What would happen if there is a nuclear war?

The results would be devastating to all living beings

What would happen if there is a nuclear war?

Leer en Español: ¿Qué pasaría si hay una guerra nuclear?

North Korea is approaching its goal, mastering ballistic missile technology; the United States, a nuclear power, is not happy with these advances. The provocative threats from both sides have resurrected old fears of the Cold War where total annihilation was always a present distress. But in this new century, with the advances in science and technology, it is not so farfetched to analyze what a nuclear conflict could bring.

Researchers Alan Robock, climatologist, and Brian Toon, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, examined the results of a smaller-scale nuclear war, particularly between India and Pakistan, but his research may give us insight into what could happen if the United States enters in conflict with North Korea.

According to research data, the current global climate situation suggests that fires from the explosion would release enough soot into the atmosphere to block sunlight and lower global temperatures by more than one degree Celsius. The temperature drop would not be uniformly distributed; the continental areas would be more affected and would receive an increase in temperature due to the air flow that the oceans push onto the continents. It’s worth mentioning that these areas are rich in agriculture, causing a possible widespread food shortage or “nuclear hunger” as Robock and Toon called it.

Those also living far away from the blast zone could suffer. A decline in world food production would have unfavorable consequences for food importers, while the new conflicts could arise.

Herbert Grover and Mark Harwell, researchers from the University of Wisconsin and Texas A&M, respectively, examined what the lasting impacts on the ecosystems would be. For them, the data from nuclear testing sites have shown that radiation can remain in the soil, plants, and in the food chain itself. Marine food chains are particularly vulnerable to both the radiation and the disruptive effects of atmospheric soot. This soot has the potential to deplete the protective ozone layer of the planet, affecting all living beings.

There would also be damage to the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) caused by an atmospheric nuclear explosion, says Peter Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National Security in the United States. An atmospheric EMP destroys satellite networks, "these are vital to our ability to defend South Korea, are vital to our economy, even GPS systems in cars and aircraft depend on these satellites. Our communications, commercial and military, depend on these satellites", says Pry.

If we take into account what Pry, Robock and Toon said, Latin America is not in a comfort zone in the event of a war between the United States and North Korea; it is a region with the highest agricultural production. In addition, the EMP would affect telecommunications and global positioning services, making communications, transportation, and mobilization of people and products difficult. The consequences for the American subcontinent, although they have not been concretely measured, should be studied in order to have truthful information, in case it is ever needed in the future.

 

Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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