Why “Nuking” a Hurricane Is a Bad Idea

Why don’t we just nuke hurricanes approaching the USA; blow them up before they can reach land? Hurricanes get their energy from warm ocean water. The warmer the water the greater the potential for intensification. Heating air and water in the storm’s eye to a temperature of 100,000,000C, as hot as the sun’s interior, might trigger extreme intensification. Not to mention a swath of radioactivity hundreds of
miles inland. It’s the definition of a bad idea.

Winds ease today with more sunshine, as another pulse of Canadian air leaks south of the border. In spite of holiday status, generally dry weather prevails from today into Labor Day. Showers may brush far southern Minnesota Friday night, otherwise the news is good for outdoor plans as the worst of the heat and stormy weather remains to our south.

Whispers of fall are showing up on the maps, but I remain naively overconfident we’ll experience more 80s in September.

Time to dig around for a light jacket but please don’t pack away the shorts just yet.

Hurricane Florence file image: NASA.

Praedictix Briefing: Issued Tuesday morning, August 28th, 2019:

  • Tropical Storm Dorian is moving through the Windward Islands this morning slightly weaker than at this time yesterday. As of 5 AM AST, Dorian had winds of 50 mph and the center of the storm was about 30 miles southeast of St. Lucia.
  • Dorian will continue to move toward the west-northwest today, gradually turning to the northwest Wednesday. This will bring the system near or south of Puerto Rico tomorrow and near or over eastern portions of the Dominican Republic Wednesday Night as a strong tropical storm. There is still the potential that Dorian could reach hurricane strength by the time it reaches the Greater Antilles, and due to this threat Hurricane Watches have been issued for Puerto Rico and portions of the Dominican Republic.
  • The forecast after this point gets a little tricky, as it depends on how much interaction Dorian has with Puerto Rico and the higher terrain of Hispaniola and increasing winds aloft as it moves through the Greater Antilles. There is the potential that Dorian could approach Florida during the Labor Day weekend, but uncertainty remains high due to the factors mentioned above.

Dorian On Satellite. Dorian doesn’t look all that great this morning on satellite, lacking a defined inner core. However, it is bringing rain and wind to portions of the Windward Islands. As of 5 AM AST, the center of Dorian was sitting about 30 miles southeast of St. Lucia and was moving to the west-northwest at 13 mph. Dorian has sustained winds of 50 mph and tropical storm force winds extend out about 45 miles from the center of the storm.

Dorian Track. While Dorian will still fight against dry air over the next couple days, some gradual strengthening is expected through the middle of the week. While the forecast does not have Dorian specifically reaching hurricane strength, there is still the chance it could do so by the time it reaches Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic late Wednesday into Thursday. Due to this potential, Hurricane Watches have been issued for Puerto Rico and portions of the Dominican Republic. There is low confidence in the forecast once it gets past the Greater Antilles due to two factors. First, upper-level winds will be on the increase as the system reaches the Greater Antilles, which would disrupt the system. Also, interaction with Puerto Rico and the higher terrain of Hispaniola would help weaken Dorian which will play a factor into how fast the system can restrengthen once it gets past the Greater Antilles. While this does mean it is too early to speculate about the strength of whatever remains of Dorian as it moves toward the Bahamas and Florida late in the week into the Labor Day weekend, facilities in these areas should keep an eye on the progress of Dorian over the next few days.

Tropical Watches/Warnings. Ahead of Dorian impacting the Lesser and Greater Antilles, several tropical alerts have been issued, including Hurricane Watches for Puerto Rico and portions of the Dominican Republic. Hurricane Watches mean that hurricane conditions will be possible and are typically issued 48 hours before the first expected tropical storm force winds impact the region. Tropical Storm Warnings mean that tropical storm force winds are expected within 36 hours, while Tropical Storm Watches mean they are possible within 48 hours. Here are where watches and warnings are in place:

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for…
* Puerto Rico
* Dominican Republic from Isla Saona to Samana

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for…
* Martinique
* St. Lucia
* St. Vincent and the Grenadines
* Puerto Rico

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for…
* Dominica
* Grenada and its dependencies
* Saba and St. Eustatius
* Dominican Republic from Isla Saona to Punta Palenque
* Dominican Republic from Samana to Puerto Plata

Tropical Storm Force Wind Timing. This graphic gives a good timing as to when winds could start to reach tropical storm force (39+ mph) with Dorian, which will start to make last minute preparations difficult ahead of the storm. Tropical storm force winds could start to impact portions of Puerto Rico tonight, spreading across the island and throughout much of the Dominican Republic Wednesday. Again, later Wednesday into Wednesday Night portions of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola could see hurricane-force wind gusts depending on how much Dorian strengthens in the next 24-48 hours.

Rain Forecast. Dorian will produce the potential of heavy rain over the next few days across portions of both the Lesser and Greater Antilles, with rainfall amounts potentially approaching 6” in some spots. This heavy rain could lead to flash flooding across the region. Breaking down some of the expected rainfall amounts through Thursday (courtesy of the National Hurricane Center):

Barbados…Additional rainfall up to 1 inch, storm total around 6 inches.
Windward Islands from Martinique to Saint Vincent…3 to 6 inches, isolated 10 inches.
Grenadines to Grenada…1 to 3 inches.
Leeward Islands from Guadeloupe to Dominica…1 to 4 inches.
Puerto Rico and Saint Croix…2 to 4 inches, isolated 6 inches.
Dominican Republic…2 to 4 inches, isolated 6 inches.

Tropical Depression Six. Meanwhile, the area we had been watching off the Southeast Coast late last week has developed into a tropical depression between the East Coast and Bermuda. A poorly organized Tropical Depression Six, containing winds of 35 mph, will be slow to move today but quickly move in a north to northeast direction Wednesday through the end of the week. This will not have any direct impacts on the East Coast of the United States but could impact Nova Scotia and Newfoundland by Friday and Saturday.

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix

NOAA Orders New Hurricane Hunter Jet and Turboprop Aircraft. In all NOAA operates 9 manned aircraft, using in tropical (and major winter) systems. Here’s an excerpt from NOAA: “…Once delivered and instrumented, the G550 will supplement the capabilities of NOAA’s existing Gulfstream IV-SP high-altitude jet, which is best known for flying above and around hurricanes to support accurate track and intensity forecasts. The new aircraft will help NOAA meet the requirements of the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017. NOAA also awarded an $11.8 million contract to Textron Aviation, Inc., for the purchase of a new twin-engine Beechcraft King Air 350 CER turboprop aircraft. Once completed, the aircraft will be outfitted with remote sensing equipment that will measure the water content of snow and soil — data that is used for flood, river level and water supply forecasts. The aircraft can also be configured to support other NOAA missions, including coastal mapping and aerial surveys of damage in communities after a storm landfall…”

Hurricanes Are the Deadliest Natural Disasters. Here’s an excerpt from USA FACTS: “…The deadliest disasters in recent history have been Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Maria. Aside from these two events, the yearly number of deaths due to natural disasters has remained steady at less than 1,000 deaths per year. As noted above, hurricanes are the deadliest natural disasters. The most dangerous in recent history were Hurricane Maria in 2017, with 2,981 reported deaths, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with 1,833 reported deaths. Hurricanes are also costly. Adjusting for inflation, 7 of the 10 most expensive natural disasters have been hurricanes. Of those 7, 6 have happened since 2000…”

America Has Gotten Bad at Predicting Weather – But There’s a Plan to Fix It. Yes, ECMWF is still superior (most days) and a story at Observer explains why: “…As acting National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) administrator Neil Jacobs admitted, even after a recent upgrade, NOAA’s GFS still lags behind both the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and the UK Met Office in forecast accuracy—and nobody is happy about it. Particularly not Congress, which, as the American Institute on Physics (AIP) recently observed, is running short on patience for NOAA to fix its forecasts…One reason why the Europeans are better, as Jacobs said in a recent public address, is that Europe allocate five times as much “computing resources” to “weather research” as America does. The Europeans also benefit from a centralized approach. Whereas Americans have more money, the extra resources just create “parallel modeling programs” that aren’t any more accurate, Jacobs said...”

Image credit: WSI.

Scoop: Trump Suggested Nuking Hurricanes to Stop Them From Hitting U.S. Axios reports: “President Trump has suggested multiple times to senior Homeland Security and national security officials that they explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes from hitting the United States, according to sources who have heard the president’s private remarks and been briefed on a National Security Council memorandum that recorded those comments. Behind the scenes: During one 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. Asked how the briefer reacted, the source recalled he said something to the effect of, “Sir, we’ll look into that…”

Illustration credit: Lazaro Gamio/Axios.

Why Don’t We Try to Destroy Tropical Cyclones by Nuking Them? Here’s an excerpt of a response from Chris Landsea at NHC: “…During each hurricane season, there always appear suggestions that one should simply use nuclear weapons to try and destroy the storms. 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 tradewinds to affect land areas and cause devastating environmental problems. Needless to say, this is not a good idea. Now for a more rigorous scientific explanation of why this would not be an effective hurricane modification technique. The main difficulty with using explosives to modify hurricanes is the amount of energy required. A fully developed hurricane can release heat energy at a rate of 5 to 20×1013 watts and converts less than 10% 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…”

America’s Decades-Old Obsession with Nuking Hurricanes. WIRED has interesting perspective; here’s an excerpt: “…Around that same time, nuking hurricanes entered the conversation. According to International Spy Museum historian Vince Houghton, whose book Nuking the Moon details wacky military and intelligence schemes, an American meteorologist named Jack Reed, one of the nation’s earliest hurricane hunters, appears to be the first to seriously consider bombing a hurricane. His calculations held that maybe one or two 20-megaton bombs might be able to deflect a hurricane from land. He called for a test of the theory, but found it embraced by precisely zero policymakers. Frustrated, Reed declared his idea dead simply because it was “politically incorrect.” As the understanding that the problem of radiation was not “merely one of detail” grew, strict parameters grew up around the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. Soon, ideas like that which Trump has evidently suggested were cast to the fringes of scientific thinking; Reed’s idea would actually now be prohibited under international law by the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty…”

The Robot Ship Set to Cross the Atlantic and Change the World. Daily Beast reports: “The blocky, 36-foot-long, yellow- and white-striped vessel bobbing off the coast of the United Kingdom sure doesn’t look like much. But Maxlimer just might be the most important ship in the world right now. Maxlimer is totally robotic. And it’s poised to be the first unmanned surface vessel, or USV, to cross the Atlantic. The journey could prove the case for a host of new oceangoing drones: crewless cargo ships; unmanned oil tankers; robotic work boats...”

Photo credit: SEA-KIT.

Here’s a First: Hacking from Space. The first space crime? NBC News reports: “A NASA astronaut is accused of hacking her estranged spouse’s bank account from space. Anne McClain, whom the space agency says is “one of NASA’s top astronauts,” allegedly accessed the bank account of her estranged spouse, Summer Worden, while aboard the International Space Station earlier this year, according to NBC affiliate KPRC in Houston. The two women are in the process of a divorce and battling over custody of a 6-year-old son, Worden told KPRC. She said she conceived the boy through in vitro fertilization and carried by a surrogate…”

Photo credit: “NASA astronaut Anne McClain on the International Space Station on April 16, 2019.” NASA.

Tastes Like Chicken. Say what? CNN Business has the story: “Kentucky fried plant-based chicken is coming to a KFC in Atlanta this week. In a test of Beyond Meat’s latest fake meat creation, KFC will offer “Beyond Fried Chicken” at a single restaurant in Smyrna, Georgia, near Atlanta’s SunTrust Park. Beyond Meat (BYND) has added chicken to its lineup of plant-based products, which include burger, ground beef and sausage alternatives, among other meat substitutes. KFC will become the first nationwide fast food restaurant to test Beyond Meat’s plant-based chicken…”

Carli Lloyd is Ready for the NFL. It’s time to have a woman in the NFL. The Washington Post reports: “When Carli Lloyd turned up at the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice last week, it was mostly as a fan. But the lark turned serious when she pulled her right leg back and sent a kick sailing 55 yards through the uprights. It might have been an audition for the first female NFL player. Lloyd, the 37-year-old star of the U.S. Women’s World Cup championship teams in 2015 and this summer, grew up an Eagles fan in New Jersey and spent her day off from Sky Blue of the National Women’s Soccer League at the Eagles’ joint practice with the Baltimore Ravens. After practice, she worked with Eagles kicker Jake Elliott and Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, and video quickly went viral, drawing serious speculation about whether she could kick in the NFL...”

Photo credit:

6.27″ rain has fallen on the Twin Cities in August.

73 F. high at MSP yesterday.

79 F. average high on August 27.

84 F. high on August 27, 2018.

August 28, 1989: Baseball-sized hail pummels Pequot Lakes.

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny and breezy. Winds: W 15-25. High: 71

THURSDAY: Sunny and pleasantly mild. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 57. High: 77

FRIDAY: Fading sun, cool and comfortable. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 54. High: 73

SATURDAY: Early shower south, otherwise sunny. Winds: NE 5-10. Wake-up: 55. High: 72

SUNDAY: Sunny and milder. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 57. High: 77

LABOR DAY: Sunny, windier and warmer. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 59. High: 82

TUESDAY: Warm and windy, PM T-storms. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 66. High: 84

Climate Stories….

What Does “12 Years to Act on Climate Change” Really Mean? InsideClimate News has some much-needed perspective: “…The report explained that countries would have to cut their anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, such as from power plants and vehicles, to net zero by around 2050. To reach that goal, it said, CO2 emissions would have to start dropping “well before 2030” and be on a path to fall by about 45 percent by around 2030 (12 years away at that time). Mid-century is actually the more significant target date in the report, but acting now is crucial to being able to meet that goal, said Duke University climate researcher Drew Shindell, a lead author on the mitigation chapter of the IPCC report. “We need to get the world on a path to net zero CO2 emissions by mid-century,” Shindell said. “That’s a huge transformation, so that if we don’t make a good start on it during the 2020s, we won’t be able to get there at a reasonable cost...”

Southwest ‘Canary in Coal Mine’ For Heat Deaths: Headlines and links courtesy of Climate Nexus: “Heat-related deaths have spiked over the past five years in Southwest states, alarming officials who say that the region is a sign of what’s to come with climate change, the New York Times reports. In Arizona, deaths from heat exposure have tripled since 2014, while they’ve increased fivefold in Nevada, CDC data show. The deaths are mostly concentrated in the Phoenix and Las Vegas metro areas. Experts say that an increase in heat deaths despite concurrent advances, like weather forecasting and air-conditioning, is a worrisome signal of how the region must prepare for climate change. “Phoenix and other cities of the Southwest are the canary in the coal mine” when it comes to increasing temperatures, David Hondula of Arizona State University told the Times. “We really need to figure out what piece or pieces of the system are lacking.” (New York Times $)

The Glimmer of a Climate New-World Order. David Wallace-Wells writes for New York Magazine’s Intelligencer: “…As with everything else when it comes to climate, we are headed into a brave new world with nothing resembling a playbook. But in their brilliant book Climate Leviathan, the political scientists Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright plot a matrix of possible future political responses to climate. The two axes are the relationship to the nation state (i.e., does the world recognize national sovereignty in the face of climate change?); and the relationship to capitalism (i.e., does the world respond to the crisis by doubling down on the importance of capital, or does it retreat from it?). They name the resulting quadrants: Climate Mao (anti-capitalist and nationalist); Climate Behemoth (capitalist and nationalist), Climate Leviathan (capitalist and globalist) and Climate X (anti-capitalist and globalist, basically ecosocialism, which they’re rooting for). But they also acknowledge that each category is too neat — a conceptual framework, not a map of our future. My own guess is that they’re right: that we won’t have any one new paradigm for climate politics, that no one prediction will come to pass in any total way, but that we will evolve those new politics along many different ideological axes…”

There are Many Cases of Climate Hypocrisy.” So says journalist David Wallace-Wells, interviewed at The Guardian. Here’s an excerpt: “…My intuition is that we don’t need to abandon the prospect of economic growth to get a handle on climate change. I look at the case of the US and I see that if the average American had the carbon emissions of the average EU citizen, the country’s emissions would fall by 60%. And I think most Americans would be happy with those lifestyles. The American electricity grid loses two-thirds of all energy produced as waste heat. We discard something like 50% or 60% of all of our food. So we could achieve some quite significant emissions gains…”

AMAZON: Headlines and links via Climate Nexus: “The Amazon cannot be recovered once it’s gone (The Atlantic), ‘the lungs of the Earth are in flames’: Brazil faces global backlash over Amazon fires (CNBC), G7 nations close to agreement on tackling Amazon fires: Macron (Reuters), Macron: ‘All G7 powers must help Brazil fight raging Amazon fires’ (The Guardian), why are the Amazon fires sparking a crisis for Brazil – and the world? (Reuters), Pope calls for global commitment to put out Amazon fires (Reuters), warplanes dump water on Amazon as Brazil military begins fighting fires (Reuters), climate activists demonstrate outside Brazil embassies in Paris and London (Reuters), Brazil’s Bolsonaro causes global outrage over Amazon fires (AP), Brazil’s Bolsonaro reverses on Amazon, announces plans to send armed forces to fight wildfires (The Hill), DiCaprio-backed foundation spending $5M to help Brazil’s Amazon (The Hill), Brazil’s former environment head calls raging wildfires ‘crime against humanity.” (Thomson Reuters Foundation).

Why Climate Change is So Hard to Tackle: Our Stubborn Energy System. Here’s a clip from an Axios post: “…In the world of energy and climate change, people talk about the “energy transition,” the concept that we are moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy. But for now and the next few decades, it’s more of an energy addition.

  • Renewable electricity (which is the primary use for wind and solar) is often being added on top of instead of in lieu of fossil fuels, particularly in Asia’s rapidly growing economies.
  • Our energy system, particularly electricity, is built on multi-billion dollar infrastructure investments designed to last decades. Replacing them is like changing direction on a jetliner, not a jet ski.
  • Because of this dynamic and because our global energy demand keeps rising, our emissions keep growing despite the skyrocketing use of wind and solar energy…”

Image credit: Sarah Grillo/Axios.