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September 22, 2005

Why we don't nuke hurricanes

Possibly NOAA's least-favorite FAQ:

Why don't we try to destroy tropical cyclones by nuking them?


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» America can, should must and will... blow up the weather from obscurity
Sometime during the week preceding Hurricane Katrina's landfall, before its devastation was obvious to me, I made what I thought was an obvious joke: America should declare a War on Hurricanes. I didn't really hear much of this sort of... [Read More]


We might try the opposite tack: maneuvering an orbiting sunshade over the track of a storm, to cool the air and water, thus depriving it of energy.

Yes, that would require building maneuverable orbiting sunshades kilometers across, but once we had them, we might find other good uses for them, too.

Wait, I know, we get a whole lot of great big fans, and put them all along the gulf coast...

Fools! A sacrifice to the Gods of rain is clearly in order!

Seems like the answer to every problem these days lies in heavy firepower...NOT.

Wait, I know. This is really crazy, but hear me out. Hurricanes get their energy from the temperature of the surface of the sea. If there were only something we could do to reduce the mean surface temperature of the earth, or at least stop it from rising as quickly, we could actually weaken hurricanes.

But what could we do to stop the earth from getting warmer...

Rob! You stop that crazy commie talk right now. You know damned well that either the earth isn't getting warmer or that it's not getting warmer because of anything we do. Sheesh. How much does Tech Central Station have to spell this out?

Another thing to consider is that hurricanes are one of the ways nature uses to balance energy/forces. What would happen if we did stop these storms. It might be worse than the benefit.

I like that they start with "apart from the fact that this might not even alter the storm..."

I have to wonder how these people think nukes work. "these people" I mean the suggesters.

Just think of it as an updated version of Project Plowshare.

Hurricanes hate our freedoms! They hate our way of life!

The people who ask that question must either be fourteen years old or Bush Republicans.

hahahahahahahaha ... nukes are the answer to everything? Still, stirring in a nice healthy dose of radioactive fallout would nicely enliven the next Survivor:Hurricane reality TV program.

Oh, and Rob: please stop mentioning those ideas: if you keep it up, you know they'll just line the Gulf Coast with massive ice-cube-makers to cool the ocean surface there ...

As Nelson Muntz once said "Ya gotta nuke something"...

I remember from long ago hearing that atmospheric tests of thermonuclear weapons resulted in about 5000 deaths each, spread around the world, from fall out related maladies. The causes were from cancers caused by radioactive isotopes that substituted well in human biochemistry, like Strontium 90. It isn't exactly the kind of thing you want to just try on a whim.


I also immediately thought of Project Plowshare. When a person unfamiliar with nuclear weapons proposes something like this, it's understandable. But to think that the U.S. government actively pursued projects like this for 15 years!

Atomic traveler has a good .pdf file on the project:

Not surprisingly, Edward Teller was one of the braniacs pushing the project. By 1973, the laws of physics had foiled Teller's dream of creating harbors, canals, and mountain passes with nuclear weapons. Ten years on, Teller was back, and he convinced Reagan to begin the Star Wars boondogle. Two decades and $100 billion later, Bush deployed an untested version, theoretically capable of shooting down a missile.

Just be glad that Reagan didn't hear about the "nuke the hurricanes" idea. If he had, Bush would probably be deploying his new "Coastal Defense Initiative" right now.

Artist: Randy Newman Lyrics
Song: Political Science Lyrics
No one likes us
I don't know why.
We may not be perfect
But heaven knows we try.
But all around even our old friends put us down.
Let's drop the big one and see what happens.

We give them money
But are they grateful?
No they're spiteful
And they're hateful.
They don't respect us so let's surprise them;
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them.

Now Asia's crowded
And Europe's too old.
Africa's far too hot,
And Canada's too cold.
And South America stole our name.
Let's drop the big one; there'll be no one left to blame us.

We'll save Australia;
Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo.
We'll build an all-American amusement park there;
They've got surfing, too.

Well, boom goes London,
And boom Paris.
More room for you
And more room for me.
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town.
Oh, how peaceful it'll be;
We'll set everybody free;
You'll have Japanese kimonos, baby,
There'll be Italian shoes for me.
They all hate us anyhow,
So let's drop the big one now.
Let's drop the big one now.

Sorry... just when I heard that they have authorized the use of tactical nukes in their war plans... it made an old peacenik twitch!

Even if we COULD use a nuke AND contain the fallout/radiation, would it matter? As I understand hurricanes, they are a primary mechanism for transferring heat out of the equitorial region deeper into the northern hemisphere. In the absence of hurricanes, how would this transfer occur? What would be the result to the global climate if this tranfer stopped?

Would huricanes continue to form after we nuked them in response to these forces?

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