CAPE CORAL, Fla. – A Norwegian company says it has a way to prevent storms from developing into major hurricanes before they reach shore – but environmental engineers warn that such a system could have unintended consequences.
OceanTherm claims bubble curtain technology may be a solution to tropical storms. OceanTherm CEO Olav Hollingsaeter believes the haunting images of Hurricane Katrina inspired him to search for a solution.
Hollingsaeter stated that he has been thinking about the matter since 2005 when Katrina hit Louisiana.
Warm water temperatures are what fuel hurricanes such as Katrina. Researchers fear that more severe and frequent storms will occur as a result of climate change.
A sea temperature of 80 degrees or higher helps tropical systems grow and intensify. OceanTherm believes that bubble curtain technology could help reduce these temperatures.
The plan calls for ships to deploy perforated pipes that release bubbles, which will cool the ocean water and bring it to the surface. The water temperature would drop and the hot water storms that are needed to intensify would be cut off.
The ultimate goal is to have a system that can stretch across the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. While the project is still in its initial stages, Hollingsaeter claimed that a recent simulation was successful.
Hollingsaeter explained that they found water cold enough to bring the surface temperature down below 80 degrees in 100 meters.
Despite the recent success Hollingsaeter stated that funding has been difficult despite this. Next steps include a demonstration on land and then a demonstration at sea. Both are expected to cost millions.
Hollingsaeter explained that we have the marine-based validation (commercial validation), which costs $14.5 million because of the amount of engineering and development involved.
It may seem high-priced, but consider the cost of hurricane damage.
All bubble curtain field testing costs total $17.3 million. NOAA says that this is a small amount compared to the $283 billion in storm damage in 2017. This year was deemed the most expensive hurricane season by storms such as Harvey, Maria, and Irma.
While Hollingsaeter explained that their researchers found that the bubble curtain would have no long-term effects on ocean currents, environmental engineer and research scientist Dr. Tracy Fanara is more concerned about possible effects on algal blooms in the Gulf.
Fanara stated that “if you change one thing, then there are a lot of other things that could happen.” “With the Florida red tide, you can force an upwelling that causes the cells to rise from the bottom,” Fanara said.