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Hurricanes are just made up of clouds and wind moving in a certain pattern…so could we use a nuclear weapon to disrupt that wind enough to stop them?

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You see it practically every time there’s a major hurricane in the news. Somewhere among all the comments expressing sympathy and giving safety tips, someone will ask: Why don’t we just nuke these things?

You can sort of see why people wonder about this. Like most big storms, a hurricane is made up of clouds and wind moving in a certain pattern. Big explosions, meanwhile, send out powerful shockwaves that are pretty good at moving things around.

So you’d think blowing up a nuke inside a hurricane would disrupt the wind patterns enough to disperse the storm. Turns out, it’s not that simple. The most obvious problem is that nuclear weapons release tons of dangerous radiation.

Like, that’s partly the point of them. If you nuke a hurricane, you’re releasing all that radiation into the storm. And even if it did weaken the hurricane, you’d still have a bunch of super radioactive wind and rain.

Really, you would just be trading one dangerous situation for something even worse. Also, it wouldn’t measurably weaken the hurricane anyway. As powerful as our nuclear weapons are, these storms have way, way more energy.

In theory, you could weaken a hurricane by pushing the warm air out of the eye of the storm — like with a big explosion — so it would be replaced by cooler, denser air. But there’s more than ten times as much heat energy in the average hurricane as the entire human race uses in a year. Our nukes won’t make much of a difference to that.

Another option would be to try using the bombs to raise the hurricane’s air pressure. Storms form in areas of low air pressure, and the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm. So to weaken a hurricane, you’d want to move a bunch more air into the spot where the storm is.

But again, we just don’t have enough power. Put it this way: The wind in Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 hurricane that hit the Bahamas,. Florida, and Louisiana in 1992, moved with more energy at any given moment than you’d release by blowing up a nuke just once.

Some people have suggested attacking the storms when they’re little baby tropical depressions instead. But even if we had enough power to eliminate those, there are about 80 of them a year. It’s hard to predict which ones will turn into hurricanes that are actually dangerous, and it would be way too expensive — in terms of both power and money — to nuke them all.

Plus, again, there’s that whole massive-amounts-of-radioactive-fallout thing. Powerful storms are devastating, and it would be nice if we could get rid of them by just blowing them up. But I think we can all agree that in practice, trying that would be a very bad idea.

That doesn’t mean we have to stop studying hurricanes, though, or learning more about how they work. And one way you can do that is through the Out in Nature course from It has a couple of lessons that specifically focus on big storms and hurricanes — including why hurricanes spin different directions in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

And if you’ve ever heard that toilet water drains differently in the North and South… well, you can learn why that isn’t true, as well. You check it all out at, along with dozens of other lessons. Right now, the first 200 people to sign up at that link will even get 20% off of an annual premium subscription to Brilliant. [ ♪OUTRO ].