July 16, 2009 -- Good news, folks. Microsoft founder Bill Gates has turned his attention to controlling the weather.
Five U.S. Patent and Trade Office patent applications, made public on July 9, propose slowing hurricanes by pumping cold, deep-ocean water in their paths from barges. If issued, the patents offer 18 years of legal rights to the idea for Gates and co-inventors, including climate scientist Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
Hurricanes, most famously demonstrated by the deadly intensification of Hurricane Katrina before its landfall in 2005, draw strength from warm waters on the ocean's surface. The patents describe a system for strategically placing turbine-equipped barges in the path of storms to chill sea surfaces with cold water pumped from the depths.