By Alexis Madrigal

April 8, Wired

Think you might escape the aftereffects of a limited nuclear war that happens on the other side of the globe from you? Think again.

Imagine that the long-simmering conflict between India and Pakistan broke out into a war in which each side deployed 50 nuclear weapons against the other country's megacities. Karachi, Bombay, and dozens of other South Asian cities catch fire like Hiroshima and Nagasaki did at the end of World War II.

Beyond the local human tragedy of such a situation, a new study looking at the atmospheric chemistry of regional nuclear war finds that the hot smoke from burning cities would tear holes in the ozone layer of the Earth. The increased UV radiation resulting from the ozone loss could more than double DNA damage, and increase cancer rates across North America and Eurasia.

"Our research supports that there would be worldwide destruction," said Michael Mills, co-author of the study and a research scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "It demonstrates that a small-scale regional conflict is capable of triggering larger ozone losses globally than the ones that were previously predicted for a full-scale nuclear war."

Combined with the climatic impact of a regional nuclear war -- which could reduce crop yields and starve hundreds of millions -- Mills' modeling shows that the entire globe would feel the repercussions of a hundred nuclear detonations, a small fraction of just the U.S. stockpile. After decades of Cold War research into the impacts that a full-blown war between the Soviet Union and the United States would have had on the globe, recent work has focused on regional nuclear wars, which are seen as more likely than all-out nuclear Armageddon.

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