Question: What is the effect of a nuclear winter on Earth?

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  1. Hi tibi29,
    I am not extremely familiar to post nuclear war climates, but I think a nuclear winter could resemble very closely the scenario depicted in the case of volcanic ash injection in the atmosphere, which we described here

    Can the volcanic ash affect the surrounding environment?

    It is estimated that global climatic changes after a single nuclear event could last decades, with enormous consequences, as you might expect, on agricultural production all over the globe, and related migration fluxes due to famines.
    Moreover, land, humans, plants and animals in the vicinity (but not only, because, for example, of the spreading of contaminated rain) of the nuclear explosion would be strongly suffering from the effects of radiation.
    It is a very sad scenario we are describing here, and completely self-inflicted. The whole humanity would be the victim of a nuclear war, there would be no winner and no loser in that war, and I hope we’ll be wise enough never to experience it.


  2. Hi tibi29:
    A nuclear winter refers to the climate change that would occur due to many explosions of nuclear weapons. There has never been one but there has been some volcanic eruptions that produce the same affect at a smaller scale. The explosion of a nuclear weapon is so large that it will move many small particles high into the atmosphere and create firestorms in the surface. The fires will produce a lot of smoke that will bring even more particles into the atmosphere. If you then have 1o or more nuclear explosions, the result would be to have a blanket of particles high in the atmosphere. The particles would block the sunlight for months and this would result in a cooling of the atmosphere.

    The artificial cooling of the atmosphere will affect weather patterns and the capacity for plants to conduct photosynthesis will be reduced killing many of them. The loss of vegetation will starve animals that eat them and the animals that eat the other animals. So it would be a debacle of the food chain. Of course, we humans will have less to eat and drink and will be directly affected.

    Hopefully, we can communicate better with each other and will never have to go through it.


  3. Hi Tibi29,

    Luckily, we have never experienced a nuclear winter, so we cannot say exactly what the effects would be on the Earth as such. Though, as the other scientists have mentioned, we do know that a nuclear winter is an environmental devastation that some scientists believe would result from hundreds of nuclear explosions in a nuclear war. After the explosions of a nuclear exchange have died down, the spread of smoke in the atmosphere from nuclear-started fires, could absorb sunlight, darken the sky and eventually lower the temperature on the earth from 1 to 5 degrees Celsius within a few months. Some models show that a change in the temperature of even one degree Celsius (which may not sound like much) could unbalance the ecosystem and affect the survival of many species on earth, including mankind.

    Hope it helps! 🙂