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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane stopper

Seeing the devastation from Katrina, its pretty clear that there is no way to harden against such a storm, but I wonder if there might be a way to unplug it, using its energy against itself. One possibility occurs to me.

Assemble a huge ring shaped wind farm that could be adjusted in size, by pulling in or letting out cables, to be a few miles larger in diameter than the eye of the target hurricane. The energy from the wind barges would be used to kill four birds (not to mention probably a lot of birds). 1) It would take energy from the wind. 2) It would use that energy to power underwater propellers in the opposite direction of wind travel so that it could keep taking energy from the wind. 3) It would direct its propulsive streams so as to also follow the eye of the hurricane, and 4) it would also angle its propellant streams the vertical dimension, so as to drive cold water up from below, drawing thermal energy away from the warm winds that power the hurricane. The temperature differential is key, so the barges would use long tubes to suck their propellent water from deep down.

Would the cold-water dredging operation be more efficient if it went with the wind, using underwater propellant streams to try to augment surface wind effects in creating an ocean whirlpool? Interesting to think about. Maybe cables wouldn’t even be necessary, with each barge sailing under its own wind power. Just have each one drive in as close to the eye-wall as it can, getting as much wind energy as possible into its wind turbines, with all power not needed for navigation being used to pull cold up. The wind power would not be sufficient for the barges to stay in place, but they could swirl around the eye, kicking cold up and out, which tells what the advantage of the cables would be. With cables in place, the barges would not have to propel themselves inward, which means more power could be used to drive cold up, but since ideal cooling would probably call for cold to be propelled out as well as up, this advantage might not be large, especially compared to the coordination costs and other costs of a cable system.

One swarm in the mid-Atlantic, one in the Indian Ocean, both nipping tropical storms in the bud, and one in the Gulf, just in case.

The ultimate solution will come when we understand enough about how to sample and project wind currents that we can figure out just where to detonate a big-fuel air bomb so as to disrupt the currents that create a tropical depression before it starts, but maybe in the meantime a big eye-affixing wind-farm is just low-tech enough to be within reach. Whaddayathink?

UPDATE: In the offseason, the wind-farm barges could be parked in some windy place and used for electricity generation. Such a dual use might even make the scheme economically viable, not that electric generation would pay for it, but that when all benefits were accounted, it might return net benefits. Could this actually work?

Ten megatons or better - right in the eye. No more low pressure. Nail it out to sea to minimize dispersion... oh, wait. Damn. I forgot. We used to bust H-bombs in the Pacific... until we KILLED THE PLANET. Now that we're all dead, I guess we can't do that anymore. Never mind. Guess we won't be improving the ski season with "controlled nuclear winter" anytime soon, either. I'm just a product of the instant gratification generation - we can do anything in 10**(-14) sec!
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I thought about nuking the eye, but I think that would be more likely to feed the hurricane than to blow it out. The driving force of a hurricane, as I understand it (or don't really understand it), is the release of heat when warm air condenses as rises from the bottom. Wouldn't a nuke just amplify that updraft?
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