The words ‘World War 3’ trended on social media worldwide as tension rose over Turkey shooting down a Russian jet over its airspace.
Just to keep everything calm and civilised, Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said that nuclear war was now ‘likely’.
There are still a huge number of nuclear weapons in active service – the Arms Control Association estimates that Russia has 7, 700 weapons in service, of which 4, 500 are stockpiled, and 1548 are deployed on missiles and at air bases.
But what would actually happen?
1) We wouldn’t hear a ‘four-minute warning’The last Seafaring of the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk, 2001 (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
The four minute warning system, a national system of sirens which would have gone off during a nuclear attack was retired in 1992 – one of the reasons being that more people now have double glazing.
2) Instead, you will probably get a text message(Picture: Getty Images)
The government has tested technology which would deliver a text message warning of disasters such as nuclear attacks.
The system, drawn up by the National Security Council, was tested in Glasgow and Yorkshire in 2013.
3) By the time you get the message, there may be little you can doPicture Getty
As yet, there is no technology which can stop an intercontinental ballistic missile – so the most many of us could hope for would be time to get indoors.
Even during the time of the ‘four minute’ warning, the warning would probably have offered just three minutes.
4) If you’re near the bomb, there won’t be much left of you
Witnesses of the Hiroshima attack said that people near the centre of the blast ‘vanished’.
William Burchett said, ‘Of thousands of others, nearer the centre of the explosion, there was no trace. They vanished. The theory in Hiroshima is that the atomic heat was so great that they burned instantly to ashes – except that there were no ashes.’
The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was a fraction of the size of the hydrogen warheads now used by Russia and the U.S.
5) Hydrogen bombs could devastate entire citiesThe effects of the first atomic bomb
Nearly six million people dead, homes flattened and millions more poisoned by a huge plume of radioactive poison which would spread for 130 miles.
An app by Alex Wellerstein at the Stevens Institute of Technology, Nuke Map, shows what could happen if the largest Soviet hydrogen bomb ever detonated was dropped on London.
Destruction would spread from Horsham in the South to Luton in the north – and casualties would spiral after the initial blast killed and injured nearly 10 million people.
6) Large-scale nuclear war could devastate the entire world(Picture: SSPL/Getty)
In 1979, the U.S. Congress’s Office of Technology published a report called The Effects of War, which envisaged the impact of an all-out nuclear attack.
The consequences would be disastrous – with hundreds of millions of people dead, and more facing cancer and radiation sickness.
The OTA envisaged up to 80% of the population of the U.S. being killed immediately, with further casualties from radiation.
7) The first impacts wouldn’t be the worst partView of Hiroshima after the dropping of the atom bomb on August 6, 1945. August 1945 Picture Getty
A British government broadcast, recorded to be broadcast in the event of nuclear war, said, ‘This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons… Remember there is nothing to be gained by trying to get away. By leaving your homes you could be exposing yourself to greater danger.If you leave, you may find yourself without food, without water, without accommodation and without protection. Radioactive fall-out, which follows a nuclear explosion, is many times more dangerous if you are directly exposed to it in the open….’