President Donald Trump has floated multiple times the idea of thwarting hurricanes headed for the U.S. by bombing them, including by dropping nuclear bombs on hurricanes to disrupt their course, Axios reported Sunday, citing conversations with sources who heard Trump’s comments and were briefed on a National Security Council memo that recorded the comments.
In an early Monday tweet, Trump denied the Axios’ report, claiming that he “never said” what was in it. CNN has not been able to independently verify the report.
According to Axios, the President has suggested the idea several times to senior Homeland Security and national security officials that they look into the idea of using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes from hitting the U.S. A source who was at a hurricane briefing at the White House told the outlet that the President once said of hurricanes, “I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?”
The source, who paraphrased Trump’s remarks to Axios, said that the President said, “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?” Asked by Axios how the briefer responded to the President’s suggestion, the source said he “said something to the effect of, ‘Sir, we’ll look into that.'”
The President then asked how many hurricanes the U.S. may be able to stop and reiterated his suggestions, according to the source, which caused the briefer to be “knocked back on his heels.”
“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.
According to the outlet, Trump also raised the idea of using bombs to stop hurricanes during a 2017 conversation with a senior administration official. A source briefed on a NSC memo describing that conversation told Axios that the document does not contain the word “nuclear.” According to sources the outlet spoke to about that conversation, despite Trump’s interest in the idea, it “went nowhere and never entered a formal policy process.”
The idea of using nuclear bombs “to counteract convection currents” was floated during the Eisenhower administration, Axios reported, and has continued to resurface even though government scientists have said it will not work.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in an online fact sheet titled “Tropical Cyclone Myths Page,” detonating a nuclear weapon over a hurricane “might not even alter the storm,” and the idea “neglects the problem that the released radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas and cause devastating environmental problems.”