After Katrina, scientists are trying to learn how to prevent hurricanes from making landfall by calming them down offshore or steering them off course. Hurricanes are created when tropical storms pass over warm water, and due to global warming, there?s a lot more of that than there used to be.

Justin Mullins writes in New Scientist that Moshe Alamaro of MIT tried floating jet engines on the ocean ahead of an approaching hurricane. They triggered tiny cyclones in the atmosphere. The idea was to drain the atmosphere of energy before the actual hurricane arrived. But it didn’t work because it would be impossible to assemble enough jet engines to inject enough energy into the atmosphere to even trigger a small storm.

Kerry Emanuel, also of MIT, tried coveriing the ocean surface ahead of a hurricane with a thin layer of fish oil in order to deflect the concentrated flow of energy into the atmosphere, but this didn’t work either.

Hurricane expert William Gray tried injecting soot into the eye of the storm. He hoped that the energy absorbed by the soot would prevent the hurricane from forming, so that it would break up into several smaller, less harmful storms. This was also a failure. Another idea that hasn’t yet been tried is for space-based reflectors to heat up the atmosphere around the storm, so that it equals the temperature of the water. This would theoreticallly prevent a hurricane from forming.

Ross Hoffman thinks that the best idea may be to try to steer hurricanes away from populated areas like New Orleans, but we don’t yet know how this can be done. Also, how do you choose a “better” area for a devastating storm? The best place to have a hurricane is wherever YOU aren’t!

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