Stable Genius Gonna Nuke Hurricanes With Literally Invisible F35 Airplanes, It's Just Science
it shouldn't be the least bit surprising to see Axios reporting that Donald Trump has repeatedly asked whether the USA could just snuff out hurricanes by dropping hydrogen bombs into them. It's exactly the sort of thing you'd expect from a guy who says he has a really good brain for science, and that's why he thinks all the climate scientists are wrong. Remember, while he got more attention for being the Chosen One and the King of Israel last week, Trump also tweeted a bunch of nonsense about how if car companies just started building all their vehicles as pollute-y as they used to be, new cars would cost thousands of dollars less. Everyone's dumb uncle knows cars were cheaper without all that emissions crap.
He is the stupidest man in the bar and wants everyone to know it. President Cliff Clavin, your dirigible will be here shortly. You know, we could fly those a lot more cheaply than jets, and they're definitely ripe for a comeback.
Axios reports that Trump just can't seem to let the idea go, because he heard about it somewhere and it's a really smart idea.
During one hurricane briefing at the White House, Trump said, "I got it. I got it. Why don't we nuke them?" according to one source who was there. "They start forming off the coast of Africa, as they're moving across the Atlantic, we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it. Why can't we do that?" the source added, paraphrasing the president's remarks.
• Asked how the briefer reacted, the source recalled he said something to the effect of, "Sir, we'll look into that."
• Trump replied by asking incredulously how many hurricanes the U.S. could handle and reiterating his suggestion that the government intervene before they make landfall.
• The briefer "was knocked back on his heels," the source in the room added. "You could hear a gnat fart in that meeting. People were astonished. After the meeting ended, we thought, 'What the f---? What do we do with this?'"
Well, you could do your job and follow the orders of the commander in chief, who is the boss of everyone. It's not your place to question him!
A 2017 NSC memo also documents another conversation in which Trump asked whether hurricanes could be "bombed" to keep them from reaching the coasts, although the source who'd seen the memo added it didn't specifically mention "nuclear" bombs. The Axios says the idea never went beyond President Barstool's just askin' phase, and "never entered a formal policy process."
While the White House simply issued a blanket statement that it never releases details of the "president's" private discussions on national security, Axios was able to find a "senior administration official" who was simply delighted the Great Man is willing to take an innovative approach to shit he saw on some talk show years ago.
"His goal — to keep a catastrophic hurricane from hitting the mainland — is not bad," the official said. "His objective is not bad."
"What people near the president do is they say 'I love a president who asks questions like that, who's willing to ask tough questions.' ... It takes strong people to respond to him in the right way when stuff like this comes up. For me, alarm bells weren't going off when I heard about it, but I did think somebody is going to use this to feed into 'the president is crazy' narrative."
We almost admire that near-acknowledgement of just how nuts Trump's whims can be. Yes, you need "strong people to respond to him in the right way" so you won't encourage President Ralph Wiggum to tell the guy with the nuclear football to step over and get the Strategic Air Command on the line.
Axios notes that this is far from an original idea. It was briefly explored by the Eisenhower administration, back in the days when thermonuclear weapons were the newest toy in the bag and there were serious discussions of using nukes to dig a newer, bigger Panama Canal; to create new harbors (we almost tried that in Alaska); to liquefy Canada's tar sands, releasing all that beautiful oil; and of course to propel interstellar spacecraft.
And yeah, as part of the hilariously named "Plowshare Program" to find peaceful uses for Our Friend the Atom, a Sandia National Laboratory scientist, Jack W. Reed, proposed nuking hurricanes. You can even read his 1959 paper on the idea online, not that anyone thinks Donald Trump reads anything. Also, this idea long predates Sharknado, so we're not at all persuaded that's where Trump heard of it, even if it's a fun idea to connect with his huff over not being cast in Sharknado 3. It's just one of those dumb ideas that's ALWAYS been around, and resurfaces whenever there's a big hurricane. Or a really dumb president.
In 1966, science fiction writer Ben Bova published a story called "The Weathermakers" that involved nuking a hurricane, and since it was fiction, it worked fabulously. (You can find it in this anthology, which is where I read it in high school.) Bova expanded the story into a novel, and the notion of dropping a nuke into a hurricane to make it go away has become such an established part of cranks' pet theories that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration maintains a FAQ on why it's "not a good idea." Not only would you have all that nuclear fallout, plus a violation of the ban on atmospheric nuclear explosions, plus getting laughed at. It also just plain wouldn't work:
The main difficulty with using explosives to modify hurricanes is the amount of energy required. A fully developed hurricane can release heat energy at a rate of 5 to 20x1013 watts and converts less than 10% of the heat into the mechanical energy of the wind. The heat release is equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes. According to the 1993 World Almanac, the entire human race used energy at a rate of 1013 watts in 1990, a rate less than 20% of the power of a hurricane.
If we think about mechanical energy, the energy at humanity's disposal is closer to the storm's, but the task of focusing even half of the energy on a spot in the middle of a remote ocean would still be formidable. Brute force interference with hurricanes doesn't seem promising.
Sorry, a few nukes just wouldn't do the job.
Not that nuke cranks are deterred by mere science. As you may also recall, there were some very serious rightwing nuts who wanted to nuke the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and we're pretty sure we recall other geniuses wanting to eliminate Ebola with cleansing nuclear fire, although all we found in a search was a kinder, gentler plan to execute the infected and "napalm their villages". To some people, nukes are magic, and only liberal whine-babies prevent our making more widespread use of that wonderful hammer.
Donald Trump declared on Twitter today that he never suggested any such thing, with predictable results:
@realDonaldTrump I didn’t believe it until he denied it.— Mrs. Betty Bowers (@Mrs. Betty Bowers) 1566814467.0
Axios, in the meantime, stands by its story.
In the next week or so, we suspect the President of American Greenland will call for an immediate effort to develop jetpacks and to replace food stamps with monthly shipments of space food cubes to the poor.
[Axios / IO9/ NOAA / National Geographic]
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.