Scientists propose using "cloud-seeding" to weaken hurricanes

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Master Sgt. James Kersey (left) and Sgt. 1st Class Chris Brunner of the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team monitor the track of Tropical Storm Isaac from the Florida National Guard's Joint Emergency Operations Center in St. Augustine, Fla., Aug. 22, 2012.

Tropical storm Isaac is picking up steam near Haiti today and is expected to reach hurricane status when it reaches the Gulf of Mexico in the next couple of days. The question on everyone's mind is whether the storm will affect the GOP convention, slated to begin on Monday in Tampa, a city on Florida's Gulf Coast. As of right now, Tampa is at the heart of an area that metereologists predict will feel the full force of the hurricane.

Although Mitt Romney seems excited about a potentially 75mph windstorm, most people in the Gulf Coast aren't. But a bit of interesting news from the British Isles may brighten their spirits.

Scientists at the University of Leeds may have figured out a way to actually weaken hurricanes. In a new study, published yesterday in Atmospheric Science Letters, researchers propose using a technique called cloud-seeding over hurricane-prone waters. Using unmanned aerial vehicles, sea water would be dropped onto volatile ocean regions and would then rise up and increase the density of overhead clouds. Because hurricanes gather their energy from the heat of the ocean surface, the idea would be to build up the clouds so that they would reflect more sunlight and keep those warm waters in the shade. According to the researchers, the technique could drop water temperature by a few degrees and potentially lower a hurricane's strength by a whole category.

The one major drawback of cloud seeding is that artificially building up clouds in one area will draw moisture away from another. In fact, in 2008 Beijing Olympics officials utilized this to their advantage. They were worried about having too much rainfall at the games, so they used a cloud-seeding technique (they actually shot rockets into clouds) to build up clouds in the Beijing suburbs and divert rainfall away from the city. Of course, the Olympics only lasted 2 weeks. Scientists will now have to figure out if a long term cloud seeding strategy might cause drought or other adverse effects in nearby areas.

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