MADISON - Though worries about "nuclear winter" have faded since the end of the Cold War, existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons still hold the potential for devastating global impacts.
Researchers at the University of WisconsinMadison and Rutgers University have found that the climate effects of a hypothetical nuclear war between India and Pakistan would greatly reduce yields of staple crops, even in distant countries.
The work, by Mutlu Ozdogan and Chris Kucharik of the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UWMadison and Alan Robock of Rutgers' Center for Environmental Prediction, will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Climatic Change.
Robock used global climate models to calculate the climate impacts of a conflict between India and Pakistan, each using 50 nuclear weapons.
"This is essentially a climate change experiment, but instead of running a climate change model under a global CO2 scenario, you run it under a soot scenario, where the soot comes from fires from cities and industrial areas burning as a result of the war," explains Ozdogan, a UWMadison professor of forest and wildlife ecology.
The soot and smoke can travel around the world in the atmosphere and block some of the sunlight that would normally reach the Earth. That leads to cooler temperatures, altered weather and precipitation patterns, and shorter growing seasons.
"We were surprised that there was such a large climate change climate change unprecedented in recorded human history even from a war with 50 small nuclear weapons per side, much, much less than one percent of the current nuclear arsenal," says Robock. He adds that the changes also lasted a full decade, much longer than he expected. "The question is, what impact does that have on things that matter to humans, and the most important is our food supply."
The researchers used the climate
|Contact: Mutlu Ozdogan|
University of Wisconsin-Madison