The Kuwaiti oil fires were not just limited to burning oil wells, one of which is seen here in the background, but burning "oil lakes", seen in the foreground, also contributed to the smoke plumes, particularly the sootiest/blackest of them. (public domain)

US-Russia nuclear war would plunge the world into 10 years of darkness

Embargoed until: Publicly released:

If the US and Russia used up their current nuclear arsenals in war, the fires ignited by nuclear explosions could inject 150 Tg of soot into the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, triggering a global nuclear winter. These soot aerosols would be carried all around the world by stratospheric winds in a matter of weeks, blocking out the sun and causing global average surface temperatures to plummet by more than 8 degrees. Their model suggests it would take seven years before we would see a significant dent in the black curtain covering the Earth, taking about 10 years after the start of the war to return to normal levels of light. The follow on climatic effects would also collapse the monsoon and dramatically shift El Niño variability.

Journal/conference: Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

DOI: 10.1029/2019JD030509

Organisation/s: Rutgers University, USA; University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Funder: This work is supported by a grant from the Open Philanthropy Project.


  • American Geophysical Union
    Web page
    The URL is live

News for:


Media contact details for this story are only visible to registered journalists.