Influence of Solar Heating and Precipitation Scavenging on the Simulated Lifetime of Post—Nuclear War Smoke

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Science  18 Oct 1985:
Vol. 230, Issue 4723, pp. 317-319
DOI: 10.1126/science.230.4723.317


The behavior of smoke injected into the atmosphere by massive fires that might follow a nuclear war was simulated. Studies with a three-dimensional global atmospheric circulation model showed that heating of the smoke by sunlight would be important and might produce several effects that would decrease the efficiency with which precipitation removes smoke from the atmosphere. The heating gives rise to vertical motions that carry smoke well above the original injection height. Heating of the smoke also causes the tropopause, which is initially above the smoke, to reform below the heated smoke layer. Smoke above the tropopause is physically isolated from precipitation below. Consequently, the atmospheric residence time of the remaining smoke is greatly increased over the prescribed residence times used in previous models of nuclear winter.