Underwater 'bubble net' between Cuba and Mexico could stop deadly hurricanes

Scientists are cooking up a madcap scheme to eradicate hurricanes using underwater bubbles. 

The plan involves creating a 'bubble net' from a pipeline of compressed air strung between two ships or buoys and submerged 300 feet below the ocean surface.

In theory, the bubbles would take cold water up to the surface, replacing the warm water that acts as a fuel for hurricanes and tropical storms. 

One way of deploying this system in the real world to fight powerful storms could be across the 135-mile Yucatan Channel between Cuba and Mexico, experts say. 

This serves as a natural 'choke point' for storms on their way to land across the Gulf of Mexico and the bubbles could see the hurricane dissipate before it makes landfall.

The bizarre proposal has divided experts who are debating its effectiveness, but advocates maintain it may save countless lives, if given funding.  

Trials of the OvceanTherm bubble net technology have been ongoing in Norway but more funding is needed to trial the system as a tool against hurricane formation
Pictured, thermal image of the warm water (dark blue) rising to the surface in a Norwegian fjord trial

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A similar bubble-based solution has been using in Norway's fjords for a number of years to prevent the bodies of water freezing over. Pictured left, aerial view from a demonstration of the OceanTherm system and right, thermal imaging camera showing the warm water (dark blue) rising to the surface with the bubbles 

How would the bubble net prevent hurricanes?  

Tropical hurricanes are generated when masses of cold and warm air collide. 

Another essential factor is that the sea surface temperature must be greater than 26.5°C.

The OceanTherm project focuses on starving burgeoning hurricanes of this warm water fuel source. 

Many other methods have been proposed, but none have been trialled. 

These include towing icebergs to the Gulf of Mexico from the Arctic; seeding clouds with sea salt in order to make them whiter, thus increasing their reflectivity and so reducing sea surface temperatures; using aircraft to release dry ice in the vicinity of hurricanes with the aim of increasing precipitation as a means of dissipating energy; and using nuclear bombs to destroy the hurricanes. 

Norwegian experts have created their own plan, which consists of supplying bubbles of compressed air from a perforated pipe lowered in the water, which then rise, taking with them colder water from deeper in the ocean.

At the surface, the cold water mixes with, and cools, the warm surface water. 

'Pipes must be located at between 100 and 150 metres depth in order to extract water that is cold enough' says Grim Eidnes, lead scientist of the plan, 

'By bringing this water to the surface using the bubble curtains, the surface temperature will fall to below 26.5°C, thus cutting off the hurricane's energy supply.' 


Grim Eidnes is spearheading the technology as chief science advisor to private company OceanTherm, having previously worked as a physical oceanographer at Norway's research institution SINTEF. 

The OceanTherm project has received grant money from the Norwegian government for additional computer simulations but more money is needed for a physical trial. 

Speaking to Wired, he spoke of the potential use of the Yucatan Strait as a test arena. 

This has been a goal of the ocean maverick since at least 2018, when in his role at SINTEF he mapped out the logistics of cooling the surface of a swath of ocean. 

The team found at the time that when water reaches 26.5°C (79.7F), the level of water evaporation is sufficient to promote

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