]]]]]]] NUCLEAR WINTER AND OTHER MYTHS OF SELF-DETERRENCE [[[[[[ By Eugene G. Zutell 06/19/88 Arizona Dept. of Emergency and Military Affairs Division of Emergency Services [These remarks were originally presented to a group of emergency plan- ners meeting at the Arizona Division of Emergency Services, in Novem- ber 1987. They are intended as a second look at some of the asser- tions that have been made about the effects of nuclear weapons. Mr Zutell, who speaks here for himself, not for official Arizona policy, very kindly made his lecture available to Fort Freedom's War Room.) "NUCLEAR WINTER IS A FACT" (Dr. Carl Sagan, Scientific American, Jan. 1985) When Dr. Carl Sagan and his associates, Drs. Turco, Toon, Ackermann and Pollack announced their nuclear winter theory to the world in the fall of 1983, they received such an incredible amount of publicity for such an extended period of time that they managed to convince many people that in the event of a nuclear war, nuclear winter would be a reality. Unfortunately, those who disputed the nuclear winter theory have received very little publicity. Without going into great detail, let's look at just a few of the more glaring discrepancies in the theory. It is based on their assumption that a large quantity of smoke will be emitted into the atmosphere by burning cities and forests. Sagan and associates estimate that following a nuclear ex- change, approximately 225 million tons of smoke particles, generated by a baseline 5000 megaton exchange, will be injected into the tropo- sphere and, over a period of two weeks, will be evenly distributed around the globe in the northern hemisphere. During the following weeks and months, this smoke will cause a temperature increase at the tropopause as it absorbs the radiant energy of the sun and conse- quently blocks that energy from reaching the surface of the earth. Surface temperatures on the continents in the northern hemisphere, between latitudes 30 degrees north and 70 degrees north, might drop as low as -30 degrees Celsius. The theory does not however, consider the highly relevant question of how much smoke will actually remain aloft after two weeks. Normal meteorological processes, rain, snow, temperature differentials between land masses and the oceans, etc., are not factored into the nuclear winter theory by Sagan et al. Stu- dies of the discharge rates of manmade and natural smoke and observa- tions of the average amounts of smoke found in the atmosphere, done prior to and since the promulgation of the nuclear winter theory, have shown that smoke particles have an average residence time of one week or less. And, the average residence time of water vapor in the atmo- sphere is little longer than a week. The amount of atmospheric water vapor in tons, in the northern latitudes exceeds the 225 million tons of smoke postulated by Sagan and his associates by a factor of at least ten thousand. It is therefore fairly obvious that in seven to ten days, which is before the theoretical initiation of the widespread cooling effect, an amount of water far greater than the weight of smoke generated by the nuclear exchange, will rain out of the atmo- sphere and in doing so, will have an obviously significant cleansing effect. Couple this with the commonly demonstrated fact that smoke and dust particles injected into the atmosphere spontaneously create rain conditions, by themselves being the locus around which water molecules coalesce until they form rain droplets. This phenomena is frequently demonstrated over forest fires in the form of capping clouds which develop over columns of smoke. The clouds consist of smoke particles and water vapor, generated by the fire, that combine with water molecules already in the atmosphere. The resultant water droplets in turn capture more particles as they ascend from the fire. Even before they are large enough to form rain, their increasing size reduces dramatically, the number of smoke and dust particles in the size range that is most effective in absorbing and scattering sun- light. Historical records describe a black rain that fell within a few hours after the explosion of the nuclear weapon over Hiroshima. That rain was the first manifestation of the atmosphere cleansing itself after the sudden injection of an abnormal amount of smoke and dust particles. To enumerate some other problems with the nuclear winter mechanism: 1. The cooling mechanism as Sagan and associates describe it, could only operate over land masses. Ocean surface water is continually supplied with heat from below. Even if sunlight were blocked for many months, the temperature at the ocean surface would remain virtually unchanged. Consequently, weather patterns would continue, with warm moisture laden air from the oceans sweeping over the land masses and as it cools, rain clouds would form and even more of the sun blocking smoke and dust particles would be washed out of the atmosphere. 2. Sagan et al indicated that at the very least, 100 million tons of smoke particles would have to be injected into the atmosphere if the nuclear winter mechanism were to be triggered. They also indicated that cities are the primary source of that smoke. They therefore proposed a nuclear war scenario in which cities are the primary tar- gets. Since the mid 1960s, the primary targets for both U.S. and Soviet nuclear missiles and nuclear bombs have not been population centers or cities. They have been the other guy's nuclear missile launch sites, nuclear bomber bases and other military targets. If those can be eliminated, the cities will be held hostage. The current list of ten target classes ascribed to Soviet planners by DOD and FEMA, does not specifically contain any population centers. The list does of course include target classes that in many instances will be located in or adjacent to metropolitan areas. But, even in those instances, the nuclear weapons employed will not be the huge multi- megaton area destruction bombs of the late 1950s and early 1960s. ICBM systems and MIRVs are now so accurate that a target may be pin- pointed even within a metropolitan area, by a relatively small weapon. This is not in any way to say that the effects will not be catastro- phic. It is to say though that the city wide firestorms necessary for the onset of nuclear winter as described by Sagan and associates, are less than predictable. In fact, they are improbable. Another doomsday prediction is that a nuclear conflict will cause: DESTRUCTION OF THE OZONE LAYER Some research over the past 30 years has indicated that the detonation of a large number of nuclear warheads may damage or even destroy the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere that helps to shield the earth's surface from the ultraviolet radiation of the sun. The research indi- cated that enough additional UV may reach the earth's surface to cause a noticeable increase in skin cancers, cataracts and severe sunburn cases. It may also have a negative effect on some forms of plant life and on agriculture in general. Although these effects were identified as hypotheses some groups have for their own purposes, interpreted the research as meaning that the ozone layer will definitely be de- stroyed by a nuclear exchange and anyone not killed by the direct effects of the nuclear weapons will soon be blinded by the UV and subsequently be turned into a crispy critter. There are two problems with those claims. First, it is quite easy to protect yourself against UV. Just do exactly what is normally done even now, on a hot sunny day. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and wear a thin layer of clothing to block the UV from your skin. Secondly, The original research that indicated that there might be damage to the ozone layer after a nuclear exchange, was based on the use of multi-megaton wea- pons, because only those very large bombs are capable of injecting into the upper atmosphere (more specifically the tropopause where most of the ozone layer resides) the NO and NO2 that depletes the ozone layer by reacting with the ozone to form oxygen molecules. It has been calculated that the explosion of a large number of multi-megaton warheads could conceivably deplete the ozone layer by as much as 30 to 40 percent for a period of a year or two. Since the ozone is con- stantly regenerating itself, it would recover to nearly normal den- sity and thickness within a few years. Significantly, smaller kiloton range bombs simply are not capable of throwing the nitrogen oxide materials high enough to damage the ozone layer. The trend for many years in both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. has been to substitute small eco- nomical weapons for the older inefficient multi-megaton range weapons, as missile systems become more accurate. Presently there are very few of the large warheads left in the U.S. arsenal and those in the Soviet arsenal are being reduced. Consequently, the nuclear threat to the ozone layer, which has never been proven, has virtually been elimi- nated by the shift to small warheads. It should also be mentioned that in the middle latitudes, observed natural variations in the ozone layer are comparable to the predicted effects of a large number of multi-megaton bombs. For example, the thickness of the ozone layer over Miami in the summer is about 20% less than that over Seattle. "THERE ARE ENOUGH NUCLEAR WARHEADS IN THE U.S. AND U.S.S.R. TO KILL EVERY MEN WOMAN AND CHILD IN BOTH COUNTRIES TEN TIMES OVER" This is an example of a malady known as the -- OVERKILL SYNDROME The defenders of this simple faith tend to explain it with equally simple math -- a 12.5 kiloton blast at Hiroshima killed approximately 70,000 people, which is a casualty rate of 5600 per kiloton. A nu- clear war today could result in some 10,000 megatons of force being released. That is equal to ten million kilotons. Ten million times 5600 equals 56 billion casualties, more than enough to take care of the slightly more than 6 billion inhabitants of the earth today. Referring back to our earlier discussion of nuclear winter, it is a fact that most nuclear weapons are targeted against other nuclear weapons and against military installations. While these are excellent counterforce military targets, they are poor population targets, ex- cept in those instances where military installations are in or closely adjacent to population centers. The OVERKILL theory presupposes that every man, woman and child on earth will be within the lethal range of a nuclear explosion. Given the size of this planet and the distribu- tion of people throughout the hemispheres, not to mention the many factors that act to attenuate the effects of nuclear weapons, the OVERKILL contention is a gross, even criminal simplification and mis- statement because it implies that there is no defense against nuclear weapons. This in turn leads to the incorrect and fatalistic assump- tion that any attempt at establishing a civil defense system is fu- tile, a waste of time and effort since we're all going to die anyway. The Soviets, through their increasingly sophisticated civil defense program, are sending a very clear signal that they at least, do not believe in the OVERKILL theory. They, in fact, believe that a nuclear war is not only survivable but also winnable. One of the main reasons for the proliferation of the belief that a nuclear war cannot be survived is that people who are well known to the public and rightfully respected for their in one area of endeavor, sometimes get involved in other areas about which they know very little. A Perfect example of that condition came out of the Cuban missile crisis of October, 1962. Robert Kennedy wrote a book in which he referred to the crisis as -- "A CONFRONTATION BETWEEN THE TWO GIANT ATOMIC NATIONS, THE U.S. AND THE U.S.S.R., WHICH BROUGHT THE WORLD TO THE ABYSS OF NUCLEAR DESTRUCTION AND THE END OF MANKIND." At that time, the U.S. had fewer than 5000 nuclear warheads and the Soviets less than 500. Today, there are an estimated 50,000 nuclear warheads in the arsenals of the five major nuclear powers. And, al- though a nuclear exchange would be an absolutely cataclysmic event, no one who is knowledgeable of weapons effects claims that the end of mankind is at hand. MUTUAL ASSURED DESTRUCTION MAD as it is popularly called is actually based on mutual vulnerability. The theory is that if each side is vulnerable to it's opponents weapons, each side will be deterred from initiating a nuclear exchange because it, in turn, would suffer totally unaccept- able damage. I hate to be a spoil; sport, but it just isn't working out that way. For Mutual Assured Destruction to work, both sides must play the game. The myth here is that the Soviets believe in and adhere to the MAD theory. Actually, they picked up their marbles and went home a long time ago. In fact, they never even started playing the game. They believe that with proper preparation, they can reduce the effects of a nuclear conflict to a level that is acceptable to them. The Soviet civil defense system is more than 50 years old and even now it is an on-going and expanding effort through which they are demonstrating that they at least believe a nuclear war to be surviv- able. MAD is a figment of U.S. imagination. The Soviets are notori- ously unimaginative. They just look at the facts and proceed accor- dingly. None of these comments are in any way intended to denigrate the cata- clysmic consequences of a nuclear conflict -- the worst conceivable disaster facing mankind -- they are meant instead to help avoid compounding the effects of that disaster by providing evidence against theories or myths which, through great publicity, have gained the status of half-truths and which tend to discourage people from taking even the simplest precautions to survive.
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