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Subject: C5g) Why don't we try to destroy tropical cyclones by altering their heat balance using high altitude particles ?

Contributed by Neal Dorst

The idea here is to spread a layer of sunlight absorbing or reflecting particles (such as micro-encapsulated soot, carbon black, or tiny reflectors) at high altitude around a hurricane. This would prevent solar radiation from reaching the surface and cooling it, while at the same time increase the temperature of the upper atmosphere. Being vertically oriented, tropical cyclones are driven by energy differences between the lower and upper layer of the troposphere. Reducing this difference should reduce the forces behind hurricane winds.

It would take a tremendous amount of whichever substance you choose to alter the energy balance over a wide swath of the ocean in order to have an impact on a hurricane. One would hope that this substance would eventually disperse or disintegrate and not have a terrible impact on the earth's ecology. Knowing where to place it would also be tricky. You don't want to heat up the wrong area of the atmosphere or you could put more energy into the cyclone. These proposals would require a great deal of precisely-timed, coordinated activity to spread the layer, while running the risk of doing more harm than good. Many computer simulations should be run before any field test were tried.


Gray, W.M., W.M. Frank, M.L. Corrin, C.A. Stokes, 1976: Weather Modificiation by Carbon Dust Absorption of Solar Energy, J. of Appl. Meteor., 15 4, pp. 355-386.

Last modified 11/6/2007

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