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Journal Article

Extreme Ozone Loss Following Nuclear War Results in Enhanced Surface Ultraviolet Radiation


Bardeen,  Charles G.
External Organizations;

Kinnison,  Douglas E.
External Organizations;

Toon,  Owen B.
External Organizations;

Mills,  Michael J.
External Organizations;

Vitt,  Francis
External Organizations;

Xia,  Lili
External Organizations;


Jägermeyr,  Jonas
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Lovenduski,  Nicole S.
External Organizations;

Scherrer,  Kim J. N.
External Organizations;

Clyne,  Margot
External Organizations;

Robock,  Alan
External Organizations;

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Bardeen, C. G., Kinnison, D. E., Toon, O. B., Mills, M. J., Vitt, F., Xia, L., Jägermeyr, J., Lovenduski, N. S., Scherrer, K. J. N., Clyne, M., Robock, A. (2021): Extreme Ozone Loss Following Nuclear War Results in Enhanced Surface Ultraviolet Radiation. - Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 126, 18, e2021JD035079.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_25960
For the first time, we use a modern climate model with interactive chemistry including the effects of aerosols on photolysis rates to simulate the consequences of regional and global scale nuclear wars (injecting 5 and 150 Tg of soot respectively) for the ozone layer and surface ultraviolet (UV) light. For a global nuclear war, heating in the stratosphere, reduced photolysis, and an increase in catalytic loss from the HOx cycle cause a 15 year-long reduction in the ozone column, with a peak loss of 75% globally and 65% in the tropics. This is larger than predictions from the 1980s, which assumed large injections of nitrogen oxides (NOx), but did not include the effects of smoke. NOx from the fireball and the fires provide a small (5%) increase to the global average ozone loss for the first few years. Initially, soot would shield the surface from UV-B, but UV Index values would become extreme: greater than 35 in the tropics for 4 years, and greater than 45 during the summer in the southern polar regions for 3 years. For a regional war, global column ozone would be reduced by 25% with recovery taking 12 years. This is similar to previous simulations, but with a faster recovery time due to a shorter lifetime for soot in our simulations. In-line photolysis provides process specific action spectra enabling future integration with biogeochemistry models and allows output that quantifies the potential health impacts from changes in surface UV for this and other larger aerosol injections.