Limited, Regional Nuclear War = Nuclear Winter?

Yesterday I discussed Iran’s resolve to process and develop nuke juice, and how a nuclear conflict might unfold in the Middle-East if Iran and Israel (and other countries) banged heads. For people living in those countries it’d be total SHTF, but what about for everyone else?

Certainly global economies would go into convulsions, but would there, could there be more? According to a report presented at an international conference at the Royal Society of Medicine – YES! The result – world wide climate disruption and global famine with a total global death toll in the range of one BILLION – from starvation alone! The reason, they argue, is that the debris thrown up into the atmosphere from nuclear explosions and resulting fires would cause sudden global cooling and decreased precipitation for up to 10 years, resulting in shorter growing seasons and lower production. In other words, a nuclear winter.

“We are ill-prepared to deal with a major fall in world food supply,” says Dr. Helfand. “Global grain stocks stand at 49 days, lower than at any point in the past five decades. These stocks would not provide any significant reserve in the event of a sharp decline in production. We would see hoarding on a global scale.”

The thought of a nuclear winter and what it’d mean for the world was dismissed by many people during the Cold War, but those early studies were based on nuclear targets hitting remote missle silos in places like the U.S. Mid-West. That line of thinking is now out-of-date. Today’s nuke juice exchanges would target population centers where buildings would burn and burn and burn, sending FAR more soot into the air than would have otherwise happened.

A paper from Dr Owen B Toon, from the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Colorado at Boulder, concentrates on the large global ozone losses which would follow a regional war. “If targed at small cities, low yield weapons can produce 100 times as many fatalities and 100 times as much smoke from fires as was previously estimated for full scale nuclear wars using high-yield weapons.” Toon argues that the resulting global ozone losses will threaten humans and the biota throughout the world and not just in the region of conflict.

News source is here.

TEN years of shortened growing seasons. Of course, for every report of this nature you can find one that would argue otherwise, which, in my opinion, underscores that NOBODY knows what EXACTLY would happen. This report could be right on target, or it could UNDERestimate what would happen . . . OR it could be way off base.

Nobody knows, but with virtually every country in the world trying to hop on the nuke juice bandwagon, I fear younger generations may found out.

– Ranger Man

8 comments… add one
  • ryan December 29, 2007, 6:44 pm

    I think that we can start with what happened after the USA droped 2 nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The simple answer was that almost everyone in the area died. Those who were far enough away to live often died prematurely of cancer and horrible birth defects affected atleast the next generation.

    Those two blasts did horrrible things to those cities but the world (weather,climate, oceans,etc) did not change. I know those bombs were pretty small by todays standards and there were only two of them. I think if a small scale nuclear war broke out in the Middle East or India vs. Pakistan it would probably be a realtively small engagement as opposed to a massive traditional NATO vs. USSR MAD scenario. I know that survivalism and optomism often go in seperate directions but I am not convinced that one bomb or two in a far away land is drastically going to change anything. Maybe I am just sticking my head in the sand. Good post. The primary source analysis is nice.

  • ryan December 29, 2007, 6:50 pm

    I forgot about something. We (various countries in the nuclear club) have tested so many bombs in the past 50 years that if it was going to have widespread horrible effects it probably would have. We blew lots of bombs in the Nevada desert and no widespread regional problems have came up. Am I wowefully ignorant of some past events?

  • Kyle D December 29, 2007, 8:45 pm

    I think the important thing would be the size of the yield. The higher the yield, the more damage that will be caused. Who knows really….

    Personally, I’d rather be UNDER the bomb blast when it hit, rather than outside of it and die soon thereafter.

  • No One December 30, 2007, 1:43 am

    Two things,

    Y’all need to read Nuclear War Survival Skills. Maybe buy some copies for your family and friends from Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, at this link:

    Here it is in pdf:

    And do y’all remember, after Gulf War One, the many burning oil wells that could be seen from space?

  • Dr. Richard December 30, 2007, 10:39 am

    Nuclear winter was a fraud created by leftist anti-nuclear groups to scare the population. There is no scientific evidence behind it. There were over 800 above ground nuclear tests carried out by the US, China, Russia, UK, and France. Many had yields over 1 MT (well in excess of pakistani or potential Iranian nukes).

    That being said, there would be severe economic disruptions and quite possibly famine, resulting from distruptions to world trade and breakdowns of overly complex systems.

  • "Dr." Fallout11 December 31, 2007, 3:34 pm

    I disagree.
    Many of those same above-ground tests were conducted over water (all of the French ones, for instance). Many were airbursts (with little ejecta). Most (>75%) of the tested weapons were tiny (under 100kt nominal yield). The tests were spaced out over a 15 year period, not all set off within a few days of one another.
    Almost all above ground testings ceased in 1963, some 45 years ago.
    Yet even those few scattered and small weapons tests may have had an impact, as the 1950’s and 1960’s were significantly cooler, globally, than the median temperatures of the last few decades since.

    The Iraq War oil fires burned up less oil than the US does in a month. Besides, burning hydrocarbons produces carbon (soot=smoke), carbon dioxide, and water vapor. It does not suspend kilotons of ejecta and particulate matter. Otherwise, the entire world would have been frozen out just from tailpipe emissions.
    Something tells me Dr. Richard lacks a fundamental chemistry background, or he’d immediately seen the Iraq Oil fires comparison as the red herring that it is.

    “Nuclear War Survival Skills” was a compilation of early civil defense information and publications, put together by a man (Mr. Cresson Kearny) with no scientific background and with an obvious axe to grind (as he says in the book). It is forwarded by one of the inventors of the hydrogen (fusion) bomb, Dr. Edward Teller (now deceased), a long proponent of the “winnable” nuclear war theorem.

    Further, the books’ sole publisher, the prestigious-sounding “Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine”, is a false front and shell, little more than a Post Office Box in Oregon, proclaims itself to be a ‘Pro-Science, Pro-technology, Pro-Free Enterprise Institute’, yet it has never produced a peer-reviewed paper, publicly denies the very existence of global warming (see here)-

    Why not read an actual scientific assessment of both sides of the argument, and decide for yourself?

  • Guy January 6, 2008, 3:27 pm

    1. Nuclear weapons delivered by air will be airburst which will limit the amount of debris. Airbusting is the most effective way to detentate Nuclear weapons.

    2. I believe there was a study conducted during the late 80s or during the 90’s that disproved the Nuclear winter theory. Even if every nuke was used it would not be enough to cause a long term dip in global temperatures. Some of the recent volcano eruptions ejected more ash then a full nuclear war would. Much of the theory was created by scientist attempting to highten the fears of nuclear war (good idea in my opinion), but it lacks creditibility.

    However, the big danger is from radiactive fallout that would contaminate the land and the water for hundreds, if not thousands of years. This is especially true with foriegn made Nuclear weapons that make up for bomb yeild inefficencies by using more material. The US Nuclear weapons are manufactured with much tighter tolerences so the amount of fallout will considerable less than our Russian and Chinese counter parts.

    You might be able to protect some of your top soil with plastic sheeting (with a thin layer of soil on top to protect it from the elements). When the air is clear of radioactivity, you could remove the plastic and plant your crops in near radiactive free soil. Another alternative would be to remove the top layer of soil, but you might end up removing all of the topsoil. One other method may be to pile a large mound of top soil and protect that with plastic sheeting. Of course after the war, you need to shove it all back onto your land. I think it will be impossible to clean up containmated soil.

    Water purification is probably a lot tricker, since some radiative materials are water soluable, and a simple filter isn’t going to remove them. you would need into introduce an agent that chelates the water soluble containinates into something that isn’t water soluble and can be filtered. A water softer would help, but it wouldn’t get all of it. One of the best solutions is to use a Ozone water purify which works well on heavy metal containates. With an Ozone generator you also don’t need stock pile a large supply of chelate agent, but you would need a source of electricity to run it. I suspect that most ground water will eventually become badly containmated over time. Deeper wells will probably have less exposure, or may remain uncontained up to a decade after the war (deplending on how long it takes rain water to reach your well). Its likely that rain water may become a more reliable source of water: ie sistern. Besides clean water for drinking you want clean water to irrigate your crops for your livestock. If you provide containated water to your plants and livestock they will become contaminated.

    One last item, is that you need to protect your home from become contaimated from airborne radiative particles. Most homes are poorly sealed. Air and pollution enters through walls, ventalation systems, Heating and cooling systems, and doors and windows. Ideally a Nuclear war survivalist will have a sealed home. where all of the vents can be shutoff. All exterior plywood is caulked. Wiring in wall through the studs are calked. There must be no opportunities for the outside air to reach indoors. Plan on living in your basement? This is probably not a good idea since foundations are almost never airtight, and there is the danger of picking up radon (from ground uranium decay, even with out a nuclear war). You will also need to set up a decontaination area outside, near your door so that you can decontainate yourself before you enter back into your home. If you need to go out, (get firewood, Fix something outside, Deal with Nuclear zombies, etc). you want to decontainate yourself so you don’t track in containated materials into your home. One option is to use Tyvek suits that you hose off and remove before you come inside. You’ll also want to wear at all times outdoors a respirator to prevent inhalation of radiative containements. The radion suits you see on TV aren’t to block radiation, but to prevent radioative containments from cling to your clothes and your body.

    BTW: Does Ranger Man own any radiation detection equipment yet?

  • TripodXL November 5, 2010, 11:11 pm

    The advent of nuclear war is always frightening, but mostly of the unknown. What will happen? Who knows…no one knows, that’s who. One can extrapolate some things, though. I don’t know that we’ve had any single eruptions that would come close to a moderate nuclear exchange between the US and Russia, although we have had a number of eruptions since 1980 to present, that I don’t recall occurring in any similar manner during the first half of the 20th century. Mt. St Helen, the Philippine volcano that covered Clark AB there, Montserrat, multiple eruptions in Hawaii and Indonesia and a lot of others. Admittedly this has been over a 30 year period, but it isn’t cooling the earth or slowing down an obviously warming climate, although the cause of this not nailed down yet, in my book, as it has happened many times in the past. This planet has been arctic free many times in the past, all on it’s own. I think a regional nuclear exchange even one of 400-500 weapons between the US and Russia, is survivable. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still there today, hustling and bustling cities. There is only severe contamination, from nuclear explosions, at ground zero of each device. You can walk to the spot where the Trinity weapon was detonated, today. If you are DIRECTLY downwind from an event, then you might have a problem, but it would be variable in each case. As for growing food and such, as long as you are not badly contaminated and the ozone layer isn’t destroyed we’ll survive. The vast majority of the fallout contaminants are of short half-lives. Strontium-90 and Cesium-137 are the two most long lived elements that would concern us. Some shorter lived isotopes like Iodine-131 could actually cause more damage because it is absorbed into the thyroid gland, which could be devastating for children. If you live close to or predominantly down wind of a nuclear reactor or probable first strike site (metro area) you should have some potassium iodide tablets on hand for your family to saturate your thyroids if it became necessary in case of an event. All is not lost if there is a nuclear war. Yes, there would obviously be some terrible effects from i,t but we will survive. 2cents……nuclear service engineer


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