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The New Orleans Project

Let's fight hurricanes like we're waging a war Every year, the United States suffers attacks on American soil so brutal, our military can do...

Let's fight hurricanes like we're waging a war

Every year, the United States suffers attacks on American soil so brutal, our military can do little more than rebuild our wrecked cities, and console the wounded once the enemy has withdrawn.This enemy is the Atlantic hurricane system, and the price of its damage, in dollars spent and in lives lost, rivals that of man-made war. Hurricane Katrina, which totaled nearly $100 billion and 1,800 dead in 2005, cost only slightly less than a year of the occupation of Iraq, and killed more Americans in a day than the Iraq war claimed in over two years. Last year, Hurricane Ike claimed only 177 lives, but still wreaked $31 billion of damage.If this enemy were human-imagine, if you can, a rogue Canadian government-we would long since have funded a massive military and civilian project to defend our border, raid enemy bases, and reduce Ottawa to puddle of hot slag. But since hurricanes are inanimate, we resign ourselves to the inevitable destruction.We can do better.For decades, meteorologists have studied ways to strangle hurricanes. Their efforts have not been much rewarded: colleagues shun them, tending to eschew the voodoo-meteorology involved in weather tinkering. But the anti-hurricane scientists are serious, and their efforts, while underfunded, have produced an ingenious array of new tactics.Hurricanes develop when hot air near the sea's surface rises to meet the cold air above. If the rising hot air differs enough in temperature with the cold layer, cold gas rises in spirals and churns, and a hurricane is born. To reduce the heat near the ocean surface, some scientists propose dipping enormous buckets deep into the ocean and hauling frigid seawater up to cool the surface. They've also considered scattering materials into the ocean to reduce or change the sea-spray, which may be a factor in the violence of the churn. And higher up in the atmosphere, scientists propose to scatter huge quantities of carbon-black-a substance so dark it can absorb enough solar radiation to heat up the cold upper reaches of the nascent hurricane.

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