Two More Palestinian Teenagers Killed Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Palestinian demonstrators evacuate a wounded comrade during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 8, 2019. MAHMUD HAMS / AFP

Two Palestinian Teenagers Killed by Israeli Live Fire in Protests, Gaza Authorities Say

One of the dead named as relative of Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh, as Palestinians protest for the 46th Friday in a row

Jack Khoury

08.02.2019 |

Two teenagers, aged 14 and 18, were killed and at least seven other Palestinians were wounded by Israeli live fire during protests at the fence separating the Gaza Strip and Israel on Friday, the Gaza Health Ministry said.  

The 14-year-old was named as Hassan Shalabi, the son of a niece of Ismail Haniyeh, the political chief of Hamas. 

The military said it was aware of reports that a protester had been killed but could not confirm that the individual was a 14-year-old or what caused the death.

About 7,000 people were protesting at several points along the fense, the military said, adding that protesters were clashing with troops and that some had thrown explosive devices and grenades that landed on the Gaza side of the fence.

On Sunday, the Gaza Health Ministry said that Ahmed Abu Jabal, 30, succumbed to bullet wounds sustained on the Gaza border the previous week.

During last Friday’s weekly protest, 32 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli live fire according to Gaza authorities. 

According to data in a United Nations report released last month and confirmed by Israeli security officials, 295 Palestinians were killed and about 6,000 wounded by live ammunition since protests began last March. 

Israel Kills Woman and Child Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Israel killed woman and child protesters at ‘significant distance’ from Gaza fence

Israeli forces attack protesters during the Great March of Return on 11 January 2019 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

February 8, 2019 at 11:54 am

Israeli forces killed a woman and child during protests in the occupied Gaza Strip on 11 January while they were at a “significant distance” from the perimeter fence.

The findings were published yesterday by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Amal A-Taramsi, a 44-year-old resident of Gaza City, was attending a mid-afternoon protest on the day in question, helping those “hurt by tear gas inhalation by spraying their faces with a saline solution”, B’Tselem stated.

At around 4pm, as she stood about 200 metres away from the perimeter fence, Amal was shot in the neck with a live bullet fired by an Israeli sniper. Sustaining a critical injury, Amal was pronounced dead by doctors at Al-Shifaa Hospital.

On the same day, B’Tselem continued, 13-year-old child ‘Abd a-Ra’uf Salahah, from Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, “attended a different demonstration held east of the camp”.

At around 3pm, ‘Abd a-Ra’uf “and some other teens approached the fence, hung a flag on it, and retreated to a distance of about 150 meters”. At that moment, the boy was struck in the head by a tear gas canister fired directly at protesters by Israeli forces.

‘Abd a-Ra’uf was taken to al-Shifaa Hospital, “where he remained in the ICU until the early hours of 14 January 2019, when doctors pronounced him dead”, B’Tselem added.

The human rights organisation noted how both slain protesters “were hit at a significant distance from the fence. Clearly, neither posed a threat to anyone”.

According to B’Tselem, “the high number of casualties” amongst Palestinians since the start of the “Great Return March” protests in March 2018 “is a direct outcome of the open-fire policy that Israel is employing along the Gaza perimeter fence, including during demonstrations held nearby”.

“Although the lethal outcomes of this criminal policy are well-known, the Israeli authorities refuse to change it, displaying indifference to the lives and deaths of Palestinians,” B’Tselem continued.

The Ramapo Fault and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

 

Living on the Fault Line

A major earthquake isn’t likely here, but if it comes, watch out.

Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo

This chart shows the location of the Ramapo Fault System, the longest and one of the oldest systems of cracks in the earth’s crust in the Northeast. It also shows the location of all earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater in New Jersey during the last 50 years. The circle in blue indicates the largest known Jersey quake.

The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.

After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.

Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.

During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.

“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”

Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.

Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.

After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.

But no area on the East Coast is as densely populated or as heavily built-up as parts of New Jersey and its neighbors. For this reason, scientists refer to the Greater New York City-Philadelphia area, which includes New Jersey’s biggest cities, as one of “low earthquake hazard but high vulnerability.” Put simply, the Big One isn’t likely here—but if it comes, especially in certain locations, watch out.

Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.

Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.

The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.

For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.

Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”

The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.

The Ramapo Fault sits on the North American Plate, which extends past the East Coast to the middle of the Atlantic, where it meets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range in constant flux. The consequences of this intraplate setting are huge: First, as Gates points out, “The predictability of bigger earthquakes on…[such] settings is exceedingly poor, because they don’t occur very often.” Second, the intraplate setting makes it more difficult to link our earthquakes to a major cause or fault, as monitors in California can often do.

This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”

Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”

But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.

Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.

All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.

For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.

Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.

To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.

In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.

As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)

In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.

The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (state.nj.us/dep/njgs/enviroed/hazus.htm).

Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.

Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.

This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.

“Any vulnerable structure on these weak soils would have a higher failure hazard,” Stanford says. And the scary truth is that many structures in New Jersey’s largest cities, not to mention New York City, would be vulnerable, since they’re older and built before anyone gave much thought to earthquake-related engineering and construction codes.

For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at nycem.org.)

All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.

Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”

***********************

Planning for the Big One

For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.

In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.

Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”

Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.

This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”

A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.

“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”

Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in Mahwah, near the Ramapo Fault.

Preparing for the Nuclear Winter (Revelation 16)

Nuclear winter is still a hot topic as a new arms race heats up

Rachel Becker

A nuclear arms race is heating back up again — and with it, talk of the cold, dark nuclear winter that could follow on the heels of a nuclear war.

Within the past week, the US and Russia pulled out of a critical arms control agreement. The US is ramping up production of a new mini-nuke that could change the landscape of nuclear conflict, according to Defense News. And North Korea doesn’t appear willing to get rid of its nuclear weapons any time soon. As nuclear tensions start rising again, the threat of a nuclear winter is coming back into the frame.

It’s a subject worth talking about says Richard Turco, a professor emeritus at UCLA and one of the authors of the 1983 scientific paper that first proposed the idea. “Although there is a relatively low probability of nuclear winter happening, the potential consequences would be catastrophic — namely the destruction of human civilization,” Turco says in an email to The Verge.

““The potential consequences would be catastrophic.””

The idea is that a global nuclear war might set entire cities on fire, as Alex Ward describes for Vox. The soot from the conflagration could waft all the way into a part of the upper atmosphere called the stratosphere. There, the theory goes, the soot will shade the Earth from the sun — dropping temperatures, destroying crops, drying up the rain, and damaging the ozone layer. “It wouldn’t take very long for people to starve to death,” says Alan Robock, a professor of environmental sciences at Rutgers University who has been studying nuclear winter since the 1980s.

It’s a dark prediction for a post-apocalyptic world, and scientists are still figuring out just how bad it could get. After all, no one has dropped a nuke on a city since the US bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That means there’s little real-world data for researchers like Robock to go on. “This theory is not one we want to actually test outdoors,” he says.

““This theory is not one we want to actually test outdoors.””

So scientists rely on simulations and events like forest fires and volcanic eruptions to validate their models. Different models disagree — although Robock doesn’t like to characterize the discrepancies as a debate, calling them instead an area of active research. For example, Robock and his colleagues estimate that if India and Pakistan began nuking each other, the conflict could churn out enough soot to make global temperatures plummet. But another study published in 2018 by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory argues that not enough soot would make it into the upper atmosphere to cause major shifts in the climate. (The study’s corresponding author did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

“Now we come to the scientific issue that’s at the heart of the controversy,” says Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT who wrote about the concept of a nuclear winter in the 1980s. “Are the fires hot enough, or big enough to get material up into the stratosphere?”

““Are the fires hot enough, or big enough?””

Robock and Julie Lundquist, an associate professor in the department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, are trying to find out. We know that smoke can get into the stratosphere, Lundquist says. Researchers studying the 2017 wildfires in British Columbia, for example, discovered that storm clouds that formed because of the smoke, called pyrocumulonimbus clouds, helped deliver soot particles into the stratosphere. That’s where soot would need to go if it were going to cause long-term climate changes: soot in the lower atmosphere settles out of the air quickly, often falling to the ground with rain.

But Lundquist and her colleagues don’t know how often those pyrocumulonimbus clouds or their younger siblings, pyrocumulus clouds, are likely to form over a nuked and burning city. The conditions need to be just right, with calm winds and enough humidity. Then there’s the amount of smoke likely to rise from a nuked city, which would vary from city to city depending on the available fuel. That’s another major source of uncertainty: most fire-modeling studies have focused on wildland fires rather than major urban areas.

That’s something Lundquist is trying to change with her new models. She expects cities to produce more smoke than, say, a forest fire because of the sheer density of things that can burn. “Think about the carpets, think about papers, think about books, think about the furniture,” she says. “There’s more combustible stuff per square unit area in a city or in a suburban area.”

““Even if it’s not very likely, it could be devastating.””

Lundquist and Robock haven’t published the findings from this new research yet, but in the meantime, they want to continue the conversation about nuclear war and the possibility of a nuclear winter. “I think it’s important to let policy makers know that there could be very big consequences to political choices,” she says. “So even if it’s not very likely, it could be devastating.”

No matter how the science shakes out, there are lots of other consequences to a nuclear conflict that would be felt long before we even get to a nuclear winter. “Is that the main reason you’d want to avoid having a nuclear war? I don’t know,” says MIT’s Emanuel. “Maybe it’s a reason, but there are plenty of other reasons you don’t want to go down that road.”