Science 4 min read

What Will Happen if we Nuked a Hurricane?

Can we launch a nuclear bomb into a hurricane to dismantle it before it hits land? Here’s the history and science of the idea.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

In a tweet, President Donald Trump fired John Bolton from his position as National Security Adviser, citing his disagreement with many of Bolton’s “suggestions.”

But it was maybe because of a weird suggestion, by the president himself, that the two men found themselves at odds. While Trump and Bolton did disagree on how to handle Iran and the Taliban and other issues, this isn’t the real reason for their divorce.

According to CBS News, the president suspects Bolton to be the one who leaked the story about the president asking to explore the possibility of using nuclear weapons to stop hurricanes.

A few days earlier, it was reported that Trump has asked “Why don’t we nuke them?” during a briefing about hurricanes.

Nuking Hurricanes: Long History of a Bad Idea

Believe it or not, this idea of facing hurricanes with brute explosive force is nothing new. It has been proposed for decades as a radical solution against the large-scale destruction wrought by these extreme events.

In 1935, after the Labor Day hurricane rocked south Florida, it was suggested to hurl bombs against incoming hurricanes, before nukes were even a thing. The idea failed to gain traction but wasn’t the last time it was brought up.

In 1945, after the US-made atomic bomb demonstrated its destructive force in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was talk about blasting hurricanes.

The Lee County Commission in southwest Florida offered the U.S. government 7,500 acres as a base for the atomic bombing of hurricanes.” Miami Beach Mayor at the time urged President Harry Truman to consider the idea.

A meteorologist in the 1950s, called Jack W. Reed, wrote a paper and circulated the idea of using a hydrogen bomb, much more powerful than atomic bombs, against hurricanes.

In a speech delivered in 1961, the head of the U.S. Weather Bureau Francis W. Riechelderfer, said he could “imagine the possibility someday of exploding a nuclear bomb on a hurricane far at sea.”

So the concept of bombing approaching storms before they make landfall was seriously considered long before Trump floated the idea.

But this is a terrible idea.

Now we Have a Radioactive Hurricane!

Hurricanes, also called cyclones or typhoons, are tropical storms that form near the Equator when the ocean water’s temperature gets past the threshold of 26° Celsius (79° Fahrenheit). Even if they form below this temperature, they’d quickly run out of power as they move over colder waters.

These raging city-battering storms in the Atlantic and the Eastern Pacific Ocean start as a small disturbance in the air, caused by the easterly winds, in the Sahara Desert in North Africa. Yes! As wet as hurricanes are, they’re born in the driest of places!

A submarine would get under the eye of the hurricane and launch a nuclear missile high above the water. The explosion would move all the warm air mass and replace it with the cold air that would eventually weaken the storm.

Only if it was that simple, but as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) puts it“Needless to say, this is not a good idea.”

It wouldn’t work because of the amount of power that a hurricane generates. It is so , huge that an average nuclear bomb would hardly make a dent in it. A hurricane can produce as much heat energy as a 10-megaton atomic bomb exploding every 20 minutes!

If one nuclear bomb can’t produce enough energy to disrupt a hurricane, how about many bombs launched at once? It could work, but that would destroy most of the planet in the process, just to stop one hurricane that wouldn’t cause as much damage.

Back to the one-bomb scenario, after the dust settles, the hurricane would still be shunning, now with a radioactive power. We’d end up with a radioactive hurricane as if a regular one wasn’t bad enough!

The radioactive fallout “would fairly quickly move with the trade winds to affect land areas and cause devastating environmental problems” says NOAA.

Hurricanes are a natural phenomenon, but their recent increasing frequency and severity are due to climate change that causes ocean water to warm beyond normal. So, we have to start there.

But what’s with people and nukes? There were also proposals of nuking asteroids, which is also a bad idea!

Read More: U.N Body Designs Hurricane Proof Floating City

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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