Scientists are looking for ways to control and harness the power of typhoons


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Consuming or harnessing the power of a mighty typhoon may soon no longer be the plot of a science fiction novel or a Hollywood disaster movie.

Scientists have set out to find ways to control typhoons, which are becoming increasingly violent under global warming, by the target year 2050.

They hope to steal their immense power from tropical storms and to mitigate the damage they cause.

Some meteorologists on the project even dream of using typhoons to generate electricity, as their It is believed that energy is equivalent to a month’s electricity consumption around the world.

The company bears the name “Typhoonshot” in a piece about “Moonshot”, a project that is difficult to realize but promises extremely high returns, such as exploring the moon. The project was launched last year by institutions such as universities and a manufacturer.

Japan has always been at the mercy of typhoons, but it would no longer be a pipe dream to use up your strength and convert your energy into useful resources if only we could gather new technology and research, “said Hironori Fudeyasu, professor of meteorology with Yokohama National University. who leads the Typhoonshot project team.

The Northwest Pacific Basin, including the waters around Japan, has high sea water temperatures, making it a part of the world where typhoons are most common and where typhoons grow heavily.

2019 Typhoon No. 19, known internationally as Hagibis, claimed more than 100 lives, mainly in eastern Japan, including Fukushima Prefecture.

Analysis by the Meteorological Research Institute of the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) and another institution showed that Typhoon No. 19 poured about 10 percent more rain on the Kanto-Koshin region than if it hadn’t been for the rise in air and sea water temperatures over the past four decades.

SITTING STRENGTH OF TIFUNI

Attempts to artificially control typhoons are nothing new.

The United States repeatedly conducted experiments to drip silver iodide into hurricanes until about 1970 in the hopes that spraying the chemical that acts as rain seeds would change the shape of the hurricanes and weaken them.

Despite reports that sowing seeds reduced wind speeds from hurricanes by 10 to 30 percent, it couldn’t be ruled out that they might weaken on their own and end up slowing research.

Fudeyasu said he believed the time was right to try again after half a century.

One of the factors he cited is advances in supercomputer simulation technologies.

The accuracy of predicting typhoon trails has improved dramatically, making it possible to accurately assess the impact of human interference. It has also become easier to simulate the amount of damage reduction expected from a given reduction in wind and rain.

The project team’s scientists have the idea of ​​throwing large amounts of ice from an airplane into the eye of a typhoon as a cooling measure.

A typhoon gets its power from the heat released when water vapor from a warm ocean condenses into a cloud. Therefore, cooling its temperature is expected to weaken its strength.

A simulation with Typhoon No. 15 from 2019 (Faxai), which caused wind damage in Chiba Prefecture and other areas, showed that a similar measure would have reduced wind speeds by 3.6-10.8 km / h, resulting in about 30 Percent less building damage caused by strong winds.

However, the measure would require enormous amounts of ice, so the use of more effective substitutes like dry ice should be considered, Fudeyasu said.

REMAINING CHALLENGES, CONCERN

In addition to simulations, measurements of the effects would also be invaluable.

A group of researchers from Nagoya University and other institutions is working on a study that has few parallels in the world: flying an airplane into a typhoon and measuring in your eye.

They entered the eye of Typhoon No. 21 of 2017 (Lan) two days earlier and one day before it landed in Japan and found that the actual air pressure there was more than 10 hectopascals lower than a JMA estimate based on satellite imagery and other information.

Direct measurements are finally showing what typhoons really are, ”said Kazuhisa Tsuboki, professor of meteorology at Nagoya University who heads the group. “While we are still facing a mountain of challenges, we will pursue the goal of artificially controlling typhoons, which is a dream of researchers like me.”

The Typhoonshot project also aims to find ways to harness some of the tremendous energy of typhoons. The project includes a plan to develop an unmanned sailing boat that will automatically follow a typhoon using its high winds to generate electricity through the rotation of underwater propellers. The electricity generated would be sent ashore.

However, artificially controlling a typhoon could locally increase its strength or damage areas that would not have been affected without human intervention.

We will pay special attention to side effects as we try to weaken typhoons strength, “said Fudeyasu, adding,” At least we want to offset the increase in their power due to global warming. “

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