December 11, 2006 2:17 PM PST

Megacities, global warming make nuclear war even more dangerous

SAN FRANCISCO--Nuclear weapons are even more dangerous than we thought.

Increased urbanization around the globe, combined with greater proliferation of nuclear materials and political instability, has increased the risks of nuclear war, said a panel of scientists at the American Geophysical Union, a conference taking place here this week.

An exchange of 100 15-kiloton weapons between India and Pakistan would kill approximately 20 million people, said Richard Turco, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University California, Los Angeles.

Fifty 15-kiloton weapons would kill about 4 million people in the U.S., if dropped on the biggest cities in the country. During the Cold War, defense analysts estimated that the U.S. would lose 4 million people in a massive attack from the Soviet Union involving thousands of weapons, he noted.

"We're seeing increased urbanization around the world. We are creating megacities around the world," Turco said. "Tehran has 10 million people. The obvious thing to attack if you don't have many weapons is a megacity."

And those are just the direct deaths. The smoke created by a 100-bomb exchange in the subtropical regions would loft in the stratosphere and stay for years, Turco said. This would cause global temperatures to decline by 1.25 degrees Celsius, thereby shortening growing seasons for several crops for years. In the early years, some crops would completely miss their growing seasons. Worldwide precipitation would decline by 10 percent.

Interestingly, Turco and other panelists noted that the energy released by the fires that would follow a nuclear exchange would likely be greater than the energy released by the explosions. The fires get accelerated by the thermal pulse, a huge burst of energy at the time of the explosion of a bomb.

"It's like bringing a piece of the sun down to Earth," he said.

One hundred 15-kiloton weapons represents only a fraction--three-hundredths of 1 percent, actually--of the world's arsenal of nuclear weapons. A 15-kiloton weapon is about the same size of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. India and Pakistan are believed to have 50 weapons each. Around 40 nations have enough nuclear material to make a 15-kiloton bomb, said Owen Toon, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Colorado.

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9 comments

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initial casualties are misleading
The quoted initial casualty estimates obscure the real
devastation of nuclear war; the greatest casualties occur in the
months afterwards, particularly in a wide scale exchange. The
initial exchanges will destroy production and distribution
systems, then as locally stored supplies are depleted starvation
and disease take their toll. Nukes: they just keep on killing.
Posted by emcourtney (36 comments )
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SDI's lookin' pretty good now, eh?
'nuf said.
Posted by Neo Con (428 comments )
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Duck and cover...
I was just starting to miss the good ol'days when I was in school and we did drills to "hide" from nuclear bombs under WOODEN desks.

Just like hippie fashion came back... the good ol'nuke is making a comeback.

Nothing says "can't we work it out?" like mutually assured destruction.
Posted by arluthier (112 comments )
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You know...
Duck and cover, however maligned it's been in the past, actually wasn't a half bad idea. It's not designed to protect you from a direct nuclear assault. Rather, the intention was to keep people away from the windows as the blast wave blew them in, tearing unsuspecting students to shreds. At least on the floor with your (clothed) back up, you have a better chance of avoiding immediate injury.

Those videos sure were funny, though. You're right about that.

:)
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
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The Ultimate FUD
Yes, let's all be fraid at all times with no rest in sight. Geez, give us a break will you with the constant need to hype posible outcomes to a negative conclusion. It's always, "We're going to hell and you don't have a hand basket!" or "Everyone has a gun, but you!" or my favorite, "Why take the chance, kill the guy next to you, he might hurt you one day!"

(Going to my happy place)
(Going to my happy place)
(Going to my happy place)
Posted by thedreaming (573 comments )
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Nuclear war would undo years of global warming.
Nuclear war would undo years of global warming. If it caused global temperatures to drop for a few years, that would be a good thing wouldn't it?
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
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Don't tell....
... Al Gore
Posted by feranick (212 comments )
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Ah yes, the great fundraiser
What ever did scientists do for money before global warming came along?

"No problem, no funding."
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
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