President Donald Trump wants to bring new meaning to the term bomb cyclone. According to reporting by Axios, Trump has suggested multiple times to Homeland Security and national security staff that the United States should drop a nuclear bomb on hurricanes to change their path and deter them from hitting land.
According to one source, the president said during one briefing. “I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them? 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?” a source told Axios, paraphrasing Trump’s comments.
The briefer responded, “Sir, we’ll look into that.”
But Trump persisted, Axios wrote, “by asking incredulously how many hurricanes the U.S. could handle and reiterating his suggestion that the government intervene before they make landfall.”
The source said the person doing the briefing “was knocked back on his heels,” artfully adding, “You could hear a gnat fart in that meeting. People were astonished. After the meeting ended, we thought, ‘What the fuck? What do we do with this?'”
This was not the only time the president broached the topic either. According to a 2017 NSC memo, the president suggested bombing hurricanes during another meeting. But, Axios’s source said, the idea was never part of a formal policy process.
One White House official was blasé in his response to the reporting on the president’s suggestions. “His goal — to keep a catastrophic hurricane from hitting the mainland — is not bad,” the official said. “His objective is not bad.”
Trump is not the first to suggest such an absurd idea. An Eisenhower era government scientist is credited with originating it. But putting aside the fact that, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) a nuclear weapon would likely fail to change the hurricane’s path, the newly-radioactive storm would also bring massive amounts of radiation with it, creating essentially a nuclear hurricane.
“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,” NOAA wrote on its website. “Needless to say, this is not a good idea.”