Best known as the former chairman of Microsoft, billionaire Bill Gates now has reportedly filed several patents aiming to help one day be able to stop hurricanes that plague the Gulf of Mexico each year.
"Theodp," a well-known patent watcher, discovered the patent and then passed on the news to TechFlash. In the patent filings, Gates and several other inventors plan to use large fleets of vessels to mix warm Gulf of Mexico surface water with colder water under the surface.
Conduits would extend from one vessel beyond the ocean's thermocline, which is an invisible line separating the warmer, mixed layer of water closer to the surface from the cooler and calmer water that is seen further below the ocean's surface. Sunlight routinely is captured by the surface layer of ocean water, and a different vessel would be used as a heat/energy sink for water at deeper depths.
The following is an excerpt from one of the patent filings:
Below this mixed layer, however, the temperature decreases rapidly with depth, for example, as much as 20 degrees Celsius with an additional 150 m (500 ft) of depth. This area of rapid transition is called the thermocline. Below it, the temperature continues to decrease with depth, but far more gradually. In the Earth's oceans, approximately 90% of the mass of water is below the thermocline. This deep ocean consists of layers of substantially equal density, being poorly mixed, and may be as cold as -2 to 3.degree. C.
This isn't the first time people were interested in lowering the Gulf's surface temperature to help limit hurricanes, according to David Nolan, University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science associate professor.
Despite being one of the richest people in the world, Gates won't fund the project himself, as one of the patent filings outlines how the project would be funded. Along with the sale of insurance policies in areas routinely hit by hurricanes, federal, state and local government agencies would help fund the project.
"Every couple of years there's a news story that gets picked up for some hurricane-suppression idea," Nolan told TechFlash recently. "They’re all kooky in their own way. Some of them are more plausible than others, but they all face an enormous problem of scale. ... You would have to cover an incredible area with this effect to reduce the temperature of the ocean by a significant amount."
Gates previously worked with friends and Silicon Valley gurus to discuss electromagnet engines, and other tech-related subjects that they could work on. Working alongside Gates in his latest venture is ex-Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, although others involved in the project remain unknown.