Plan to harness hurricanes

Imagine a world where microwave beams, a biodegradable oil slick or a shower of silver iodide from a plane would be enough to weaken or deflect a hurricane, saving thousands of lives.

Imagine a world where microwave beams, a biodegradable oil slick or a shower of silver iodide from a plane would be enough to weaken or deflect a hurricane, saving thousands of lives.

The techniques under study have not been tested on a real hurricane, but researchers using computer models say they have practised introducing variations in precipitation, evaporation and air temperature to sap a hurricane's strength or redirect it. "Our research shows that modifying hurricanes could be possible one day," said Ross Hoffman, lead scientist with the US consulting firm Atmospheric and Environmental Research.

Frank Marks, of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Miami, said Hoffman's basic concept was sound but such intervention was unlikely in the foreseeable future.

"People don't realise how much energy we're talking about and the area involved," he said. "It's immense."

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