If you still have the capacity for shock after Donald Trump tried (and failed immediately) to buy Greenland, you may have been somewhat surprised to wake up to the news that the 45th President of the United States of America has repeatedly asked senior Homeland Security and national security officials to look into using nuclear weapons to stop hurricanes from hitting the USA.
During a briefing on hurricanes, according to a report from Axios, Trump said “I got it. I got it,” as if he was about to propose a brilliant solution. “Why don’t we nuke them?”
He asked people to look into it and went on to ask about the idea on a separate occasion, though no formal policy for nuking the weather was developed.
“What people near the president do is they say ‘I love a president who asks questions like that, who’s willing to ask tough questions’,” a senior administration official told Axios. Tough questions like “should we declare nuclear war on the wind?
“It takes strong people to respond to him in the right way when stuff like this comes up. For me, alarm bells weren’t going off when I heard about it, but I did think somebody is going to use this to feed into ‘the president is crazy’ narrative.”
They were right to worry, as there’s a lot of that about.
People do not think it’s a good idea.
So is it all that crazy? Yes and no. But mainly yes. Bizarrely, this is not the first time an idea like this has been proposed.
“During each hurricane season, there always appear suggestions that one should simply use nuclear weapons to try and destroy the storms,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) writes in the Frequently Asked Questions section of its website.
“Apart from the fact that this might not even alter the storm, this approach neglects the problem that the released radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas and cause devastating environmental problems.
“Needless to say, this is not a good idea.”
Hurricanes are major centers of low-pressure air, they explain, so it’s theoretically possible to nullify them by increasing the air pressure. However, hurricanes are so energetic they release heat equivalent “to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes,” so a nuclear blast will not downgrade a hurricane already in progress, nor downgrade its category or divert it.
Essentially, all you’d be doing is turning an environmental disaster into an environmental disaster with added nuclear radiation. So that’s that. Nuking hurricanes is a bad and not remotely workable idea.
The idea is so prevalent, it’s debunked every year by first year physics students at Austalia National University.
ENuking a hurricane would be as effective as trying to stop an oil tanker with a pistol,” Professor Paul Francis, who takes the class, told IFLScience. “A hurricane would typically be about 100,000 times more powerful than the most powerful nuke that the US has.”
Where would you even get such a dangerous idea? Well, it turns out the idea has also been proposed in a scientific journal of repute; the movie Sharknado.
“We cannot believe we’re saying this,” international climate change pressure group 350 tweeted, “but elected officials should get their climate policy recommendations from frontline communities and science, not the movie Sharknado.”
The idea, as everyone has been pointing out, is fairly central to the plot of Sharknado.
If you are wondering whether Trump has seen the film, it’s highly probable. In fact, he was in the running to play the president in Sharknado 3 before his run for the actual presidency ruled him out. His lawyers threatened to sue the filmmakers when they replaced him with Mark Cuban, Business Insider reports.