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Imagine…Reducing the Punch of Hurricanes

05/22/2009

 

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In late 2005, the following article was posted. It’s relevancy remains true in 2009, as another hurricane season is about to commence. Interest in controlling hurricanes is gaining. In 2008, the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security  looked into hurricane modification research to move beyond the 1960’s “Project Stormfury” which studied weather alternation. The topic was discussed last year at the American Meterological Soceity. We cannot let future Katrina’s happen without trying to lessen their impact, but legislation has stalled in Congress.

“Each year, millions of lives are disrupted…and hundreds die, from the massive natural fury of hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones.  Governments spend untold millions on forecasting and relief.  As we were again taught in 2004 and during the hyper hurricane season of 2005, the State of Florida and vast areas of our planet continue to be at the mercy of these incredible storm machines.

In October, 2004, Scientific American published an article by Ross N. Hoffman.  The theme was how creative and imaginative scientists are now discussing, and feverishly studying, how to mitigate and at least partially control hurricanes.  Indeed, pushing hurricanes to safer routes and reducing their intensity seems, for the first time in human knowledge, to actually be possible.  Over the next several decades, technology might actually be used to make the hurricane season less deadly, and far less damaging.

Now is the time for the current administration to announce a 25 year concerted effort to study, mitigate and ultimately control, hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons.  Through a combination of multi-governmental and private funding initiatives, we can seize on the ideas explained by Hoffman, and try to make a safer world for our children.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) needs a NASA like effort to focus key resources on hurricane deflection and diminishment…now.

On September 29, 2005, BizNewOrleans.comreported concerns that NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division (HRD) may be under funded.  The web site reports staffing at the HRD is down from 1980’s levels.  Some researchers, the site claims, worry that modernization of equipment and more research personnel are needed to tackle the huge and daunting task of tracking and predicting hurricane movement.  While the budget director of NOAA asserts the funding is not low, a review is promised.  USA Todayalso reported in a September 29 article that NOAA personnel need at least $10 million to modernize the research division and face current challenges.  The present budget, the paper reports, is only $5.1 million. 

As important as the efforts are to track storms and measure their intensity and development, the U.S. needs an additional and new hurricane mitigation program.  Congressional hearings on the potential for hurricane mitigation should be a top priority of the current Congressional session.  In the wake of Katrina, the call for accelerated hurricane research grows across the nation.  The economic health, indeed the national security of our country, is impacted by hurricane disasters.  There are few scientific and research programs such as this suggested effort that will help us as a nation, and filter down with benefits to local neighborhoods in every hurricane exposed state.

“Imagine reducing a Category 5 storm to a Category 3…”

Past efforts at hurricane mitigation were not successful.  With the passage of time, however, the development of super computer models and enhanced understanding of cyclonic events, it is time to revisit the potential for tangible results of reducing the fury of these catastrophic storms.  Imagine being able to reduce a Category 5 storm to a Category 3.  There are private companies studying this idea, as well as universities.  Government researchers dream of such a potential.  Let’s enable them to find ways to get the job done for future generations. 

The magnitude and frequency of hurricanes is increasing.  Studies show we are experiencing an uptick in hurricanes that may last 10 years or longer.  Can we afford to ignore the need to tackle hurricanes and go beyond the critical science of tracking and detection to reach the next level of research?  Now is the time for strong leadership to take the study of hurricanes to the next dimension. 

Hoffman and his associates need to be taken seriously.  Write your Representatives, your Senators, your Governor and your State Legislators. Talk to your family, friends and business associates.  Demand greater hurricane research funding and a revitalized effort to control these storms.  Let’s create a grass roots drive to force the discussion of serious hurricane mitigation research into the mainstream of public discourse…not 10 or 30 years from now, but today.”

Updates:

The National Hurricane Research Initiative Act of 2006  was introduced in the U.S. Senate by four Senators.  Part of the proposed leglistlation was to provide for basic research “for modifying hurricanes to reduce the intensity or alter the movement of hurricanes by human intervention…” Known as S. 4005 in the 109th Congress, the last major action took place on September 29, 2006 when it was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Nothing further transpired.

See June 13, 2008 U.S. News and World Report entitled, “A New Debate Over Steering Hurricanes, Shoud taxpayers fund research into weather modification?”

Read the original article by Ross N. Hoffman, printed in Scientific American, in October, 2004, titled, “Controlling Hurricanes, Can Hurricanes and other severe tropical storms be moderated or deflected?”

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