The US president has denied having made this suggestion, but the journalist author of the article maintains his version. However, such an operation would be fruitless.
A strange idea floats in the air during hurricane season. As Tropical Storm Dorian continues its course in the West Indies, risking a hurricane and hitting Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, According to the American news site Axios, Donald Trump has proposed to drop nuclear bombs on hurricanes, to atomize them before they break on US shores. But did the leader of the first world power make this assumption? And would such action have chances of success?
- “Why do not we bomb them?”
According to Axios, who says he is keeping his information from an anonymous source, it was during a briefing on hurricanes at the White House, on an unspecified date, that Donald Trump made this proposal. The American president would have considered dropping an atomic bomb in the eye of the cyclone, while he is still over the sea, to neutralize it before it reaches the United States, regularly devastated by deadly hurricanes.
“I understand, I understand, why do not we bomb them with a nuclear bomb?” would have dropped the leader. And to continue his demonstration, according to the account of the source of Axios: “They begin to form off the African coast, while they cross the Atlantic, we throw a bomb inside the eye of the cyclone and it disturbs him Why do not we do that? ” According to the source of Axios, the participants came out of this meeting stunned: “You could hear a fart of a midge in this meeting. The people were flabbergasted. After the meeting ended, we thought: ‘What the f. ..? What are we doing with that? ‘
And it is not the first time that Donald Trump proposes to bombard hurricanes to prevent them from touching land, says Axios. According to the site, the American president had already caressed the idea during a conversation with one of the leading members of his administration. A memo from the National Security Council in 2017 mentions it, says Axios. But this time there was no question of using nuclear weapons.
- “I never said that”
While still in France for the G7 summit in Biarritz, Donald Trump strongly denied the information. “The story of Axios that President Trump wanted to blow big hurricanes with nuclear weapons before they reach the coast is ridiculous – I never said that – just one more FAKE NEWS.” he replied in a tweet.
The story by Axios that President Trump wanted to blow up large hurricanes with nuclear weapons prior to reaching shore is ridiculous. I never said this. Just more FAKE NEWS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2019
The revelatory reporter reacted to the presidential denial, assuring on Twitter that his article was true: “I stand by every word of the story. He said that at least during two meetings in the first year and a few of the Presidency, and one of the conversations was documented. ”
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
The idea of using nuclear weapons against hurricanes is far from new, as National Geographic reports. It goes back to the turn of the 1950s and 1960s. At that time, American scientists and government agencies even considered this theory with the utmost seriousness.
- An old moon of the Plowshare operation
In 1959, a meteorologist from Sandia Laboratories, one of the leading research institutes of the Department of Energy, presented his research at a symposium on Operation Plowshare, a government program to study uses of the plant. of the nuclear weapon, two of whose main proposals were the digging of an artificial harbor in Alaska (the Chariot project) and the widening of the Panama Canal with nuclear bombs.
This scientist imagines the following scenario: a submarine would position itself under the eye of the cyclone and fire one or more nuclear missiles. The atomic explosion would propel warm air into the heart of the hurricane in the stratosphere. The warm air in the center of the tropical storm would be replaced by cooler and denser air that would slow down and weaken the weather phenomenon. According to the researcher’s calculations, winds of 100 knots would fall to 50 thanks to the explosion of a bomb of 20 megatons.
In 1961, the head of the US Meteorological Service also evoked this theory in a speech to the National Press Club. He “imagines the possibility of one day exploding a nuclear bomb on a hurricane off”. That same year, in Texas, the Longview Daily News also assumes an editorial, after the state was hit by hurricane Carla Category 5, responsible for the death of forty people and more than 300 million dollars of the time of damage. “The idea that artificial explosions can have effects on hurricanes can not be rejected,” writes the editorialist, given the increase in the power of nuclear weapons since the first tests.
- “It’s not a good idea”
The option, too expensive and in contradiction with the political will to stop atmospheric nuclear tests in the Nevada desert, has never been retained. But this does not prevent the theory from resurfacing in the public debate each season of cyclones. To demonstrate once and for all its ineptitude, the US Oceanic and Atmospheric Observing Agency (NOAA) has published an article on the subject. “Needless to say, this is not a good idea,” the agency warns.
First, a nuclear explosion could simply not alter a hurricane, as this weather phenomenon is powerful, according to NOAA. The heat generated by a hurricane is equivalent to the explosion of a 10-megaton atomic bomb every 20 minutes, calculates the agency. Then, if a nuclear explosion causes a shock wave that can move faster than the speed of sound, this propagation does not result in a change in atmospheric pressure, once passed.
To change the atmospheric pressure in the heart of a hurricane and thus downgrade it from a category 5 to 2, it would be necessary to calculate the NOAA, add 500 kilos of air per square meter in the eye of the cyclone, or 500 million tons for a cyclonic eye of 20 km radius. The US agency sees no practical way to get there.
- Risk of contamination
The other option would be to attack the tropical storm when it forms before it reaches the power of a hurricane, but it is not more realistic, slice the NOAA. Each year, 80 of these atmospheric disturbances are formed over the Atlantic, but on average only five become cyclones. And it is impossible to predict which will turn into a hurricane. Moreover, even if the energy released by a tropical storm was only 10% of that of a hurricane, it would remain colossal and therefore it would be unthinkable to try to annihilate it, according to the agency.
An open-air nuclear explosion would spread its radioactivity into the atmosphere and that the winds would soon spread the radiation, contaminating land and people. There remains one last major obstacle: the international treaties on nuclear power. The Treaty on Nuclear Explosions for Peaceful Purposes, signed by the Americans and Soviets in 1976 and ratified by the United States in 1990, prohibits individual explosions above 150 kilotons and multiple explosions at 1.5 megatons. Or insufficient powers to curb a hurricane.