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Regional nuclear war could threaten global catastrophe

Scientists use advanced computer simulations, population estimates to estimate potential impacts

Oct 22, 2019 - by David Hosansky

A hypothetical nuclear war between India and Pakistan could kill 50-125 million people in the two nations in less than a week, according to new research. The study, led by the University of Colorado Boulder in collaboration with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and other organizations, examined how a future regional conflict between two nuclear-armed nations would have global consequences.

The work drew on advanced computer simulations of Earth’s atmosphere, as well as well as population estimates, information about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan at the end of World War II, and other data.

NCAR scientist Charles Bardeen, a study co-author, used advanced computer models of atmospheric chemistry and global climate, including the NCAR-based Community Earth System Model (CESM) to show how billions of pounds of black smoke from the bombings would sharply chill temperatures worldwide. This would have widespread environmental impacts and threaten mass starvation.

“The availability of sophisticated earth system models like CESM that include biogeochemistry allow us to predict not only the climate effects caused by smoke following a nuclear war, but also how changes in sunlight, temperature, and precipitation would affect plants and life in the oceans," Bardeen said.

For more on the study, see the University of Colorado news release.

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