Currently, Tropical Storm Dorian is expected to become a hurricane before hitting Puerto Rico on Wednesday. In late August, Axios reported that President Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested dropping nuclear weapons into the eye of a hurricane in order to disrupt it before it could hit land.
Not surprisingly, Trump has lambasted the story as “FAKE NEWS,” claiming that he never made those suggestions. In answer, Axios reporter Jonathan Swan has stated, “I stand by every word in the story. He said this in at least two meetings during the first year and a bit of the presidency, and one of the conversations was memorialized.”
I stand by every word in the story. He said this in at least two meetings during the first year and a bit of the presidency, and one of the conversations was memorialized. https://t.co/5qs8o1k4QS
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) August 26, 2019
What many may find surprising is that using nuclear weapons to disrupt hurricanes is a common theory. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) saw fit to address the issue on their website’s Frequently Asked Questions page in 2014.
“During each hurricane season, there always appear suggestions that one should simply use nuclear weapons to try and destroy the storms. Apart from the fact that this might not even alter the storm, this approach neglects the problem that the 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.”
According to Wired, the theory may have been born during what is now known as “the atomic age,” and it wasn’t the only one. In fact, a separate theory even proposed using atomic bombs to melt the polar ice caps in order to intentionally produce a “moister, warmer climate” around the world. The hurricane theory was supposedly proposed by meteorologist Jack Reed – one of the nation’s first hurricane hunters. He believed that dropping one or two 20-megaton nuclear bombs might be enough to deflect (though not dissipate) a hurricane from its path.
Eventually, the idea of nuking a hurricane was prohibited under international law by the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty – but obviously, the theory lived on. Eventually, NOAA decided to tackle the science, proving that a nuclear explosion simply wouldn’t affect the dynamics of a hurricane – even as its forming.
And with around 80 tropical waves forming in the Atlantic each year, with no way to accurately predict which ones might actually become hurricanes, the number of nuclear bombs the U.S. would have to drop to deter them wouldn’t be worth the cost – even for a trigger-happy president like Donald Trump.
Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and editor currently serving as Editor-in-Chief of Big Easy Magazine. Her work has also been featured in publications such as Wander N.O. More, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, Examiner.com, and others. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_