenty years ago that I gave a talk on this subject in Taipei, and a comment came from the audience:  But a typhoon is how we get most of our drinking water.  I made a snide comment about a future ability of scientists to reduce the storm so they got the rain, but not the high winds.  Well, just this past week, Typhoon Matmo stormed over Taiwan, and probably caused the crash of a TransAsia Airways flight, killing 48.

For global climate change, the concept sounds worthy, but the value is nebulous.  How much carbon credit should this process gain?  With hurricanes, the damage is definite.  Katrina (left) in 2005?  $125 billion! Sandy in 2012?  $50 billion.  In 1970 Cyclone Bhola killed, perhaps, half a million in India.  Last year, Super Typhoon Haiyan overwhelmed the Philippines, with maximum gusts up to 235 MPH.  Worse, these typhoons seem to be getting stronger and stronger.

Back again to a paper I co-wrote on Artificial Upwelling for Environmental Enhancement:
  • More and stronger hurricanes form with warmer temperatures, and with global warming, it can only get worse.
  • A 2 F drop in ocean surface temperatures can prevent the generation of a hurricane.
  • In 1993 at the Department of Commerce (operates NOAA) in DC I co-chaired a summit to discuss the potential of OTEC systems to minimize or prevent hurricanes.
    • In addition to the Feds and academics, representatives were there from General Dynamics and Lockheed.
    • Ambitiously, we designed a plan to finance and operate up to 500 floating OTEC plantships, each at 1000 MW.
I won't even mention the cost, but you would think that, in light of regular multi-billion dollar damages, a few hundred thousand dollars to initiate a program could be warranted.  Nope...nothing happened.

What about the more limited task of using artificial upwelling to reduce the effect of a moving hurricane?  A decade and more ago, I was advising an individual in New Jersey on his efforts to accomplish this task.  After a few years I finally convinced him that the federal government would not spend significant funds for this purpose, and that no company would bother to try because there are no profits involved.


But, aha, along came Bill Gates and Ken Caldeira in 2009.  They, and their team, actually filed five patents to reduce the danger of approaching hurricanes. either by cooling ocean temperatures, as above, spraying seawater into the atmosphere (left), etc.  Hurricane luminaries, people like William Gray and Kerry Emanuel, belittled the plans.  The world is not yet ready for geoengineering.

In any case, they all missed the point.  The concept actually might work, but no one has tens of billions to carry out the full-scale plan.  UNLESS the hardware is but a portion of a floating platform also generating income.  Reduction of hurricanes will never be attempted as a stand-alone mega-project.  However, as a co-product of the Blue Revolution, that is exactly what I have been advocating for more than two decades.  Click on  any of my Huffington Post articles on this subject (there are four), or link to the Blue Revolution Hawaii site, especially the Pacific International Ocean Station.  Better yet, click on my 20 minute presentation to a gathering sponsored by the Seasteading Institute.

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Today, I walked the road to Mandalay, a Chinese restaurant:


There was a one-year old birthday party for Mason, but I was squeezed into a table at the window in a small side room.  Unfortunately, a loud band was playing when I entered (and continued playing until I left).  What was the problem?  I was sitting on the other side of the wall behind the drummer:


Fortunately, though, the meal was fabulous.  I ordered dried scallop soup, bok choy with oyster sauce and Shanghai dumplings, accompanied by a Tsingtao beer:


After three cupfuls of soup, I hardly changed the level of the bowl.  This combination was enough for three people, or more, but only cost me, with tax and tip, $33.  So I walked home a container of bok choy in scallop soup.  I'm already looking forward to my next meal of this delicious concoction.

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