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OceanTherm prevents hurricanes with bubbles

Published 21 Mar 2023 (updated 29 Apr 2024) · 2 min read

Quick information

At a glance

  • Bubble curtain for cooling the ocean surface
  • Could remove the energy from hurricanes before they reach land
  • Ready to be trialled in Asia and the US

OceanTherm develops solutions that cool surface water to diffuse hurricanes and tropical storms. The technology has been successfully tested in Norwegian fjords.

In recent years the world has witnessed intense tropical storms costing thousands of lives. In 2005, hurricane Katrina killed more than 1 800 people and caused damage of USD 90 billion. In 2016, hurricane Matthew swept across Haiti, claiming 852 lives and destroying towns across the island.

As human populations grow, the costs and impacts of these naturally occurring storms in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans will continue to grow. On top of the devastation, the storms are responsible for a loss of natural resources, pollution and oil spills, and carbon-intensive rebuilding efforts.

Bubble curtain

Tropical hurricanes are generated when masses of hot and cold air collide above warm ocean water. The hurricanes obtain their energy from the ocean surface when – crucially – the surface water temperature is above 26.5 °C. Cooling the surface water would deprive the hurricanes of their energy source, potentially stopping them before they make landfall, or at least stopping them from developing into stronger hurricanes.

OceanTherm aims to do just that by taking advantage of cooler water in the ocean’s depths. The company’s technology is a “bubble curtain”, which is a perforated pipe lowered in water. This pipe is placed across a stretch of ocean, such as a narrow straight, and works by supplying bubbles of compressed air to the deep. When the bubbles rise up, they bring with them the cold deep-sea water to the surface, and this cold water cools the warm ocean surface.

A pilot project in Norway – alongside leading research institution SINTEF – has demonstrated that OceanTherm’s bubble curtain can bring deep and cold water to the ocean surface. The company is now further developing the technology to improve its efficiency and scale.

Norway has used bubble curtains for decades to keep fjords free of ice, since Norwegian winters see ocean surfaces drop well below freezing temperatures. They are also used to restrict oil spills in enclosed and sensitive areas.

Ice forming on lake

Concrete benefits

OceanTherm is working to demonstrate the potential of its solution to reduce the impact of hurricanes. If successfully implemented, it would be immensely helpful in saving human lives, the environment and the economy.

Market potential

Following promising tests in Norway, OceanTherm is looking to scale up its trials in ocean conditions representative of those found in hurricane regions. OceanTherm is continuing to collaborate closely with SINTEF.

The market for OceanTherm is eastern Asian countries and the southeastern US, as well as any other parts of the world exposed to hurricanes and typhoons.

OceanTherm has received extensive media coverage in 2020, including in FastCompany, Wired, Tampa Bay Times and Daily Mail.

Olav Bjørnsund Hollingsæter

Founder and CEO

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c/o Forskningsparken i Vestfold, Raveien 205, 3184 BORRE, Norway

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