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This was apparently because they did not fully understand the physics involved, says Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program.

The oceans may be large, but they are also littered with thousands of bits of land and many more thousands of boats and ships,” Cronin notes.

“The bigger threat to marine life is likely from the initial blast and the initial radiation, but the dispersion patterns are complex and hard to predict.” Residual radioactive particles propelled into the air—known as fallout—create a longer-term threat to living things near a nuclear blast.

The size and weight of those particles, combined with size of the blast’s mushroom cloud and wind shear, determines how widely the fallout is dispersed.

Castle Bravo’s cloud reached an altitude of 30 kilometers in just two minutes.

Fanned by winds that shifted suddenly to the east, the fallout plume spread high levels of radioactivity over an area that stretched for hundreds of kilometers and included several inhabited islands.

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