Why nuking hurricanes is a bad idea

A US scientific agency has recommended that using nuclear weapons to destroy hurricanes is not a good idea. This advice follows reports that President Donald Trump sought to explore the option.

Earlier, the Axios news website reported Mr. Trump had asked several national security officials about the possibility of nuking hurricanes.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) commented that the results would be “devastating”.

At present, Mr. Trump denies making the suggestion.

As hurricanes typically affect the US east coast and frequently causing serious damage, such an idea has been considered earlier.

After reports of Mr. Trump’s suggestion surfaced, the hashtag #ThatsHowTheApocalyseStarted has been trending on Twitter.

Effect Of Nuking A Hurricane

News site Axios reported that Mr. Trump allegedly asked why the US couldn’t drop a bomb into the eye of the storm to stop it from making landfall.

The NOAA responded that using nuclear weapons on a hurricane “might not even alter the storm” and the “radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas”.

It says the difficulty of using explosives to change hurricanes is the amount of energy needed. The heat release of a hurricane is nearly equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes.

Although the mechanical energy of a bomb similar to that of the storm, “the task of focusing even half of the energy on a spot in the middle of a remote ocean would be formidable”, it expands.

NOAA explains, “Attacking weak tropical waves or depressions before they have a chance to grow into hurricanes isn’t promising either. About 80 of these disturbances form every year in the Atlantic basin but only about five become hurricanes in a typical year. There is no way to tell in advance which ones will develop.”

Origin Of This Idea

The idea of nuking a hurricane has been around since the 1950s when it was originally proposed by a government scientist.

During a speech at the National Press Club in 1961, Francis Riechelderfer, head of the US Weather Bureau, suggested that he could “imagine the possibility of someday exploding a nuclear bomb on a hurricane far at sea”.

According to National Geographic, he added that the Weather Bureau would only begin acquiring nuclear weapons when “we know what we’re doing”.

The NOAA shares that this idea is often suggested during hurricane season which starts from 1 June until the end of November, typically peaking in September when sea temperatures are at their highest.

George Washington University Professor Sharon Squassoni comments that the idea stems from the Plowshares program of the 1950s when a “laundry list of different weird… fantastical, slightly crazy” uses for nuclear weapons was devised by government researchers.

As the dangers of radiation became evident, the idea was dropped, Prof Squassoni told BBC News, adding that present international treaties would prohibit the US from exploding a nuclear weapon in a hurricane.

Many other outlandish solutions have been floated in recent years, including a Facebook event calling for US gun owners to “shoot down” Hurricane Irma in 2017 with flamethrowers and bullets. The event had 55,000 people to sign up and seemed so serious that one Florida sheriff had to issue a stern warning on Twitter saying: “You won’t make it turn around & it will have very dangerous side effects.”

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