Stable Genius Plan: Nuke the Caines

August 25, 2019

Entering peak hurricane season. No worries.

If nukes don’t stop hurricanes, just build a wall.


President Trump has suggested multiple times to senior Homeland Security and national security officials that they explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes from hitting the United States, according to sources who have heard the president’s private remarks and been briefed on a National Security Council memorandum that recorded those comments.
Behind the scenes: 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?'”
Trump also raised the idea in another conversation with a senior administration official. A 2017 NSC memo describes that second conversation, in which Trump asked whether the administration should bomb hurricanes to stop them from hitting the homeland. A source briefed on the NSC memo said it does not contain the word “nuclear”; it just says the president talked about bombing hurricanes.
The source added that this NSC memo captured “multiple topics, not just hurricanes. … It wasn’t that somebody was so terrified of the bombing idea that they wrote it down. They just captured the president’s comments.”
The sources said that Trump’s “bomb the hurricanes” idea — which he floated early in the first year and a bit of his presidency before John Bolton took over as national security adviser — went nowhere and never entered a formal policy process.
White House response: A senior administration official said, “We don’t comment on private discussions that the president may or may not have had with his national security team.”
A different senior administration official, who has been briefed on the president’s hurricane bombing suggestion, defended Trump’s idea and said it was no cause for alarm. “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.”

The big picture: Trump didn’t invent this idea. The notion that detonating a nuclear bomb over the eye of a hurricane could be used to counteract convection currents dates to the Eisenhower era, when it was floated by a government scientist.
The idea keeps resurfacing in the public even though scientists agree it won’t work. The myth has been so persistent that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. government agency that predicts changes in weather and the oceans, published an online fact sheet for the public under the heading “Tropical Cyclone Myths Page.”
The page states: “Apart from the fact that this might not even alter the storm, this approach neglects the problem that the released radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas and cause devastating environmental problems. Needless to say, this is not a good idea.”
About 3 weeks after Trump’s 2016 election, National Geographic published an article titled, “Nuking Hurricanes: The Surprising History of a Really Bad Idea.” It found, among other problems, that:
Dropping a nuclear bomb into a hurricane would be banned under the terms of the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. So that could stave off any experiments, as long as the U.S. observes the terms of the treaty.


24 Responses to “Stable Genius Plan: Nuke the Caines”

  1. renewableguy Says:

    And this is our leader?

  2. Keith McClary Says:

    Does the treaty apply on Mars?:

    Nuking Mars is still on Elon Musk’s wish list, it would seem.

    Four years ago, the SpaceX founder and CEO went on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and discussed a strategy for making the Red Planet more livable: detonating nuclear bombs over its poles. The explosions would vaporize a fair chunk of Mars’ ice caps, liberating enough water vapor and carbon dioxide — both potent greenhouse gases — to warm up the planet substantially, the idea goes.

  3. Sir Charles Says:

    This is beyond bizarre. Time to lock this looney up into a mental hospital.

  4. grindupbaker Says:

    I saw a smashing U.S. action movie once where Dr. Something closed a zipper that opened the Atlantic Ocean crust with a thermonuclear device thus rehabilitating his reputation from his earlier infamous “Stop Mount St. Helens erupting by exploding a thermonuclear device on top of it” debacle which citizens of Seattle remember to this day.

  5. Back in 1978 Wilbur Smith wrote a novel (Hungry as the Sea) about a supertanker exploding in the eye of a hurricane causing the storm to disintegrate.
    Perhaps the stable genius has read one book.

  6. indy222 Says:

    I can only repeat the resonating words of Lily Tomlin from the original SNL days… “No matter how cynical I get, I find I can’t keep up”

  7. What about fighting hurricanes with anti-hurricanes created with huge fans? Fueled with windenergy. In virtuel reality anything goes. Imagine Trump as president in the real World in 2015. Nobodywould have beleived you. You must be insane. You’re fired Donald.

  8. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    one megaton bomb yield
     4.18 x 10^15 joules

    “average hurricane” energy
     5.2 x 10^19 joules/day

    If the sources are reasonable and I did the math right, an “average” hurricane produces the energy of ~12,000 one megaton bombs per day.

    • Sir Charles Says:

      Good point. And greenhouse gases accumulate heat equivalent to more than 4 Hiroshima bombs per second.

    • grindupbaker Says:

      I’m forever pointing that out to the volcanoes, compost heaps & nylon undies friction heat crowd but nobody actually cares. Here’s my list from a few years back with Fukushima Daiichi added later. Accurate within +/- 10% for little numbers and +/- 0.1% for big numbers:
      Gigawatts Petajoules
      / year
      123,000,000 3,881,000,000 Sun’s input to Earth that isn’t reflected back to space
      6,000,000 189,000,000 Moved to Northern latitudes by atmosphere (~90%) and oceans
      2,200,000 69,000,000 Moved to land from oceans by atmosphere
      434,000 13,700,000 Being added to Earth ecosphere (oceans) because CO2 & CH4 have increased
      43,000 1,120,000 Non-volcano geothermal heat seeping to surface (it’s 0.12 w/m**2 for the ocean sea bed, much smaller on land)
      18,000 560,000 Total human energy production 2012 (IEA)
      16,000 500,000 Total human electricity production 2018
      8,000 250,000 Volcano heat blasting to surface from the lava from 3,000,000 or whatever land & undersea volcanoes.
      4,000 130,000 Example of what would be added to Earth ecosphere if volcanoes increased a ludicrously huge 50% (they haven’t)
      0.06 1.9 Fukushima Daiichi reactors Unit 1, 2, 3 total warm cooling water heat into the Pacific Ocean
      Also of interest to compare with above:
      5,850 What would warm Earth’s oceans by 1.0 degrees
      139 What would warm the top 90 m (2.4%) of Earth’s oceans that’s mixed annually by the winds by 1.0 degrees
      5.3 What would warm all of Earth’s atmosphere by 1.0 degrees
      0.9 What would warm everything on Earth’s land and all land (including water in it) to 6 m depth by 1.0 degrees
      0.41 What would warm everything on Earth’s land and all land to 6 m depth by 1.0 degrees if we could wring all the water out of it.

  9. John Garland Says:

    Hollywood has taught Americans that there is just about no natural or man-made disaster scenario that cannot be set right with a big enough explosion.

  10. Bryan Ackerly Says:

    Maybe someone mentioned the idea on Fux News?

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