First it was Harvey who led to unprecedented levels of flooding in Texas. Then came Irma, sweeping the Caribbean and the Florida coast. In addition, the hurricane season is weeks away. With the development that exists in so many fields, why can not we stop a hurricane?
We told them a few days ago, initiatives have not been lacking in order to try to stop them, although evidently they had neither feet nor head and were no more than extravagant ideas. Is there any way to stop the force of Mother Nature? For now, and perhaps the best thing to understand failure is to go back in time and observe man's attempts to "kill" hurricanes.
The orgone energy
In 1939, psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich (formed with Freud) came to the United States to spread his discovery, what he called "orgone energy." With this, the pseudoscientific sought to describe an alleged universal life force. Basically, the orgone (always according to Reich) was a natural energy that came from the energy of life and that floated in the atmosphere. Best of all was how we experienced it: during orgasm.
Reich developed so-called "orgone accumulators," which could collect and store orgone energy. These spaces became a success among the bohemians of the time, not in vain, there appeared guys like William S. Burroughs or James Bond himself (Sean Connery).
To give us an idea, Reich devised orgonite with the intention of being able to treat specific areas of the human body through a tube that applied over the area to be cured. He also designed a capsule where the patient was introduced for a few minutes in order that his whole body received a heavy dose of that supposed energy. According to his conception, the orgonita ordered the orgone energy producing positive consequences in the immediate environment.
As Reich's theories about the nature and power of the organ evolved, he came to think that it could also be used to modify the climate. This notion led Reich to develop the "cloudbuster" in the early 1950s, which was essentially a series of metal tubes designed to shoot orgon in the sky.
Supposedly, a cloudbuster would be able to create and disperse clouds, even deflect hurricanes. Reich hypothesized that the hurricanes themselves could be an expression of the orgone that acts on the atmosphere. He said that its general shape reflects that of a spiral galaxy, so he thought it would have taken shape thanks to the orgone.
Unfortunately for a future Hollywood movie, before he had the opportunity to test a cloudbuster in a real hurricane, he was jailed for breaking an FDA order that barred him from promoting and selling his accumulators. Reich died in prison a few months later.
In February of 1947 the denominated like Project Cirrus was inaugurated, where the silver Iodide was first deployed. The substance had the advantage that it did not even need a plane. Researchers could produce smoke with silver iodide under a cloud and wait for it to ascend to it. Irving Langmuir finally got the US military interested in his investigation.
Langmuir had previously achieved that silver iodide caused snow in a miniature cloud in a freezer. Months earlier, the researcher, along with Vincent Schaefer, had made history. On December 20, 1946, Schaefer passed the plane over the city of Schenectady in northern New York with 11 kilos of dry ice. After two hours, it began to snow ... and eight hours later, it was still snowing. In fact, it was the biggest snowfall of the whole winter.
It was known as cloud seeding, and the United States Army bought the idea from the researcher to stop the hurricanes. Thus, in October 1947, an attempt was made to reduce the force of a hurricane by injecting a large number of condensation nuclei, thus disturbing the storm's momentum. In fact and according to Langmuir, as soon as they began to drop the dry ice particles, the hurricane made a 90 degree turn.
It was the first attempt to alter a hurricane using the emerging science of cloud seeding, a method of climate modification that consists of making a layer of clouds with materials that are destined to change the power and content of a storm.
On that day in 1947, pilots flew over the hurricane and dropped a large load of crushed dry ice in the storm in an attempt to alter cloud temperatures and storm wind speeds. Initially, the pilots said they noticed some change (as the researcher noted), but it was unclear whether the changes they observed were caused by ice.
The truth is that after using the technique, the hurricane turned with virulence wreaking havoc on Georgia. The incident and later criticisms buried the idea of altering the hurricanes with the Langmuir technique.
We go to 1962, when the next official attempt to alter hurricanes arrives. The National Hurricane Research Project launched another cloud seeding initiative, this time specifically to combat hurricanes under the name Project Stormfury.
How? The project aimed to stop hurricanes by sowing the walls of the hurricane's eye with silver iodide, the compound that treated Langmuir and which has a molecular structure similar to ice.
After months of waiting, the project was put to the test with Hurricane Beulah in 1963. Beulah never landed, though he was close enough to carry out the plan. However, the wind speed of the storm fell, and it was too difficult to discern whether the huge storm was affected by the chemical, or simply died on its own.
It was later attempted with Hurricane Debbie in 1969, and although the results cast doubts on the possible success, the high cost and the complicated of carrying out the technique in hurricanes ended up killing the idea.
Finally, and although imaginary (still), many wonder what would happen if we used the power of a nuclear bomb on hurricanes. Could he defeat them? Apparently and as NOAA explains, this question has been asked hundreds of times in recent decades.
The answer is a resounding one, since as they explain, not only would have to take into account the nuclear consequences after the storm, is that the nuclear bomb simply would not be powerful enough.
NOAA compares the heat released by a fully formed hurricane to the equivalent of "a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes." So, in any case, the release of a nuclear weapon near a hurricane could strengthen the convective forces and create a tremendous and angry radioactive storm. [AtlasObscura, Wikipedia, The Guardian, ScientistAmerican, Wikipedia]