Are Hurricanes Correcting Global Warming?

A hurricane looks and acts like a centrifugal fan. During talks that I give, most recently in New York State, I’ve had several opportunities to share some of my personal, non-scientific insights into this interesting phenomenon. The earth, which is a living breathing organism, seems to actually have its own defenses against getting too warm. It fans itself off with hurricanes, and in the process, the oceans cool down.

Bear in mind, I’m a mechanical professional, so I tend to think along the lines of air movement and fluid dynamics. Centrifugal fans are commonly used to move air, and air movement produces a “cooling-effect.” Addition of water to the process provides an even greater cooling effect in certain situations. This type of cooling is called “adiabatic cooling,” or more commonly, “evaporative cooling.” The principle behind it is basically that without actually removing any energy, the addition of water will cause the dry-bulb or “actual” temperature to decrease as the water evaporates. This happens because as the water evaporates, the same energy content occupies a larger volume, so the dry-bulb temperature goes down.

Cooling towers (often used for larger air-conditioning systems) use this concept to achieve greater effectiveness than dry cooling alone. In dry desert-like climates, many folks can achieve air-conditioning-like comfort without mechanical refrigeration. These evaporative coolers are sometimes called “swamp-coolers.”

Hurricanes look and work like a centrifugal fan, and seem to be using the heat from our warm oceans as the “engine” to drive this “cooling fan.” In the hurricane cross-section, look at the warm moist air being sucked up and flung out in a centrifugal fashion, while the cooler air from the upper atmosphere is pulled down through the very center.

It appears to me that global warming corrects itself quite effectively through these natural centrifugal fans. Thermal images of the Atlantic Ocean before and after a hurricane confirm hurricanes effectively drop the ocean temperatures by several degrees in their wake. It even looks like the center of the vortex is pulling the greenhouse gasses (GHG) back down from 10 miles up, which would make sense, because then our atmosphere would trap less heat.

The problem with this seemingly innocent cooling process is that millions of people’s lives are affected during when it happens. If we increase our building codes to withstand 200 MPH winds, and raise the flood-plain another couple dozen feet, we should be able to adapt. That’s a lot of painful work (to say the least).

Maybe it would be better if we did our part to slow the warming of the oceans by reduction of GHG emissions, thus reducing storms and other GHG-related concerns.

The fact is that about one-third of GHG emissions come from combustion heating of buildings. We can’t achieve the reductions needed nationwide and worldwide unless we eliminate combustion heating. Heat pumps are the key, and geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) are the best solution.

On the other side of this argument is the issue of making buildings storm and flood-proof. The first step for the HVAC system is to eliminate the outdoor equipment, and the second is to elevate it to a reasonable height above the flood plain. The best path toward eliminating outdoor equipment such as cooling towers, fuel tanks, fluid coolers, and air cooled condensors is to switch to an earth coupled source—geothermal HVAC. Geothermal HVAC systems have reasonable solutions to all of the challenges I’ve shared so far.

The facts are irrefutable. As much as 35-40 percent of GHG emissions come from combustion heating. New York has taken this information to the street in the form of Renewable Heating and Cooling Training Sessions for Professionals and Students. In addition, they are supporting numerous groups in the efforts of consumer outreach. Some of these include New Yorkers for Clean Power, Renewable Heat Now, Renewable Heat Now and others.

Architects, professionals, and building owners, once they are educated on these benefits, choose geothermal HVAC because of the reduction of liability, and increased comfort and longevity for their facilities. Geothermal HVAC systems liberate owners and design professionals from concerns normally associate with combustion heating, cooling towers and outside equipment in general.

Geothermal HVAC is the best solution for any building seeking to increase its resiliency, energy efficiency, and reduce GHG emissions.

I learned about hurricanes from watching some presentations from Kerry Emanuel, MIT

Hurricane cover Image from Gary Austin Davidson

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