On Sunday, the news outlet Axios reported that President Donald Trump had allegedly asked aides why a hurricane couldn’t be stopped with a nuclear bomb.
Using anonymous sources, Axios reporters Jonathan Swan and Margaret Talev reported that Trump made the suggestion during a hurricane briefing at the White House:
Trump said, “I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?” according to one source who was there. “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 source added, paraphrasing the president’s remarks.
This source also claimed the person briefing Trump on hurricanes suggested he’d look into that and that he was “knocked back on his heels.” This source also said people in the room were shocked at the president’s alleged suggestion.
“You could hear a gnat fart in that meeting. People were astonished. After the meeting ended, we thought, ‘What the f—? What do we do with this?'” the source told Axios.
A 2017 National Security Council memo also suggested such a conversation took place, according to Axios. That memo talked about multiple topics but included a note about Trump talking about bombing hurricanes.
Axios included a statement from another anonymous senior administration official that told the outlet, “We don’t comment on private discussions that the president may or may not have had with his national security team.” Another anonymous official told the outlet that “alarm bells weren’t going off when I heard about it, but I did think somebody is going to use this to feed into ‘the president is crazy’ narrative.”
On Monday morning, Trump tweeted that the story was “fake news.”
“The story by Axios that President Trump wanted to blow up large hurricanes with nuclear weapons prior to reaching shore is ridiculous. I never said this. Just more FAKE NEWS!” Trump wrote.
Axios’ article also included a section stating that nuking hurricanes is not a novel idea and that National Geographic published an article about the idea shortly after Trump won the 2016 election. The NatGeo article laid out the history of why the idea was a bad one, including the fact that it would be banned under the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty.
NatGeo also wrote that the idea dated back to 1961 and that “every year for the past six decades, government agencies have received missives from concerned citizens, urging preemptive attacks against hurricanes using nuclear weapons.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration even has a web page debunking the idea, which is apparently another one of those myths that just won’t die. The page states that exploding a nuke in a hurricane “might not even alter the storm,” and that the bomb would release “radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas and cause devastating environmental problems.”
Likewise, nuking tropical waves or depressions to stop them from becoming hurricanes would not work either, since there is no way to tell which ones will form into a hurricane.