Global cooling after nuclear war would harm ocean life

Seafood production also may be impacted by increased acidification

Rutgers University

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Corals, which are threatened by global climate change and ocean acidification, support a wide range of reef fish at Baker reef in the Pacific Remote Islands.

Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Morgan Winston

A nuclear war that cooled Earth could worsen the impact of ocean acidification on corals, clams, oysters and other marine life with shells or skeletons, according to the first study of its kind.

“We found that the ocean’s chemistry would change, with global cooling dissolving atmospheric carbon into the upper ocean and exacerbating the primary threat of ocean acidification,” said co-author Alan Robock, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

The study is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Scientists looked at how climate changes stemming from nuclear war would affect the oceans. They used a global climate model in which the climate reacted to soot (black carbon) in smoke that would be injected into the upper atmosphere from fires ignited by nuclear weapons. They considered a range of hypothetical nuclear wars, including a relatively small one between India and Pakistan and a large one between the United States and Russia.

Excess carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels enters the ocean and reacts with water to form carbonic acid, which decreases ocean pH (makes it more acidic) and lowers levels of carbonate ions. Corals, clams, oysters and other marine organisms use carbonate ions to create their shells and skeletons, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A more acidic ocean makes it harder to form and maintain shells and skeletons.

The massive amount of smoke from a nuclear conflict would block sunlight and cause global cooling. The cooling would temporarily boost the pH in the surface ocean over five years and briefly lessen the decline in pH from ocean acidification. But the cooling would also lead to lower levels of carbonate ions for about 10 years, challenging shell maintenance in marine organisms.

“We have known for a while that agriculture on land would be severely affected by climate change from nuclear war,” Robock said. “A lingering question is whether the survivors could still get food from the sea. Our study is the first step in answering this question.”

The next step is to combine projected changes in ocean chemistry with projected changes in temperature and salinity and assess their impacts on shellfish and fish stocks throughout the oceans, he said.

###

Joshua Coupe, a Rutgers doctoral student, contributed to the study, which also included scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder; University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; National Center for Atmospheric Research; U.S. Department of Energy; and University of California, Santa Barbara.

From EurekAlert!

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70 thoughts on “Global cooling after nuclear war would harm ocean life

      • The media has been letting them get away with playing both sides of the ball for decades.
        No reason to expect that to change anytime in the future.

    • “A nuclear war that cooled Earth could worsen the impact of ocean acidification on corals”

      FFS, so the main reason to avoid a nuclear war is to prevent worsening the effects of slightly reduced alkalinity of the ocean ??

      Maybe they should go and look at Bikini Island, and French Polynesia to see what the REAL effects of nukes are on corals. At least they did it properly.

      By the time we are engaged in a nuclear war, I expect even St Greta will STFU about “low carbon” , most of the habitable earth will covered with some pretty low carbon.

      Just when you thought they could not get any more damned stupid. As our host discovered several years ago, it is just impossible to be satirical , they’ve already done worse than anything you can think of.

    • According to most “environmentalists”, the current climate is perfect, any change from what we have now is gonna k1ll us all.

      • No MarkW, the climate in 1850 was perfect, that’s why they keep referencing the increase in temperatures since pre-industrial times in coming up with their “catastrophic” projections of 1.5-2.0 degrees of warming.

        • Good comments, thank you HotScot.

          https://wattsupwiththat.com/2019/08/19/renewable-energy-is-a-blackout-risk-warns-national-grid-after-chaos-during-biggest-outage-in-a-decade/#comment-2774481

          Good people of the United Kingdom, just listen to your Uncle Allan, who has never steered you wrong, and has your best interests at heart.

          More than 50,000 Excess Winter Deaths occurred in England and Wales in the winter of 2017-2018 – an Excess Winter Death rate more than 2.5 times the per-capita average rate of the USA, and 2.5 to 5 times the per capita winter death rate in Canada.

          That is about 35,000 more people who died in just that winter, who would be alive today if the UK had sensible energy and climate policies, instead of hysterical “global warming” alarmist nonsense. Grandpa Bob and Great-Aunt Nan could be enjoying a pint down-the-pub, instead of pushing up daisies. It is a national scandal, a national disgrace.

          This catastrophic situation is due in part to destructive, utterly imbecilic energy policies of the UK, which have caused energy costs in the UK to be many times that of Canada and the USA. The UK should “Get fracking”, and allow no more fracking delays by homicidal climate fanatics!

          I predicted this debacle in 2013 and earlier, for example in an open letter to The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, Baroness Verma, here:

          https://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/10/31/blind-faith-in-climate-models/#comment-1130954
          [excerpt]

          I suggest that Excess Winter Mortality, the British rate of which is about double the rate in the Scandinavian countries, should provide an estimate of this unfolding tragedy.

          As always in these matters, I hope to be wrong. These are not numbers, they are real people, who “loved and were loved”.

          Best regards to all, Allan MacRae

          “Turning and tuning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer…” Yeats
          [end of excerpt]

          Dammit I’m tired of being correct and having these climate ‘scoundrels and imbeciles’ carry on with their murderous policies, killing literally millions every year.
          I’ve concluded that nobody could be this stupid for this long, and therefore their actions must be deliberately destructive.

          Regards, Allan

      • MarkW

        I’m with Allan Macrae on this one

        In the ‘unremarkable’ 2017/2018 there were 50,000 Excess Winter Deaths in England and Wales. Nearly 1% of the population of 50m where there is no true poverty.

        In the ‘unprecedented’ Indian heatwave of 2017 there were 2,500 deaths, 0.00004% of the population (give or take a zero) of 1.3bn, 70m of who live in poverty @ below $1.95 day.

        I guess climate change is privileged white male kinda thing.

    • The cretinism and/or malfeasance of these scientists know no bounds.

      Any temperature would harm some ocean life.

  1. ‘Cause we all know that, 120,000 years ago, during the last Nuclear Winter Ice Age Glaciation ocean temps were much colder and CO2 levels dropped to 180PPM from Ocean Uptake which caused a mass Coral/Shellfish die-off and irreparably harmed the eco system.
    Obviously the Earth never recovered from that Climate Catastrophe and we are all just figments of each others imagination

    • Correct Bryan. I’ve been writing about CO2 starvation since 2009 or earlier.

      https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/07/02/opening-up-the-climate-policy-envelope/#comment-2394869

      Atmospheric CO2 is inexorably declining as it is being sequestered in carbonate rocks. In the last Continental Last Ice Age, atmospheric CO2 declined to about 180 ppm – in the next Ice Age it could drop lower, even closer to the extinction point of C3 plants at about 150-160 ppm.

      Virtually ALL food plants use the C3 photosynthetic pathway, so a drop of atmospheric CO2 to 150-160 ppm will be an extinction event for ~all advanced terrestrial life on Earth.

      A few food plants (less than 1%) use the C4 photosynthetic pathway, including corn and sugar cane – but I doubt terrestrial life could survive for long on Sugar Frosted Flakes – notwithstanding the persistent rumour that “They’re Great!” 🙂

      There are also CAM photosynthetic pathway plants, so we can look forward to having pineapple with our Sugar Frosted Flakes.

        • And here I thought I knew everything! 🙂 But no! I had to look him up.

          “Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft was an American voice actor and bass singer known as the booming voice behind Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes animated spokesman Tony the Tiger for more than five decades.” (wiki)

          All together now, in memory of the late great T.A. Ravenscroft:
          “THEY’RE GREAT!!!!”

    • Some of the strings in the previous article interfered with the chemical and electrical transmissions in their nerve fibers.

  2. Before these people go hunting for press pickups they should have a look at one simple graph of Earth’s average temperatures over the last 3.8 million years. The repeated long 100-150 thousand year heavy glaciations, punctuated by short 10-15 thousand year inter-glacial warm periods. Add in periodic asteriod / comet impacts and we could say, we’ve been there before. Species change but life survives.

  3. Wouldn’t ocean “acidification” be the last of any nuclear war survivor’s worries?

    “We have known for a while that agriculture on land would be severely affected by climate change from nuclear war,” Yeah, no shite. Not to mention the severe affects on agriculture from the *nuclear war*.

      • “The nuclear war harm can’t be connected to climate change.”
        -well, not yet…. give them more grant money and see what they can do.

        • Obviously any nuclear war would be triggered exclusively by the competition for resources “in a warming world”.

          You guys will never make it as alarmists 🙂

          I knew from the headline that it would be EurekAlert!

  4. There’s a widespread belief that cockroaches would survive a nuclear war induced global cooling, 98% of cockroach scientist disagree that there is such a thing as global cooling of any kind, more research required, send the money.

    • Vuk: “[…] 98% of cockroach scientist […]”

      Cockroach scientist? Where do they get tiny little lab coats small enough to fit?

      I know cockroaches attend college. My college had tons of them on campus.
      ;o)

  5. We should be worried — very worried! Nuclear war, among other things, would almost certainly exacerbate the heartbreak of psoriasis! One has to get their priorities in order.

  6. 97% of all scientists believe that if you eat broccoli, you ARE going to die. A much more credible threat than in this article.

  7. I wonder what would happen if the model was fed a slightly warmer atmosphere, due to all the fires, deserts melted into glass, the southern hemisphere could hardly be affected as there is nearly no land.
    ( Aussies excepted).

  8. So. In reality there is no threat of ocean neutralization, as the ocean warms, it will outgas the CO2. Problem solved. Lets just leave it all alone and keep on keeping on.

  9. What would a huge asteroid do to the coral? How about a super volcano? A massive gamma ray burst? What will happen to the coral when the sun runs out of fuel? Questions and more questions ans so few answers.

  10. Hard to disagree with that; if we blow the world to bits some fish are gonna die. Although that would be the least of our troubles. 🙁

  11. The Population Bomb, Silent Spring & DDT, Acid Rain, Attention deficit disorder,The Asbestos scare, Second Hand Smoke, The Obesity Crisis, Global Cooling, Nuclear Winter, The Ozone Hole, Climate Change, Global Warming, Climate Emergency and The Climate Crisis ….

    The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. H. L. Mencken

  12. Salute!

    As a “Cold War” warrior that stood alert with two nuclear weapons on my trusty beast to shoot down the bombers headed to the U.S., I will assert that the very last thing anyone was worried about, including the Sierra Club, was impact upon sea life. If I ever had to launch for real, I knew that coming back after surviving my mission, that my wife and kids were gonna be gone in a huge, radioactive crater.

    Good grief! Beam me up!!!

    Besides the “nuclear winter” many postulated, what about the massive radiation effects upon all of us on the planet, plants and critters alike?

    The never ending supply of $$$ to the kooks for B.S. studies has got to end!

    Gums rants!!!

    • You enjoy the high honor to be among the last of a rare breed, Who protected the homeland with AIM-26, nuclear-armed air-to-air missile, which wasn’t in service long.

      Dangerous radiation from a nuclear war would have been primarily limited to bands downwind from hard targets, like ICBM silos, requiring ground bursts to knock out. Your high air-burst, low-yield warheads wouldn’t have incorporated enough matter in their little fireballs to produce a lot of fallout. Even if a Soviet bomber were vaporized instead of just blown away or fried.

      Salute!

  13. “A nuclear war that cooled Earth” – is a logical fallacy. If the opaquness of the atmosphere increases, temperatures at the surface go up, not down. And it is a travesty the simple physics are so poorly understood here. Since it is pretty simple.

    If you add something like dust to the atmosphere it is going to interfere with both radiative fluxes, in and out. At a first glance one can see this effect will be essentially neutral. Also we instantly understand the mistake in arguing “solar radiation will be blocked” because this ignores the other side of the coin.

    There is another funny twist, since it is wrongly being believed the surface would emit 390W/m2, which is way more than TSI of about 342W/m2. If that was so, aerosols would block more LWIR than SWR and thus warm Earth. But this is wrong.

    What really happens is that such aerosols elevate the altitude of the photosphere, the level from where LWIR is being emitted on average. This enhances the effect of the adiabatic lapse rate which then indeed causes the surface to heat up.

    There are yet a lot more “tricky” effects that should be considered. Yet, understanding at least these very basic mechanisms would mean a quantum leap to all climate discussion.

  14. Still with the acidification thing? liberals and alarmists love to twist the langauge. Not so acidic its actually an acid I guess. Still, the research isnt from James Cook University so it may have some value.

  15. So with a nuclear war guess one side has to win eventually. The damage that is done to infrastructure before then would be gigantic. I guess fossil fuel use would nosedive, in sympathy with the surviving inhabitants. So fossil fuel use down, fires up – the difference is – who knows?

  16. It is my understanding that the leaders have a “menu” of cities to bomb. There is no all in.
    Maybe trump, Putin and xi have booked a table at some New Zealand or Argentina restaurant to watch the fireworks knowing not on anyone s list .
    Nevertheless they won’t be worried about radioactive acidified climate stress crabs.

  17. I guess the coming natural cooling will also harm ocean life. A frozen ocean makes it real difficult to find fish.

  18. Nuclear winter is a myth.
    There is no scientific basis for this Cold War theory.
    On the contrary, a “nuclear summer” is more likely.

  19. global thermonuclear war.
    what can’t it do?
    its almost as powerful as CO2…………….

    will anyone care about the oceans after a war like that?
    glowing fish can be cool but still…..

  20. No actual data was harmed, or even used in the making of this totally pointless bit of mental self stimulation.

  21. I vividly recall the nuclear attack drills and diving under my school desk for cover when I was young. Even then, I was quite certain that that small desk top was not going to save me from a nuclear attack nor the fallout and that the entire exercise was pointless and futile. I guess it gave some bureaucrats something to do and made people feel like they had some control over Armageddon which, I suppose, made some feel better.
    I suspect worrying about what happens to corals, clams, oysters and other marine life with shells or skeletons in the event of a nuclear war has the same placebo effect for some but the endeavor is just as pointless and useless as diving under one’s desk.
    Even as a kid, I never wasted time worrying about a nuclear attack as it was and is something beyond my control. The same goes for what happens to marine life. In fact, the latter doesn’t even register on my list of things to worry about and I’m surprised it does for these goofball “scientists”.

    • The desk dive was to protect us from flying glass and debris from the blast wave, and heat if close enough to feel it at dangerous levels.

      The odds of human extinction in even the worst possible imaginable nuclear war are essentially nil. A nuclear exchange wouldn’t be fought totally with “countervalue” targets, such as cities, but even if every warhead were used to maximize fatalities, the total wouldn’t reach a billion deaths.

      Models at the height of the Cold War, with more and bigger warheads than now, estimated some 500 million. A war involving China could increase that toll, despite far fewer nukes deployed today than in the 1980s.

  22. I have heard it said a long time ago now – that an atomic bomb could ruin your whole day.

  23. Geophysical Research LettersVolume 47, Issue 3

    Research Letter

    The Potential Impact of Nuclear Conflict on Ocean Acidification

    Nicole S. Lovenduski Cheryl S. Harrison Holly Olivarez … See all authors

    First published:21 January 2020

    https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GL086246

    Abstract

    We demonstrate that the global cooling resulting from a range of nuclear conflict scenarios would temporarily increase the pH in the surface ocean by up to 0.06 units over a 5‐year period, briefly alleviating the decline in pH associated with ocean acidification.

    Conversely, the global cooling dissolves atmospheric carbon into the upper ocean, driving a 0.1 to 0.3 unit decrease in the aragonite saturation state ( Ωₐᵣₐ𝓰 ) that persists for 10 years. The peak anomaly in pH occurs 2 years post conflict, while the Ωₐᵣₐ𝓰 anomaly peaks 4‐ to 5‐years post conflict.

    The decrease in Ωₐᵣₐ𝓰 would exacerbate a primary threat of ocean acidification: the inability of marine calcifying organisms to maintain their shells/skeletons in a corrosive environment.

    Our results are based on sensitivity simulations conducted with a state‐of‐the‐art Earth system model integrated under various black carbon (soot) external forcings. Our findings suggest that regional nuclear conflict may have ramifications for global ocean acidification.

    AGU Publications AGU.ORG AGU MEMBERSHIP

    © 2020 American Geophysical Union

    The Wiley Network Wiley Press Room

    Copyright © 1999-2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved
    ____________________________________

    Microbial corrosion, also called bacterial corrosion, bio-corrosion, microbiologically influenced corrosion, or microbially induced corrosion (MIC), is corrosion caused or promoted by microorganisms, usually chemoautotrophs. It can apply to both metals and non-metallic materials.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org › wiki

    Microbial corrosion – Wikipedia

    https://www.google.com/search?q=biology+corrosion&oq=biology+corrosion+&aqs=chrome.
    ____________________________________

    – The decrease in Ωₐᵣₐ𝓰 would exacerbate a primary threat of ocean acidification: the inability of marine calcifying organisms to maintain their shells/skeletons in a corrosive environment. –> The decrease in Ωₐᵣₐ𝓰 as any ocean pH neutralisation wouldn’t noticeably affect marine organisms.

    [ Our results are based on sensitivity simulations conducted with a state‐of‐the‐art Earth system model integrated under various black carbon (soot) external forcings. Our findings suggest that regional nuclear conflict may have ramifications for global ocean acidification. ]

    – [ ] under various black carbon (soot) external forcings. Our findings suggest that regional nuclear conflict may have ramifications for global ocean acidification. –> various black carbon (soot) external forcings are business as usual at Earth’s conditions, terms since ~4.8 billion years with vulcanoe activities, continental movements, subduction / pressure zones.
    ____________________________________

    Generally:

    – “ocean acidification” is in fact a decrease in Ωₐᵣₐ𝓰 and leads to ocean pH neutralisation.

    – black carbon (soot) external forcings aren’t new “ramifications” in the planets history.

    – Studies based on ocean acidification and atmospheric deposits try to associate corrosion with hazards, although corrosion is simply an important nutritional basis for all organisms.

    – atmospheric deposits are business as usual in Earth’s history.

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