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MrGrimm888's avatar

Why can't we blow hurricanes away? (DETAILS )

Asked by MrGrimm888 (14707points) October 26th, 2016

They say the flap of a butterflies wings can change the direction of a tornado.

Hurricanes are clearly much larger, but also a vortex storm, affected by surrounding conditions.

What if we made giant fans, and mounted them on massive aircraft carrier like ships. As the hurricane approaches land, we blow it back out to sea.

The price would be vast, but it would have to be cheaper than all the damage the storms cause.

Maybe several such ships could even direct the storms with some precision. Blow the storms up to the Arctic.

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12 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

In the first place, you seem to have a very fundamental misconception of the so-called “butterfly effect”, which assuredly DOES NOT state that “the flap of a butterfly’s winds can change the direction of a tornado”. I suggest that you re-examine the term Butterfly Effect, as it is more about the nuance of “tipping points” and “at what point does something as minor as a butterfly influence something as vast as climate”. But that’s on you. (In any case, that misunderstanding has led to the idea that followed it, so I would definitely recommend that you correct that misconception.)

Second, while meteorologists describe how “high pressure areas” tend to create barriers to entry for hurricanes and “push” them in various directions, it is actually the low pressure areas which pull them in the directions they follow. High pressure areas move masses of air in the general direction of low pressure areas (with directional / rotational momentum change provided by the Coriolis Effect). In this sense, high pressure and low pressure air masses are only high and low with respect to each other. I do not believe that humanity currently has the physical capability to create a machine – or any network of machines – which could generate an “artificial high pressure area” of the continental size necessary to move a hurricane.

With this in mind, there is no combination of air moving fans that could create an artificial high pressure area to blow a hurricane away from a low pressure area that tends to direct its movement. (In addition to which, if you wanted ship-mounted fans to have an effect, they would have to be anchored – and strongly anchored at that – practically right on the shoreline. This would tend to kill massive amounts of sailors manning those ships as the storm destroyed them and moved onshore anyway, if it is wont to do so.)

What is wanted, if it really is wanted, to move an actual, formed and organized hurricane, is a mid-sea low pressure area that will tend to attract it. One of the best ways to create a low pressure area, strange as it might seem, would be to heat the air, which would tend to make it less dense, and to rise… and generally to create a new storm. (Massive low pressure areas are, in fact, what we experience as “storms” and are far, far more powerful than hurricanes, but spread over continental areas, not just a few hundred square miles.)

One of the best ways to heat the air to this extent, if it’s going to be done artificially, would be… a massive array of thermonuclear explosions. That might work, if you think you could sell it.

The trick is, if it can be managed, to prevent the hurricane from forming and organizing “as a hurricane” in the first place.

Maybe we should just kill all of the butterflies…

zenvelo's avatar

To summarize @CWOTUS‘s excellent response:

High pressure systems don’t blow, low pressure systems suck.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Hurricanes are much, much more powerful than anything we can make. A couple of data points from HowStuffworks:

One hurricane’s wind power is equal to “half of the total electrical generating capacity on the planet”.

“During its life cycle a hurricane can expend as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs’.

More from LiveScience:
‘A fully developed hurricane releases 50 or more terawatts of heat energy at any given moment, only about 1 percent of which is converted into wind. The heat release, Landsea wrote, “is equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes”

‘The entire human race in 2011 used about a third of the energy present in an average hurricane.’

ucme's avatar

I can see the headline…
Hurricane Debbie “does” Dallas
Best “blow job” ever

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

The amount of energy in a hurricane is something we lack the capacity to influence.

ragingloli's avatar

“What if we made giant fans, and mounted them on massive aircraft carrier like ships. As the hurricane approaches land, we blow it back out to sea.”
You might as well try to beat back a tsunami with a spoon.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Never happen, as much as man thinks he is a god or god like, there are things he cannot and never will control. The question would be, why? According to science isn’t there a purpose for hurricanes, and if so, why would man want to disrupt that less man see it as some nuisance because it the potential for hurricanes to destroy his mammon?

CWOTUS's avatar

Hmm… well, to take issue with that last comment a bit, there are a lot of things that man cannot do “yet”. But that doesn’t mean that we can never do those things.

If you look around you – at your computer or phone, for starters – everything that you take for granted today: speedy delivery from low-cost producers of wonderful gadgets, food items, clothing and other consumer goods from all the corners of the globe (not to mention the variety and quality of the goods themselves) has always been possible on this planet. Always. There is no especially good reason why we could not have had computers and the internet in pre-Biblical days. The chemistry, physics and biology has always existed here (for the life of the planet, that is, since its atmosphere condensed and some form of humanity started to evolve).

The only thing that has been lacking is the imagination to invent the things and then the capability to produce them.

So it’s foolish – in the extreme – to make predictions about “what man can never control”. There are just a lot of things that we haven’t yet imagined, or, having imagined, have not yet managed to execute.

Michio Kaku wrote a good synopsis of this kind of thinking in The Physics of the Impossible, in which he described the imagination of some kinds of things that are currently “impossible”, such as time travel, for example, interstellar travel and pioneering, or planetary geoengineering for another (though some of that may have been a different book, or another author entirely).

Obviously, there is “enough energy” on the planet to create hurricanes, tornadoes and the even more powerful low pressure areas that create other major storms as I described above. The problem is that we don’t (yet) know how to harness, control and direct those forces. I have no doubt that someday we will. But not in our lifetimes.

ucme's avatar

Wait stop!! Massive aircraft, giant fans…Zeppelins, no? Ahh fuck it then.

Zaku's avatar

If you had the wisdom and knowledge and other requirements to direct a butterfly to flap such that a hurricane is diverted, then you would know so many other things that the hurricane would probably no longer be a concern.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@HC It’s really just a matter of time before we do have that capacity and control things like hurricanes we most certainly will. That is, Provided we learn to manage our resources and learn to live with each other with out killing ourselves or our planet.

disquisitive's avatar

“They say” a lot of things.

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