The world can never forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Their very mention is associated with the outrageous effects of the first use of the atomic bomb against humans, that left several hundred thousand people dead. The magnitude of destruction that this bombing left cannot be fully described by the numbers. The consequences of these bombs can still be seen in the present generation of the two Japanese cities. The damage caused by using nuclear weapons is not just limited to the loss of human life and property, but the damage caused to the environment and the flora and fauna is unprecedented. Here's an account of the damages incurred by the use of an atomic bomb.
Effects on People
The effect of a nuclear explosion on humans is extreme. Any life form within a radius of 4 to 6 miles of the explosion is certain to perish. Most of the damage on the human body is caused by a combination of the static over pressures and the high speed blast winds, which can exceed a thousand miles per hour. Even if a human manages to survive these physical forces, damages caused by the radioactive debris will eventually take their toll. In Hiroshima, black radioactive ash, known as black rain, kept on falling from the sky for over an hour after the detonation.
The damage caused by radiation poisoning is the worst of all the effects, as it may not always result in death, but leave the victim in a worse condition. Doctors who examined a few thousand survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki reported rampant cases of cancer, tumors, and cysts. This unusual tissue growth was linked to extreme exposure to the radiation caused by the detonation. According to an estimate, about 200,000 people died either immediately or months or years after the blast due to radiation exposure. Such adverse effects are still being observed in the survivors almost 60 years after the attacks. The effects are not only observed in the generation that faced the attacks, but the succeeding generation, mostly offspring of the survivors, were also born with abnormalities. Deformed bone structure, prenatal blindness or deafness, stunted brain growth, heart and lung problems, etc., were just a few prominent effects observed in the subsequent generations.
A nuclear blast also emits a large amount of thermal radiation, which includes harmful ultraviolet rays, which is the single biggest cause of skin cancer. Some other hazards of thermal radiation are burns and severe eye injuries. These injuries can occur to people well beyond the blast range. Flash blindness is a type of eye injury caused by the initial bright flash of light of the detonation.
Effects on the Environment
Scientists have warned that nuclear arsenal poses the single largest threat to our planet's environment. A US military report says that even a small-scale use of atomic weapons could destroy the world's ecosystems and climatic balance, and would cause a damage that would persist for more than half of the coming decade. Detonation of only 50 to 100 nukes, accounting for only 0.03% of the world's nuclear arsenal, would release so much soot into the atmosphere that it would cause tremendous anomalies unprecedented in the human history. This would be caused due to the soot floating in the upper reaches of the atmosphere and end up being spread around the world. The particles, it says, would prevent sunlight from making it to the earth's surface, which would rapidly cool the Earth by an average of 1.25°C. According to the report, it would cause deaths of tens of millions of people and due to drop in the global temperatures, and more than half the world would not be able to cultivate crops for more than half a decade.
In addition, the ozone layer depletion would be the worst of its kind. More than 40% of the ozone layer, which protects Earth by absorbing harmful ultraviolet radiations, would be depleted over most inhabited areas, and up to 70% at the poles. The wide-spread radiation caused by the detonation will lead the cultivable land to turn infertile. Vegetation found in the exposed areas will be affected and freshwater sources, like rivers, lakes, and ground water table, would get polluted and inedible. There would also be a large-scale damage to the fauna. A nuclear war can cause widespread extinction of rare species and may cause irreparable damage to the animals that manage to survive.
A recent US-based study has shown that a nuclear conflict in coming years can cause unprecedented and unimaginable loss of life and property. The report exhibited that if the most densely packed areas are struck, they would be the worst affected in the aftermath of a nuclear war. It instantiated a war between India and Pakistan, two hostile south-Asian nuclear neighbors. It assessed that the consequences faced would be more than 10 million immediate deaths in each country. And while describing an attack on sparsely populated nations, it said a nuke attack on Britain would cause up to 3 million immediate deaths.
At a time when nuclear proliferation has risen its head, and rogue nations like Iran and North Korea are moving towards nuclear deterrence, the significance of knowing all the effects that atomic bombs pose has risen. Those studying the aftermath of a future nuclear war suggest that 9/11 would seem a minor event if nuke's fall into the wrong hands.