Can and should we intervene with cyclones?

Photo: Supplied Jack Miller
29 January 2024

Cyclones don’t take note of national borders, and therefore the logistics and politics of potential cyclone intervention are incredibly complex. If not well managed, these technologies would be vulnerable to exploitation for political or economic purposes. Governance of both the research and deployment of these technologies must be considered carefully.  

As a child growing up in Cairns, Jack Miller remembers being evacuated from his home and confronting the destructive impacts of Cyclone Yasi in 2011. These experiences increased Jack’s interest in cyclones, yet he still did not think much about how they form. But in his first year studying at the ANU, Jack was given an opportunity to do just that as an ICEDS Research Assistant exploring the feasibility of various cyclone interventions.  

While the concept of intervening to potentially weaken or even stop cyclones initially seemed to Jack like “a bit of a wacky idea straight out of the 1960s space race”, some digging demonstrated that it might not be as impossible as it appeared.  

Jack conducted a technical review of possible cyclone interventions including cloud seeding, sea surface temperature modification, high altitude particle injection and aerosol injection. Jack’s review was supplemented by governance and risk analysis and cyclone modelling by other researchers. This interdisciplinary approach allowed the team to consider not just the potential feasibility of various interventions, but also the ecological, governance and social implications in a paper for the Journal of Climate Risk Management