Guest post by Steven Goddard
The Effects of One Nuclear Bomb at High Altitude
Yesterday’s missile launch from nuclear power North Korea raised particular concern in the military, due to the possibility of EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) attack. Almost every piece of technology in our lives is dependent on semiconductors, which contain circuitry that is extremely vulnerable to electromagnetic pulses. From the Federation of American Scientists:
The pulse can easily span continent-sized areas, and this radiation can affect systems on land, sea, and air. The first recorded EMP incident accompanied a high-altitude nuclear test over the South Pacific and resulted in power system failures as far away as Hawaii. A large device detonated at 400-500 km over Kansas would affect all of CONUS. The signal from such an event extends to the visual horizon as seen from the burst point.
During the Cold War, the US military was very concerned about the fact that US planes used solid state circuitry and Soviet planes used vacuum tubes. It was known that nuclear war would likely cause American planes to drop out of the sky. Since then, we all have become completely reliant on semiconductor technology which controls our transportation, power, satellites, information technology and communication systems. Transistors have evolved over time to smaller and smaller geometries and lower voltages, which make them increasingly vulnerable to EMP.
The US and Russia conducted many nuclear detonations at high altitude prior to 1962, but the integrated circuit had not yet been invented. Some experts believe that an effective EMP attack would send the US and/or Europe instantly back to the dark ages. Civilian planes could lose control and fall from the sky, and cars made since 1980 might instantly and permanently lose steering, engine and brake control. Many phones, computers and Internet switches would become permanently disabled. Newt Gingrich spoke about the danger on Fox News this morning.
Gingrich replied: “There are three or four techniques that could have been used, from unconventional forces to standoff capabilities, to say: ‘We’re not going to tolerate a North Korean missile launch, period.’ … look at electromagnetic pulse, which changes every … equation about how risky these weapons are.”
More from Wikipedia
Ever wonder why (“Axis of Evil”) North Korea and Iran have been rushing to develop nuclear weapons and missile delivery capabilities? It has nothing to do with stopping global warming or making friends with Washington and Whitehall. Some references below. I recommend that everyone read them before they go to the voting booth next time. It is important to have leaders who can do more than talk, because we have bigger and tougher enemies than people who use incandescent light bulbs, and bankers who take holidays in Las Vegas.
ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE THREATS TO U.S. MILITARY AND CIVILIAN INFRASTRUCTURE