Ethics of Atmospheric Interference – No

Before we can even begin this debate, it is crucial to get some background knowledge on how the atmosphere functions.

Our atmosphere’s main purpose is to attempt to distribute energy from the sun equally across the planet. Tropical areas, which are angled directly at the sun, receive maximum heat and radiation. Meanwhile, the poles collect only limited heat from the sun due to the sharp angle at which the sunlight hits them.

So, the atmosphere works to distribute this cold, polar air southward, while also pushing hot, energy rich tropical air to the north, ensuring that neither region gets too hot or too cold to sustain life.

Hurricanes are an integral part of that process. Forming over extremely warm bodies of water, they suck up large amounts of heat energy from the air and ocean.

As they track towards their destination, which is often the mid-latitudes, they take this energy with them, harboring the heat in the center of circulation. The strong waves and wind also upwell colder water from the depths of the ocean, resulting in cooler sea-surface temperatures.

Moving to the north, hurricanes encounter either cooler waters or land, both of which cause them to weaken and eventually dissipate. Through this process, they carry their warm moisture over the cooler water or land that has caused them to fall apart.

When this moisture and energy is released, it can then be picked up by mid-latitude weather systems and be distributed throughout the cooler area, thus working to achieve equilibrium.

The track of the storm is determined by the state of the rest of the atmosphere. Hurricanes will choose the path of least resistance, avoiding other low pressure systems, as well as blocking high pressure systems.

This generally leads them through areas of warm, humid air, until they reach an area of cold or dry air and can’t strengthen any more. At that point, the energy that they have acquired throughout this journey is all released as they weaken and dissipate, distributing their warm air to a cooler region.

This being said, the process of diverting hurricanes could wreak havoc on our atmospheric system. For example, if a storm were to be diverted to avoid the major cities on the east coast, its dissipation over the Atlantic Ocean would leave that area of water warmer than it would otherwise naturally be.

With this part of the ocean being more energy-rich, it would allow for other systems to become stronger in an attempt to equalize the imbalance. These strong storms could then cause destruction in a faraway place, such as Europe or the Canadian Maritimes.

So, by saving people in our major cities, we could cause the destruction of the lives and property of many people in other places. There is nothing that makes their lives any less important than ours.

In addition, the devastation of the ecology in areas hit by repeated storms could be irreversible. Humans are not the only ones affected by hurricanes and other strong storms; habitats can be wiped out, and sources of food can be destroyed.

So, playing god by altering the basic way in which our atmosphere functions could have dire consequences both on an environmental and human level. Willfully saving one life to end another deemed less important is not something to be taken lightly.