269. TAMING HURRICANES WITH SATELLITES
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused $75 billion in damages, and Hurricane Rita $10 billion, for a total of $85 billion in the U.S. alone. These hurricanes also caused extensive damage to the oil production infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico, much of which was simply written off. Clearly any technology capable of moderating hurricanes, or directing them away from population centers and energy infrastructure, would be extremely valuable.
The ground work for achieving this has been done by Ross N. Hoffman, Chief Scientist at Atmospheric & Environmental Research Inc. (AER), a weather consulting firm headquartered in Lexington, Mass. In the October 2004 issue of Scientific American he described one approach:
Our team plans to conduct experiments in which we will calculate the precise pattern and strength of atmospheric heating needed to moderate hurricane intensity or alter its track. Undoubtedly, the energy required to do so would be huge, but an array of earth-orbiting solar power stations could eventually be used to supply sufficient energy. These power-generating satellites might use giant mirrors to focus sunlight on solar cells and then beam the collected energy down to microwave receivers on the ground. Current designs for space solar power stations would radiate microwaves at frequencies that pass through the atmosphere without heating it, so as to not waste energy. For weather control, however, tuning the microwave downlink to frequencies better absorbed by water vapor could heat different levels in the atmosphere as desired.In a presentation on this topic, he also mentions the idea of using space mirrors:
Solar reflectors: In low earth orbit, these would produced bright spots on the night side and shadows on the day side of the earthNow, it remains to be seen whether 2005 was an anomaly, or the start of a new pattern. But if we do enter a period where hurricanes like Katrina become a chronic pattern, there is really no excuse for not building microwave satellites or space mirrors to deal with them. A working system would pay for itself in a few years, even if it cost $100 billion. It could also generate electrical power as a side benefit.
It makes a lot of economic sense, and a company called Space Island Group (SIG) has a detailed plan for doing it. You can read about the company and their plan here.
-- by JD