April 17, 2010

Nuclear Winter and Fire and Reducing Fire Risks to Cities

I looked at nuclear winter and city firestorms a few months ago I will summarize the case I made then in the next section. there is significant additions based on my further research and email exchanges that I had with Prof Alan Robock and Brian Toon who wrote the nuclear winter research.

The Steps needed to prove nuclear winter:
1. Prove that enough cities will have firestorms or big enough fires (the claim here is that does not happen)
2. Prove that when enough cities in a suffient area have big fire that enough smoke and soot gets into the stratosphere (trouble with this claim because of the Kuwait fires)
3. Prove that condition persists and effects climate as per models (others have questioned that but this issue is not addressed here

The nuclear winter case is predictated on getting 150 million tons (150 teragram case) of soot, smoke into the stratosphere and having it stay there. The assumption seemed to be that the cities will be targeted and the cities will burn in massive firestorms. Alan Robock indicated that they only included a fire based on the radius of ignition from the atmospheric blasts. However, in the scientific american article and in their 2007 paper the stated assumptions are:
assuming each fire would burn the same area that actually did burn in Hiroshima and assuming an amount of burnable material per person based on various studies.

The implicit assumption is that all buildings react the way the buildings in Hiroshima reacted on that day.

Therefore, the results of Hiroshima are assumed in the Nuclear Winter models.
* 27 days without rain
* with breakfast burners that overturned in the blast and set fires
* mostly wood and paper buildings
* Hiroshima had a firestorm and burned five times more than Nagasaki. Nagasaki was not the best fire resistant city. Nagasaki had the same wood and paper buildings and high population density.

Recommendations Build only with non-combustible materials (cement and brick that is made fire resistant or specially treated wood). Make the roofs, floors and shingles non-combustible. Add fire retardants to any high volume material that could become fuel loading material. Look at city planning to ensure less fire risk for the city. Have a plan for putting out city wide fires (like controlled flood from dams which are already near cities.)

Fire and Details

If there are not multiple citywide firestorms then there is no trigger for nuclear winter even if the later modeling (which is still uncertain) would even need to be considered.
- The Material of the Houses in India and Pakistan do not appear to be Right for Firestorms (mostly burnt brick and mud)

Firestorms have always required at least 50% of buildings to be ignited. High percentage of builtupness is also necessary Hiroshima had most fires from overturned breakfast charcoal braziers.

References that provide the basis of my case Problems of Fire in Nuclear Warfare, Jerome Hill, Rand, 1961
- Nagasaki had no firestorm

4.4 square miles Hiroshima actual burned area

0.9 square miles Nagasaki

13.5 square miles maximum theoretical .

India building census indicates that most of the buildings are made from Burnt Brick, mud which are non-combustible.
Exploratory Analysis of Fire Storms, Stanford Research Institute, 1965

The frequency of rain in India or Pakistan is important because of the effect of recent rain on burning of cities.

Quantitive - seasonal rainfall patterns for India and Pakistan

Fire Factors

"Mass fires and Fire Behaviors" which studies fires in cities and other places indicates that combustible roofing material is a major cause of fires spreading in cities. This document also discusses how to reduce fire risks and lessen spreading of fires. The usual vegetation management that is commonly mentioned for LA fires and having non-combustible roofing materials and gaps between buildings. These anti-fire measures would apply to lessoning fires ignited by nuclear bombs too.

Steps to Reduce Damage

Simple civil defence and building improvements would reduce damage from nuclear war and from hurricanes and earthquakes. Haiti and New Orleans show the importance of building better to greatly reduce problems.

Hurriquake nails, outside paint that reflects heat and other cheap retrofits would reduce the damage radius and roofing material that does not burn.

Further improvement for buildings
Fighting Fires with Water From Behind Dams

There are also some basic counter measures against city wide fire.

More than 2,000 dams near population centers are in the United States are in need of repair, according to statistics released this month by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. there are more dams near population centers which do not need repair. The water could be released in an emergency to more effectively fight any large area of fire.

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