Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2022-852
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2022-852
10 Jan 2023
10 Jan 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Opinion: How Nuclear Winter has Saved the World, So Far

Alan Robock1, Lili Xia1, Cheryl S. Harrison2, Joshua Coupe2, Owen B. Toon3, and Charles G. Bardeen4 Alan Robock et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University, 14 College Farm Road, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 08901 USA
  • 2Department of Ocean and Coastal Science and Center for Computation and Technology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 70803 USA
  • 3Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder Colorado, 80303 USA
  • 4Atmospheric Chemistry Observations and Modeling Laboratory, U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, 80307 USA

Abstract. The direct effects of nuclear war would be horrific, with blast, fires, and radiation killing and injuring many people. But in 1983, United States and Soviet Union scientists showed that a nuclear war could also produce a nuclear winter, with catastrophic consequences for global food supplies for people far removed from the conflict. Smoke from fires ignited by nuclear weapons exploded on cities and industrial targets would block out sunlight, causing dark, cold, and dry surface conditions, producing a nuclear winter, with surface temperatures below freezing even in summer for years. Nuclear winter theory helped to end the nuclear arms race in the 1980s and to produce the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017, which led to the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. Because awareness of nuclear winter is now widespread, nuclear nations have so far not used nuclear weapons. But the mere existence of nuclear weapons means that they can be used, by unstable leaders or because of an accident, computer malfunction, sensor malfunction, human error, or terrorism. Because they cannot be used without the danger of escalation and a global humanitarian catastrophe, and because of recent threats to use them by Russia, it is even more urgent for scientists to broadly communicate their results and work for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Alan Robock et al.

Status: open (until 21 Feb 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2022-852', Alexander Kmentt, 30 Jan 2023 reply

Alan Robock et al.

Alan Robock et al.

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Short summary
A nuclear war could produce a nuclear winter, with catastrophic consequences for global food supplies. Smoke from city fires ignited by nuclear weapons would block out sunlight, causing dark, cold, and dry surface conditions for years. Nuclear winter theory helped to end the nuclear arms race in the 1980s, to produce the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017, which led to the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, and so far to prevent additional use of nuclear weapons. They must be eliminated.
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