It’s weird to think that you personally would be more qualified to be in charge of the world’s second-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, but pretty well irrespective of who is reading this article, this is almost certainly the case. This is the world we live in. Donald J Trump — a man who believes you can just up and buy Greenland like it’s a used Camry — has complete, unadulterated executive power to launch nuclear weapons whenever he likes.
While the natural response to this is to feel paralysing existential terror, in reality, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll ever deploy them. It’s not like he has repeatedly floated the idea of doing something insane like, say, shooting them at hurricanes, right?
Well, good news if you like feeling like shit: A report from Axios indicates that Trump has more than once recommended to “senior Homeland Security and national security officials” that lobbing nukes into hurricanes is a good way to prevent them from doing damage to the US.
One of the sources that spoke to Axios recounted Trump saying “I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?” during a hurricane briefing, suggesting that they should drop a bomb in the eye of the hurricane as it moves through the Atlantic Ocean towards the US.
In another conversation that took place in 2017, Trump reportedly suggested to a “senior administration official” that they should try bombing hurricanes, although another source familiar with a memo that recorded that conversation said it didn’t include the word “nuclear”.
Alright. Maybe this is one of those things that just sounds like a terrible idea, but is actually super smart. This does not seem to be the case, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, whose rebuttal states that, not only would this approach require an absurdly powerful nuke to have an impact on the hurricane, but that it also “neglects the problem that the released radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas and cause devastating environmental problems“. Fun!
NBC meteorologist John Morales took to Twitter to say that he had been asked about this a lot, and is seemingly pretty fed up with this suggestion:
Over my 35 years as a meteorologist I have received calls & handwritten letters from people proposing this. I gently try to explain to them that according to @NASA a hurricane can expend as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs during its life cycle. Futile and obviously dangerous. https://t.co/cICzoPny1l— John Morales (@JohnMoralesNBC6) August 26, 2019
Meteorologist Eric Holthaus expressed similar concerns, summing it up thusly:
We’d need to send every nuclear weapon we have into a landfalling major hurricane to make a noticeable difference in its path and strength — and in doing so we’d create a radioactive cloud that would contaminate the entire northern hemisphere.
What an extraordinarily strange time to be alive.