Current research has essentially debunked the idea of a global nuclear winter as a result of a nuclear conflict. It was mostly a political position based on incorrect modeling and “worst-case analysis gone wild” to support nuclear disarmament. What is nuclear winter and what caused this?
Nuclear Winter is the environmental destruction that some experts believe would be caused by hundreds of nuclear explosions during the war. Scientists have understood the harmful consequences of nuclear explosions and radiation.
Studies on the Effects of Nuclear Explosions
In the 1970s, multiple studies suggested that the stratospheric ozone layer, which protects living things from much of the Sun’s damaging UV radiation, may be reduced by the massive volumes of nitrogen oxides created by nuclear explosions.
Further research suggested that massive volumes of dust blasted up into the atmosphere by nuclear explosions might block sunlight from reaching the Earth’s surface, causing the air to cool temporarily.
Scientists began to consider the smoke produced by vast forests set ablaze by nuclear fireballs. In 1983, the TTAPS study from the initials of its authors’ last names, R.P. Turco, O.B. Toon, T.P. Ackerman, J.B. Pollack, and Carl Sagan took into account the crucial factor of smoke and soot arising from the burning of petroleum fuels and plastics in nuclear-devastated cities.
Smoke from these materials absorbs sunlight far more efficiently than smoke from burning wood. The TTAPS research created the phrase “nuclear winter,” and its grim theories about the environmental impacts of a nuclear war were studied in depth by American and Soviet scientists.
What was the Cause of Nuclear Winters?
According to experts, the primary cause of nuclear winter would be the many massive fireballs produced by exploding nuclear bombs.
These fireballs would ignite massive uncontrolled firestorms over any cities and forests within their range. Great plumes of smoke, soot, and dust would be sent aloft from these fires, lifted by their heating to high altitudes where they could drift for weeks before dropping back or being washed out of the atmosphere onto the ground.
Strong west-to-east winds would shepherd several hundred million tons of this smoke and soot until they formed a consistent band of particles around the Northern Hemisphere from 30° to 60° latitude.
These thick black clouds could block out all but a fraction of the Sun’s light for as long as several weeks.
Surface temperatures would plunge for a few weeks as a consequence, perhaps by as much as 11° to 22°C.
Semi-darkness, lethal frosts, and subfreezing temperatures, coupled with large doses of radiation from nuclear fallout, would disrupt plant photosynthesis and, as a result, might wipe out much of the Earth’s flora and animal life.
Extreme cold, high levels of radiation, and extensive damage to industrial, medical, and transportation infrastructures and food supplies and crops would result in a catastrophic death toll due to famine, exposure, and illness.
As a result, a nuclear war might decrease the Earth’s human population to a fraction of what it was previously. (Source: Britannica)