In 1983, Carl Sagan, a planetary astronomer and a renowned science popularizer, coined the phrase “nuclear winter” to describe the effects on Earth’s climate of the explosion of nuclear weapons. This book examines one of the effects of nuclear explosions: decreased temperature and illumination caused by reduced sunlight. As an introduction, this chapter looks at attempts to predict certain climatic consequences of nuclear war and considers the obscuration of sunlight as the main mechanism, with ozone depletion and the altered reflection of sunlight as additional paths. It also examines some of the effects of nuclear weapons, from electromagnetic pulse and ozone depletion to radioactive fallout, global incineration, and climate change. These effects appear to be disparate, but are nevertheless linked by the geographical extent of their consequences.
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