HOBOKEN, N.J., Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Cloud control could tame hurricanes, say British researchers who've proposed using cloud seeding to decrease sea surface temperatures where hurricanes form.
Writing in the U.S. journal Atmospheric Science Letters, they said rather than seeding storm clouds or hurricanes directly they propose targeting marine stratocumulus clouds that cover an estimated quarter of the world's oceans, to prevent hurricanes forming.
"Hurricanes derive their energy from the heat contained in the surface waters of the ocean," Alan Gadian from the University of Leeds said. "If we are able to increase the amount of sunlight reflected by clouds above the hurricane development region then there will be less energy to feed the hurricanes."
The study authors propose the use of a technique known as Marine Cloud Brightening, in which unmanned vehicles would spray tiny seawater droplets into the clouds, increasing their reflectivity and duration.
The increased reflectivity would mean more sunlight is bounced back into space, thereby reducing sea surface temperature, they said.
"Data shows that over the last three decades hurricane intensity has increased in the Northern Atlantic, the Indian and southwest Pacific oceans," Gadian said. "We simulated the impact of seeding on these three areas, with particular focus on the Atlantic hurricane months of August, September and October."
The researchers said computer models suggest the technology could reduce an average sea surface temperature by up to a few degrees, greatly decreasing the amount of energy available to hurricane formation and possibly reducing the power of developing hurricanes by one strength category.