Atlantic hurricane season for 2019, which started in June, has been relatively peaceful so far. However, the president is already making waves with some reported wild ideas about how to tackle the storms that may soon be making their way toward the United States. A new report says President Trump reportedly suggested bombing hurricanes to stop natural disasters, and needless to say, it has people — in the White House and on the internet — perplexed.
Axios first reported on Aug. 25 that Trump repeatedly suggested deploying nuclear bombs from stopping hurricanes from hitting the United States. One source, who was present at a hurricane briefing at the White House, recalled the president’s supposed remarks: “I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?” Once a hurricane starts moving toward the country, he said, “we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it.”
This is paraphrased, of course, but what’s even better is the shock that reportedly followed. “You could hear a gnat fart in that meeting,” the source told Axios. Unsurprisingly, the idea never went anywhere or became a serious policy proposal, the source said.
Once Trump got wind of the report, he immediately responded on Twitter and denied the claims as none other than “fake news.” The story by Axios “is ridiculous,” he wrote in the early hours of Aug. 26, speaking of himself in third person. “I never said this.”
To Trump's credit, nuking hurricanes has long been a popular idea to weaken or shift their courses. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is so exasperated by it that it devotes a FAQ page to the subject of nuking hurricanes. Not only is there a good chance the solution wouldn’t even work, it says, but the resulting radioactive fallout would “affect land areas and cause devastating environmental problems.”
Axios cited a National Geographic article published on Nov. 30, 2016, just three weeks after Trump was elected, which traces the myth all the way back to 1961. In a speech decidedly more formal than the president’s reported private remarks, the head of the U.S. Weather Bureau once discussed “the possibility someday of exploding a nuclear bomb on a hurricane far at sea.”
However, even beyond hurting the environment, Trump’s supposed “bomb the hurricanes” move would also not be legal. The Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty, of which the U.S. is a signatory, went into effect in 1990 and set a 150-kiloton limit for nuclear weapons being used outside of military purposes. For reference, the NOAA says a hurricane’s heat release is equivalent to a 10-megaton (or 10,000-kiloton) nuclear bomb every 20 minutes.
The idea was, unsurprisingly, met with some, uh, confusion, not to mention skepticism. Presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris was one critic quick to fire back, with a tweet that “dude’s gotta go.” Reporter Jonathan Swan, who broke the story on Axios, also retweeted Trump's denial on Aug. 26, standing by his reporting and "every word in the story."
A lot of people were very confused.
As the NOAA says, bombing incoming hurricanes is simply “not a good idea." Twitter, at least, seems to have gotten the message.
Hurricane season is scheduled to last through September, and while it would be great for Trump to brainstorm solutions, nuclear weapons are definitely not one. With climate change rearing its ugly head, what the planet needs is fewer hurricanes, not radioactive ones.