Science

Could Humans Survive a Nuclear Winter?

In 1983, a team of scientists, including astrophysicist Carl Sagan, made an ominous and terrifying prediction. He predicted that in the event of a nuclear war our world would enter a “nuclear winter.”  This nuclear winter might be so bad that those same scientists think that its effects might be just as important as the immediate effects of the war itself.

What is A Nuclear Winter?

A nuclear winter is basically the environmental devastation that might come about from hundreds, if not thousands of nuclear explosions. These bombs would cause massive firestorms and the smoke, soot, and dust would rise up into the stratosphere and spread globally. From here, surface temperatures could lower, the ozone layer could get thinner, and we could even be thrown into a global famine.

Could We Survive?

Recently, teams of researchers simulated what would happen in the case of a relatively small nuclear war, and their findings were not good. They imagined a nuclear war between India and Pakistan where the countries collectively dropped 100 nuclear bombs. Each bomb was about the size of the bomb the US used on Hiroshima.

They found the black carbon, which is a major component of soot, would rise to the stratosphere and absorb sunlight. This would heat up the stratosphere and decrease the surface temperature of the Earth and the upper 100 meters of the oceans. Hence the “winter” part of “nuclear winter.”

Winter Is Coming 

The temperature increase in the stratosphere might also cause major losses in the ozone layer. This would cause more exposure to ultraviolet radiation, damaging our health and our agricultural crops. The crops are going to have an incredibly tough time because there will be less rain during a nuclear winter. Also, there will be less time for the crops to grow because of killing frosts. With the reduction in crops and possible UV damage to aquatic life, we may experience a famine.

These Effects Are Not Short-Lived

Within five years, the researchers predicted that the Earth will be around 1.6 degrees celsius cooler and around 1.1 degrees cooler over the next 20 years. Also, the ozone layer losses will persist for a decade.Remember all of this damage was predicted when only 100 nuclear bombs were dropped. Currently, there are 15,000 nuclear bombs worldwide. So if the nuclear war consists of 100 bombs or less, it is possible that you could survive the famine and other consequences of increased exposure to UV radiation. However, if there is ever a nuclear war that is larger the ensuing nuclear winter might be even more devastating.

So maybe we should all start saving our bottle caps. Hopefully, nothing like this will ever happen, but if it does do you think you will survive? What is your game plan?