Simulations show that turbines could suck destructive energy out of hurricanes.
The devastation of hurricanes such as Florence and Harvey is a reminder of the terrible power of storms and our apparent helplessness when they strike.
But new research suggests that there might be a way to fight hurricanes before they come ashore — and it might even help generate renewable electricity.
According to a paper published this summer in the journal Environmental Research Letters, computer simulations suggest that offshore wind turbines suck the energy out of hurricanes and force them higher into the sky, resulting in decreased rainfall and potentially less destruction when they make landfall.
"Offshore wind farms definitely could be a potential tool to weaken hurricanes and reduce their damage," author Cristina Archer, a professor at the University of Delaware, told Popular Science. "And they pay for themselves, ultimately, which is why I am excited about this."
Today's wind farms often switch turbines off during high winds, so current wind farms aren't a good defense mechanism against hurricanes.
But turbines scheduled to hit the market by 2020, Archer said, will be strong enough to withstand hurricane winds — so she's hopeful they'll be able to protect coastal communities, and maybe even generate some electricity in the process.
READ MORE: Scientists Want to Put 'Speed Bumps' in Hurricane Alley to Slow Down Storms [Popular Science]