`We are not going to nuke hurricanes`

A US weather agency has said that it won’t give in to demands to nuke hurricanes.

Updated: Nov 07, 2012, 09:02 AM IST

Melbourne: A US weather agency has said that it won’t give in to demands to nuke hurricanes.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) cited obvious reasons for taking the stand.

NOAA has led its Hurricane Research Division’s frequently asked questions page with an extraordinary - even for America - statement: “During each hurricane season, there always appear suggestions that one should simply use nuclear weapons to try and destroy the storms.”

Research meteorologist Chris Landsea explains why nuking a hurricane would be a bad idea.

First, he said, the shockwave will not have any effect, as it does in the movies.

“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,” he was quoted as saying.

“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,” he said.

The main difficulty with using explosives to modify hurricanes is the amount of energy required, he said.

“A fully developed hurricane can release heat energy at a rate of 5 to 20x1013 watts and converts less than 10 per cent 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,” he added.

He goes on to say the scale of energy needed isn’t the only problem. There’s also directing and focusing that energy.

Landsea also decline idea about nuking hurricanes while they’re still little by pointing out that about 80 tropical depressions form each year - but only five become hurricanes.

To produce energy equivalent to a hurricane would involve a 10-megaton device exploding every 20 minutes.

“There is no way to tell in advance which ones will develop,” he said.