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50 Years Ago

In 1968, scientists tried taming hurricanes

Excerpt from the August 17, 1968 issue of Science News

By
12:00pm, August 16, 2018
hurricane eye

SEEDING STORMS  Although scientists weren’t successful in stopping hurricanes through cloud seeding, their research during Project Stormfury proved useful for future hurricane forecasting.

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Stormfury: Calming the Eyewall

Since man cannot muster anything approaching the energy of a hurricane, and so has no hope of overcoming the storm by force, Stormfury attempts to use the giant’s own energy against it…. Last week, Project Stormfury began its 1968 season. — Science News, August 17, 1968.

Update  

The goal of the U.S. government’s Project Stormfury, which began in the 1960s, was to knock the wind out of tropical cyclones. By injecting clouds with particles of ice-forming silver iodide, researchers hoped they could disrupt the destructive eye wall of such storms.

Meteorologists tested only a few hurricanes with this cloud-seeding approach because of strict rules and fickle hurricane seasons. The project shut down in 1983. Although it failed to meet its goal, Stormfury helped scientists improve hurricane forecasting (SN Online: 9/21/17).

Researchers have proposed other hurricane-busting methods, such as dispersing sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to try to cool the planet and reduce the number of hurricanes.

Citations

SN Staff. Stormfury: Calming the Eyewall. Science News. Vol. 94, August, 17 1968, p. 153.

NOAA Project Stormfury

J.C. Moore et al. Atlantic hurricane surge response to geoengineering. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol. 112, November 10, 2015, p. 13794. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1510530112.

H.E. Willoughby et al. Project STORMFURY: A Scientific Chronicle, 1962–1983. Bull. of the Amer. Meteor. Soc. Vol. 66, May 1, 1985, p. 505. doi: 10.1175/1520-0477(1985)066<0505:PSASC>2.0.CO;2.

Further Reading

C. Gramling. Intense storms provide the first test of powerful new hurricane forecast tools. Science News Online, September 21, 2017.

A. Yeager. How hurricanes and other devastating disasters spur scientific research. Science News Online, September 12, 2017.

S. Perkins. Planes can trigger snowfall. Science News Online, June 15, 2010.

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