Between 1962 and 1983, research in hurricane modification centered on an ambitious experimental program, Project STORMFURY. The proposed modification technique involved artificial stimulation of convection outside the eye wall through seeding with silver iodide. The artificially invigorated convection, it was argued, would compete with the convection in the original eye wall, lead to reformation of the eye wall at larger radius, and thus produce a decrease in the maximum wind.

Since a hurricane's destructive potential increases rapidly as its maximum wind becomes stronger, a reduction as small as 10% would have been worthwhile. Modification was attempted in four hurricanes on eight different days. On four of these days, the winds decreased by between 10 and 30%. The lack of response on the other days was interpreted to be the result of faulty execution of the experiment or poorly selected subjects.

These promising results have, however, come into question because recent observations of unmodified hurricanes indicate: 1) that cloud seeding has little prospect of success because hurricanes contain too much natural ice and too little supercooled water, and 2) that the positive results inferred from the seeding experiments in the 1960s probably stemmed from inability to discriminate between the expected effect of human intervention and the natural behavior of hurricanes.

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Footnotes

1Present affiliation: Weather Research Program, ERL/NOAA, Boulder, CO 80303.