chapter  4
17 Pages

Nuclear Explosions and Atmospheric Ozone

WithJulius S. Chang, Donald J. Wuebbles

Ever since the first atmospheric nuclear test in New Mexico, scientists have been concerned with the potential atmospheric impact of such a violent man-made event. The environmental impacts range from the earlier concern over possible nuclear ignition of the whole atmosphere, to global dispersion of radionuclides, to the destruction of the atmospheric layer, to the climatic consequences of dust and aerosol loading from nuclear war.

Among the potential global effects of nuclear war, significant destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer is the most easily studied. During the past decade, there have been important advances in understanding atmospheric chemistry and transport processes, and the suggested reduction of the stratospheric ozone concentration can be realistically evaluated. Current theory (models) indicates that a full-scale nuclear exchange of about 10,000 Mt between the U.S. and the USSR could result in more than a 50 percent destruction of the earth's protective ozone layer. Such drastic changes can persist for many years. The assumptions used in the theoretical calculations and impacts of the inherent uncertainties of all such analyses that are based on computational modeling are discussed.