Nuclear Winter Reappraised

Courtesy Reuters

Apocalyptic visions of the environmental effects of nuclear war have been a part of our popular culture for decades. But apart from appreciating any entertainment value, the cognoscenti of nuclear war have regarded the doomsday predictions as ignorant at best, or dangerous propaganda at worst. The potential global environmental effects of nuclear explosions that were known before 1982—radioactive fallout and the destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer—were almost universally accepted in the strategic weapons community as being far short of true doomsday proportions. Indeed, for the combatant nations, such uncertain "secondary" effects were thought to pale before the assured direct effects of blast, heat and local radioactivity. From a scientific standpoint, this skepticism of environmental doomsday effects was probably justified in the sense that a large nuclear war would have been more devastating to the superpowers than any known indirect effects. The discovery of "nuclear winter" has challenged this

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