Skip to main content
Move the World.
hurricane net

Lead Image © deberarr / Adobe Stock

From the land of Thor comes an idea as wild as the weather it is meant to mitigate: a mass of bubbles — acting like something of a hurricane net — cooling down water temperatures in the storm's path and limiting the energy it can siphon from the sea.

The Norwegian company OceanTherm already uses their "bubble net" method to keep some of the nation's fjords from freezing over; now, they're proposing using it to create a roiling hurricane net, reports WIRED's Eric Niiler.

The idea is beautifully, sublimely simple — and wildly ambitious: pump air through a submerged length of pipe between two ships, releasing an inverse-Niagara of bubbles, which stretch and surface like mighty Jörmungandr, pushing up water from the ocean depths.

Hurricanes gather strength from warm water. When storms hit warm patches on the surface, they can rapidly gain strength (as Hurricane Laura did), putting people and property at risk, complicating attempts to save lives and creating ever more hurricane victims.

But deep water tends to be colder than water near the surface. By bringing up that colder water, OceanTherm believes they may be able to cool conditions down enough to rob the cyclone of fuel. 

"If we were able to avoid the water being so hot, the hurricanes won't be able to build such strength," Olav Hollingsæter, OceanTherm's CEO, told Niiler.

(The relatively narrow 135-mile Straits of Yucatán, between Mexico and Cuba, could be an ideal spot to lay a hurricane bubble net.)

There's some proof-of-concept for a win in bubbles vs. nature: since the 1960s, bubble nets have been used to keep fjords ice free, Niiler writes. In the winter, cooler river water running into the fjords actually makes the surface there colder than the deeps. To keep ice out of these deep, narrow channels, OceanTherm's bubbles push the warmer, saltier sea water to the surface.

The idea is beautifully, sublimely simple — and wildly ambitious.

Keeping a narrow fjord from freezing over and defueling an entire hurricane are two very different things, however. Some scientists are skeptical OceanTherm's idea could work. A hurricane may simply be too complex to effectively alter by cooling off a patch of water in its path.

"Hurricanes certainly need warm water, but they also need convection, a rotational component, and light wind shear above them," James Fleming, a professor at Colby College and a visiting professor at Harvard University, told Niiler.

But with warming oceans poised to increase the strength of hurricanes over the next century, such geoengineering experiments are worth exploring. (Whether a frothy hurricane net can work or not, it still seems like a better plan than nuking them.)

Up Next

Entertainment
Storm Chasers Explore Hurricane Laura With New Flight Simulator
New Flight Simulator
Entertainment
Storm Chasers Explore Hurricane Laura With New Flight Simulator
Virtual storm chasers are using Microsoft’s new flight simulator to explore Hurricane Laura as it moves across the U.S.

Virtual storm chasers are using Microsoft’s new flight simulator to explore Hurricane Laura as it moves across the U.S.

Inside the Cajun Navy: How Volunteers Are Training to Rescue Hurricane Victims
Inside the Cajun Navy: How Volunteers Are Training to Rescue Hurricane Victims
Watch Now
Inside the Cajun Navy: How Volunteers Are Training to Rescue Hurricane Victims
Can civilian-led rescue be part of future disaster recovery efforts?
Watch Now

A Look Inside the Cajun Navy Before Hurricane Katrina hit, the "Cajun Navy" didn't even exist. But in the aftermath of the storm, a group of volunteers that helped rescue thousands flood victims stranded in their homes and vehicles have come together again. Their goal? To work together to better assist people in times of need directly following a natural disaster. They call themselves the Cajun Navy, and their work...

Dispatches
What's the Deal with the Giant Mosquitoes after Hurricanes?
What's the Deal with the Giant Mosquitoes after Hurricanes?
Dispatches
What's the Deal with the Giant Mosquitoes after Hurricanes?
These suckers grow to be three times larger than other mosquitoes, but they may not be as bad as you think.
By Michael Reiskind

These suckers grow to be three times larger than other mosquitoes, but they may not be as bad as you think.

New Normal
Virtual Reality Meetings Are the New Zoom
Virtual Reality Meetings
New Normal
Virtual Reality Meetings Are the New Zoom
If you’re sick of video conferencing, you can now access Spatial’s platform for virtual reality meetings for free and without a headset.

If you’re sick of video conferencing, you can now access Spatial’s platform for virtual reality meetings for free and without a headset.

Drones
New Tech Could Finally Change Drone Regulations for the Better
drone regulations
Drones
New Tech Could Finally Change Drone Regulations for the Better
FAA drone regulations require pilots to have a visual line of sight of their aircraft, but new detect-and-avoid systems could change that.

FAA drone regulations require pilots to have a visual line of sight of their aircraft, but new detect-and-avoid systems could change that.

Dope Science
MDMA Effects, Risks, and Rewards Explained
MDMA effects
Dope Science
MDMA Effects, Risks, and Rewards Explained
MDMA, also known as Molly or Ecstasy, is a synthetic psychoactive drug. MDMA effects include enhanced pleasure and a heightened sense of touch and sound.

MDMA, also known as Molly or Ecstasy, is a synthetic psychoactive drug. MDMA effects include enhanced pleasure and a heightened sense of touch and sound.

Guardians of the Apocalypse
Move the Sun, Save the Earth: The Plan to Relocate Our Solar System
stellar engine
Guardians of the Apocalypse
Move the Sun, Save the Earth: The Plan to Relocate Our Solar System
This stellar engine could harness the power of the sun to drag our solar system throughout the galaxy, preventing a catastrophic collision.

This stellar engine could harness the power of the sun to drag our solar system throughout the galaxy, preventing a catastrophic collision.

Superhuman
How 3D-Printing Is Revolutionizing Heart Surgery
How 3D-Printing Is Revolutionizing Heart Surgery
Watch Now
Superhuman
How 3D-Printing Is Revolutionizing Heart Surgery
When a young boy was facing a complicated and dangerous heart operation, his doctors created an exact model of his heart to plan the surgery. And it probably saved his life.
Watch Now

Joseph had one of the most complicated heart conditions his doctors had ever seen. He faced a long and dangerous operation or a heart transplant. Without either, he wouldn't survive. Opting for surgery, Dr. Petros Anagnostopoulos at the American Family Children's Hospital prepped like few have ever done. He and his team 3D-printed a copy of Joseph's heart that they could explore and understand. It was another step forward...

The New Space Race
Can We Make It In Space?
Can We Make It In Space?
Watch Now
The New Space Race
Can We Make It In Space?
What if one day, everything in space was made in space? 3D printing may hold the answer.
Watch Now

NASA intern turned Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Jason Dunn, saw what was holding humans back from colonizing outer space...and decided to do something about it. With his company Made in Space’s cutting-edge 3D printer, astronauts can break their reliance on costly resupply missions from Earth and—for the first time ever—build new supplies for themselves in space. Dunn and his team believe their invention will usher in a new...