Bill Gates takes on hurricanes

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:49 PM GMT on July 27, 2009

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Bill Gates thinks big. His charitable foundation has poured $1 billion into the fight against that great scourge of humankind, malaria, resulting in the creation of a new vaccine that is 100% effective in mice, and is now headed towards trials in humans. If successful, Gates' efforts have the potential to save millions of lives. Gates has also turned his attention to another great scourge of humankind, the hurricane. In a 2008 patent filing that recently came to light, Bill Gates and his friends presented a scheme for reducing the strength of hurricanes by cooling sea surface temperatures, using a fleet of ships that bring up cold water from the depths. Can Gates really pull this off? I don't think so. The obstacles are fourfold: technical, financial, environmental, and legal.


Figure 1. A diagram from a 2008 Bill Gates patent filing, depicting an array of hurricane-control vessels in the Gulf of Mexico. Image credit: techflash.com.

Technical issues
While modification of hurricanes is theoretically possible, the scale of the undertaking is truly enormous. A fleet of dozens or hundreds of ships spanning a huge swath of ocean would be required, and these ships would have to be able to withstand the 50-foot waves and 160 mph winds a major Category 5 hurricane could deliver. As I discussed when a similar scheme was proposed in 2006 by Atmocean, Inc., it is not clear how long the cold water pumped to the surface will stay there--the cold water pumped to the surface is more dense than the water beneath it, and so will tend to sink, allowing warmer water beneath to replace it and warm the surface waters again. Modeling studies and field studies are needed to determine if the cold water can stay at the surface long enough to significantly affect a hurricane. Furthermore, simply cooling the ocean may have no effect on a hurricane, if the storm is in a favorable upper-atmospheric environment with low wind shear.

Financial issues
Any hurricane modification effort is going to be tremendously expensive. The cost of the array of cooling pumps proposed by Atmocean in 2006 for the Gulf of Mexico was pegged at $2.4 billion. Gates' scheme would have a similar cost. He proposes paying for it through government funding and the sale of insurance policies in hurricane-prone areas.

Environmental issues
A large change to the ocean temperatures over a wide area of ocean is bound to have significant--and unknown--impacts on fisheries and wildlife. Regional weather patterns may also be affected, intensifying droughts or bringing heavy rains and flooding.

Legal issues
Hurricanes naturally make sudden unpredictable course shifts, and the hurricane modification efforts are also capable of causing track shifts in a storm. Residents on the coast hit by the modified storm will want to sue, and there will be many lawyers more than happy to take their case. Gates would have to get special legislation passed to protect his company from lawsuits, such Congress passed for the gun industry in 2006.

Summary
In summary, we simply don't know enough about hurricanes yet to safely engage in modifying them. A lot more research is needed before we should spend the huge sums needed to attempt hurricane modification. The Department of Homeland Security has a $1 million research effort going that will attempt to answer some of these questions, called HURRMIT (The Identification and Testing of Hurricane Mitigation Hypotheses). The HURRMIT program is evaluating the potential of a number of hurricane modification techniques, including:

Seeding with tiny hygroscopic aerosols to suppress warm rain (Rosenfeld et al. 2007 and Cotton et al., 2007)

Seeding with radiation-absorbing aerosols (i.e., carbon black) at the storm periphery (Gray et al., 1976)

Seeding with radiation-absorbing aerosols (i.e., carbon black) at storm top (Alamaro et al., 2006)

Pumping cool water from the depths to the ocean surface in front of the hurricane (Ginis and Kithil, 2008)

Frankly, I'm dubious that the money being spent on HURRMIT is worth it, given the four huge obstacles to hurricane modification I presented above. However, the research may provide some new insights into hurricane intensification that we don't have now.

For more insight on this issue, read the Washington Post article published on this subject earlier this year.

In closing, I'll present the proposal one reader of an New Orleans online newspaper had:

"[Bill Gates] should just have one of his employees write an ActiveX Script for Google maps so we can just highlight the hurricane, right click on it, then select delete. Or maybe just cut and paste it farther out into the Atlantic Ocean."

Controlling hurricanes, Hollywood style
Hollywood's latest attempt to create a weather disaster epic is itself a disaster, as many of you who suffered through last night's installment of "The Storm" miniseries on NBC will agree. The uninspired plot involves government/military bad guys and a noble scientist who heroically tries to save the world, with a good measure of made-for-TV chase scenes, murders, and special effects thrown in. The hero scientist Dr. Jonathan Kirk (James Van Der Beek) has a scheme whereby one can control the weather by bouncing crackling streams of energy from a ground-based array of dishes off of satellites and into the ionosphere, which then gets "peeled away like an onion". Dr. Kirk then uses the energy to bring life-giving rains to the Sudan, and to steer a hurricane away from Florida. The trouble is, he doesn't quite have things figured out. Unintended side effects occur, such as the Mojave Desert getting 8 inches of snow the day after 112°F temperatures. More problematically, the hurricane heading for Florida strengthens instead of weakening. In one scene, a radar animation of the hurricane off the coast of Florida shows the powerful storm spinning clockwise instead of counter-clockwise, defying the laws of physics. Hmm, that's some pretty powerful weather control technology! The scientific basis for the weather control scheme is preposterous--ground-based energy streams beamed into the ionosphere would not appreciably affect the weather. The weather is made in the troposphere, the layer of atmosphere closest to the ground. Furthermore, the amount of energy needed to cause the kind of disturbances portrayed in the movie are enormous, similar in scale to the entire electrical output of the world. A small array of ground-based dishes could only channel perhaps a trillionth of the amount of energy required. The movie's special effects are cheesy, the acting average, the plot weak, and the science behind the the story completely implausible, making this weather disaster movie as disastrous as the equally rotten Day After Tomorrow movie. The movie's main redeeming grace is as a cautionary tale--weather modification on a large scale will certainly have unintended side effects, and we should not engage in such efforts until we have a much greater understanding of how the weather and climate work.

Scientific American has an interesting article that talks about the proposed Bill Gates hurricane modification idea in more detail.
Jeff Masters

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Quoting potteryX:
Good Heavens. This blog is filled with weather information about people's locations.
Where will it go next? Should'nt be allowed.


Morning X man... where are the pictures that were promised????
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If any of you Southern types want your hot weather back.. feel free to come up to Victoria.. pick it up..and take it home with you.. its been stupid hot here for two weeks..and it is suppose to get worse this week. We got over 100 again..and they are calling for it to do it again..and again :(
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Good Heavens. This blog is filled with weather information about people's locations.
Where will it go next? Should'nt be allowed.
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Hummm,
It looks like the design takes wave energy to pump surface water down,and I didn't see an impeller.
That would be perfect for oxegenating the dead zones.

Now back to your local weather.

Yea for Central Florida, we had frontal rain and now the good old afternoon thundershowers like back in the day. The result is that some depleted lakes are back up to average levels afer years below it.

I'm not sure if it is the Jet position, El Nino, or some other tropical wind pattern that had brought sustained rainfall paterns that I remember from 30 years ago. But it is nice.
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Blog Update
Reflector site for those at work, which includes Weather456, daily update.


AOI

AOI
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The short-term GFS model for the same oscillation seems to also pinpoint then... though these things are fluid.

Though,



That's the strongest I've seen the EWP project it in a while. (Yes, from 26th July, so who knows if it'll revert back or change or whatever.)
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1057. msphar
Blog level bickering is some how inversely perportional to the lack of tropical cyclone activity. Just an observation,
Member Since: August 20, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 289
Nice blow-up of clouds off the Florida Keys in the last few frames.

GOES West Atlantic Imagery Click for Loop

By the way the weather in south Florida over me is moderate to heavy rain. Just in case anyone wants the local conditions. :-)
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1055. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 55991
Hello Pottery.

The NAO is still in the negative, and towards the end it creeps up into perhaps the positive... but it's also been saying that for around a month now, although the teleconnection wobbles about a bit, anyway.

That can't be the best for people's personal interests as 456 made a blog illustrating that point a little while ago.

Both the CFS and EWP plots seem to predict the MJO will come into the positive over the Atlantic in around 3 weeks time. (Coincidentally when I'm away again. When TD1 appeared, I was away for that too.)

As that's around the middle of August, that's probably a fair bet when things really get going. As is really the usual for any Atlantic season.
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Oh (Pottery); I forgot to mention all of our Folks in the Caribbean and Tropics who keep us informed of the weather in their respective parts....."It's a Weather Blog"...
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post 1049, Hunkerdown.
Just so you know, the weather here in Tobago is very nice today. Birds are tweeting, sun is shining, sea is calm.
I know that you want to know these things.
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Quoting hunkerdown:
ok, I will be dreadfully honest, who cares what your daily local forecast is. You always make posts about YOUR weather like we should all care. You also love to make your weather a determining factor on other people weather not in your locale.


It will be a slow day on the Blog but that does not mean that others (not regulars) can then try to take the time to make personal attacks or pick apart every entry. We have folks from all over the Gulf states on here and we regularly talk about the weather in our respective areas.......Actually it's a great "real time" resource for all concerned. If you don't like it, find another Blog.
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1050. IKE
Quoting hunkerdown:
ok, I will be dreadfully honest, who cares what your daily local forecast is. You always make posts about YOUR weather like we should all care. You also love to make your weather a determining factor on other people weather not in your locale.


So what do you want to talk about on a tropical weather blog? The tropics right? There's nothing going on.

You want to talk about Bill Gates?

GW?

I can answer for you and at least 2 others on here....tropical activity in the Atlantic. There isn't any...sorry.

I don't care if you don't care about my weather.
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Quoting IKE:


I do post things about my weather, just about every morning.

I've got a 70% chance of rain today...60% tomorrow...50% on Thursday...60% on Friday.

Inland Florida panhandle.
ok, I will be dreadfully honest, who cares what your daily local forecast is. You always make posts about YOUR weather like we should all care. You also love to make your weather a determining factor on other people weather not in your locale.
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456 are there any other Blogs, that are more inspiring than this one.? sometimes a lot of the postings are paediatric in nature
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NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TALLAHASSEE FL
256 AM EDT TUE JUL 28 2009

OUR WEATHER WILL BECOME DOMINATED BY STACKED MID/LOW LEVEL RIDGING. THIS IS A PATTERN MORE TYPICAL OF OUR MID-SUMMER SEASON. ECMWF/GFS
BOTH SHOWING THE UPPER LEVEL PATTERN TRANSITIONING TO AN ELONGATED UPPER RIDGE FROM THE WESTERN ATLANTIC SOUTHWESTWARD ALONG MUCH OF THE NORTHERN GULF COAST. AT THE SURFACE...THE SUBTROPICAL RIDGE AXIS WILL BE MIGRATING NORTHWARD OVER THE AREA BY THE SECOND HALF OF THE WEEKEND.

All part of the pending set-up for the Summer which could potentially steer a storm in towards Florida or the Eastern Gulf later on down the road...
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Coming in late to the conversation:

If they do implement some test vessels, they could be used for multiple purposes.
With deep water turbines they could:
Improve fisheries by supplying deepwater nutrients (watch out for algae blooms)
Generate energy if parked in a current, like the Gulfstream.
Ameliorate the oxygen depleted dead zones off Mississippi by pumping high DO surface water down.
They could do the thermal ocean equivalent of sky writing so long as he doesn’t make a windows logo.
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QS showing surface low with cape verde tropical wave
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1044. IKE
From the long-range NO,LA discussion....

"ONE THING TO NOTE AND THIS IS OUTSIDE OF THE FCST BUT BOTH THE GFS
AND ECMWF SHOW THE RIDGE REBUILDING OVER THE WRN CONUS AND THE
BERMUDA RIDGE BREAKING DOWN. THIS WOULD PUT THE CWA BACK IN NW FLOW
WHICH COULD ONCE AGAIN SEND A FRONT OR TWO TWRDS THE REGION. THIS IS
NOT A NORMAL PATTERN BUT IS WHAT WE HAVE SEEN FOR THE MOSTLY THE
PAST FEW WEEKS."..........


Troughs in the east may return.
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Weather here... wet, and mild. Same for the last... well, however long.

And same for the next few weeks.

..Can someone move the B/A High up to here, please?

Maybe I should send a memo to Mr.Gates, he could try...
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Good morning all

So far a quiet season, but the meat of it is still ahead. A year with no land falling storms would be nice, but preparedness and response can not be planned around that hope.

We have just made a big announcement in our blog, please stop by and help out if you can!

Have a great day!
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Quoting CycloneOz:


My team and I have our finger in that pie, too. Still... a 0,0,0 would be one for the history books.

And this blog would have a legend born!


First one since 1845, yup.

But really it'd be the 'first' ever as reports that far back can't be totally accurate...
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Quoting StormW:


The CIMSS wind shear map.


Figured you were out there somewhere...Thanks Storm.
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Quoting Weather456:
Chances of cat 5 this year are higher than 2008


I'll bet you a side order of crow there won't be. ;)
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1037. IKE
Quoting Weather456:
For persons who rooting for 0, they sure posting alot about the hurricane season such as TWOs. If the season is so slow post something about weather.


I do post things about my weather, just about every morning.

I've got a 70% chance of rain today...60% tomorrow...50% on Thursday...60% on Friday.

Inland Florida panhandle.
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Good Morning Folks.....Question of the day from me. What is the best method/way of ascertaining/seeing the relative position of the TUTT (as sandwiched between the sub-tropical ridge to the North and sub-equatorial ridge to the South).........Is it any particular satelite loop or readily available chart or pressure maps?.........Thanks.
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For persons who rooting for 0, they sure posting alot about the hurricane season such as TWOs. If the season is so slow post something about weather.
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Quoting IKE:
Looks like the wave that's about to emerge off Africa has weakened compared to last night...



Dont look at the convection as the wave axis is behind.
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1031. MahFL
Tropicalperson....
So you'd like people in Canada to have an early killer cold fall/winter ?
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Quoting CycloneOz:


C'mon! Root for the freak! The underdog!

0,0,0 how awesome would that be! We'd all have to wait for next year! :)


You root for 0, I'm not, for 1 I'm realistic and 2, I track tropical cyclones.
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1029. msphar
50W looks serious enough for me. Hope it turns out to be nothing but climatology...
Member Since: August 20, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 289
6 days, 13.5 hours til the first named storm. Or or 9000 blog entries!
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1027. IKE
Quoting CycloneOz:


C'mon! Root for the freak! The underdog!

0,0,0 how awesome would that be! We'd all have to wait for next year! :)


!!!!!! :)
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1025. IKE
In the east-pac, the norm is to be at the 6th named storm today. So far, 4.

In the Atlantic, the norm is to have the first named system by July 10th and the 2nd named system by Aug. 6th.

There's one invest world-wide, in the west Pac.
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I see the normal downcasting is up and running. Boy, o boy August awaits.
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1023. IKE
Quoting CycloneOz:


0,0,0 baby!


Yo bud!
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1021. IKE
Looks like the wave that's about to emerge off Africa has weakened compared to last night...

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1020. IKE
Quoting Tropicalperson:
I would very much like to see a season of no storms/hurricanes, just a series of weak t-waves which fluctuate and then dissipate. The next-best thing would be a season of only four or five named storms, none of which affect land. That may happen, but I've also seen a lot of quiet seasons at this point of time become active in August/September. Nevertheless, I hope for some premature strong cold fronts from Canada to come down far enough south and cause enough shear in the Caribbean/tropical Atlantic to keep this season's activity at a minimum.


I'm rooting for no storms or all fish-storms. I don't see anything for at least the next 10 days. Hope it continues.


TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 AM EDT TUE JUL 28 2009

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER AVILA




TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
500 AM PDT TUE JUL 28 2009

FOR THE EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC...EAST OF 140 DEGREES WEST LONGITUDE..

A LARGE AREA OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS ASSOCIATED WITH A TROPICAL
WAVE IS LOCATED SEVERAL HUNDRED MILES SOUTH AND SOUTH-SOUTHWEST OF
MANZANILLO MEXICO. THERE ARE NO SIGNS OF ORGANIZATION AND
DEVELOPMENT...IF ANY...SHOULD BE SLOW TO OCCUR AS THE SYSTEM MOVES
WEST TO WEST-NORTHWESTWARD AROUND 10 TO 15 MPH. THERE IS A LOW
CHANCE...LESS THAN 30 PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL
CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

A BROAD AREA OF DISTURBED WEATHER LOCATED ABOUT 1400 MILES SOUTHWEST
OF THE SOUTHERN TIP OF BAJA CALIFORNIA REMAINS POORLY ORGANIZED.
DEVELOPMENT OF THIS SYSTEM...IF ANY...IS EXPECTED TO BE SLOW TO
OCCUR AS IT MOVES WESTWARD AROUND 10 TO 15 MPH. THERE IS A LOW
CHANCE...LESS THAN 30 PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL
CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER AVILA
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1019. WxLogic
Good morning...
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I would very much like to see a season of no storms/hurricanes, just a series of weak t-waves which fluctuate and then dissipate. The next-best thing would be a season of only four or five named storms, none of which affect land. That may happen, but I've also seen a lot of quiet seasons at this point of time become active in August/September. Nevertheless, I hope for some premature strong cold fronts from Canada to come down far enough south and cause enough shear in the Caribbean/tropical Atlantic to keep this season's activity at a minimum.
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Chances of cat 5 this year are higher than 2008
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Quoting MahFL:
My thoughts are the same about the formation later of a strong hurricane due to all the accumulated energy not being used up. Not necessarliy a land falling cane, just a big/strong one.


Ur correct

All these years and 1977 featured a retired category 5 hurricane (Anita, Gilbert, Mitch, Dean and Felix). This is due to the fact that accumulated potential energy that builds in the atmosphere is not being evenly distributed.
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1015. IKE
Good morning....

00Z CMC and 00Z NOGAPS show nothing through August 3rd.

00Z ECMWF shows a weak low emerging off Africa and dissipating before 40W. Run is through August 7th.

06Z GFS shows a low east of 40W on the end of it's run through August 13th.

58 days down
125 to go...
Season is 32% over with, time-wise.
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hi
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1013. MahFL
My thoughts are the same about the formation later of a strong hurricane due to all the accumulated energy not being used up. Not necessarliy a land falling cane, just a big/strong one.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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