Climatic Consequences of Nuclear Conflict
Nuclear Winter is Still a Danger

 

Alan Robock

Department of Environmental Sciences

Rutgers University

robock@envsci.rutgers.edu

+1-848-932-5751 (work)
+1-732-881-1610 (cell)

Animation drawn by Luke Oman.

February 20, 2014 Huffington Post Blog: Ban Nuclear Weapons; Saving Money and Saving the World

TEDx presentation of the message (18 minutes):

  TEDx talk on Climatic Effects of Nuclear War, in Hoboken, New Jersey, June 28, 2013 (18 minutes)

Brief (12 minutes) presentation of the message:

or  (flash) or YouTube or Climatic Consequences of Nuclear Conflict (download), invited presentation; AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, California, December 5-9, 2011.  This was the December 7, 2011, session to honor new AGU Fellows, and I presented it in a tuxedo.  (12 minutes)

For a quick summary of the results:

Stumbling in the dark, reaching for the light, by Tilman Ruff (July 25, 2013) 

No such thing as a safe number of nukes, by Ira Helfand and Alan Robock, CNN (June 20, 2013)  

Self-assured destruction: The climate impacts of nuclear war, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists  (September, 2012)

Nuclear Famine: A Billion People at Risk, by Ira Helfand (April, 2012)

Scientific American 12 Events That Will Change Everything, Made Interactive, Click on mushroom cloud, then click on "Interview with Alan Robock." (May 21, 2010)

Regional Nuclear War and the Environment, by Eben Harrell in Time Science (Jan. 22, 2009)

Nuclear Winter article in Encyclopedia of Earth (July 21, 2008)

One Page Summary: Congressional Briefing (June 12, 2008)

 

For an illustrated 8-page summary of the results:

Local nuclear war, global suffering.  Scientific American (January, 2010)

 

PowerPoint Presentation Updated, February, 2014:

Climatic Consequences of Nuclear Conflict (57 Mb) (by Alan Robock) presented multiple times

PowerPoint Presentation, January, 2012:

Climatic Consequences of Nuclear Conflict (38 Mb) (by Alan Robock) presented multiple times - includes quotes from Mikhail Gorbachev on how important nuclear winter was in his decision to end the nuclear arms race (e.g., see answer to first question in his interview at http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2000/09/07/gorbachev/)

PowerPoint Presentations, June, 2008:

Casualties and smoke emissions from regional and global nuclear conflict (8 Mb)  (by Brian Toon, June 12, 2008) presented to Congressional briefings

Climatic Consequences of Nuclear Conflict (8 Mb) (by Alan Robock, June 12, 2008) presented to Congressional briefings

PowerPoint Presentations, October, 2007:

Climatic Consequences of Regional Nuclear Conflict (31 Mb) (by Alan Robock, October 4, 2007)
        You will also need the movies, pin.AVI and effct01a.mov

Consequences of Regional-Scale Nuclear Conflicts: Understanding and Avoiding Nuclear Catastrophe (2 Mb)  (by Brian Toon, October 9, 2007)

Publications:

  1. Mills, Michael J., Owen B. Toon, Julia Lee-Taylor, and Alan Robock, 2014: Multi-decadal global cooling and unprecedented ozone loss following a regional nuclear conflict. Earth’s Future, 2, 161-176, doi:10.1002/2013EF000205.    PDF file

  2. Xia, Lili, and Alan Robock, 2013: Impacts of a nuclear war in South Asia on rice production in mainland China. Climatic Change, 116, 357-372, doi:10.1007/s10584-012-0475-8.    PDF file

  3. Özdoğan, Mutlu, Alan Robock, and Christopher Kucharik, 2013: Impacts of a nuclear war in South Asia on soybean and maize production in the Midwest United States. Climatic Change, 116, 373-387, doi:10.1007/s10584-012-0518-1.   PDF file

  4. Robock, Alan, and Owen Brian Toon, 2012: Self-assured destruction: The climate impacts of nuclear war, Bull. Atomic Scientists, 68(5), 66-74, doi:10.1177/0096340212459127.  (Invited article)  PDF file

  5. Robock, Alan, 2011: Nuclear winter is a real and present danger. Nature, 473, 275-276.   PDF file

  6. Robock, Alan, and Owen Brian Toon, 2010:  Local nuclear war, global suffering.  Scientific American, 302, 74-81.  PDF file

  7. Robock, Alan, 2010: Nuclear winter. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 1, 418-427. (Invited paper)   PDF file

  8. Robock, Alan, 2010: New START, Eyjafjallajökull, and Nuclear Winter. Eos, 91 (47), 444-445, doi:10.1029/2010ES003201.   PDF file

  9. Mills, Michael J., Owen B. Toon, Richard P. Turco, Douglas E. Kinnison, and Rolando R. Garcia, 2008:  Massive global ozone loss predicted following regional nuclear conflict.  Proc. National Acad. Sci., 105, 5307–5312.   PDF file

  10. Toon, Owen B., Alan Robock, and Richard P. Turco, 2008:  Environmental consequences of nuclear war.  Physics Today, 61, No. 12, 37-42.  PDF file

  11. Robock, Alan, 2008:  Time to bury a dangerous legacy – part II: Climatic catastrophe would follow regional nuclear conflict.  YaleGlobal Online

  12. Robock, Alan, 2008:  Nuclear winter. In: Encyclopedia of Earth. Cutler J. Cleveland, Ed. (Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment). [First published in the Encyclopedia of Earth July 21, 2008; Last revised July 22, 2008].  http://www.eoearth.org/article/Nuclear_winter

  13. Robock, Alan, 2007:  Climate effects of a regional nuclear conflict. IPRC Climate, 7, no. 1, 16-18.   PDF file

  14. Robock, Alan, Luke Oman, Georgiy L. Stenchikov, Owen B. Toon, Charles Bardeen, and Richard P. Turco, 2007a:  Climatic consequences of regional nuclear conflicts.  Atm. Chem. Phys., 7, 2003-2012.  PDF file   Supplement caption  Supplement   This paper supersedes the previous discussion version.  Russian translation (по русский)  (See below for most important figures.)

  15. Robock, Alan, Luke Oman, and Georgiy L. Stenchikov, 2007b:  Nuclear winter revisited with a modern climate model and current nuclear arsenals: Still catastrophic consequences.  J. Geophys. Res., 112, D13107, doi:2006JD008235.  PDF file  Russian translation (по русский)  Featured as a Research Highlight in Nature.

  16. Robock, Alan, Owen B. Toon, Richard P. Turco, Luke Oman, Georgiy L. Stenchikov, and Charles Bardeen, 2007c: The continuing environmental threat of nuclear weapons:  Integrated policy responses needed.  EOS, 88, 228, 231, doi:10.1029/2007ES001816.  PDF file

  17. Toon, Owen B., Richard P. Turco, Alan Robock, Charles Bardeen, Luke Oman, and Georgiy L. Stenchikov, 2007:  Atmospheric effects and societal consequences of regional scale nuclear conflicts and acts of individual nuclear terrorism.  Atm. Chem. Phys., 7, 1973-2002.  PDF file  This paper supersedes the previous discussion version.   Russian translation (по русский)

  18. Toon, Owen B., Alan Robock, Richard P. Turco, Charles Bardeen, Luke Oman, and Georgiy L. Stenchikov, 2007:  Consequences of regional-scale nuclear conflicts.  Science, 315, 1224-1225.  PDF file

Movies:

5 Tg of smoke from a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan (from Robock et al., 2007a):

BCabsoptdaily.gif is an animation of the smoke distribution as it is spread around the world by the winds.  The smoke is heated by absorbing sunlight, lofted into the upper stratosphere, and blown into the Southern Hemisphere.Animation drawn by Luke Oman.

 

BCabsopred.gif is the same animation as BCabsoptdaily.gif, but in red.Animation drawn by Luke Oman.

 

BCabsoptdailyheight.gif contains the same animation as BCabsoptdaily.gif, but also includes a graph at the side that shows the vertical distribution of the smoke.  Within the first week the smoke in the troposphere, the lowest atmospheric layer, is lofted or washed out, and the remaining smoke is lofted well into the stratosphere, removed from weather where it can remain for years.  The black horizontal line at about 150 mb marks the boundary between the troposphere and stratosphere, at about 12 km (7 miles).  The top of the stratosphere (at 50 km or 30 miles) has a pressure of about 1 mb. (Updated June 14, 2008, to correct small errors.  If you downloaded this before June 14, 2008, please take this new one.)  Animation drawn by Luke Oman.

50 Tg of smoke from a nuclear war between Russia and U.S. using 1/3 of the current arsenal (from Robock et al., 2007b):

BCdaily50tg.gif is an animation of the smoke distribution as it is spread around the world by the winds.  The smoke is heated by absorbing sunlight, lofted into the upper stratosphere, and blown into the Southern Hemisphere.  Annimation drawn by Luke Oman.

150 Tg of smoke from a nuclear war between Russia and U.S. using the entire current arsenal (from Robock et al., 2007b):

BCdaily150tg.gif is an animation of the smoke distribution as it is spread around the world by the winds.  The smoke is heated by absorbing sunlight, lofted into the upper stratosphere, and blown into the Southern Hemisphere.  Annimation drawn by Luke Oman.

Figures from Robock et al. (2007a):

 

Fig3TempPrecip.jpg  Time variation of global average net surface shortwave radiation, surface air temperature, and precipitation changes for the 5 Tg standard case.  The global average precipitation in the control case is 3.0 mm/day, so the changes in years 2-4 represent a 9% global average reduction in precipitation.  The precipitation recovers faster than the temperature, but both lag the forcing.  For comparison the global average net surface shortwave forcing from a model simulation of the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption is shown.  By contrast, volcanic particle last for a much shorter time in the atmosphere, as they are not lofted by solar absorption.  Figure drawn by Luke Oman.

Fig5SummerTempMap.jpg  Surface air temperature changes for the 5 Tg standard case averaged for June, July, and August of the first year following the smoke injection.  Effects are largest over land, but there is substantial cooling over tropical oceans, too.  The warming over Antarctica is for a small area, is part of normal winter interannual variability, and is not significant.  Figure drawn by Luke Oman.

Fig9GISStemperatures.jpg  Global average surface air temperature change from the 5 Tg standard case (red) in the context of the climate change of the past 125 years.  Observations are from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies analysis (Hansen et al., 2001, updated at http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/2005/).  Figure drawn by Alan Robock.

Fig10HockeyStick.jpg  Northern Hemisphere average surface air temperature change from 5 Tg standard case (red) in the context of the climate change of the past 1000 years.  Black curve is from Mann et al. (1999), and the blue curve is from the latest data from the Climatic Research Unit website (http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/).  Figure drawn by Alan Robock.

Fig11GrowingSeason.jpg  Change in growing season (period with freeze-free days) in the first year following the 5 Tg standard case smoke injection.    Figure drawn by Luke Oman.

References

 

Hansen, J. E., et al., 2001: A closer look at United States and global surface temperature change, J. Geophys. Res., 106, 23,947-23,963, doi:10.1029/2001JD000354.

 

Mann, M. E., R. S. Bradley, and M. K. Hughes, 1999: Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: Inferences, uncertainties, and limitations, Geophys. Res. Lett., 26, 759-762.

 



Prepared by Alan Robock (robock@envsci.rutgers.edu) - Last updated on May 28, 2014

This work is partly supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation grants ATM-0313592, ATM-0351280, ATM-0730452 and AGS-1157525.