University of Miami is Learning How to Brew Indoor Hurricanes

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Florida gets hit by a lot of hurricanes. How many hurricanes, you ask? I don’t actually know, but enough that the University of Miami made them the school’s namesake. Knowing that, it makes perfect sense that the university would want the ability to summon them at will. I mean it’s only fair, right? That’s why scientists at the new university’s Marine Technology & Life Sciences Seawater Complex are building a machine that will let them simulate a hurricane in a controlled lab environment. Okay, so that’s not the actually the reason. They are working on it, though.

In order to study the intricacies of how hurricanes gain power, scientists at the University are building SUSTAIN (Surge-Structure-Atmosphere Interaction), the world’s first hurricane simulator. Scientists know that water temperature plays a role in how strong a hurricane becomes before it makes landfall. Warm bodies of water, like the water in the Gulf of Mexico, make a storm stronger. Cold water, on the other hand, makes a storm dissipate. We know these things, but we don’t know the particulars of how water temperature X contributes to hurricane Y.

According to Peter Sollogub, associate principal of engineering firm Cambridge Seven, SUSTAIN uses three major components: 1400-horsepower fan that will generate winds up to 150-mph, a wave generator that uses twelve paddles to create the appropriate oceanic conditions, and the physical tank, which will be 20 meters long and 2 meters high and made out of clear acrylic.

While it’s fantastic that SUSTAIN will help scientists learn to predict hurricane strength, the idea that human beings have learned produce natural disasters at will is leaving me a little unnerved. Isn’t this thing only one or two steps aways from a mad scientist’s weather control machine?

(via Popular Science)

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