Study Looks At Impact of Nuclear War On Ocean, Harm To Marine Life

Feb 6, 2020

In the event of a nuclear war, fires could produce so much smoke that temperatures may drop below freezing causing a nuclear winter.

“You wouldn’t be able to grow any crops at all.  So, the fundamental question is if we can’t grow food, can we still go fishing,” asks Rutgers University Environmental Sciences professor Alan Robock, co-author of a study that takes a hypothetical look at the impact global cooling from a nuclear war would have on the ocean. “Smoke would go up into the atmosphere and it would go into the stratosphere which is above the layer where we live.  There’s no rain there, there’s no weather.  The smoke would be heated by the sun and lofted up.  This would affect people far removed from where the bombs would be dropped.”

Robock says the study shows global cooling would complicate living conditions for clams, oysters and other marine life with shells.  

“When the ocean is colder it absorbs more carbon dioxide.  This would then affect the ability of shellfish to maintain their shells.  The ocean would become more acidic because of that,” Robuck said.  “Maybe you did an experiment in school where you put a tooth that fell out into a bottle of coke and waited for a while and it ends up being eaten away by the acid.  It’s the same sort of effect in the ocean where shellfish would be affected.”

Robock says another study on the impact of global cooling from a nuclear war on fish and the ocean food chain is in progress.