Larger particles spill out of the stem and cascade down the outside of the fireball in a downward current, even as the cloud rises, so rain begins to reach near ground zero in an hour. More than half of the total debris from the bomb falls to the ground in about 24 hours as local rain. Radioactivity and precipitation could have serious effects on the environment and health. Depending on the magnitude of a nuclear conflict, explosions could even affect the climate.
The exact distribution of precipitation depends crucially on the speed and direction of the wind; in some conditions, lethal rain can extend several hundred miles downwind of an explosion. A nuclear weapon that explodes at a high altitude does not produce any of the explosion or local rain effects just described. But can we eliminate nuclear weapons? Should we? What risks could such removal entail? Those are the real issues in the ongoing debates on the future of nuclear weapons. A limited form of nuclear warfare would be like conventional conflict on the battlefield, but using low-performance tactical nuclear weapons.
A nuclear war would produce enormous quantities of ozone-consuming chemicals, and studies suggest that even modest nuclear exchange would lead to unprecedented increases in ultraviolet exposure. This was counterproductive, as Sagan was ridiculed by aggressive physicists such as Edward Teller, who had an interest in perpetuating the myth that nuclear war could be won and the belief that a missile defense system could protect the United States from nuclear attack. The most immediate effect of a nuclear explosion is an intense burst of nuclear radiation, mainly gamma rays and neutrons. Retaliatory nuclear forces (a virtual impossibility, given nuclear missile submarines, but a scenario considered with lethal seriousness by nuclear planners).
This web page provides information on the radioactive consequences of nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere conducted during the 1940s and 1950s. Nuclear Winter A substantial reduction in global temperature that could result from the injection of soot into the atmosphere during a nuclear war. Rain is mainly composed of fission products, although neutron capture and other nuclear reactions provide additional radioactive material. When a nuclear detonation occurs, people, plants and animals can be exposed to rain in a variety of ways.
Using updated models of Cold War nuclear explosions, the Wellerstein simulator can roughly predict the number of casualties and injuries from a nuclear bomb in a given location, large or small. The highest levels of outdoor rain radiation occur immediately after the arrival of rain and then decrease over time. The debate about the national and global effects of nuclear war continues, and it is unlikely that issues will be conclusively decided without the unfortunate experiment of real nuclear war. The destructive effects of explosions extend miles from the point of detonation of a typical nuclear weapon, and the lethal consequences can cover communities hundreds of miles downwind of a single nuclear explosion.