What would happen if we actually detonated a nuclear bomb inside of a hurricane
- President Donald Trump isn't the first person to suggest we nuke a hurricane.
- Back in the '50s, a meteorologist named Jack Reed introduced the idea as a way to prevent hurricanes from reaching the coast.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been asked this question so much, it has a web page dedicated to answering just that.
- But dropping a nuclear bomb into a hurricane isn't a good idea. Not only will you still have a hurricane, but now you have a radioactive hurricane.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: President Donald Trump isn't the first person to suggest we nuke a hurricane. Back in the '50s, a meteorologist named Jack Reed introduced the idea as a way to prevent hurricanes from reaching the coast. And people have been asking why we don't nuke hurricanes ever since. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been asked this question so much, it has a web page dedicated to answering just that.
Alex Wellerstein: So, if you set off a nuclear weapon in a hurricane, not only will you still have our hurricane, now you have a radioactive hurricane. So that's not a positive development.Narrator: For perspective, a hurricane can generate the same amount of energy throughout its lifetime as 10,000 nuclear bombs. And the physical size of a hurricane is a major issue as well. Hurricane Irma measured 420 miles across. That's 70 times as large as the blast zone of "Little Boy," the nuclear bomb dropped over Hiroshima. So, detonating an atomic bomb inside a hurricane is sort of like poking a rhino with a stick and expecting it to get out of your way. It isn't going to happen. And then there's the issue of highly radioactive nuclear fallout.
Wellerstein: Best-case scenario is that it rains out very quickly. And so the area that you've set the weapon off becomes highly radioactive and contaminated. That's your best-case scenario, a more worst-case scenario is what if that somehow stays in the hurricane and moves as the hurricane, say, makes landfall.
Narrator: In a worst-case scenario, winds from the hurricane would quickly distribute the radiation throughout the entire storm. Basically turning it from a massive storm with wind and rain into a massive storm with radioactive wind and rain that's tens of times larger and millions of times more powerful than any nuclear bomb in history. Not to mention, hurricanes move. Fast. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy traveled over 2,000 miles from the Caribbean Sea up the US East Coast in just 10 days. And we know from past experience what nuclear fallout does to an ocean and the people nearby.
Wellerstein: In 1954, the United States set off a very large thermonuclear weapon in the Marshall Islands, and it contaminated a lot of fish in the area.
Narrator: Japan ended up having a moratorium on fish consumption for some time as a result of this.
Wellerstein: And you could detect the radioactivity in fish for thousands of miles.Narrator: Plus, scientists estimated that 55% of all cancers in those living closest to the bomb site, might be attributed to the bomb's nuclear fallout. So, if we had nuked, say, Hurricane Sandy, not only would there have been the $65 billion in damage repair but who knows how much more it would have cost in the additional damage to fishing industries, healthcare, and even the simplest things you might not think about.
Wellerstein: You can't just rebuild the house. Now you've also got to remove several inches of topsoil and destroy the original material and rebuild it from scratch if you want people to be able to live there without increasing the cancer rates.
Narrator: Suffice it to say, nuking a hurricane is … as NOAA puts it: "not a good idea."
Wellerstein: It's less of a sort of doomsday scenario as it is just a really bad idea. No-benefit scenario.