This is related to my previous question: How many survivors would grow on earth years after a worldwide nuclear holocaust?

In an earth with roughly a billion modern day survivors, and 20 million former USA citizens are trying to survive and organize themselves after nuclear holocaust, which areas (specifically the area in the former USA) would have the greatest success during the 10 year nuclear winter (soon turning into cities)? For example, those living in the center of a large area of good farmland, for instance, will always have an advantage over those who are alive in the middle of the Appalachian or Rocky Mountains, simply because they've got a food advantage.

As such, to be considered successful, the areas need to have a relatively staple production (or import) of food in order to maintain and grow the population. Also, areas more likely to recover and/or to turn into cities (and therefore with higher population) will be considered more successful. In case it is not possible, consider the areas with the lowest decrease in population and highest sustenancy instead (even if it is insufficient).

This is under the assumption that large population centers like Chicago, New York, military installations, etc, were specifically targeted by nukes. By large, I mean greater than 500k population.

For reference, the nuclear strikes started at January 1 2020, and targeted specific countries such as USA, Canada, Russia, China, UK, France, India, Pakistan, Italy, Iran, Korea, Israel, Saudi Arabia.

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    $\begingroup$ What cities are nuked? It seems likely that any population center that wasn't bombed is going to have a significant population advantage compared to the rest of the country. Without knowing that information it's impossible to even begin to guess what area would be the most populated 10 years later. You may also want to specify whether that's a billion people in the US or a billion people worldwide. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 23:00
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    $\begingroup$ It's worth noting that "nuclear winter" is not some sort of abrupt glaciation. It would cause crop failures in high or low latitudes, but would not make things uninhabitable. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ This is a great experiment but it just can’t be packed into one little question. Please break it up into focused problems. Use multiple questions. VTC. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 0:23
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, I'm terrible at asking the right questions on here. I try my best to be as specific as possible, but it doesn't work $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 1:31
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    $\begingroup$ I have made edits that help focus and clarify my question. Hopefully it is acceptable ^ ^ $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 5:19

2 Answers 2


The numbers in the question (10 year-long nuclear winter and 500k+ population cities being destroyed) suggest that the OP is thinking about the global all-out nuclear war. These two papers are based on a similar scenario. The main difference is that Day 0 is the 15 May while in the OP's scenario Day 0 is the 1 January. I strongly recommend reading these papers.

This article suggests that if the nuclear war starts in January, soot will be removed from the atmosphere faster compared to July. The figures shown in the article are based on the 1986 model which is not as accurate as models used today. I also did not find any new studies modelling winter-time nuclear war. Therefore, it is hard to estimate how much milder the consequences of the January-start all-out nuclear war will be compared to the May-start all-out war.

Contemporary models suggest that even a limited regional nuclear conflict would result in climate change, massive ozone loss, and global famine.

In the worst-case scenario (similar to projections in the first two papers linked above), only Hawaii has a chance to start rebuilding. The continental US will be unable to grow any crops at least for the first 3-4 years after the end of the war.

It is important to mention that Hawaii is not self-sufficient when it comes to food. According to the 2012 government report, 85-90% of food was imported. It's been 10 years, but judging from the newspaper headlines the situation has not improved much and Hawaii is still incapable of sustaining itself. In the nuclear winter scenario in addition to disrupted imports, Hawaii will face shortened growing seasons and a higher probability of natural disasters due to climate changes. This will make recovery very difficult.

How the continental US will fare in milder scenarios is hard to predict. However, coastal areas in the south of the country (not Southern states, geographical south) should have an easier time than northern and central regions. If people manage to survive, the population is most likely to be drastically reduced due to global nuclear famine. Most survivors will have to migrate south. The level of technology will drop significantly.

Please note that in the worst-case scenario human extinction is not impossible. The initial casualties might be relatively low. But the changes triggered by the soot in the atmosphere have the potential to make survival for humans as species extremely challenging.

  • $\begingroup$ I must ask, even though I'm super late...do you include wild plants like grass and trees in "crops won't grow"? Because I'm pretty sure Eskimos can survive off animals like usual (reindeer, seals, etc), and others can eat fish. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 14:10




Fresno has a population of 500,000. It will probably not itself be nuked. If LA is nuked, survivors from Bakersfield and the surrounding areas will come north to Fresno and survivors from San Francisco will come south and so Fresno might actually gain population. Fresno is surrounded by some of the best agricultural land in the world. The climate is warm and even with nuclear winter they will be able to feed themselves.

Plus the creative and industrious spirit of Fresno will serve them well after the apocalypse! Fresno will certainly be the capital of the West Coast.

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    $\begingroup$ But one would need to ask if they would react by rejecting growth. Places like Fresno have historically been very resistant to change and unwelcoming to refugees. They might respond by closing down, rejecting anyone bringing "contamination", and struggle to maintain their social order over having any growth. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidR You must be thinking of a different Fresno. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 19:45

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