A Collaborative National Center for Fusion & Plasma Research
June 18, 2014,
4:00pm to 5:30pm

MBG Auditorium

COLLOQUIUM: Nuclear Famine: The Threat to Humanity from Nuclear Weapons

Dr. Alan Robock
Rutgers University

A nuclear war between India and Pakistan, with each country using 50 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs as airbursts on urban areas, would inject smoke from the resulting fires into the stratosphere. This could produce climate change unprecedented in recorded human history and global-scale ozone depletion, with enhanced ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching the surface. Simulations with the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM), run at higher vertical and horizontal resolution than a previous simulation with the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies ModelE, and incorporating ozone chemistry for the first time, show a longer stratospheric residence time for smoke and hence a longer-lasting climate response, with global average surface air temperatures still 1.1 K below normal and global average precipitation 4% below normal after a decade. The erythemal dose from the enhanced UV radiation would greatly increase, in spite of enhanced absorption by the remaining smoke.

Scenarios of changes in temperature, precipitation, and downward shortwave radiation were applied to the Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer crop model for winter wheat, rice, soybeans, and maize, producing decreases of 10-40% in yield averaged over a decade, with larger decreases in the first several years, over the midlatitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. The impact of the nuclear war simulated here, using much less than 1% of the global nuclear arsenal, would be devastating to world agricultural production and trade, possibly sentencing a billion people now living marginal existences to starvation. The continued environmental threat of the use of even a small number of nuclear weapons must be considered in nuclear policy deliberations in Russia, the U.S., and the rest of the world.

Colloquium Committee: 

The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory 2017-2018 Colloquium Committee is comprised of the following people. Please feel free to contact them by e-mail regarding any possible speakers or topics for future colloquia.

Carol Ann Austin, caustin@pppl.gov
Nathaniel Ferraro, nferraro@pppl.gov
Charles A Gentile, cgentile@pppl.gov
Masayuki Ono, mono@pppl.gov
Tori Sikkema, tsikkema@pppl.gov

  • Carol Ann Austin 609-243-2484

U.S. Department of Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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