If scientists could diffuse a hurricane, it would save lives and damage.
To save lives and reduce costs, there would be tremendous advantage if science had a way to stop a devastating hurricane like Sandy. And scientists have thought of it before.
One idea that rears its head almost every hurricane season recently is the notion of bombing a hurricane into submission. The theory goes that the energy released by a nuclear bomb detonated just above and ahead of the eye of a storm would heat the cooler air there, disrupting the storm's convection current.
Unfortunately, this idea, which has been around in some form since the 1960s, wouldn't work. Chris Landsea, science and operations officer at the National Hurricane Center, posted an explanation when he was a research meteorologist with NOAA.
"The main difficulty with using explosives to modify hurricanes is the amount of energy required," Landsea wrote.
A hurricane gets its energy from warm ocean water, and in the process of water vapor condensing into rain droplets. The heat released during condensation serves to continue to warm the surrounding air, which causes more seawater to evaporate, condense, and continue the cycle.