Public To Scientists: Why Can't We Just Nuke These Hurricanes?

Irma, seen here as a Category 5 storm barrelling down on Florida. Randy Bresnik/NASA

Right now, law enforcement officials are issuing warnings to Floridians who are, perhaps jokingly, shooting at Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic storm in recorded history. This is obviously ridiculous – bullets won’t stop Mother Nature’s swirling winds – but what about a nuclear weapon?

Most of you will immediately see the problem with firing a nuclear warhead at a hurricane, but as it so happens, plenty of the public don’t think it’s such a bad idea after all. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have been asked why they haven’t nuked a hurricane so much that they’ve actually answered the question.

“During each hurricane season, there always appear suggestions that one should simply use nuclear weapons to try and destroy the storms,” their FAQ section explains.

“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.”

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Essentially, a radioactive hurricane is a lot worse than a conventional one. That’s pretty obvious, but NOAA – being the brilliant conglomeration of geeks it is – actually goes a lot further than this. Assuming you don’t care about irradiating, say, most of Texas or Florida, would a nuclear explosion actually make any difference?

After all, the average hurricane is insanely energetic. As we’ve previously reported, they release about 1.5 trillion joules via winds per second, which is nothing compared to the 600 trillion joules per second they release through cloud/rain formation. If one kept this up for 24 hours, they’d release the equivalent of 824,914 “Little Boy” atomic bombs.

By NOAA’s calculations, hurricanes can replicate “the heat release equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes.” They imply that a nuclear weapon is too weak to actually cause any sort of major change in terms of the passage of a hurricane.

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