A “nuclear El Niño”, an unexpected consequence of a large-scale armed conflict

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In addition to a decrease in solar radiation and a sudden cooling of the climate, a large-scale armed conflict would trigger the appearance of a phenomenon called The nuclear child. In any case, this is detailed in a study conducted by researchers at Rutgers University (New Jersey, United States). The results were published in the journal Earth and environment communications this January 22.

The fumes associated with the gigantic fires caused by a nuclear war would induce a major and brutal cooling of the global climate. Indeed, the soot particles dispersed in the atmosphere would permanently reduce the amount of solar radiation reaching the surface. Also, living things would be jostled by abnormally low temperatures but also by the lack of light.

The nuclear child, a phenomenon so far unknown

Thanks to new numerical simulations, researchers recently discovered that such a global conflict would also lead to the appearance of an episode The boy particularly extreme. Scientists baptized it The nuclear child to emphasize the very specific nature of the phenomenon. More precisely, this one is characterized by unprecedented intensity and especially duration – persistent up to more than seven years. Remember that natural episodes last up to two or three years at most. Only a few months if we consider the peak of intensity.

These results have significant implications in terms of food security. And for good reason, The boy causes a decrease in the upwelling of nutrient-rich water from the depths to the surface in the Pacific. Located at the base of the marine food web, phytoplankton can no longer develop and his concentration drops drastically. Associated with the drop in temperature and brightness, it is a real shock that marine life should take.

Temperature anomalies four months after a major nuclear war. Also, note the warm tongue located in the eastern equatorial Pacific. This is a The boy very specific triggered following the armed conflict. Very unfavorable to marine life, it would last up to seven years. Credits: Joshua Coupe et al. 2021.

In our simulations, we see a 40% reduction in phytoplankton biomass in the equatorial Pacific, which would have downstream effects on the large marine organisms that people live in. feed Says Joshua Coupe, lead author of the study. ” Previous research has shown that the global cooling following nuclear war could lead to crop failures on the land. Our study shows that we probably can’t rely on seafood either to feed people, at least in this part of the world “.

A response proportional to climate disruption

In their paper, the researchers explored the consequences associated with six possible scenarios of armed conflict. Depending on the importance of the clashes, the quantity and therefore the climatic impact of the fumes are more or less important. In the most optimistic case, 5 million tonnes of soot are emitted to the upper atmosphere. This value rises to 150 million for the most violent scenario. The simulations show that in this case, the temperature drops by 10 ° C on global average and in just two years. Not surprisingly, the occurrence of a The nuclear child is all the more probable and violent as the climatic disturbance is important.

Turning to the ocean for food after a nuclear war that drastically reduced agricultural production on earth seems like a good idea Explains Alan Robock, co-author of the study. ” But it wouldn’t be a reliable source of the protein we need. We must prevent nuclear conflicts if we are to protect our food and the Earth’s environment “.

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