Bill Gates, the Hurricane Tamer?

Blowing Up Hurricanes?

Alamaro's plan involved dispersing soot-like nano-particles at the upper layers of a hurricane to increase the temperature at the top of the hurricane. This, he said, would alter the thermodynamics of the hurricane and reduce the storm's intensity.

Others have proposed blowing up a hurricane with hydrogen bombs and blowing storms away from land with windmills.

But Alamaro pointed out that figuring out how to prevent, divert or weaken hurricanes aren't the only problems.

There are about 100 tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean every year and, of those, only about 10 or 11 become hurricanes. Most do not grow to the proportions of a Hurricane Katrina or cause that amount of damage when they hit land.

Those storms and hurricanes, he said, bring crucial rain to central America and the southern part of the U.S.

"What are we going to do, kill every tropical storm? By the time a tropical storm becomes a hurricane, it's difficult to do anything because the power is so immense," he said.

Hugh Willoughby, a research professor in the department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University and former director of NOAA's hurricane division, said the technology to predict when to tackle storms needs refining. He also said the expense and challenges of implementing any plan would be great.

Climatologist: Never Underestimate Mother Nature

"If you could do it, if you could turn the $100 billion hurricane into the $40 billion hurricane [in terms of damage] ... how would you practice? How would you keep it going?" Willoughby wondered. Billions of dollars would be needed with no guarantee of preventing billions more from being spent in the future, he said.

Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said he applauded Gates and Intellectual Ventures for thinking outside the box but warned about unintended consequences.

Messing with oceanic eco-systems is not something to take lightly and comes with its dangers. For example, he said, some have suggested seeding the ocean with iron so that it takes more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere would make the oceans more acidic, which could have adverse affects on marine life.

"This has the same danger," Patzert said. "You have to really think it through."

A better approach to saving lives and money, he suggested, would be to change zoning ordinances along the coast so that fewer homes are in the paths of hurricanes. Making sure that people who live in those areas are familiar with evacuation routes and emergency preparedness plans would help considerably too, he said.

"Never understand the power of Mother Nature and be careful of fiddling," said Patzert. "In the end, Mother Nature always wins."

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