Please Do Not Shoot At The Hurricane

Hurricane Florence, as viewed from the International Space Station on September 10, 2018. NASA/Ricky Arnold

The Atlantic currently contains three hurricanes. Naturally, Hurricane Florence, which rapidly intensified over the past 36 hours (before weakening slightly), and which is barreling towards the Carolinas, is getting all the attention, as it should be.

A few outlets have spotted a Facebook group that is appearing to ask people to shoot at the hurricane so that it’s “scared away.” This is a repeat of what happened last year, when several groups popped up asking people to do the same to Irma.

As was the case last year – at least for the most part – this new group is a joke. This is clear from the group’s description, which asks people to “get your guns and your umbrellas. And your umbrella-guns, and your beer, and your beer-guns, and your tiny umbrellas to keep your beer dry, and join people from all along the East Coast in scaring away Hurricane Florence to protect our country from this foreign invader!”

It also includes this disclaimer from the group’s administrator, in case you weren’t sure. “Note: do not actually discharge firearms into the air. You could kill someone and you cannot frighten a hurricane. I can’t believe I actually have to write this.”

Back during 2017’s Irma, Florida sheriffs warned people, joke or not, to not fire guns at the hurricane. It remains to be seen whether their Carolinian compatriots will issue the same warning again this year.

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As a reminder, hurricanes are stupendously powerful, even “average” ones. Volcanic eruptions, which to us generally seem fairly awesome, don’t even come close to the power output of hurricanes, which can unleash as much as 603 trillion joules per second. The cataclysmic May 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens only released around 100,000 trillion joules in total.

That means that you can’t even nuke hurricanes into submission, something that enough of the US public has asked at any one time in order to provoke an official response from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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Per NOAA, the heat release of a hurricane is “equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes.” It should come as no surprise that not only would a nuclear detonation have no effect, but spreading radioactive materials all over the place in this way is inadvisable. They describe it as “not a good idea.”

So, clearly, shooting hurricanes certainly won’t do anything. Although it’s highly unlikely that a single bullet you fire will come back to hit you, you are adding another projectile to the many already being thrown around by the hurricane, so please don’t.

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