Skip to comments.NOAA.gov - (Subject: C5c) Why Don't We Try to Destroy Tropical Cyclones by Nuking Them?
Posted on 12/17/2012 1:50:15 PM PST by DogByte6RER
Subject: C5c) Why don't we try to destroy tropical cyclones by nuking them?
Contributed by Chris Landsea
During each hurricane season, there always appear suggestions that one should simply use nuclear weapons to try and destroy the storms. 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.
Now for a more rigorous scientific explanation of why this would not be an effective hurricane modification technique. The main difficulty with using explosives to modify hurricanes is the amount of energy required. A fully developed hurricane can release heat energy at a rate of 5 to 20x1013 watts and converts less than 10% of the heat into the mechanical energy of the wind. The heat release is equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes. According to the 1993 World Almanac, the entire human race used energy at a rate of 1013 watts in 1990, a rate less than 20% of the power of a hurricane.
If we think about mechanical energy, the energy at humanity's disposal is closer to the storm's, but the task of focusing even half of the energy on a spot in the middle of a remote ocean would still be formidable. Brute force interference with hurricanes doesn't seem promising.
In addition, an explosive, even a nuclear explosive, produces a shock wave, or pulse of high pressure, that propagates away from the site of the explosion somewhat faster than the speed of sound. Such an event doesn't raise the barometric pressure after the shock has passed because barometric pressure in the atmosphere reflects the weight of the air above the ground. For normal atmospheric pressure, there are about ten metric tons (1000 kilograms per ton) of air bearing down on each square meter of surface. In the strongest hurricanes there are nine. To change a Category 5 hurricane into a Category 2 hurricane you would have to add about a half ton of air for each square meter inside the eye, or a total of a bit more than half a billion (500,000,000) tons for a 20 km radius eye. It's difficult to envision a practical way of moving that much air around.
Attacking weak tropical waves or depressions before they have a chance to grow into hurricanes isn't promising either. About 80 of these disturbances form every year in the Atlantic basin, but only about 5 become hurricanes in a typical year. There is no way to tell in advance which ones will develop. If the energy released in a tropical disturbance were only 10% of that released in a hurricane, it's still a lot of power, so that the hurricane police would need to dim the whole world's lights many times a year.
Say, that's a great question ... maybe my town can procure this relic Cold War cannon to use whenever those pesky dust devils show up in the neighborhood! (sarc)
Thankfully this dumb idea will never get traction, even if we are the dumbest generation to ever live.
Hey, let’s ban all guns and nuke storms!
People have utterly lost their minds.
Sure, why not? What could possibly go wrong?
File this one with the clods who wanted to build a new Panama Canal by using nukes to blow away the lower half of Nicaragua back in the 70’s.
Employing starships to defuse them with tractor beams is much more eco-friendly.....
That was actually proposed for the first time back in the 1960s.
Seed them with sand.
when I worked at NASA ( along time ago now) they were doing wind tunnel tests to see if the back drafts from various explosions could disrupt tornadoes before they got to large.....data suggested that it would not be a very efficient method. stupid ideas have been around for a long time
HAARP works better.
That was actually proposed back in the 1950’s
In more practical terms, one of the few things we know can make a hurricane *stronger* is, of all things, plankton.
This is because a large plankton bloom can warm surface water up by just a degree or two. Which can increase the intensity of a hurricane by a category.
So how can we achieve just the opposite, to cool down the surface temperatures over a few square miles?
Some years ago, a scientist noted that seawater has a few millimeters of much warmer water on its surface, that significantly reduces evaporation. He figured that if you could spray the surface over a large area with water, it would break up this “blanket”, and evaporation would jump.
At the same time, evaporation also lowers water temperature.
His idea was to install vertical windmills on floating platforms, that would pump seawater high up in the air in a fine spray, which when it rained down would break up the “blanket.”
But on a more practical note, have you ever seen the high arc of water created by a fire fighting tugboat?
Imagine if you had a dozen fast boats, each with a powerful pump on board, whose purpose was to line up in the projected path of a hurricane, spray water for a few hours, then get out of there before the hurricane showed up.
While it is unlikely that such an effort couldn’t stop a hurricane, if it could just reduce its intensity by a category, it could save many millions of dollars in damage, and who knows how many lives?
We should have nuked the leak from Deepwater Horizon, IMHO.
Drop a single bag of cottonballs. Exactly the same effect.
I recall that was Dr. Edward Teller's idea.
What could be worse that a cat. 5 hurricane? A radioactive cat. 5 hurricane