Fox 5 NY Special Archive

Can you fight a hurricane?

A satellite infrared image of Hurricane Sandy after it made landfall over Cuba and Jamaica, Oct. 25, 2012.


Superstorm Sandy turned this region upside down, destroying homes, obliterating businesses, ruining coastlines, and uprooting lives. Like so many, I watched as Sandy reduced our beach-side towns to rubble. In the two years that have passed, the focus has been on rebuilding getting people back on their feet.

But what if you could fight Mother Nature?

Hurricanes are fueled by the heat and energy in warm ocean water. Dr. Alan Blumberg of Stevens Institute of Technology has this big idea: that if you kill the heat you'd zap the energy and eliminate or weaken the storm, thus fighting Mother Nature.

But how? Blumberg says you have to cool the water under the eye of the storm. He says his patented technology -- the Hurricane Slayer -- is up for the job.

Don't judge it by its name. This is a small prototype. But imagine 200,000 large tubes dropped into the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Cooler water enters through a bottom valve and as it exits it changes the water's surface temperature. The other option: build a few massive, permanent Slayers. He says both can knock a storm from a Category 5 to a 2.

Modifying the weather isn't exactly a new. Scientists have been fiddling with it since the 1960s.

Over the years, people have proposed a lot of crazy things that never really went anywhere, such as towing icebergs into warmer regions, dropping a hydrogen bomb into the eye so the heat can disrupt the current, and flying fighter jets around the wall to break the storm apart.

Another idea is being researched at Stanford University: harnessing the power of the hurricane's winds.

Professor Mark Jacobson's big idea is to build a wind farm of 150,000 turbines four miles off shore. As the storm approaches, the turbines tackle the outer bands. They help to cut the wind speeds, which reduces wave heights, supplying less energy to the core of the storm. His research deals specifically with Hurricanes Katrina, Isaac, and Sandy. He says a wind farm could have reduced Sandy's wind speeds by 50 percent and its devastating storm surge by 60 percent. Katrina's winds could have been cut by at least 70 percent, he says.

But some meteorologists worry these could also cause big problems. International Hurricane Center's Erik Salna says such efforts could turn a storm to another coastal city or cause the storm to drop even more rainfall. He says there are so many unknowns with trying to modify a storm. He says the focus needs to be on better tracking and research.

But then again, it could also yield big results.


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