For years I have been hearing all sorts of conflicting information about global warming. Many say that scientists have proven that humans have been warming the Earth significantly with their actions. Specifically with the release of carbon into our atmosphere.

Others say that scientists have found other causes. Sources such as some animals or plants. Natural wobbles in the Earth's orbit around the sun. Increased activity from the sun due to normal cycles in the Sun's output. It goes on and on and on.

Recently I was watching a documentary on the creation and testing of nuclear bombs. These bombs seem to constantly increase in power and destructiveness. Between the United States and Russia, along with other countries, there have been hundreds of insanely powerful nuclear bombs that have been detonated for testing purposes (and a few other purposes).

My question is whether or not anyone has studied what effect, if any, this could have had on global warming. I would think such detonations would have a much more significant impact than carbon being slowly released into the atmosphere. Given how intense and wide reaching such things were.

I am not saying that this has caused all the problems. I am just curious what effect they could have had. I think that a lot of people always want to find the silver bullet. The one cause/cure of/for a problem. In the case of global warming we keep looking for one source. Those that want to believe mankind is causing it find a magic cause of it. Those that can't accept that possibility look for causes outside our control.

I think the truth is somewhere in-between. Our planet is a very complex and dynamic thing that is affected my millions of different things.

  • $\begingroup$ Related or possibly a duplicate: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/36398/… $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 22:39
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The hypothetical cooling by a nuclear exchange has been referred to as "nuclear winter" since 1975. Many people promoted the meme, including Carl Sagan, but in recent years, it became pretty clear that the effect was hugely overestimated. See e.g. this Michael Crichton's speech and search for "nuclear winter". You may want to read the whole thing: cfa.harvard.edu/~scranmer/SPD/crichton.html $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 6:13
  • $\begingroup$ @LubošMotl: +1 for telling the truth on this, but the fact that nuclear winter is made up is not evidence that global warming is made up. Nuclear winter is a small effect compared to natural stuff (but radioactive poisoning of the atmosphere is real of course), while human CO2 emissions can easily double natural atmospheric CO2. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ I was going to -1 the question, because the idea is ridiculous to anyone with any quantitative training, but I realize you are sincere. Please, it is false that complex things are affected by "a million different things". You are a complex thing, but if you get AIDS, it's from HIV, not from a million things, and if you get sedated, it's the sedative that's making you drowsy, not a million different things. You have to separate effects by scientific isolation and study, and find the simple model that is predictive. It is important to not think that it's complexity magic, because this is rare. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ @RonMaimon I understand the point your getting at. But I think your example is a bit flawed. For example you can get a rash from poison ivy. But that doesn't mean that all rashes are caused by poison ivy. Trapping heat within an area/object will generally increase the temperature of the area/object. But that still requires a heat source and something trapping it. The heat can come from multiple sources and multiple things can trap heat (though far fewer things can do this on a global scale). $\endgroup$
    – Patrick
    Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 17:53

1 Answer 1


Fortunately our puny nuclear bombs are no match for the mighty volcano.

Even Mt St Helens, a pretty pathetic volcano by historic standards, put out about the same energy as the largest bomb tested. It had a much greater effect on the atmosphere by putting an aerosol of nasty greenhouse chemicals as well as a few 10^9 m^3 of ash and dust.

In general tests underground tests tell you more, are safer and give less information to the opposition. The only really large atmospheric tests were the US Castle Bravo (which was accidentally about 3x as big as expected) and the USSR's Tsar test (which was just bat-shit crazy)

  • $\begingroup$ That doesn't entirely surprise me. But I do wonder if the number of bombs exploded over a few decades can add up the damage. Volcanos like Mt. St. Helens don't blow very often. $\endgroup$
    – Patrick
    Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 6:22
  • $\begingroup$ @pthurmond: No it can't. This is an order of magnitude error. You might as well ask if the heat emitted by running all those cars is contributing to global warming. Only the greenhouse gas concentrations are important globally. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 13:10

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