The world's richest man has joined the battle against the world's most destructive weather.

Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, is backing inventors and climate scientists who claim to have devised a technique for diminishing the power of hurricanes.

Gates was named last week among a group of weather experts who have applied for patents on a system for lowering ocean temperatures.

Using a fleet of barges equipped with pumps, Gates and his team believe a hurricane can be slowed by cooling the tropical waters that fuel its progress.

American scientists agreed last week that the system was theoretically feasible but several noted that its backers had yet to prove it could be managed on a scale that would have any serious effect.

"Is it plausible? Yes," said Frank Marks, director of hurricane research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Is it possible? Maybe. Realistic? I just can't answer that."

The plan calls for a line of barges to be scattered along the coastline of the United States, ready to be deployed in a hurricane's path. Each barge would have a pair of tubes that thrust warmer surface waters to cooler depths while sucking up colder water.

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