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Environmental effects of the atomic bomb

2012-09-29   Views:2

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The atomic bomb, the most destructive weapon ever devised by human beings, has only been dropped twice in aggression -- on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. The immediate death and injury to citizens of those cities was immense, as was the effect, ove

Environmental effects of the atomic bomb

The atomic bomb, the most destructive weapon ever devised by human beings, has only been dropped twice in aggression -- on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. The immediate death and injury to citizens of those cities was immense, as was the effect, over subsequent generations, of the radioactive fallout from the bomb. But nuclear weapons also have the potential to cause significant environmental damage as well.

Fire

The most immediate effect of an atomic bomb detonation is an intensely hot fireball. This will ignite fires across a large radius, destroying not only people and man-made structures, but also natural environments such as forests and fields, and killing wildlife. Fires caused by the explosion will be flamed by the hurricane-strength winds caused by the inrush of oxygen as the heat of the explosion draws air upwards.

Smoke

A nuclear war that saw the detonation of just 100 atomic bombs would cause unprecedented climate change on Earth. A 2009 study by Rutgers University suggested that such a war would produce so much smoke and soot that the sun's rays would be blocked, causing the Earth to cool. This would affect the ability to grow food, as growing seasons would become shorter causing crop yields drop. This scenario is sometimes referred to as a "nuclear winter."

Radiation

The detonation of an atomic bomb causes soil and other debris to be blown up into the atmosphere. This material becomes radioactive through the ionising radiation that the atoms in the bomb release. This radiation can be lethal to living organisms in sufficient doses, but can also cause physical and birth deformities at lower levels. This material will eventually return to Earth -- in the form of "black rain" -- potentially over great distances having been circulated in atmospheric weather systems. Its return would contaminate water sources, soil, animals and humans. Such radiation has a long half-life, so the contamination would persist over decades.

Ozone

The firestorms and resultant smoke of an atomic war would also serve to deplete the planet's ozone layer. This is the atmospheric barrier that protects the Earth from the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays. Depletion of this layer would cause plants and aquatic plankton to be depleted, causing natural ecosystems and food chains to collapse, threatening the survival of animals and humans.

Environmental effects of the atomic bomb

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