bomb hurricane

“It’s Not Nice To Fool Mother Nature.”


The headline is from an old Chiffon Margarine commercial of the 1970s and 1980s. The other margarine companies advertised that they tasted just as good as or better than butter while the Mother Nature character in the Chiffon commercial chided the makers of the product, after she tasted it, for making a margarine that tasted just like butter by having a lighting bolt strike and exclaiming ” It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” Here’s a look at one of those commercials.

In a previous column I discussed the old “Rainmakers” of the past most of whom were con artists who bilked townspeople out of their hard-earned money promising rain during a long drought when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

The Rainmaker- Wendell Corey, Katherine Hepburn, Burt Lancaster | Image by

In more modern times cloud seeding has varied success in producing significant rainfall. The one very important factor is that in order for cloud seeding to work you need clouds.

Tornado | Photo by

Over my years of weather forecasting I have heard of some pretty far-fetched ideas  concerning controlling various weather phenomena. One of them was a proposal to drop high explosives into a tornado to break it up. That is wrong in too many ways to explain. Besides the obvious flaws in the idea it would be near impossible to have a bomb flown over a tornado due to the fact that they can develop so quickly, move to various locations, and dissipate without notice. I also remember, many years ago, hearing of a theory that a hurricane could be broken up if a nuclear bomb was dropped and detonated in the eye. I thought that sounded pretty stupid at the time.

Dr. Marshall Shepherd | Photo by The Weather Channel

Now we are in current time and the subject of “nuking” a hurricane has been brought up again. In a May 13th article published on and written by Marshall Shepherd was titled “Here’s Why We Cannot Just ‘Nuke’ Hurricanes” the topic was brought back to my attention. Some quick background information on Dr. Shepherd from his credits. He is Atmospheric Sciences Program/GA Athletic Association Distinguished Professor (University of Georgia), Host, Weather Channel’s Popular Podcast, Weather Geeks, and 2013 President of the American Meteorological Society.  In the article he explains that Andrew Thomas, one of his doctoral students, posted the following in social media “The fact that this (question) made it onto FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS is …astounding.”

Nuclear Bomb Blast Simulation|
Image by MIC

Dr. Christopher Landsea, Chief of the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch of the National Hurricane Center, explained the main reason why this is an extraordinarily bad idea “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 trade winds to affect land areas and cause devastating environmental problems. Needless to say, this is not a good idea.”

Satellite View Hurricane Michael’s Landfall | Photo by NOAA

Dr. Landsea explains the pressure aspects of the potential “nuking” to further debunk the whole idea. “For normal atmospheric pressure, there is about 10 metric tons (1,000 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 half a 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 2o km radius eye. It’s to envision a practical way of moving that much air around.”

Tropical Depression (Notice No Eye Wall Yet) | Photo by NOAA through

He even comments on the possibility of heading off the formation of a hurricane by nuking a tropical depression or a tropical wave before they could develop into a major storm. Only about 5 per cent of of these storms develop into hurricanes so there would be a lot of wasted time and energy trying to break up a storm that would have dissipated naturally over time without making landfall and causing death and destruction.

It’s just my opinion, shared by an unknown number of people, that we must be very careful what actions we take to attempt changing the forces of nature. Not only is it “Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature,” but doing so could cause irreparable damage to our delicate balance of nature.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can email me at: [email protected].