Innovation That Matters

Hurricanes get their energy from the ocean surface when the water temperature is above 26.5 °C | Photo source NASA on Unsplash

Underwater bubble curtains could reduce the power of hurricanes


A startup is working to reduce the impact of tropical storms by pumping bubbles of cool water to the ocean surface

Spotted: As climate change makes hurricanes and extreme weather more frequent, a Norwegian startup is working to help prevent catastrophe. The company, OceanTherm, is pioneering a technology that aims to reduce the water temperature in order to slow down storms. The technology, called a bubble curtain, has been used in Norway for decades to keep the fjords free of ice in the winters by lifting warmer water to the surface. 

Tropical hurricanes are generated when masses of hot and cold air collide above warm ocean water. The hurricanes get their energy from the ocean surface when the water temperature is above 26.5 °C. OceanTherm’s technology would pump air through large to carry bubbles of colder water from lower depths up to the surface. The idea is that as the storm passed over the newly cooled water, it would lose speed.

The idea sounds revolutionary, but this is not the first time it has been tried. Stanford climate scientist Ken Caldeira filed a patent in 2009 for a similar system. Some experts also doubt that the technology will work as planned, arguing that storms are complex systems and do not rely entirely on surface temperature for their energy. However, OceanTherm is planning to continue its study, with both computer modelling and real-world tests in Norway and the Gulf of Mexico.

OceanTherm’s CEO Olav Hollingsaeter is a retired submarine officer in the Norwegian Navy. He became involved in the concept after seeing the devastation from Hurricane Katrina: “I’m an old submariner and knew that the water is colder deeper down in the ocean. So, my thought was, ‘Why don’t we use this cold water in the deep sea mixed with the surface water and thereby reduce the sea surface temperature?’”

As the world warms up, there has been renewed interest in developing ways to mitigate the effects on the climate. At Springwise, we have a number of innovative approaches to mitigating the effects of climate change. We have recently covered the use of the mineral olivine to remove excess carbon from the oceans and a design for a climate-neutral high-rise.

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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