Nightmare of the nuclear winter

The climate researcher alan robock warns of the 22.000 nuclear warheads stored in arsenals worldwide

It was a little over 30 years ago: the chernobyl nuclear power plant had just been completed in 1978. Nobody had any idea of a super-gau. The superpowers, the united states and the soviet union, had built up their nuclear arsenals during the long cold war to such an extent that at peak times up to 70,000 warheads were waiting to destroy the city of chernobyl.000 warheads were waiting to wipe out the cities of east and west.

In 1978, the one-hit wonder hit "hiroshima" by the british band wishful thinking also entered the german charts. At that time, the anti-nuclear movement still called itself the peace movement, demonstrations were held at ostermarschen against the nato double decision made in 1979, and in eastern germany, students showed up with subversive "swords to plowshares"-stickers. From 1983, the former allies stationed their nuclear pershing missiles in the federal republic of germany. Nena sang her hit song for the first time in the same year "99 balloons", which tells about a paranoid reaction of militars to a lot of colorful balloons – with known consequences.

The nuclear winter hypothesis

The public reception of nuclear danger was not influenced by individual fear of contamination and cancer risk, as it is today, but by a real apocalypse, which researchers painted in the form of nuclear winter. A term for the climate changes resulting from a nuclear war, first pragmatized by a team of researchers in a 1983 science paper. However, the research on this topic goes back a bit further than that.

Initially, however, it was feared that such a conflict could destroy the earth’s ozone layer. In addition, it was extrapolated from the above-ground atomic bomb tests of the 1950s that, for example, a volcanic eruption such as that of krakatoa would put a hundred times more dust into the atmosphere than an atomic bomb explosion would.

It was not until the early 1980s that climate models were able to include the dust input from nuclear explosions more accurately in their calculations. In several papers the dangers were described more and more realistically. A summer temperature drop of 20 to 40 degrees, depending on the humidity of the climate on land within one month.In the following one to three years, land temperatures worldwide were several degrees below normal, and the surface temperature of the oceans was between two and six degrees celsius.

The conclusion was that there could be no real victor in a nuclear war. Not least because of this, the two superpowers finally came to the start treaty and its successors, which reduced the number of nuclear warheads to 22 to date.000 reduced.

Is the danger of a nuclear winter imaginar?

However, at the latest with the events of chernobyl, 1986, the public perception shifted, while internally criticism of the results of the nuclear winter hypothesis became loud. Doubts were raised above all about the amount of dust entering the atmosphere, which was primarily the result of large fires in the cities following a nuclear explosion. Modern cities, so the idea, burn differently than medieval wooden cities.

Moreover, in hiroshima, the dust had quickly caused a black rain to form from the condensation nuclei, washing the dust out of the lower atmosphere – before it could rise further. Is the danger of a nuclear winter imaginary?? No, warns climatologist alan robock in the current ie of the science magazine nature: nuclear winter is a real and present danger.

The main argument is that nuclear weapons are distributed differently today than they were in the 1980s. With the usa as the only remaining superpower, the danger of a third world war has decreased, but local wars, for example between india and pakistan, could also trigger the causal chain for the beginning of a nuclear winter. Each 50 atomic bombs of the coarseness of the hiroshima bomb, rounded from both sides, less than one percent of today’s arsenal, thus, 5 million tons of ash were put into the atmosphere.

Since 2007, the inclusion of higher atmospheric layers in climate models has shown that global cooling has lasted much longer than previously feared. Temperatures, according to the forecast, were lower than in the "little ice age" between 1400 and 1850, for about ten years, growing seasons in all climatic zones were significantly shortened.

That robock now uses nature as a platform to disseminate these not entirely new findings, he justifies above all with their ignorance by politics. The new start treaty, robock said, is not enough – but the administration refuses to include new evidence in the discussion in much the same way as it did with human-caused climate change projections. It took the cuban dictator fidel castro to invite people to a conference on nuclear winter in havana for the topic to be discussed, at least on the internet.

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