Japanese company hopes use submarines to subdue incoming typhoons
By Rick Martin
September 27, 2010
We usually accept it as a given that we can't change the weather. When it comes to extreme situations like hurricanes or earthquakes, such disasters are labeled "acts of god" because we generally feel helpless to in the face of nature's wrath. But recently an ambitious Japanese manufacturing firm Ise Kogyo has boldly claimed that they can help weaken the impact of typhoons. And even more surprising, the company's weapon of choice is the submarine.
In principle, the premise appears sound. Typhoons generally require warmer water temperatures at surface level before they become dangerous, typically around 25 degrees. So when typhoons develop, the theory is that a fleet of submarines equipped with 20m-long water pumps can deliver colder water to the surface, thus bringing the surface temperature down by two or three degrees and weakening the storm.
According to the company, 20 submarines could cover an area of about 57,000 square meters and they would be deployed into a typhoons path once initial signs of an oncoming typhoon are evident.
This solution has been proposed as far back as 2002, but we have yet to see it practically implemented to date. First of all, submarines are hardly a dime a dozen and to set 20 of them aside for typhoon prevention would be no easy task.
More practical proposals involving the use of surface vessels to bring up cool water have been put forth before as well, though they are admittedly far less awesome than the submarine idea. But re-purposing military ships that patrol key areas might be the only way to bring such a "pipe dream" to fruition.
These aspirations to control the weather may remind our Asian readers of China's pre-Olympic efforts to create blue skies as well as subsequent struggles to induce rain amid summer droughts that plagues the agriculture industry there.
The latter procedure is called cloud seeding, and it typically involves dusting clouds with a silver compound in order to bring about the formation of rain droplets. In the past however, China's rainmaker program drew as much attention for its inadvertent stray rockets as for its ambitious scope.
Earlier this year Gizmag also reported on a Swiss team working in cloud seeding who, rather than use silver compounds, opted to induce water droplet formation using infrared light.
It remains to be seen whether or not programs like these will ever make the transition from experimental to common technologies that contribute to our safety and our quality of living. But for now, it is exciting to hear even talk of how humans might gain some mastery over the weather. With extreme weather patterns becoming more and more frequent (thanks global warming!) we're going to need every advantage we can get.