What if, instead of Nagasaki, a nuclear device were dropped on Ann Arbor, MI?

In April of this year, the US and Russia jointly signed the New Start treaty, which aims to reduce the number and type of nuclear arms that each country possesses. The Senate has yet to ratify it. While it doesn’t seem to make headline news, the treaty itself is sticking point to conservatives, who still live under the fantasy that, despite the fact that the United States and Russia could independently end all human life of earth several times over, more nuclear weapons makes the world a safer place. While I like to think that conservatives are scared children who hide in their homes behind loaded guns, weepingly coddling fantasies of black men breaking into their houses at night to rape and steal all that they’ve worked for, the truth is, of course, more complicated. I may not agree with conservatives, but it’s a mistake to dismiss them as being insane or stupid.

The Obama admin, in making concessions to the right so that Senate ratification of New Start can happen by the end of the year, has promised 85 billion tax dollars over the next decade to upgrade our aging nuclear infrastructure. Of course, this is 85 billion dollars in addition to the 54 billion dollars that we waste (yearly) already upgrading and maintaining our useless nuclear infrastructure. Realistically, conservatives are screaming for more money to nuclear development, because private nuclear and defense developers profit off of it, and as a result, their stock profiles remain safe.

One can only imagine that while we may reduce our nuclear stockpile in absolute terms, we pour money into making our ability to kill children and ruin the health and welfare of generations of people more and more efficient. Basically, we get more destructive power, for less. It’s hypocrisy at it’s best and disappointing that the Obama admin has fallen for it. While I support the admin in pushing for the New Start treaty, I am disappointed that the Obama admin hasn’t had the teeth to push for total nuclear disarmament. I am disappointed that the Obama admin has not worked to set immediate goals to create a truly nuclear free world, headed by the one country who has unleashed the horror of atomic warfare. To me, it is morally reprehensible that we would be discussing further development of the most horrific weapon ever created.

Nuclear weapons do us no good against stateless terror groups such as al Qaeda who don’t give a rats ass about their local populations. Nuclear weapons do not deter China from waging war against their biggest business customer. Nuclear weapons do not deter rogue states with batshit governments such as Iran and North Korea who have little to lose. What nuclear weapons are good for, is putting the power to destroy all life of earth in the power of paranoid and self-interested business backed politicians. Somehow, I don’t think that’s a good thing.

Below, are some screen caps from a site which lets you see the results of a nuclear explosion on any area in the world. You can even select a variety of weapons. For example, here’s the bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945, which killed more than 80,000 people:

I decided to see what it would look like, if the same bomb were dropped on Ann Arbor. Looking at this picture, it’s pretty clear that all of downtown Ann Arbor, the entire central campus of the UM, the UM hospital complex and most residential areas in proximity to central campus would be obliterated. That’s approximately 50-70,000 people who would be killed immediately, depending on the time of day.

However, that was 1945. We’ve come a long way in our killing capabilities since then. A common US nuclear device in 2010, is the B61 or B83 nuclear device. The B61 is convenient in that one can choose the explosive yield to fit the area one wishes to obliterate. Here is what a B83, capable of an explosive yield of 1.2 megatons would do to the Ann Arbor area. Everyone in Ann Arbor would be killed immediatly, along with Pittsfield and much of Ypsilanti. Likely, more than 200,000 people would die in the intial blast, with people up to 50 miles away experiencing light damage. Radiation would likely take care of most of Souteast Michigan and Toledo, OH, with death and sickened entering the millions over the course of the next 20 years.

And, just for fun, here’s what Nagasaki would have looked like, had the US bombed it in 2010:

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

7 responses to “What if, instead of Nagasaki, a nuclear device were dropped on Ann Arbor, MI?”

  1. teacherpatti says :

    As a kid in the 80s, I was absolutely terrified about nuclear war. I was positive that I would never make it to adulthood because we would all be anniliated (sp?). I saw the BBC movie “Threads”, which made The Day After look like it was just a sorta bad day. Personally, if the bombs are going to fall, I don’t want to hear the sirens…there is nothing I can do anyway. I’d rather just be, “Hey what’s th–?” Boom, dead.

  2. Pete Larson says :

    I remember that, too, and was also scared shitless (still am!).

    The reality is even more horrific. Truthfully, the people who died in Nagasaki and Hiroshima were the lucky ones. The survivors, depending on where they were, had to contend with major burns, radiation sickness which sometimes came quickly, and sometimes didn’t come for years, and even worse, showed itself in the grandchildren.

    Even in the 80’s, the way it was treated in the popular imagination, was that everything would just burn in an instant, but the truth is, that a massive nuclear conflict would inflict it’s worst for generations and even hundreds of years.

  3. TeacherPatti says :

    I still remember the last scene of that movie, when she has the deformed baby…and also how the kids couldn’t really talk…they had really weird vocabulary and syntax.

    The Day After was cheesy as hell (remember Steve Guttenberg’s face falling off at the end?) but at least it showed that it wouldn’t just be a flash and done.

    If you really want to freak yourself out, read Riddley Walker. It is set 2000+ years after the nuclear holocaust and well, we ain’t doing too well. Dogs are completely feral and have gained enough intelligence to know that humans suck. No one is really literate and there are just kind of little camps of people, living behind fences. They don’t know any different but they do know that it used to be much, much better.

  4. Ferunando-Sama says :

    Wow, Pete it’s amazing the amount of money. I think with a fraction of that we can cover Africa under LLITNs

  5. Pete Larson says :

    Every African could have a new LLIN yearly for this amount of money!!

  6. Pete Larson says :

    Hell, every human on the planet could have one for this!

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