What Would a Hydrogen Bomb Do to the Pacific Ocean?

Karlo E., Contributer

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The latest fiery exchange between the United States and North Korea has produced a new kind of threat. On Tuesday, September 26, during his speech at the United Nations, President Trump said his government would “totally destroy North Korea” if necessary to defend the United States or its allies. On Friday, Kim Jong Un responded, saying North Korea “will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”

The North Korean foreign minister provided a hint: North Korea might test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.

Conducting a hydrogen-bomb test in the ocean could mean putting a nuclear warhead on top of a ballistic missile and launching them together toward the sea. If North Korea followed through, the test would be the first detonation of a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere in nearly 40 years. It would lead to severe environmental impacts.

Hydrogen bombs are far more powerful than atomic bombs, capable of producing many times more explosive energy. If an H-bomb hits the Pacific, it will detonate with a blinding flash and produce the signature mushroom cloud. The immediate effects likely would depend on the height of the detonation above the water. The initial blast could kill most of the life in the strike zone instantly.

The smoke from the blast site could block out sunlight and hinder life forms at sea that depend on photosynthesis to survive. The exposure to radiation could cause severe health problems for nearby marine life. Radioactivity is known to damage cells in humans, animals, and plants by causing changes in their genes. The changes could lead to crippling mutations in future generations.

According to “The Atlantic”, the test could also have damaging and long-lasting effects on humans and other wildlife if the radioactive fallout reaches land. The particles could contaminate air, soil, and water supply. More than 60 years after the United States tested a series of atomic bombs near Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the island remains “unlivable”.

This year alone, North Korea has conducted 19 ballistic-missile tests and one nuclear test, according to a database from the Nuclear-Threat Initiative. Earlier this month, North Korea said it conducted a successful underground test of a hydrogen bomb. The event created an artificial earthquake near the test site that was registered by seismic-activity stations around the world.

Pyongyang’s mention of a potential hydrogen-bomb test in the Pacific will likely increase political tensions and contribute to the ever-growing debate about the true capabilities of its nuclear-weapons program. An H-bomb in the ocean certainly would put any speculation to rest.

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