Study: Even 'limited nuclear war' could cause catastrophic climate change

The concept of nuclear weapons may bring about images of large bombs causing apocalyptic destruction, but a new study points out an entirely different—though still highly destructive—scenario.

The team, from the University of Nebraska, focused instead on the potential effect smaller bombs could have in causing a bleak, climate-related phenomenon known as a "nuclear autumn."

According to Gizmodo, it is a slightly less intense version of a nuclear winter which has been described as "a severe and protracted global cooling event triggered by an all-out nuclear war..."

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Inside a nuclear bunker in Japan
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Inside a nuclear bunker in Japan
Seiichiro Nishimoto, CEO of Shelter Co., wears a gas mask as he presents the model room for the company� nuclear shelters during an interview with Reuters in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
A toilet is pictured in Shelter Co.'s nuclear shelter model room in the basement of its CEO Seiichiro Nishimoto's house in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Seiichiro Nishimoto, CEO of Shelter Co., poses wearing a gas mask at a model room for the company� nuclear shelters in the basement of his house in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Seiichiro Nishimoto, CEO of Shelter Co., demonstrates how to use the exit of Shelter Co.'s nuclear shelter model room installed in the basement of his house in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Seiichiro Nishimoto, CEO of Shelter Co., walks into a basement where the model room for the company� nuclear shelters is installed during an interview with Reuters in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
The house of Seiichiro Nishimoto, president of the Shelter Co., where the model room for the company� nuclear shelters is installed, is pictured in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Seiichiro Nishimoto, CEO of Shelter Co., poses in front of a blast door at the entrance of a model room for his company� nuclear shelters during an interview with Reuters in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Seiichiro Nishimoto, CEO of Shelter Co., demonstrates how to use a radiation-blocking air purifier in case of power outage at the model room for Shelter Co.'s nuclear shelters in the basement of his house in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Emergency foods are seen in the model room of Shelter Co.'s nuclear shelter in the basement of its CEO Seiichiro Nishimoto's house in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Radiation-blocking air purifiers are seen in the model room of Shelter Co.'s nuclear shelter in the basement of its CEO Seiichiro Nishimoto's house in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Seiichiro Nishimoto, CEO of Shelter Co., demonstrates how to use a radiation-blocking air purifier in case of power outage at the model room for Shelter Co.'s nuclear shelters in the basement of his house in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
A gas mask, a Geiger counter and emergency goods are seen in Shelter Co.'s nuclear shelter model room in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Radiation-blocking air purifiers are seen in the model room of Shelter Co.'s nuclear shelter in the basement of its CEO Seiichiro Nishimoto's house in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
A blast door is seen at the entrance of Shelter Co.'s nuclear shelter model room, placed in the basement of its CEO Seiichiro Nishimoto's house in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
The entrance of Shelter Co.'s nuclear shelter model room, which is placed in the basement of the company's CEO Seiichiro Nishimoto's house, is pictured in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Seiichiro Nishimoto, CEO of Shelter Co., poses wearing a gas mask at a model room for the company� nuclear shelters in the basement of his house in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
The exit of Shelter Co.'s nuclear shelter model room is pictured in the basement of its CEO Seiichiro Nishimoto's house in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Seiichiro Nishimoto, CEO of Shelter Co., poses wearing a gas mask at a model room for the company� nuclear shelters in the basement of his house in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
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However, a nuclear autumn would still cause catastrophic global damage to humans and ecosystems, with the paper noting that previous models have indicated "great reductions in agricultural productivity, stratospheric ozone loss, and spread of hazardous radioactive fallout."

Based on an analysis of weapons held by countries with nuclear arsenals—the U.S., the U.K, France, Russia, and China, researchers determined, as Gizmodo has reported, that "the US, Russia, and China all have weapons that could trigger a nuclear autumn through the detonation of fewer than five bombs. This includes nuclear warheads placed atop air-dropped bombs, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and land-based missiles."

Despite already having such powerful weapons, President Trump said in February that he would like to add additional capabilities to the U.S arsenal.

He told Reuters, "It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we're going to be at the top of the pack."

This echoes a tweet he had posted during the transition period, stating, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

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