For over a decade, NASA and other government agencies have been warning the world about global climate change and its potential effects, which may include more severe hurricanes. In the last 20 years, hurricanes have devastated the US causing “$329.9 billion and 3,318 fatalities,” (Smith) and have become more frequent and stronger.
In turn, a good portion of the public have protested global warming, but have not demanded advance planning for actually mitigating the effects of global warming, such as effective solutions to fix extreme and deadly tropical storm patterns. However, one potential solution has been conceptualized by Bruce Morton, who brilliantly came up with a genius approach of mitigating hurricanes prior to formation using his Solar Power Satellite (SPS) – Hurricane Prevention Concept, and has applied for US and international patents for this.
Mr. Morton’s approach is to interfere with and prevent formation of hurricanes. He is impacting the formation when it is starting to form a tropical depression, which has less energy than a hurricane, that has not been heavily studied. Further he is impacting two asymmetrical pie shaped segments of the tropical depression (in order to interfere with the perfect condition it needs to form, and to unbalance any rotation as well), which lowers the energy requirement even more.
Mr. Morton has several decades of experience in engineering, business development, and strategic planning at General Electric GE Aerospace (now part of Lockheed Martin), Rockwell International (now part of Boeing), Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon in Aerospace & Defense. Early in his career, he designed, built, tested, and launched re-entry systems and orbital spacecraft for customers including NASA and defense customers. He has also been involved in renewable energy including solar power, wind power, ocean power, RTGs (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators), and nuclear power. Concurrently while at Lockheed Martin, he served as an Adjunct Professor at George Washington University in Washington, DC, teaching graduate courses in CyberSecurity and Management Information Systems. Mr. Morton retired from Lockheed Martin in 2010, and continues to work in Aerospace & Defense.
Mr. Morton has a B.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from New York University and a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Pennsylvania. He has homes in Northern Virginia and St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.
Here are some of the interview questions I asked Mr. Morton:
- What inspired you to take on hurricanes using Solar Power Satellite (SPS) technology?
I have a second home in the US Virgin Islands, and I was getting fed up with hurricanes and their human and cost impact, and also beginning to fret that they seemed to be getting more powerful. I started evaluating how to combat them, and after several approaches came up with affecting them when they were still developing tropical depressions. To do this, I needed to apply continuous energy to the developing tropical depression for a sustained period of time. I looked at several approaches, but concluded that one or more SPS’s transmitting microwave energy would be the best approach.
- To summarize your SPS Hurricane Prevention Concept would have to rely on hurricane monitoring satellites and aircraft data to detect the formation of tropical depressions, and identify when they start to organize, which begins “the cycle of vertical upward and downward movement of air, water, and water vapor.” Then, your Hurricane Prevention Concept would aim its space solar microwave beams to interfere with the perfect conditions needed for it to start to organize, correct?
Correct. This monitoring is already commonly done in practice. For example, for the Caribbean and US Atlantic coast, there are several publicly available websites which show and denote on photo image maps tropical waves as they form (typically in the ocean off the coast of Africa), denote when they begin to form into tropical depressions, and denote when those tropical depressions begin to organize, at which point they are assigned an ID number for special monitoring and attention.
- Which orbit will your Hurricane Prevention Solar Power Satellite (SPS) Concept be in exactly? Can you give specifics regarding emitted power data from your SPS?
The concept uses one or more Solar Power Satellite systems, which work in unison. The reasons for using more than one SPS include cost, feasibility of construction, maintenance, and reliability. The best orbit would be Geosynchronous. Tradeoffs could be done for MEO considering cost, feasibility of construction, maintenance, and other factors.
The total combined power output would be thousands of megawatts. (For reference, Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant complex is about 829 megawatts, which is less than a thousand megawatts). Analysis, modeling, testing, and demos may actually determine that less power is needed. However, when not focusing microwave energy on a tropical depression, the microwave energy can alternatively be used to create earth based solar energy, which would help alleviate costs of operating the system solely for hurricane prevention.
A precise analysis or measurement has never been done. Analysis, modeling, testing, and demos may actually determine that less power is needed. The microwave energy is constantly focused on one or more non-symmetrical segments of a generally circular and slowly rotating tropical depression, which is a precursor to a tropical storm and then a hurricane (alternatively called a cyclone or typhoon). The focused microwave energy interrupts the cycle of vertical upward and downward movement of air, water, & water vapor, and destabilizes the developing rotational motion of the tropical depression, causing it to break up and dissipate, and preventing it from ultimately developing into a tropical storm and then into a hurricane. The microwave energy is primarily focused on two asymmetrical pie shape segments at the top of the storm “engine”, so it may actually turn out that less SPS power is adequate to assure rotational disruption of the tropical storm that is forming.
- Since most of the storms happen above the ocean, would you/your team notify marine, air vessels or any traffic below before using your microwave beams?
Tropical depressions typically form over the open ocean in international waters, and are typically identified and tracked. Ships and aircraft typically and reliably receive danger notices/warnings to avoid the area and stay away, although research vessels and aircraft occasionally venture into the danger area for research purposes. Thus, an additional notice to airmen and warning to mariners would be issued in advance prior to focusing microwave energy on the tropical depression.
- Who will have access to your Solar Power Satellite (SPS) to microwave beam?
Ownership would depend on the business model that evolves. It is not military in nature, and the beam is dispersed vs. highly focused. Ownership could be by US Dept. of Commerce, NASA, US Dept. of Energy, a private company, an international multi-government effort, a foreign government, etc. One likely scenario is that it would end up as a US public-private partnership, with the private entity owning the power generation plant and the rights to sell the electricity at a profit.
- What research has been done to prove to the public that your concept is better and safer than hurricane seeding?
None. This approach is done prior to hurricane formation, and is applied over a sustained period of time. Once it is a hurricane, it is quite powerful and also tied into the earth’s rotation via the Coriolis effect (which is why it rotates), and humongous amounts of energy (this is a technical term) would be required to affect it. So all of the tried efforts (e.g. seeding) or proposed efforts (e.g. set off a bomb) have the same flaw: they attack the storm after it has already become a hurricane for a short time duration vs. for a sustained time period, and although they may have a short term effect of some sort, they are quite ineffective in really affecting the long term life of the hurricane.
- With Earth’s temperature rising, which some believe has contributed to more frequent and stronger hurricanes on the east coast, do you foresee any issues with using your SPS more regularly?
Part of the reason I was getting concerned about hurricanes was that they may possibly be getting more powerful as a result of global warming, and logic would also say that their strength and impact would keep getting worse. I see a need for this approach becoming more urgent as a result of global warming, but don’t see any issues with using the system more frequently, except for the economic impact of having less time to use it to generate electric power.
Elisa Shebaro is an aspiring Solar Power Satellite Pioneer. Other than this blog, she has completed a year-round mentorship at Caltech Aerospace Mentorship Program (AMP) and recreated Dr. Jaffe’s Wi-Fi power beaming demo for her final presentation. She was Organizer and Co-Chair for the Wireless for Space and Extreme Environments WiSEE 2020 in Vicenza, Italy.