Sep 292016

Well, this looks fun:

Heavy price of India-Pak N-war: 21 mn may die, half of ozone layer will vanish

If India and Pakistan fought a war detonating 100 nuclear warheads (around half of their combined arsenal), each equivalent to a 15-kiloton Hiroshima bomb, more than 21 million people will be directly killed, about half the world’s protective ozone layer would be destroyed, and a “nuclear winter” would cripple the monsoons and agriculture worldwide.

Well, at least that’s a load off my mind… no more worrying about global warming.

I need these guys to hold off on their little nuclear war for a few decades, otherwise it’ll mess with some stories I’m writing. And that would be a tragedy.

 Posted by at 9:53 pm
  • MzUnGu

    Anything nuclear is always a little over blown, the total is not that different than the energy releases from like Mount St Helen… comparing that to what the Sun dumps into the atmosphere everyday it’s nothing. Not feeling much of a Volcanic Winter either…

    There is like a kindergarten 200m from Hiroshima’s Ground-0 now, so unless the Indians and Pakis licks the ground every day, I think there will be plenty of them left over to fight this war for another day. 😀

    • Scottlowther

      The metric isn’t just energy release. A volcano is something of a point source, while a nuclear exchange is area coverage. The exchange sets fire to forests and industrial sites and cities and so on, burning a lot more *stuff* than a volcano and spewing potentially much more soot and ash into the air.

      • MzUnGu

        I doubt that. If we use Hiroshima as an example, the fire damaged is all within like 2-km radius, that’s well within most city limits, and far from any forest… Pretty sure the people in the suburbs can put out those fires.

        • Scottlowther

          If someone just nuked a city, the suburbanites are hardly likely going to be racing towards the firestorm to put it out. Especially if the news is that this wasn’t an isolated incident but just one of an ongoing series of nuclear strikes in an all-out war.

          • MzUnGu

            I doubt news would travel fast in the first few hrs when the the infrastructure and electronic knocked out.

            Unless the weather is just right, with the right temp, humidity and wind speed. Large fires are pretty hard to set when the conditions are not right, especially with modern construction materials that are mostly none flammable. Streets are so much wilder now for car use, that it’s quite effective to stop a fire from spreading compares to the narrow walkway of yester years..

            Something I read a while back is that outside of the 2 km radius, 90% of the people will likely survive, and 50+% is likely to be what the military consider “able”. Saving your hard earn home it’s a big motivator, considering it’s prob your best bet to live, so they’ll be putting the fires out. Somebody put out the fire at Hiroshima.

          • Scottlowther

            “Modern construction?” “Car use?” “Hard earned home?” We’re talking New Delhi and Islamabad here.

            Looking up photos of Islamabad, it looks reasonably ok. Very low to the ground, with lots of trees. Lots of burny, burny trees.

            > Somebody put out the fire at Hiroshima.

            Yeah. God (if you believe that sort of thing). The Hiroshima firestorm was *so* energetic that it formed a column of fire that shot into the sky. The result of that was that air at ground level rushed in *towards* the fire… bad for the region on fire, but the wind helped prevent the fire from spreading. The region that was on fire burned until there was nothing left to burn.

            This sort of thing may or may not be the norm. A lot will depend on the current weather at the target. Strong enough wind might tend to blow the firestorm downrange, allowing it to spread.

          • MzUnGu

            Most trees are like 50% water, pretty hard to burn, unless there are years of dead leaves and branches in them city. 😀 I thought I read something along the line that the gov moved a patch of forest to NV for a blast test, n thinking to clear the jungle in Vietnam at 1 time.

          • MzUnGu
          • Scottlowther

            Define “better.” Thousand bomber raids with incendiaries, or one-bomber raids with nukes. Also, the chart is unclear. In places like Hamburg or Dresden, sure, lots of deaths casued by fire. Because that was pretty much to sole mechanism at work. But in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was also blast and Getting Friggen Evaporated, which I imagine doesn’t strictly count as “fire.”

            And if “fire” is the sole thing you want, I bet “bat bombs” would rank pretty high on the effectiveness chart.

  • sferrin

    about half the world’s protective ozone layer would be destroyed, and a “nuclear winter” would cripple the monsoons and agriculture worldwide.

    That’s a bit difficult to believe given all the open air testing in the 50s & 60s didn’t do that.

    • Scottlowther

      The testing in the 50’s and 60’s tended to be over oceans and deserts.

      • sferrin

        How would that make any difference to the ozone layer?

        • Scottlowther

          If you don’t combust stuff you don’t inject combustion products into the ozone layer.

  • cygnus_darkstar

    1.5 megatons of combined yield is absolutely not going to have the sorts of dire global climatic effects the writers of this paper propose. Not only have we tested individual devices of vastly higher yield, but also entire strings of fusion-device test shots whose aggregate yield dwarfs that figure.

    If burning a bunch of cities down in short order would have such effects, then we should have seen similar if less severe consequences from our incendiary bombing campaigns in Imperial Japan. Of course we know that nuclear initiations don’t necessarily light a city on fire, in fact usually don’t because the blast wave tends to stifle large fires. This effect is more pronounced with lower-yield devices for which the heat-pulse is relatively weaker vs. the blast effects.

    As others have pointed out there are numerous natural phenomena which result in the release of significantly more energy. Yes, they are point phenomena, but they also routinely break into the 10’s of megatons and throw vast quantities of particulates into the air. Violent volcanic eruptions tend to produce a lot more atmospheric debris than even a relatively large groundburst, for instance.

    In fact we can use such events, at least the ones we’ve observed, to put some upper and lower bounds on this. Mt. St. Helens yield is estimated at 25 megatons and it put tremendous quantities of crap into the atmosphere, but resulted in no meaningful climatic change (AFAIK). Krakatoa, estimated at 150 megatons, did have noticeable global effects, causing a 1-year temperature drop of more than a degree c and chaotic weather patterns that didn’t fully even out for around 20 years. It had to put *tens of cubic kilometers* of ash and pulverized rock into the air to accomplish this. Our best guess for Thera is ~600 megatons, and that definitely caused major short-term climate disruption and crop failures, though there is still significant disagreement on the severity and duration of these effects.

    Besides all that, I’ve got to say that any paper that seriously uses the words “nuclear winter” has automatically lost all credibility from my perspective.

    • Scottlowther

      > If burning a bunch of cities down in short order would have such
      effects, then we should have seen similar if less severe consequences
      from our incendiary bombing campaigns in Imperial Japan.

      Fire bombing Japan (and Germany) involved a couple cities at a time. A nuclear war between India and Pakistan would potentially involve nuking *hundreds* of cities and industrial sites more or less at once.

      > Of course we know that nuclear initiations don’t necessarily light a city on fire

      We have two examples, both of which involved firestorms. The blast wave tends to *aid* the spread of fire by blowing out windows and wrecking roofs. IIRC, the Brits dropped Tallboy bombs on Dresden prior to dropping incendiaries so that the “earthquake bombs” would blow out windows and help the fire spread.

      And don’t forget Tambora in 1815. That one caused “The Year Without a Summer” and wrecked a years worth of crops.

      And keep this in mind:
      For example, the mushroom cloud from the bomb dropped on Hiroshima reached a height of six kilometers (middle
      troposphere) within a few minutes and then dissipated due to winds,
      while the individual fires within the city took almost three hours to
      form into a firestorm and produce a “pyrocumulus” cloud, a cloud that is assumed to have reached upper
      tropospheric heights, as over its multiple hours of burning, the
      firestorm released an estimated 1000 times the energy of the bomb.

      Total yield of the weapons is a bad metric. Just like the energy release of a single match just isn’t that much, but if it’s used to start a fire that burns a house down, the effect is magnified many fold.

      • cygnus_darkstar

        That’s why I explicitly mentioned the volume of ejecta along with the estimated yield. Now that’s probably a high estimate of the material you need, because a lot of that stuff was short-range material that would have fallen in the area around the eruption, but it’s good enough a rough-order-of-magnitude estimate.

        Yes, Hiroshima and Nagasaki burned, but we spent a lot of time and effort during the Cold War trying to determine if the same would happen to our own cities and came to the conclusion that, at least with the assumption of an airbursted low-yield device, it probably wouldn’t. Things are much chancier with the larger fusion devices that have a far larger heat pulse and the potential to light things on fire many miles from the point of initiation. Generally those studies indicated that the greatest fire risk isn’t the bomb itself but ruptured gas lines, etc.

        The relevant question is of course whether Indian and Pakistani cities will burn. That one’s harder to answer. They tend to be relatively flat affairs with large slums, building built close together, but also a high proportion of non-flammables used in construction (concrete block, etc.) so we’d probably need to do a more detailed study to have any confidence. Any Emergence services are likely to be swamped immediately so they can probably be largely discounted.

        The other issue is that, assuming we’re looking at an exchange with a few hundred devices, that’s probably somewhere around a hundred targets overall (note that this is bigger than the exchange postulated in the original study). Some of those will not be in cities, and others will be close enough together that they’ll amount to hitting the same urban area multiple times to take out things that are just far enough apart to need separate warhead allocations. This isn’t like the infamous “X is the deadliest substance on Earth (if you divide it evenly and inject it directly into each person’s bloodstream)” pronouncements, we’re not dividing the devices up evenly so as to hit as many urban centers as possible. As a result you’re probably looking at quite a few less than a hundred urban centers being hit, even assuming a full exchange.

        Your source mentions the energy of the Hiroshima firestorm being 1000 times greater than that of the device itself, using this as the basis of the match analogy, but as we’ve been talking about the total energy release isn’t the relevant metric – plenty of very high-energy natural phenomena match the quantities we’re talking about. For climatic variation the high-altitude particulate quantity is the important metric, and you just aren’t going to get the cubic kilometers of material out of the 50 or 60 urban centers such an attack would hit, even assuming they all burn.

        As an aside, by the ’80s we were modeling the climatic effects of full exchanges between the US and USSR, the results being the consistent prediction of a nasty 3-5 year “nuclear autumn” with warmer winters and cooler summers (and bizarrely high temperatures at high altitude). These indicated bad crop failures, but more due to reduction in insolation than temperature variation.

      • publiusr

        This is assuming their missiles work. I suspect the exchange will be lower, but there will be zones of intense radiation where some of the missile hardware falls short. Then too, the Agni might be the equal of Pershing II and others of a class of missile I thought we had seen the last of.

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  • MrAnderson

    I liked one site on Facebook, posting many photos of modern weapons, and EVERY time when the image showed the Indian or Pakistani stuff, the opposite side attacked in the comments sayin: “this fighter is no match for our AA missile”, then they got response: “but our cruise missiles will wreck your launchers before they even launch them!!11!” and so on. All of it written by 30-40 years old. Are all InPakis like that? Cause if yes, we are pretty much dead.