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Nuclear Bombs Won't Stop Hurricanes, We Are Sorry To Report

"Lunacy" is how eminent scientists have described Donald Trump's idea to use nuclear bombs to battle hurricanes, laughing off his Hollywood-esque suggestion to combat extreme weather.

American website Axios reported on Monday that President Trump has repeatedly raised the concept of dropping a bomb into the eye of hurricanes before they make landfall, with the hopes of dissipating the weather event.

"Why don't we nuke them?" Trump said in multiple high-level national security meetings, according to an Axios source.

"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 White House declined to comment on the reports, but Axios said Trump has made the suggestion several times.

Photo: Getty

The idea calls to mind warnings from U.S. authorities for Americans to not shoot their guns at hurricanes Irma in 2017 and Florence in 2018.

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Police in the Florida town of Pasco were forced to warn their residents "DO NOT shoot weapons @ #Irma" in September 2017, after Facebook posts recommending that action went viral.

"You won’t make it turn around & it will have very dangerous side effects," the sheriff's office tweeted, in a post which soon went viral.

But in the interests of journalism, 10 daily called some leading Australian weather scientists and meteorological experts for their take on the whole "throwing a nuclear bomb into the hurricane" idea.

Their feedback for President Trump's suggestion was less than glowing.

"Absolutely not. It's just crazy," Professor Steve Turton, adjunct professor of environmental geography at the Central Queensland University, told 10 daily.

"This is lunacy," said Jorg Hacker, chief scientist at Airborne Research Australia.

Coming to a hurricane near you. Photo: Getty

The concept of changing the weather through human intervention is eons old. From tribal raindances performed in the hope of bringing on a downpour through to more modern-day efforts via the science of geoengineering, this idea is not new.

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An entire library of Hollywood films has asked the question of how humans can alter weather events. Recent flicks including 'Snowpiercer' and 'Geostorm' have explored the concept (to generally disastrous results), while 2015's 'Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No' actually involves explosions in the middle of a tornado full of sharks.

The idea of using nuclear bombs, too, is not a new one.  In 1961, the then-head of America's Weather Bureau, Francis W. Riechelderfer, outlined the vision of “exploding a nuclear bomb on a hurricane far at sea.” Other suggestions have included sending a submarine under the water and into the eye of the storm, then shooting a missile into the air.

A hurricane in need of a good bombing. Photo: Getty

The American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) even has an entire page on its Hurricane Research Division website dedicated to this 'frequently asked question'.

"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 said.

"Needless to say, this is not a good idea."

The page then goes on to explain, in great and exhaustive mathematical detail, why such an idea wouldn't work.

Photo: Getty

However, Professor Turton said the broad concept of trying to alter natural weather patterns isn't without some evidence. The science of geoengineering was a fledgling one in the 1960s and 70s, he told 10 daily, as researchers tried to figure out if they could prevent destructive weather or promote rainfall in drought-affected areas.

"It's not beyond comprehension, in the future, humans being able to use geoengineering to weaken cyclones or hurricanes heading toward major population centres," Turton said, adding that NOAA had trialled some approaches several decades ago.

A method from Project Stormfury involved flying reinforced "storm hunter" aircraft into hurricanes, then dropping large amounts of silver iodide into the eye of the storm. The theory went that the silver iodide would freeze the water inside the hurricane, thus weakening its power.

Turton said this had "mixed results", with up to a 15 percent reduction in wind speeds, but that the project was ultimately abandoned. He said another project, using the same silver compound, was trialled in Australia in the 1970s to encourage rainfall -- but it too proved unfruitful.

'Nuke the hurricane'? Do you really believe that? Photo: Getty

"They could revisit it, using other compounds, but it would need to be environmentally harmless," Turton said.

"Some kind of geoengineering could be the solution of the future... but not nuclear bombs, absolutely not, it's just crazy."

Hacker also raised concerns about the effects of nuclear radiation from any potential use of bombs to fight hurricanes.

"From all the physics I know about the atmosphere, this is lunacy," he said.

"It's just crazy. Idiotic. There's no scientific reason or rationale for doing this."

Contact the author: jobutler@networkten.com.au