When a tropical hurricane encounters warmer waters on the ocean surface in its path, it gains even more energy, potentially becoming an even more voracious event — a recent example of this is recent hurricane Ida. But what if that heat source were eliminated? That’s what Norwegian company OceanTherm proposes with its bubble curtain method. Through a tube installed on the seabed, air bubbles would be released to drive the colder waters to the surface.
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The so-called bubble curtain is quite simple: a perforated tube it is placed on the seabed and thus provides the compressed air bubbles in the depths. When bubbles rise, they displace cooler water from the depths to the surface; thus, the surface of the ocean is cooled.
The pilot project was conducted with the Norwegian research institution SINTEF in a fjord located in the city of Vanvikan, Norway. The perforated pipe was installed about meters below the surface and thus the surface temperature rose 0.5 °C in relation to deep water. “The tubes must be located between 150 and 100 meters deep to extract enough cold water,” pointed out Grim Eidnes, senior researcher at SINTEF.
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The technique has been used for decades in Norway to keep fjords (large sea inlets between mountains) free from freezing by transporting the saltiest and warmest water from the seabed to the surface. Now, OceanTherm is working to demonstrate the potential of the bubble curtain in combating major tropical hurricanes.
Despite the good performance in the first test, the curtain of bubble has not yet been rated as a real hurricane. Therefore, it is too early to say that the method is, in fact, effective in reducing the danger of tropical hurricanes. In addition, it is necessary to consider what environmental impacts may arise from these changes in surface water temperature.
Environmental engineer Tracy Fanara, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, in its acronym in English), explained about the domino effect this could cause. She highlighted the phenomenon of the red tide, caused by a species of seaweed that proliferates excessively. “With Florida’s red tide, you could be forcing an upwelling event that causes these cells to come from the bottom up,” he said.
Source: Futurism, OceanTherm, SINTEF
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