Timon Singh

UK Scientists Suggest 'Cloud Brightening' Could Reduce the Severity of Hurricanes

by , 08/24/12

Sustainability Features, cloud brightening, clouds, global warming, hurricanes, seeding, university of leeds, cloud seeding, hurricane defense, marine clouding brightening, hurricane intensity, sea surface temperature

As Hurricane Isaac approaches the Caribbean and is set to continue into the Gulf of Mexico, a team of British scientists from the University of Leeds has proposed that Marine Cloud Brightening (MCB) could—in theory—be used to decrease sea surface temperatures where hurricanes form. The report, published in Atmospheric Science Letters, suggests that this technique could reduce hurricane intensity by one category.

Sustainability Features, cloud brightening, clouds, global warming, hurricanes, seeding, university of leeds, cloud seeding, hurricane defense, marine clouding brightening, hurricane intensity, sea surface temperature

The idea comes from the relationship between sea surface temperature and the energy associated with the destructive potential of hurricanes. What the UK team have discovered is that if you target marine stratocumulus clouds, which cover an estimated quarter of the world’s oceans, you could potentially prevent hurricanes from forming.

“Hurricanes derive their energy from the heat contained in the surface waters of the ocean,” said Dr Alan Gadian from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds. “If we are able to increase the amount of sunlight reflected by clouds above the hurricane development region then there will be less energy to feed the hurricanes.”

Marine Cloud Brightening (MCB) would be done by unmanned vehicles that would spray tiny seawater droplets. These would then rise into the clouds, increasing their droplet numbers and thereby the cloud reflectivity and duration By ‘brightening’ the clouds in this manner, more sunlight is bounced back into space, thereby reducing sea surface temperature.

By targeting such clouds in identified hurricane development regions the technique could reduce the average sea surface temperature by up to a few degrees and thereby greatly decrease the amount of energy available to hurricane formation.

“Data shows that over the last three decades hurricane intensity has increased in the Northern Atlantic, the Indian and South-West Pacific Oceans,” said Dr Gadian. “We simulated the impact of seeding on these three areas, with particular focus on the Atlantic hurricane months of August, September and October.”

Of course, if you tamper with nature in one area, it will affect another. The Leeds team have noted that if you were to ‘seed clouds’ in the Atlantic , it could lead to a significant reduction of rainfall in the Amazon basin and elsewhere.

“Much more research is needed and we are clear that cloud seeding should not be deployed until we are sure there will be no adverse consequences regarding rainfall,” concluded Dr Gadian. “However if our calculations are correct, judicious seeding of maritime clouds could be invaluable for significantly reducing the destructive power of future hurricanes.”

+ University of Leeds

via TG Daily

Images: NASA Goddard Photo and Video and born1945

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