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Could cloud-seeding weaken hurricanes?

Researchers propose cloud-brightening to avert strong storms

A composite NOAA image of Hurricane Andrew, in 1992.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — While hurricanes are often feared as a destructive force of nature, they are also one of nature’s great climate regulators, helping to disperse ocean and atmospheric heat away from the equatorial region.

But some environmental scientists think it might be a good idea to reduce the intensity of hurricanes by seeding clouds to decrease sea surface temperatures when hurricanes form. Theoretically, the scientists claim the technique could reduce hurricane intensity by a category.

The team focused on the relationship between sea surface temperature and the energy associated with the destructive potential of hurricanes. Rather than seeding storm clouds or hurricanes directly, the idea is to target marine stratocumulus clouds, which cover an estimated quarter of the world’s oceans, to prevent hurricanes forming.

“Hurricanes derive their energy from the heat contained in the surface waters of the ocean,” said Dr Alan Gadian from 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.” Continue reading

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Climate change: scientists ponder cloud brightening

Geoengineering idea floated as a way to slow global warming

Could brightening clouds help slow the march of global warming? Photo courtesy NOAA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With international efforts to limit heat-trapping greenhouse gases faltering, some scientists say it’s worth at least exploring the concept of creating clouds that might reflect sunlight to counter global warming.

Geoengineering has always had a few proponents, as there are always some people who think that we can engineer our way out of any problem. But many of the ideas floated as possible solutions to global warming are just vague theories at best, with little evidence that they could work.

Now, University of Washington atmospheric physicist Rob Wood describes a possible way to run an experiment to test the concept of cloud brightening on a small scale. His idea is described in a paper published this month in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

Wood makes it clear he’s not advocating for geoengineering, but wants to encourage more scientists to consider the idea of marine cloud brightening and even poke holes in it. Continue reading

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