Scientists are looking for ways to control and harness the power of typhoons


Undermining the strength of a mighty typhoon or harnessing its energy may soon no longer be the plot of a science fiction novel or Hollywood disaster movie.

Scientists set out to find ways to control typhoons, which are becoming increasingly violent under global warming, by the target year of 2050.

They hope to drain tropical storms of their immense power and mitigate the damage they cause.

Some project meteorologists even dream of using typhoons to generate electricity, because their Energy is believed to be comparable to a month’s worth of energy consumption around the world.

The company was named “Typhoonshot” in a play on “Moonshot,” a difficult venture to do but one that promises extremely high returns, like lunar exploration. The project was set up last year by entities including universities and an industrialist.

Japan has always been at the mercy of typhoons, but it would no longer be a pipe dream to undermine their strength and turn their energy into useful resources if only we could bring together new technologies and research results, ”said Hironori Fudeyasu , professor of meteorology. with Yokohama National University, who is leading the Typhoonshot project team.

The Northwest Pacific Basin, including the waters around Japan, has high seawater temperatures, making it a part of the world where typhoons are most often generated and tend to grow powerfully.

Typhoon No. 19 of 2019, known internationally as the Hagibis, claimed more than 100 lives, mostly in eastern Japan, including Fukushima Prefecture.

Analysis by the Meteorological Research Institute of the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) and another institution showed that Typhoon No. 19 dumped about 10 percent more rain on the Kanto-Koshin region. only if it hadn’t been for the increase in air and seawater temperatures that had occurred. over the past four decades.


Attempts to artificially control typhoons are not new.

The United States carried out experiments on several occasions, until around 1970, on injecting silver iodide into hurricanes in the hope that the sprinkling of the chemical, which serves as the germ of rain, would change the shape of hurricanes and weaken them.

Despite reports that the seeding reduced the wind speed of hurricanes by 10 to 30 percent, it could not be ruled out that they weakened on their own, and research eventually faltered.

Fudeyasu said he believes the time has come to try again after half a century.

One of the factors he cited is advancements in supercomputer simulation technologies.

The accuracy of predicting the path of typhoons has increased dramatically, allowing for a close assessment of the effects of human intervention. It has also become easier to simulate the extent of damage mitigation expected from a given reduction in wind and rain.

Scientists on the project team come up with the idea of ​​dropping large amounts of ice into the eye of a typhoon from an airplane as a cooling measure.

A typhoon gets its energy from the heat given off when water vapor from a warm ocean condenses into a cloud. The cooling of its temperature should therefore weaken its resistance.

A simulation with 2019 Typhoon No.15 (Faxai), which caused wind damage to Chiba Prefecture and other areas, showed that a similar measure would have reduced the wind speed by 3 Speed, 6 to 10.8 km / h, resulting in approximately 30% less damage to buildings by high winds. .

The measure, however, would require huge volumes of ice, so the use of more effective substitutes, such as dry ice, should be considered, Fudeyasu said.


In addition to simulations, effect measurements would also be valuable.

A group of researchers from Nagoya University and other institutions are working on a study that has few parallels in the world: using an airplane to fly in a typhoon and taking measurements inside your eye.

They entered the eye of Typhoon No. 21 of 2017 (Lan) two days before and the day before it landed in Japan and found that the actual air pressure was more than 10 hectopascals lower than an estimate by the JMA based on satellite images and other information. .

Direct measurements finally reveal what typhoons really look like, ”said Kazuhisa Tsuboki, professor of meteorology at Nagoya University, who heads the group. “Although we still face a mountain of challenges, we will pursue the goal of artificially controlling typhoons, which is the dream of researchers like me. “

Project Typhoonshot also aims to find ways to harness some of the vast energy of typhoons. The project contains a development plan for an unmanned sailboat designed to automatically track a typhoon by using its strong winds to generate electricity from the rotation of underwater propellers. The electricity produced would be sent ashore.

The artificial control of a typhoon could however increase its strength locally on the contrary or cause damage to areas that would not have been affected without human intervention.

We will pay special attention to side effects as we work to reduce the strength of typhoons, ”Fudeyasu said, adding,“ At least we want to compensate for the increase in their power due to global warming. “


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