Janos Sugar on Wed, 13 Dec 2006 21:44:20 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> fwd: consequences of regional scale nuclear conflicts

fwd: consequences of regional scale nuclear conflicts

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions (ACPD): Abstracts .
AtmosChem. Phys. Discuss., 6, 11745-11816, 2006

Atmospheric effects and societal consequences of regional scale
nuclear conflicts and acts of individual nuclear terrorism

We assess the potential damage and smoke production associated with
the detonation of small nuclear weapons in modern megacities. While
the number of nuclear warheads in the world has fallen by about
a factor of three since its peak in 1986, the number of nuclear
weapons states is increasing and the potential exists for numerous
regional nuclear arms races. Eight countries are known to have
nuclear weapons, 2 are constructing them, and an additional 32
nations already have the fissile material needed to build substantial
arsenals of low-yield (Hiroshima-sized) explosives. Population and
economic activity worldwide are congregated to an increasing extent
in megacities, which might be targeted in a nuclear conflict. Our
analysis shows that, per kiloton of yield, low yield weapons can
produce 100 times as many fatalities and 100 times as much smoke
from fires as high-yield weapons, if they are targeted at city
centers. A single &quot;small'' nuclear detonation in an urban
center could lead to more fatalities, in some cases by orders of
magnitude, than have occurred in the major historical conflicts of
many countries. We analyze the likely outcome of a regional nuclear
exchange involving 100 15-kt explosions (less than 0.1% of the
explosive yield of the current global nuclear arsenal). We find that
such an exchange could produce direct fatalities comparable to all
of those worldwide in World War II, or to those once estimated for
"counterforce" nuclear war between the superpowers. Megacities exposed
to atmospheric fallout of long-lived radionuclides would likely
be abandoned indefinitely, with severe national and international
implications. Our analysis shows that smoke from urban firestorms
in a regional war would rise into the upper troposphere due to
pyro-convection. Robock et al.&nbsp;(2006) show that the smoke would
subsequently rise deep into the stratosphere due to atmospheric
heating, and then might induce significant climatic anomalies on
global scales.We also anticipate substantial perturbations of global
ozone. While there are many uncertainties in the predictions we make
here, the principal unknowns are the type and scale of conflict that
might occur. The scope and severity of the hazards identified pose
a significant threat to the global community. They deserve careful
analysis by governments worldwide advised by a broad section of the
world scientific community, as well as widespread public debate.


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