There has been a heated debate about controlling or modifying hurricanes. Many people believe that such initiatives can reduce loss of human lives and property. However, few people believe that hurricanes can be eliminated completely. This paper will look into strategies that modify hurricanes, how predictions about their occurrence are made, environmental and engineering solutions, planning and zoning solutions to mitigate damage caused to the coastal regions.
Hurricanes release heat energy at a very high rate. A hurricane releases about 100 trillion watts of heat energy (Swanson, 2005). Modifying of hurricanes has been done through dropping of silver iodide and dry ice into them. Some of the projects, where these methods were used, include Project Cirrus and Project Stormfury. The first project was carried out in 1947, while the latter took place between 1962 and 1983 (Swanson, 2005). There is no documentation stating the conclusive results of the studies. The studies were effective. However, it is difficult to determine what hurricanes need the use of such methods. Most people ask why hurricanes that cause great harm to the land cannot be weakened or destroyed (Swanson, 2005). What they do not realize is that hurricanes differ in terms of magnitude and force. Hurricanes cover large areas and draw energy from air over thousands of kilometers of the ocean. Although cooling the water in these areas or inhibiting evaporation of water would lessen hurricanes’ strength, the entire world’s dry ice would be quickly absorbed, and the hurricane could also move away and occur elsewhere.
It is difficult to establish the particular storms that will end up in America, especially for those that originate from around the African continent. The tropical waves originating from the African continent make it difficult to modify all storms. The difficulty with determination of hurricanes that develop into disastrous storms is attributed to many atmospheric variables that are involved. The problem with cooling the air or clouds with ice is that it is expensive to transport it and spread it across thousands of square kilometers of ocean. The method does not guarantee that storm will not form in future. It means that storm may form only a few weeks after the ice has been dropped. Consequently, ice has to be placed in the right place, which is very difficult to determine.
One of the latest strategies that has recently been proposed as a way of modifying hurricanes was documented in the journal Atmospheric Science Letters (Krier, 2012). The approach involves weakening of hurricanes through cloud-seeding, at least before they form (Krier, 2012). Initial efforts involved cloud-seeding in the eye of an identified storm in order to disrupt its core. The proposed strategy involves seeding of low marine stratocumulus clouds in locations, where hurricanes form. It is conceptualized that drips of sea water spewed into the air will rise up into the atmosphere and make the cloud brighter (Krier, 2012). Then they will be able to reflect more sunlight back into space. Consequently, sea-surface temperatures will fall and oceans will be cooler. The plan can involve huge costs and logistical challenges, and can be bound by controversy as it involves large-scale alteration of temperature (Krier, 2012).
Other proposed strategies for modifying hurricanes involve adding of water-absorbing surfaces on the sea-surface and harnessing of energy from sea. The heat balance could be altered using high altitude particles. Additionally, the sea surface could be cooled through piping water from the bottom of ocean. Most of these methods have not been tried out. They require heavy investments and have many logistical considerations.
Hurricanes prediction and path forecasting
Atlantic hurricanes usually occur between the beginning of June and the end of November. However, they are difficult to predict, largely because they are dynamic in ways that scientists do not easily understand. Hurricane forecasting involves determination of the track of the hurricane (where it is going), and its magnitude. The complexity of forecasting can be seen in the increasingly longer periods of making forecasts. Today, forecasts are issued to five days. The improvement in track forecasts is owed to the rise in the numbers of satellites, equipped with very sophisticated weather-monitoring devices. In addition, supercomputing power and forecasting models have improved greatly. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has acquired more aircraft and better instruments. In the 1990s, NOAA gauged hurricane intensity by measuring wind speed near a hurricane using aircraft. They used the Dvorak technique, which compares a present image of a storm with pictures of past hurricanes and calculates the hurricane’s probable intensity.
NOAA drops dropsondes, GPS-enabled recording instruments, from an aircraft into storms in order to measure temperature, wind rapidity and path, dew point and air pressure at different levels of atmosphere in the area where the storm is occurring (Gall, 2013). A Stepped-Frequency Microwave Radiometer (SFMR) accounts for the speed of the wind at the surface of an oncoming storm by measuring the quantity of microwave energy naturally emitted from froth thrashed up by breezes at the ocean’s surface.
A hurricane’s path and intensity is determined through integration of aircraft, satellite and ground-based weather data into computer models. Statistical models centered on the paths of past hurricanes are still common despite the adoption of 3D technology to visualize hurricanes. Hurricane forecasters interpret various models and borrow from their own experience to make forecasts for an actual storm. They can predict a storm’s path and concentration for five to seven days. They update their predictions about 2-4 times in a day.
Warnings and evacuation plans
Most storm damage and deaths are caused by flooding. Recently, National Hurricane Center started issuing storm warnings on the threat of wind speed and the possible rise in sea levels. The rise in sea level could accompany the storm or could occur earlier. The Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory seeks to advance forecasts and limit coastal development. Southeastern states and Gulf Coast states have experienced major hurricanes in the last 50 years. People from these regions, and those migrating to them, are constantly warned through federal agencies about vulnerability of their shores (Katz, 2002).
When hurricanes occur, state governments collaborate with federal government departments and communities in evacuating people. Some states experience difficulty in raising the priority of hazard considerations. However, state and local officials normally decide whether the hazards are severe and require the mandatory evacuation.
Some households are advised or decide themselves to evacuate to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Information is usually provided through the media (Swanson, 2005). In rare cases, sirens, emails, telephone calls, and text messages are used. When hazards are severe, people only take the necessaries of life.
Environmental solutions for mitigating damage along the coast
As storm generates the highest energy waves, much erosion occurs, thereby destroying or damaging many houses and business building. Erosion can expose private and public property to danger. It can endanger dunes and other natural and artificial protective features along the coast. It exposes structures that support buildings and bridges to further damage caused by a storm.
The mitigation strategies that help reduce erosion can be categorized as structural or nonstructural solutions. While the former involves construction of hardened structures, such as revetments and seawalls, the latter involves relocation of structures and relocation of recreational grounds and facilities. For instance, the construction of steel barriers across the Thames River cost Great Britain about 500 million pounds (Gall, 2013). Nonstructural solutions also include zoning laws among other regulatory techniques. Zoning laws require individuals to construct within certain limits. It prohibits making of public infrastructure investment in high-risk locations. Such measures can adequately reduce erosion along the shore.
Engineering solutions to mitigate coastal damage
Engineering solutions for mitigating damage along the coast could include the adoption of statewide building codes by coastal states. Some communities have adopted hazard-resistant construction strategies that are stronger than state construction codes. These measures can greatly reduce the impact of hurricanes. States can also introduce hazard-resistant utilities and transportation systems. Some actions, such as installing of wind shutters, securing of light fixtures and bolting mechanical systems to walls can greatly reduce the impact of storms.
The said measures are vital in ensuring that high winds do not destroy houses, business buildings, and infrastructure. They also reduce the likelihood of destruction and injury caused by the flying debris that can fall on the roofs, break windows and doors. Strong utility poles and tight cables can reduce the impact of wind on electricity infrastructure; the power lines may not topple. Strong building’s roof systems can withstand strong winds. Hurricane straps help secure a building’s roof to its walls. Storm shutters reduce pressure of strong winds on the window panes. Exterior doors and windows need to be heavily built as they are usually the first to be blown away, allowing the wind to enter the building and put pressure on roofs and walls.
Planning and zoning solutions to mitigate damage
Some planning solutions for mitigating damage along the coast include planning of land use. This strategy provides comprehensive approaches for mitigating damages produced by natural hazards. Land use plans are vital as they can help designate low-risk uses for the most vulnerable areas. Land use plans can be altered as communities get more diverse information about disasters they face. Development in high-risk areas is always discouraged. In some areas, it is outlawed. The laws should be strengthened so that the debate about rights of government versus rights of individual property owners should not slow the fight against risky land development. Due to its failure to enforce building codes, Dade County suffered from Hurricane Andrew and incurred insured losses amounting to $ 4 billion (Gall, 2013).
Hurricane forecasters have had a problem of communicating uncertainty. They have recently begun collaborating with sociologists with a view of making alerts that are clearly written, quickly read, and understood. There are increased efforts to urge citizens to make their own plans of escape or safety, and to pay attention to NHC announcements. NHC is making significant progress in making citizens realize that storms can hit unexpected areas.
The planning and zoning solutions are arguably the best strategies for mitigating against a disaster caused by hurricanes. It decreases the number of people in the most vulnerable areas and also indirectly communicates the seriousness of an issue to the people. Therefore, it has the potential to motivate people to take safety into their own hands. It has the potential of saving people and property from injury and destruction, respectively.
Most of the proposed methods of modifying hurricanes have not been tried. The most widely used approach has not been accepted universally. It involves cooling the air or clouds with ice in the areas, where storms are the most likely to occur. Disaster mitigation strategies have been widely adopted and recognized as useful ways for reducing the number of deaths and the amount of destructions. Some laws are loosely implemented. Zoning and construction of hazard-resistant buildings or barriers are thought to be some of the most effective measures for reducing the impact of storms. Governments and weather agencies experience problems communicating a possible disaster or its impact.