I mean, it’s a nuclear bomb, so bad is a relative term. But, with North Korea making threats and the President of the United States telling his top negotiator not to bother actually negotiating, more than a few people are (legitimately) worried that nuclear war is imminent.

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I’m guessing a not-small percentage of those people live in the South Pacific, a region experienced in things like mushroom clouds and nuclear fallout.

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In order to launch a nuclear bomb, North Korea has to test them – and they’ve made sure we all know that they’re doing just that. But while we’re all worried about what might happen to human beings who find themselves in the blast zone, there’s a greater chance that the ocean and its marine life will be the first victims of North Korea’s nuclear program. If Kim Jong Un makes good on his threat to take nuclear testing to the next level, it would be the first instance in nearly 40 years of a hydrogen bomb detonating in the atmosphere.

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So, what will happen to the fishes? The shrimps? The dolphins and the coral and on and on? Well, according to science, the negative impact would be swift and severe. Everyone and almost everything within 1600 miles of the Hiroshima bast zone perished, and detonating a similar bomb over the Pacific would be no different; most of the fish, mammal, avian, and plant life would be gone in a flash (literally).

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That wouldn’t be the end of it, though. Radioactive particles would tumble through the air and into the water, with wind expanding the affected area by hundreds of miles. The resulting smoke could block out the sunlight, a devastating consequence for sea plants and animals who rely on photosynthesis to survive. The radiation itself, known to damage living cells all the way down to the bone, could affect genetic changes and lead to mutations in future generations. And radiation at this level of exposure can pass quickly up the food chain.

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In case you need me to spell it out…we’re at the top of that food chain. As if there wasn’t enough to worry about when deciding when and how much fish to consume these days.

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If the dust cloud or other fallout particles reach land, we’re looking at a whole other set of problems, including tainted air, soil, and water. For reference, the Marshall Islands’ Bikini Atoll is still uninhabitable. Foods grown in the area continue to register unsafe radiation levels more than 60 years after the United States tested a number of atomic bombs over nearby waters.

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The testing of diverse nuclear weapons, and by myriad nations, is nothing new. Between 1945 and 1996, more than 2,000 tests were recorded worldwide (the last above-ground test took place in 1980). In 1996, an international treaty banned nuclear tests, in any and all circumstances.

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Which is why the United States and the rest of the world are understandably taking a hard line with North Korea, a nation that has tested 19 ballistic and at least 1 nuclear missile this year alone. On top of the brazen above-ground testing, their recent claim to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb underground appears to have been proven true by the consequent seismic activity registered around the world.

The geo-political ramifications of a North Korean hydrogen bomb test are sure to be broad and swift, with the possibility of outright war looming over the horizon. Yet, even if we do avoid disastrous and immediate loss of human life, a mere test of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific would have lasting and devastating environmental consequences, not only for marine life, but also for anyone who depends on the ocean and its bounty for survival.

h/t: The Atlantic

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