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A Nuclear Winter's TaleScience and Politics in the 1980s$
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Lawrence Badash

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780262012720

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262012720.001.0001

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The Origin of Nuclear Winter

The Origin of Nuclear Winter

(p.49) 4 The Origin of Nuclear Winter
A Nuclear Winter's Tale

Lawrence Badash

The MIT Press

Since prehistoric times, severe weather and climatic conditions have been linked to human transgressions, such as a failed offering to the gods or a violation of a taboo. By the mid-twentieth century, scientific evidence seemed to support the connection between widespread disaster and human activities. In particular, nuclear weapons were assumed to wipe out civilization due to blast, heat, and radioactivity. That humans could influence climate conditioned the possibility of a nuclear winter phenomenon. This chapter examines the origin of nuclear winter, with an emphasis on its relationship with ozone depletion. It also discusses the research conducted by Carl Sagan and colleagues at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration using data from the Mariner 9 spacecraft to determine how much atmospheric warming and surface cooling a specified amount of dust from Mars should cause. Finally, it looks at the conference organized by the TTAPS team (comprised of Richard Turco, Owen Brian Toon, Thomas Ackerman, James Pollack, and Sagan) in April 1983 in Cambridge to announce their findings.

Keywords:   nuclear winter, nuclear weapons, ozone depletion, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Mariner 9, Mars, dust, atmospheric warming, surface cooling, conference

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