The topic of man-made climate change doesn't just stir heated debate. It raises serious concerns - and even fuels calls for taxes on carbon emissions.
But regardless of whether you accept the expert consensus that human activity has contributed significantly to global warming over the last century, you might be encouraged by a new theory about our supposed capacity to affect the weather.
From a recent release from Stanford University:
"Computer simulations by Professor Mark Z. Jacobson have shown that offshore wind farms with thousands of wind turbines could have sapped the power of three real-life hurricanes, significantly decreasing their winds and accompanying storm surge, and possibly preventing billions of dollars in damages."
That would be a reassuring technological advance for residents of coastal communities - including ours.
Though it's been nearly a quarter century since our last major hurricane (Hugo), storm season annually induces justified jitters about when - not if - the next big one will roar our way.
So if Prof. Jacobson, who specializes in civil and environmental engineering, is right about offshore wind farms slowing down hurricanes, it would be wrong not to make the most of that revelation.
Then again, that's a huge "if."
Consider this seemingly far-fetched assessment from Prof. Jacobson and his fellow researchers: "Wind turbines could disrupt a hurricane enough to reduce peak wind speeds by up to 92 mph and decrease storm surge by up to 79 percent."
Prof. Jacobson: "We found that when wind turbines are present, they slow down the outer rotation winds of a hurricane. This feeds back to decrease wave height, which reduces movement of air toward the center of the hurricane, increasing the central pressure, which in turn slows the winds of the entire hurricane and dissipates it faster."
Neither are we.
However, if those scientists really have produced an amazing weather-control breakthrough, it wouldn't just soften hurricanes' blows.
It would vastly boost demand for wind farms - and the stakes for the folks at the Clemson University Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility, part of the school's Restoration Institute on the former Charleston Navy Base.
Indeed, the institute will be the host for the "First Conference on Local DC Electricity: Transforming the 21st Century Energy Economy" on March 30 and April 1.
And when it comes to the 21st century energy economy, wind turbines as an effective defense against hurricanes would be quite a transformational innovation.
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