A Salter Sink uses free, unlimited energy from the waves and requires no moving parts—a simple way to perform an enormous task that can save billions of dollars and hundreds of lives.

Suppressing a Hurricane
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Suppressing a Hurricane

In recent history, we’ve seen a great deal of destruction caused by a handful of devastating hurricanes. In fact, eight of the 10 most expensive hurricanes to ever hit the United States have all occurred since 2004: Katrina, Ike, Wilma, Charley, Ivan, Rita, Frances, and Irene. The reason for the recent influx in hurricanes is largely due to global warming. Because of global warming, there is a greater amount of energy available in the ocean and atmosphere to produce weather.

Cyclonic storms draw their power primarily from warm waters near the surface of the ocean over which the storm develops and travels. As energy from the sun heats the ocean and the heat radiates back upward, storms begin to fuel—leading to dangerous hurricanes. The economic and humanitarian toll hurricanes exact is huge, and almost certain to grow as our population continues to rise.

Is there a simple way we can reduce the force of these massive storms?

Over the years, many ideas have been advanced for technological approaches to weaken or dissipate hurricanes that threaten major population centers.

Inventors from Intellectual Ventures, including wave energy expert Stephen H. Salter, an emeritus professor at the University of Edinburgh, have recently invented a new approach that may offer a more feasible and affordable way to drain energy from hurricanes and typhoons.

The “Salter Sink”—which is essentially a large pump powered by waves—can stir up the ocean and push hot water from the ocean’s surface to depths where it can mix up with the colder water below. It is a large yellow ring that acts as an artificial beach, capturing water from waves. With each wave, a hydraulic head is produced that pumps more water downward. Gravity pulls the water down through tubes, exiting 500 feet below where the water is considerably cooler. A Salter Sink uses free, unlimited energy from the waves and requires no moving parts—a simple way to perform an enormous task that can save billions of dollars and hundreds of lives.

While it would not prevent hurricanes from reaching land, preliminary calculations suggest it could reduce the strength of storms substantially—perhaps weakening a category five hurricane to a category four or three.

Though the Salter Sink is not in production and there are no plans to bring it to market just yet, Intellectual Ventures has been working to validate aspects of this idea and research how well it could work on a larger scale. It may seem to be a ridiculous notion because of the scale involved, but this simple idea is one that yields massive potential.

The End