Have any of you seen the movie Dr. Strangelove (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb)? It’s a classic film, one that satirizes the nuclear arms race in the Cold War. Spoiler alert: A chain of unfortunate events ends up causing every single nuclear weapon around the world to detonate, leaving humanity pretty screwed.
With Trump’s recent and terrifying comments about boosting the US nuclear arsenal and not ruling out using any of these weapons in the Middle East or Europe, we felt it best to work out – for your horror – what would happen in the event of a nuclear apocalypse. What would happen if every nuclear weapon in the world today was fired and detonated?
In short, nothing good. Here’s the rather grim mathematics and science behind the end of the world.
From Russia With Love
First, let’s have a look at what various countries have in their nuclear arsenal.
As per the Federation of American Scientists’ 2017 data, there are 14,900 nuclear warheads in the world. The US has 6,800 and Russia 7,000, making up the vast majority of the world’s city killers. The UK has 215, France 300, China 260, India 120, Pakistan 130, Israel about 80, and North Korea roughly 10.
The yields of each of these vary considerably. The US and Russia, for example, have hyper-powerful thermonuclear weapons, whereas North Korea can barely get past an old-school plutonium fission-style device.
One of the most powerful weapons in the US arsenal is the B83, which has an explosive yield equivalent to 1.2 megatons of TNT. This equates to about 5 quadrillion joules of energy, or 5 Petajoules – or 79 Hiroshima “Little Boy” atomic bombs’ worth of energy.
Say one of these B83s went off in Moscow, because President Trump lost a Twitter war with President Putin and everything escalated rather quickly. If it detonated at the surface, it would leave a crater 420 meters (1,378 feet) across and 92 meters (300 feet) deep, according to NukeMap by nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein.
Almost instantly upon detonation, a gigantic fireball would appear, 5.7 square kilometers (2.2 square miles) in size and reaching temperatures up to 83.3 million degrees Celsius (150 million degrees Fahrenheit).
Using up 50 percent of the entire warhead’s energy, it would also be accompanied by a huge pressure wave. All buildings within a 16.8 square kilometer (6.5 square mile) area would be totally flattened.
Thanks to the thermal radiation – which uses 35 percent of the explosive’s energy – everyone within a 420 square kilometer (162 square mile) region will receive third-degree burns, which will only be painful for a fraction of a second as their nerve endings will be completely destroyed.
Then there’s the ionizing and fallout radiation. Assuming there’s no wind at the time, we can assume that an area of 20.6 square kilometers (8 square miles) will be so heavily irradiated that 50 to 90 percent of people in it will die from radiation sickness.