Sorry, Trump: You Can’t Set Off a Nuclear Bomb to Stop a Hurricane
Sorry, Trump—firing a nuclear weapon is not the way to stop a raging hurricane or tropical cyclone in its path.
You wouldn’t think a small taste of a global apocalypse would rate as a potential solution to severe storms made worse by climate change. But apparently, the former reality TV star currently occupying the White House “has suggested multiple times to senior Homeland Security and national security officials that they explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes from hitting the United States,” Axios reports.
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Trump has since denied the account. But Axios cites sources “who have heard the president’s private remarks and been briefed on a National Security Council memorandum that recorded those comments.”
“I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?” Trump said during one White House security briefing, according to a witness who paraphrased the remarks. “They start forming off the coast of Africa. As they’re moving across the Atlantic, we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it. Why can’t we do that?”
The Axios story includes detail on what happened next.
“Asked how the briefer reacted, the source recalled he said something to the effect of, ‘Sir, we’ll look into that’,” the U.S. news and opinion site writes. “Trump replied by asking incredulously how many hurricanes the U.S. could handle and reiterating his suggestion that the government intervene before they make landfall.”
At that, the briefer “was knocked back on his heels,” Axios recounts, citing the same source. “You could hear a gnat fart in that meeting. People were astonished. After the meeting ended, we thought, ‘What the f—? What do we do with this’?”
As it happens, “why don’t we try to destroy tropical cyclones with nukes?” is one of the FAQs to be found on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) website. But NOAA is emphatic that any attempt to intercept a hurricane with a nuclear warhead would be “devastating” in its collateral effects, beginning with radioactive fallout, while doing nothing whatsoever to halt the storm. With meticulous thoroughness, the agency explains the physics of trying to use explosives against a full-blown, developed hurricane that is “equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes,” concluding that “brute force interference” just “doesn’t seem promising”.Back in the real world, Tropical Storm Dorian is building to hurricane strength and bearing down on Puerto Rico, which has yet to recover from the devastation wrought in 2017 by Hurricane Maria.