Atmosphere And Weather

What was Project Stormfury

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Starting in 1962 until1983, a team of scientists conducted an experiment called Project Stormfury that performed extensive research on hurricane modification. Scientists attempted to alter the strength and speed of approaching storms by adding artificial stimulation, in the form of silver iodide. When the silver iodide came in contact with supercooled water, the water would immediately freeze and this would interrupt the rest of the natural formation of the hurricane.

The stimulation was supposed to clash with the strength of the eye-wall and increase the radius by spreading out the energy, the result would be a decrease in the wind speed and a possible second eye-wall. Considering the destruction of the winds of a hurricane, a wind speed decrease of only 15% would have greatly reduced the potential damage and destruction.

On eight different days, modification was attempted during four hurricanes. Winds decreased by 10 to 30% - on four of the days. On the days when the modification did not work at all, scientists attributed the lack of success to improper seeding or possibly not enough hurricane force winds.

In the mid-1980s, study of the modified hurricanes and of subsequent unmodified hurricanes concluded that; cloud seeding would not affect the natural formation of powerful hurricanes and Project Stormfury was not successful in the initial attempts. 

Hurricanes contain large amounts natural ice and not enough supercooled moisture and the results in the first experiments should be contributed to the natural formation and changes in hurricanes, not the modification attempts.

The final Project Stormfury experiment was conducted in 1971 and more than a decade after the last attempt at modification, Project Stormfury was officially over. Even though the project was considered a failure, the data gained and the extensive storm research helped to improve the forecasts of hurricanes, including their projected path and their intensity.

Vincent Schaefer and Irving Langmuir were the first to attempt cloud seeding. Schaefer went on to create a sudden snowstorm on December 20, 1946 by seeding a cloud.  His actions caused General Electric to drop out of the Project. Before a storm qualified for seeding, there were several guidelines;

* The storm had to have less than a 10 percent chance of approaching populated land  -  within 24 hours

* Proximity - the hurricane had to be within a certain area

* A well-formed eye and great intensity was necessary

During the 1962 hurricane season there were no storms that qualified for the experiment and in 1963, from August 17 to 20, Stormfury experimented on 11 cumulus clouds, of which six were seeded. Five of six seeded cumulus clouds were studied and the experiment was considered a success.

To disrupt a hurricane, scientists would have to change the wind that flow from near the surface of the ocean all the way up to the atmosphere. These winds boldly cover several hundred square miles are the major force that steer hurricanes.  Robert and Joanne Simpson wrote in a report that a developed hurricane release as much energy in one day - that is equal to the fusion energy of about 400 hydrogen super bombs. 

Even though Project Stormfury was not a complete success, the quest to take charge of dangerous weather formations is still the subject of many studies. Thanks to up-to-the-minute weather reports and forecasts, residents have plenty of time to vacate the area of an approaching storm.





More about this author: Paula Jacobs

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