Climate Science Glossary

Term Lookup

Enter a term in the search box to find its definition.

Settings

Use the controls in the far right panel to increase or decrease the number of terms automatically displayed (or to completely turn that feature off).

Term Lookup

Settings


All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

Home Arguments Software Resources Comments The Consensus Project Translations About Donate

Twitter Facebook YouTube Pinterest

RSS Posts RSS Comments Email Subscribe


Climate's changed before
It's the sun
It's not bad
There is no consensus
It's cooling
Models are unreliable
Temp record is unreliable
Animals and plants can adapt
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
View All Arguments...



Username
Password
Keep me logged in
New? Register here
Forgot your password?

Latest Posts

Archives

Climate Hustle

Human-caused warming dwarves energy from nuclear testing

What the science says...

Atmospheric CO2 is accumulating more than ten thousand times as much energy in a year that the entire combined nuclear weapons program of the world has generated.

Climate Myth...

Nuclear testing is causing global warming
"Could it be that what we are experiencing now is merely the blowback from a nuclear testing policy carried out by the USA, Soviet Union, UK, Australia, China, France and Germany and others between 1945 [and] 1993?"
(Source: djpauledge.com )

A reasonable estimate indicates that the total energy released by nuclear explosions in the twentieth century amounts to six hundred megatons TNT equivalent of energy, or 2.5 billion, billion Joules (2.5 x 1018 J).  That estimate  is larger than the five hundred and thirty megatons TNT equivalent estimated by UNSCEAR (also), so it can be considered a conservative estimate.  Divided over the five hundred and ten million, million square meters of the Earth's surface (510 x 1012 m^2), and over the two decades of peak testing, that represents eight millionth of a Watt per square meter (8 x 10-6 W m-2) of power.  For comparison, the 1.8 Watts per square meter (1.8 W m-2) of CO2 radiative forcing as of 2011 generates approximately twenty nine billion, trillion Joules of energy (29 x 1021 J) over the Earth's surface in a single year, or more than ten thousand times as much energy in a year that the entire combined nuclear weapons program of the world has generated.

That is not the whole story.  Many nuclear tests kick up a lot of dust, which reflects sunlight, thereby cooling the Earth.  Indeed, according to Turco et al, 1983, that is the dominant effect of nuclear explosions on climate.  The result is that nuclear testing is likely to have reflected more energy form the Sun than they generated.  That is, nuclear testing is likely to have been a net cooling factor.

Let us ignore that possibility, and the large proportion of energy released to space as radiation.  In that case, during the period of maximum nuclear testing it may have contributed 0.62 millionth of a degree Centigrade (0.62 x 10-6 C) to temperature increase, a contribution too small to notice, and likely to have entirely dissipated since the reduction in nuclear testing in the 1990s.  The peak contribution was in 1962, when nuclear testing may have contributed as much as one hundred and seventy megatons TNT equivalent of energy in 1962.  Averaged over the year and the Earth's surface, that represents forty-four millionths of a Watt (44 x 10-6 W m-2), for a warming contribution, ignoring dust effects, of around thirty-five millionths of a degree Centigrade (35 * 10-6  C), still too small to notice.

 

(Source)

Last updated on 23 August 2012 by dana1981. View Archives

Printable Version  |  Offline PDF Version  |  Link to this page

Comments

Comments 1 to 2:

  1. Hello everyone...well myself, right now.  I think that the point of this argument was not that the nuclear weapons themselves have contributed to warming.  I believe that the point of this argument is that the process of making the nuclear material requires massive amounts of fossil fuels to buid facilities, dig ore, refine, transport and then fire.  Taking a conservative estimate of 2000 nuclear weapons fired since 1940 the amount of fossil fuel emissions would be a great number! 

  2. While they take a lot of energy, on the scale of other things, it is insignificant. World production of Uranium for all purposes has never exceeded 70,000 tonnes per year. World production of say coal by comparison is around 3,000,000,000 tonnes per year.

    If you assumed that energy to extract uranium was say 10 times as much as that required to extract coal, (actually pretty similar), then energy cost from mining uranium is just 0.02% of that spent mining coal.

    All the heat that we generate from all our industry in whatever form amounts to only 0.028W/m2. The heating from human-produced greenhouses gases is 2.9W/m2 by comparison. (See the "its waste heat" argument)

Post a Comment

Political, off-topic or ad hominem comments will be deleted. Comments Policy...

You need to be logged in to post a comment. Login via the left margin or if you're new, register here.

Link to this page



The Consensus Project Website

THE ESCALATOR

(free to republish)

Smartphone Apps

iPhone
Android
Nokia

© Copyright 2017 John Cook
Home | Links | Translations | About Us | Contact Us