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I was wondering if we could possibly reduce the severity of, or steer a hurricane by changing albedo (e.g. dying the part ocean with a temporary light colored dye)? My thought would be to put this dye well in front of the path of a hurricane, with enough time to reflect the sunlight back off the ocean and cool the ocean surface. When the hurricane arrives there, the ocean surface should then be cooler, leading to the hurricane being less powerful. I am also wondering if this could be used to steer the hurricane somehow (e.g. if a hurricane would be drawn to or repelled away from cool ocean surface). If so, could we use that to steer a hurricane away from populated areas?

Some potential methods (there may be others):

  • Use light colored dye injected into the ocean

  • Use light colored smoke to block the sun from reaching the ocean

  • Possibly use "cloud seeding" ahead of the hurricane and form clouds to block the sun light from warming the ocean. - Covered in the alternate question

  • Perhaps a "surface film" could also be applied temporarily to part of the ocean (sort of like a "light colored oil spill", hopefully with something safer for the environment than oil). - Covered in the alternate question

If this experiment were to be conducted, I would think it should be done far from inhabited land. Environmental impacts would need to be thought out too, e.g. would a film block the carbon dioxide / oxygen exchange in that area and cause severe environmental impact? Could the experiment actually strengthen instead of weaken a hurricane?

Edit:

The linked question and answer addresses some, but not all the methods I propose here. It also proposes some other methods, definitely an interesting read!

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome at EarthScience.SE! This is quite an interesting question. Similar ideas were developed to tackle climate change -- increasing albedo (increasing light reflectance) above the ocean. Therefore, maybe a similar question with respect to climate change has already been answered here. However, I could not find one. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of How much energy is needed to alter the path of a hurricane? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 7:54
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    $\begingroup$ Some of the methods are indeed discussed there, but not all of them. I would call it a "partial duplicate". That question involves redirecting it, which mine also does. Mine also considers weakening it though. Thanks for making me aware of it, definitely an interesting question that I did not find when I searched. $\endgroup$
    – Jonathan
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 0:44

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Water has a large thermal capacity.

which is why the temperature change between seasons is gradual rather than sudden, especially near the oceans.

For water to lose heat time is required. By changing the albedo of the ocean just prior to a hurricane/cyclone/typhoon passing over a section of water will not give the water enough time to cool down to have any significant effect.

If it were possible to change the temperature of water to minimize the strength of hurricanes/typhoons/cyclones, large sections of ocean would need to have their albedos changed for a long period of time.


Edit 10 August 2023

Newly discovered information reveals that hurricanes could be influence by other means - cooling the surface reaches of a region on ocean by pumping cold water from at least 200 m below the ocean surface.

there's been renewed interest in Cold War era experiments in weather control. While early efforts had little success, our new research evaluates other methods of weakening these storms by pumping up cold water from the depths or spreading particles in the lower atmosphere to reduce incoming heat and encourage early rainfall.

In the 1960s, the United States explored the use of cloud seeding to stop hurricanes from forming.

During Project STORMFURY, planes flew high above cyclones out at sea and sprayed them with silver iodide, a chemical which could encourage water droplets to clump together and fall as rain. This, the theory ran, would disrupt the hurricane from forming. While some seedings seemed to correlate with weaker hurricanes, the link was never adequately found and the project was eventually abandoned.

Instead, researchers are exploring two new options.

Cyclones need hot sea surfaces to form. If we could cool the surface – such as by piping chilled water from depths below 200 metres – we could prevent the cyclone from ever forming.

The problem is it's expensive. Norwegian cyclone-busting startup OceanTherm estimates it would cost about AUD750 million to develop the technology, and another AUD105 million every year to keep it going.

And worse, cooling one area of the sea does nothing to stop cyclones from forming elsewhere. Models suggest ocean cooling will, at best, have only a limited dampening effect on cyclones.

There's a more likely option – aerosol injection. Scientists already know that dust blown from the Sahara into the Atlantic reduces cyclone formation. We could use planes or drones to inject hygroscopic (water-attracting) particles into the lower atmosphere, where they would reflect and scatter sunlight and trigger rainfall and energy release.

This method has a stronger scientific pedigree, given it already occurs naturally. But we don't know what side-effects it would have and we still aren't sure what happens to energy redistributed by the intervention.

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