Unspinning Hurricanes

in 2012 Popular Science published an article called "To Stop A Hurricane, Shoot It Full Of Dry Ice?" by Rose Pastore.

in 2017 the National Geographic published an article called "Can We Engineer a Way to Stop a Hurricane?" by Cynthia Barnett.

they explained about "Project Stormfury" and earlier attempts and their inconclusive results, and about later ideas of cooling the warm seas that energize these storms.

I invented some different ideas that I will now present (one is close to "Project Cirrus" but more "focused"), arranged by order of "fail-safe" protections that backup one another:


(although the name is taken from my favorite sci-fi novel Dune, the idea is different, in the book they're catching humidity from the air).

In addition to saving lives and property in the USA, these windtraps will produce a lot of electricity which will cover some of the costs of running them.

I read this article "Most Hurricanes That Hit The US Start in The Exact Same Location" in ScienceAlert by Fiona MacDonald,

according to her, the hurricanes that hit the USA are made by the "African easterly jet".  I'm not sure how reliable is that website, so I'm relying on Wikipedia.

The jet's maximum wind speeds are at a height of 3 kilometers.

How do we "harvest" this wind? the first step is to make a huge funnel. The entry of the funnel will reach the desired height of 3 kilometers.

Unfortunately we can't build buildings that high, so we will build the structure like a huge "fly tent", with a very large entry and very small exit.

normally the fabric is held by a pole, but in our case it will be anchored to a helicopter that will hover in the same place at the 3 km height.

a helicopter can hover in 3.169 kilometers so that's ok. As soon as it runs low on fuel, the helicopter lands, refuels and gets up again.

To have constant "up-time" we arrange two windtraps one behind the other, and coordinate their helicopters so that one is always flying.

By the way instead of one strong helicopter when can use a few smaller drones for the same task, and they can be powered with solar power (charged by day, fly by night).

The fabric itself should be the same material which is used for parachutes - strong, light, durable to weather, and of course able to handle strong wind.

What will be in the exit of this funnel? We will build wind turbines that look like a long tunnel with a few propellers one behind the other.

The end of the tunnel is open so the air can come out but now it's much slower.


Here is a quote from a paper named "The Formation of Tropical Cyclones" by David J. Raymond from New Mexico Tech.

(The only source that I was able to find was Dr. Joanne Simpson: "Mesoscale Interactions in Tropical Cyclone Genesis")

Proto-cyclones first develop a vortex at middle levels in the troposphere.
Only then does a smaller surface vortex form beneath the mid-level vortex.

according to Wikipedia the altitude of the troposphere in the tropics is 18 km.

Normally drones can only reach 3 kilometers high, but an "unmanned gas balloon" can reach 50 kilometers.

So if we'll connect a drone to one or more balloons I think we can get it to fly and navigate by GPS at the required altitude of 18 km.

What will be the most effective thing for the drones to do there? To answer this we need to understand what the wind is doing there - a ring.

Here is a very nice video about Coriolis Force by Eric Snodgrass.

A short video explaining the Coriolis Effect starring several graduate students from the Department of Atmospheric Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Watch what happens on minute 4:41 when Amanda (the African wind) is pushing the baseball (air) on the rotating merry-go-round (planet Earth) in a straight line, but the baseball (air) is getting back to here in a circle (ring of air) !

This ring of air when it closes enforces itself, gains "independence" and eventually descends down and "sits" on the ocean, like a torus or a bagel of rotating air.

We need the drones to disperse or redirect the air from the African wind, ideally before it closes a loop, or at least before it gains strength.

Since we need to locate this phenomena first through satellite images that will see the movement of the ring directly, or maybe indirectly by following the African wind moving clouds and spotting places where there's a sudden decrease in the linear wind speed - because that's where the ring steals the energy to do its thing. At night we can do it by infra red, because I think at night the hurricanes won't form that much because the next stages require evaporation on the water surface (meaning Sun's energy).

So how will the little drones redirect the ring which can be a few kilometers in diameter? We can use the same trick we did before with the fabric tunnel, the drones will rise in close formation with the fabric folded and then will spread out themselves and this will unfold the fabric in the sky, and then maintanin position. It doesn't have to be nearly as big as the funnel we mentioned earlier, I think a few tens of meters will do in the diameter of the entry will suffice.

Where will they direct the current? The most important thing is to destroy the ring (sounds like Lord Of The Rings - ha ha), so I suggest outwards is our best bet because it will disperse the ring. If we try to redirect the flow inwards it can short-circuit and create two rings, possible even tighter and faster! If we try to redirect it downwards, we might hasten the descent of the ring - which is the ring's ultimate goal - so we probably don't want to do that. If we redirect the ring upwards, it will eventually come back down. If we don't have the technology to control where we re-direct the currents, then a few different random directions are our next best bet (after the outwards option).

Note: there after the hurricane is already formed on the water there is a phenomena of "eye inside an eye". See in Wikipedia "Eyewall replacement cycle". Since this only happens when the hurricane is already pretty strong, I don't think we need to worry, but we should check it out and it could tip the scales towards the different random directions option above.

"secondary circulation" (in-up-out-down)

Here is a paragraph from Wikipedia about Tropical Cyclones:

The three-dimensional wind field in a tropical cyclone can be separated into two components: a "primary circulation" and a "secondary circulation". The primary circulation is the rotational part of the flow; it is purely circular. The secondary circulation is the overturning (in-up-out-down) part of the flow; it is in the radial and vertical directions. The primary circulation is larger in magnitude, dominating the surface wind field, and is responsible for the majority of the damage a storm causes, while the secondary circulation is slower but governs the energetics of the storm.

If you can't imagine it - think of a slinky toy spring, and bring it's two ends together, so it's a whole circle, not just half a circle as it normally is. If we trace our finger along the slinky this is the "primary circulation". But if we let a small ant walk on the circle, it will walk in and out in and out, which is the "secondary circulation".

This torus (bagel or doughnut shape) made by the "secondary circulation" is what keeps the flow of the "primary circulation" inside it focused and directed in a ring circle. It's like when you direct plasma with magnetic fields (See Tokamak in Wikipedia, the "To" part comes from the word for "toroidal" in Russian). Without this torus the ring will disperse and die out.

in Project Cirrus, an airplane dropped crushed dry ice into the clouds along the rainbands of the hurricane.

I think the inconclusive results were because you can't aim accurately when throwing things from a plane, so sometimes, by pure chance, it reached the optimal location - along the inside of the eye of the hurricane, next to the eyewall - and sometimes it didn't. Also they tried to fight the storm when it was already very strong, and I recommend to tackle it when it's still small and weak.

how to target the exact location?

If we send flying drones in the air they will not be able to fly through the storm, My idea is to attack the hurricane from below with "underwater drones", which are small robotic submarines with robotic arms. There are two types: ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) which is manual, and AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) which is automatic. Normally the ROV requires people close by. But we can't risk the people, so we can use one underwater drone or more that will stand in the middle between the people and the working robot and function as "radio repeater".

The ROVs AUVa will be deployed in a safe distance from the storm from fast powerboats, and then the robots will get closer to the whirlpool of the storm from underwater and encircle it, let's say for simplicity that we send 4 robots, and they position themselves to the north, south, east and west of the whirlpool.

Each robot will carry with it a payload of dry ice in the shape of a torus, tied with a rope to a "Closed Lifting Bag" (camel) that is designed for rapid deployment  - it has a scuba cylinder mounted on the outside which contains sufficient air to inflate the bag. So when the robot inflates and releases this buoy, the buoy leaves the robot and floats to the surface of the water, with the dry ice hanging from it in the water (dry ice is heavier then water).

If we manage to release the floating bags so that they float just outside the storm, the dry ice "weight" will be swept inside by the whirlpool currents, and if the rope is long enough (not much longer than the width of the eyewall), then the floating bag will be stuck outside, and the dry ice will be stuck inside, both of them very close to the eyewall. At this point of time, the dry ice is cooling the water in the exact position that is important for maximum effect of stopping the secondary situation.

If experiments will prove that there isn't enough surface area for the dry ice to cool the water, we can incorporate a more porous design (then a torus which only has one hole) to the dry ice block. As a last resort we can attach (in advance) a small hand grenade with a long time fuse to the dry ice block, that will allow the dry ice to reach the optimum position before it explodes. Of course then we can no longer hold it in position (there is nothing to hold anymore) and chances are we also ruined the floating bag.

dragging to equator

If all else fails we and this means now that the eyewall is strong now, so we can use that to our advantage.

When you read about the Coriolis force in Wikipedia it says:

The horizontal deflection effect is greater near the poles, since the effective rotation rate about a local vertical axis is largest there, and decreases to zero at the equator.

If you are curious why you can see a nice explanation in this video of Veritasium in minute 4:00

A hurricane can never cross the equator or it will die (it will not have Coriolis force). Of course it can START in the lower hemisphere of the Earth and there it's usually called a cyclone, but then it can't cross the equator to the northern hemisphere of the Earth, so we can apply the same trick there.

So the trick is to use the same underwater robots we used previously, this time to deploy a big and massive torus (bagel or doughnut) shaped "closed lifting bag" that we release from right under the middle of the storm. It will have a strong cable attached to it, that we will tie to a ship that will slowly drag the whole storm towards the equator until it dies out. The cable needs to be long enough as to not putting the ship at risk.

The weight of the lifting bag will bring it to the bottom of the funnel of the whirlpool, but its buoyancy will not allow it to sink to the bottom and exit under the storm, so it's stuck at the tip of the storm. We are just slowly pulling the tip of the storm and the whole storm will follow and come with us.