Harassed By Hurricanes? Send In The F-4s

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A researcher at the University of Akron in Ohio says he may have found a way to suppress potentially damaging hurricanes -- send in a couple of F-4 fighter jets to fly supersonic loops around its eye while it's still at sea, and the resulting sonic booms will break it apart. A patent application filed by Prof. Arkadii Leonov and his colleagues states that "two F-4 jet fighters flying at approximately Mach 1.5 are sufficient, [in theory], to suppress, mitigate and/or destroy a typical-sized hurricane or typhoon." The airplanes must follow a specifically designed trajectory, so as their wake propagates downward it both counteracts the hurricane's rotation and increases the air pressure near the eye of the storm. "This creates high-level local disturbances that can eliminate, reduce and/or mitigate a major rotational aspect of a hurricane/typhoon, thereby disrupting and/or eliminating the functioning of such a weather feature," says the patent application. One scenario shows the two aircraft flying an elliptical track about 200 miles long, intercepting the eye of the storm and spiraling down into it until fairly close to the ocean surface.

The sonic booms have the potential to be very efficient at this task, and the flight would not cause any harm to the jets or pilots, the application says. "There are plenty of sites along typical hurricane paths that are in the international waters where the jet supersonic booms could be generated in order to confirm that such booms destroy hurricanes," the application states. The sonic-boom theory is far from the first suggestion for finding mechanical means to suppress hurricanes. The Hurricane Research Division of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory lists a series of proposals, from seeding the storms with silver iodide, to cooling them off with icebergs, to exploding nuclear bombs. "As carefully reasoned as some of these suggestions are, they all share the same shortcoming," says Chris Landsea, at the AOML Web site. "They fail to appreciate the size and power of tropical cyclones."