WERE RUSSIA and the US to go to nuclear war over Ukraine, the impact on the Earth could see the planet plunged into a new Ice Age, with devastating and long-term consequences.
By Ian Randall
07:53, Fri, Jul 8, 2022 | UPDATED: 08:14, Fri, Jul 8, 2022
In their study, earth scientist Professor Cheryl Harrison of the Louisiana State University and her colleagues ran various models of the impact of nuclear warfare on the Earth’s system. They considered the effects on both a regional and larger scale — and factored in the current nuclear warfare capabilities of the world’s nations. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, nine nations currently control more than 13,00 nuclear weapons.
The researchers simulated the impacts of both nuclear conflict between Russia and the US, using 4,400 100-kiloton bombs, and India and Pakistan, involving 500 100-kiloton bombs.
In all of their computer simulations, the team found that nuclear firestorms would release soot and smoke into the upper atmosphere, blocking out the sun and leading to crop failures all around the world.
In the US–Russia scenario, more than 330 billion pounds of sunlight-blocking black carbon would be placed into the upper atmosphere, while an India–Pakistan conflict would produce 11–103 billion pounds of smoke and soot.
Furthermore, the first month following the nuclear detonations would see average global temperatures plunge by around 13F — a greater shift that was seen in the last Ice Age.
Prof Harrison said: “It doesn’t matter who is bombing whom. It can be India and Pakistan or NATO and Russia.
“Once the smoke is released into the upper atmosphere, it spreads globally and affects everyone.”
According to the researchers, the wake of nuclear war would see ocean temperatures fall rapidly — and this would not return to its pre-conflict state even after the smoke cleared.
As the planet cooled, sea ice would expand by more than six million square miles, reaching thickness of six feet in some basins while blocking major ports – including Copenhagen, St Petersburg and Beijing’s Port of Tianjin. In the worst case scenarios, these changes could last thousands of years.
The combination of darkness and falling ocean temperatures would kill algae — especially in the Atlantic and North Pacific oceans.
As algae are the foundation of the marine food web, this loss would cause a famine within the ocean, bringing aquaculture and fishing to a halt.
Oceans take longer to recover than land, the researchers noted. In the worst-case US–Russia scenario, they added, surface ocean recovery would be likely to take decades, while the deep ocean would need hundreds of years.
Paper author and climatologist Professor Alan Robock of Rutgers University said: “Nuclear warfare results in dire consequences for everyone.
“World leaders have used our studies previously as an impetus to end the nuclear arms race in the 1980s — and five years ago to pass a treaty in the United Nations to ban nuclear weapons.
“We hope that this new study will encourage more nations to ratify the ban treaty.”
The team said their findings highlight the interconnected nature of Earth’s systems.
Prof Harrison said: “The current war in Ukraine with Russia and how it has affected gas prices, really show us how fragile our global economy and our