Armed Forces

Cold War nuclear weapons warped Earth's magnetosphere - revealing what the true fallout could be if World War 3 broke out

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NASA have released chilling details about how Cold War nuke tests affected our planet.

Several nuclear tests were carried out by the US and the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 60s.

But it’s only now that scientists are realising what the true fallout was.

The military exercises replicated the same devastating effects that solar storms can have on our planet – including blackouts and communication failures.

Detonating explosives at heights of between 16 and 250 miles above our planet’s surface temporarily distorted the Earth’s magnetic field line.

This directly impacted satellites by damaging onboard electronics and disrupting communications and navigation signals.

Utility companies in Hawaii were strained and several satellites near test sites stopped working.

For years, extra radiation - which is what caused the satellites and electronics to fail - lay trapped inside Earth's magnetosphere, a region surrounding Earth that defends us from solar flares.

The nuke tests were behind some very strange sights in our skies, too.

One triggered an aurora similar to the Northern Lights to appear over the Equator instead of the poles.

The findings, published in Space Science Reviews, is a chilling prediction of what a nuclear conflict might have in store for humanity.

It's well known how the immediate - and grisly - aftermath could wipe out entire nations.

But as we've become increasingly reliant on technology - it's apparent that nuclear war could be even more devastating to civilisation.

Aside from the radiation that would wipe out vast swathes of life on Earth, all power and satellite systems could be completely warped - sending us back to the Stone Age.

The findings come as tensions between the US, Russia, China and North Korea escalate.

Many fear World War 3 might be on the cards as Kim Jong-Un threatens weekly tests of missile launches.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and 24 ballistic missile tests in 2016 alone, defying six UN Security Council resolutions banning any testing.

But scientists have said that there are bigger fish to fry..

Solar flares shooting from the Sun have enough power to cause the same sort of mayhem without any human input.

For now, the findings are being used to understand how radiation coming from the other side of the magnetosphere is affecting our planet.

"The tests were a human-generated and extreme example of some of the space weather effects frequently caused by the Sun," said Phil Erickson, assistant director of MIT’s Haystack Observatory, Westford, Massachusetts, and co-author on the paper.

"If we understand what happened in the somewhat controlled and extreme event that was caused by one of these man-made events, we can more easily understand the natural variation in the near-space environment."

This story originally appeared in The Sun.