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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 08/ 7/2009

NOAA Says No to DHS Hurricane Modification

By Steve Tracton

* Major Heat by Sunday: Full Forecast | NatCast | July Recap *

Graphic (courtesy NOAA) depicts NOAA hurricane-related activities before, during and after a storm. It appears that, for now at least, hurricane modification will not be one of them.

As we reported in May, more than 25 years after termination of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Project Stormfury, which aimed to weaken hurricanes by seeding clouds with silver iodide, the Department of Homeland Security has been attempting to involve NOAA in establishing a hurricane modification program of its own.

Given the dubious results of past research and a host of other concerns, NOAA appeared unwilling to provide the critical support the DHS program requires.

The rebuff by NOAA is now official.

Keep reading for more on NOAA's rebuff of DHS...

A letter dated July 29 to William Laska, program manager for DHS's Advanced Research Projects Agency, from Richard Spinrad, director of NOAA's Office of Atmospheric Research (OAR), states, "While OAR recognizes that weather modification, in general, is occurring through the funding of private enterprises, NOAA does not support research that entails efforts to modify hurricanes."

NOAA's position and rationale, as laid out in the letter (PDF) made available by OAR, is essentially the same as described in my earlier post. Namely, the DHS proposal was inconsistent with NOAA's priority of mitigating the toll of hurricanes on life and property through improved forecasts, warnings and preparation -- not hurricane modification.

Is this the last word? Maybe not. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) recently introduced The Weather Mitigation Research and Development Policy Authorization Act of 2009. The legislation proposes appropriations of $25,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2010 through 2014 to the National Science Foundation. Of this, 34 percent is to be divided and transferred to NASA and, yes, NOAA.

The legislation speaks only of weather modification in general without specifically mentioning hurricanes. However, this press release makes clear Hutchison's intentions to "mitigate the impact of severe climate and weather events, particularly hurricanes and storm surges." At a recent Senate hearing (which I attended) on Weathering the Storm: The Need for a National Hurricane Initiative, Hutchison reinforced her intentions but left no hint that she was aware of the DHS program and NOAA's rebuff (watch Hutchison speak).

Spinrad testified at the hearing, but deftly avoided answering direct questions about his thoughts on hurricane modification.

By Steve Tracton  | August 7, 2009; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Government, Tracton  
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I don't think that small-scale cloud-seeding would do much more than perhaps punch a temporary hole in the eyewall of a major hurricane.

Large-scale attempts to "upwell" cool water from the depths to the surface in the path of a hurricane could do the trick, provided one has the energy to run the upwelling pump(s).

Posted by: Bombo47jea | August 7, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Is there no end to the pork politicians are willing to grant businesses in our country. Fraudulent schemes and programs that grease Congress persons is a disgrace that needs to end no matter the Administration in office. I thank our public servants at NOAA who won't support these harebrained projects; and I charge the Senator from Texas with this shameful practice in the DHS project. Maybe she can get her Texans to pay for if and when she becomes it's next Governor.

Posted by: bobyoung1 | August 7, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Hurricanes release a tremendous amount of energy in the form of wind and rain. That energy comes from heat. So if we were to succeed in 'artificially' weakening hurricanes, what would happen to all that heat that is no longer used to fuel the hurricane? Wouldn't that further exacerbate global warming?

Posted by: ncc1701d | August 8, 2009 8:44 PM | Report abuse

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