Each year, hurricanes or typhoons may cause billions of dollars' worth of damage and a large number of fatalities. It would be hugely significant if we could find an effective way of reducing the destructive power of these storms, which convert heat energy from warm oceans into damaging kinetic energy in the atmosphere.
Now Arkadii Leonov at the University of Akron in Ohio says that the complex air flows and other atmospheric "machinery" that produce this prodigious power are surprisingly delicate.
In a patent application, Leonov and colleagues say that they can put a spanner in the atmospheric works by flying supersonic jet aircraft in concentric circles around a hurricane's eye, the calm area around which the storm rotates.
The idea is that the sonic-boom shockwave would dramatically raise air pressure in the eye, disrupting the upward flow of warm air that drives the hurricane.
But how many planes would you need? Sonic booms spread out as they travel away from an aircraft, so even a small number of relatively small aircraft could do the job, say Leonov and colleagues.
"Two F-4 jet fighters flying at approximately Mach 1.5 are sufficient to suppress, mitigate and/or destroy a typical sized hurricane/typhoon," they claim in their application.