A nuclear explosion is an explosion that occurs as a result of the rapid release of energy from a high-speed nuclear reaction. The driving reaction may be nuclear fission or nuclear fusion or a multi-stage cascading combination of the two, though to date all fusion-based weapons have used a fission device to initiate fusion, and a pure fusion weapon remains a hypothetical device.
Atmospheric nuclear explosions are associated with mushroom clouds, although mushroom clouds can occur with large chemical explosions. It is possible to have an air-burst nuclear explosion without those clouds. Nuclear explosions produce radiation and radioactive debris that is harmful to humans and can cause moderate to severe skin burns, eye damage, radiation sickness, cancer and possible death depending on how far from the blast radius a person is. Nuclear explosions can also have detrimental effects on the climate, lasting from months to years. In a 1983 article, Carl Sagan claimed that a small-scale nuclear war could release enough particles into the atmosphere to cause the planet to cool and cause crops, animals, and agriculture to disappear across the globe—an effect named nuclear winter.