Nuclear war: preliminary estimates of the climatic effects of a nuclear exchange

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The smoke rising from burning cities, industrial areas, and forests if such areas are attacked as part of a major nuclear exchange is projected to increase the hemispheric average atmospheric burden of highly absorbent carbonaceous material by 100 to 1000 times. As the smoke spreads from these fires, it would prevent sunlight from reaching the surface, leading to a sharp cooling of land areas over a several day period. Within a few weeks, the thick smoke would spread so as to largely cover the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, cooling mid-continental smoke-covered areas by, perhaps, a few tens of degrees ... continued below

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Pages: 25

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MacCracken, M.C. October 1, 1983.

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Description

The smoke rising from burning cities, industrial areas, and forests if such areas are attacked as part of a major nuclear exchange is projected to increase the hemispheric average atmospheric burden of highly absorbent carbonaceous material by 100 to 1000 times. As the smoke spreads from these fires, it would prevent sunlight from reaching the surface, leading to a sharp cooling of land areas over a several day period. Within a few weeks, the thick smoke would spread so as to largely cover the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, cooling mid-continental smoke-covered areas by, perhaps, a few tens of degrees Celsius. Cooling of near coastal areas would be substantially less, since oceanic heat capacity would help to buffer temperature changes in such regions. The calculations on which these findings are based contain many assumptions, shortcomings and uncertainties that affect many aspects of the estimated response. It seems, nonetheless, quite possible that if a nuclear exchange involves attacks on a very large number of cities and industrial areas, thereby starting fires that generate as much smoke as is suggested by recent studies, substantial cooling could be expected that would last weeks to months over most continental regions of the Northern Hemisphere, but which may have relatively little direct effect on the Southern Hemisphere.

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Pages: 25

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NTIS, PC A02/MF A01.

Source

  • 3. international conference on nuclear war, Erice, Italy, 16 Aug 1983

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  • Other: DE84002729
  • Report No.: UCRL-89770
  • Report No.: CONF-8308134-3
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-48
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 5520577
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc1087460

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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  • October 1, 1983

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Feb. 10, 2018, 10:06 p.m.

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  • April 26, 2018, 7:07 p.m.

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MacCracken, M.C. Nuclear war: preliminary estimates of the climatic effects of a nuclear exchange, article, October 1, 1983; [Livermore,] California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1087460/: accessed September 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.