8.07.2013

Drop a Nuke!!! (Nuclear Bomb Simulator Program)

This is the third installment of the nuclear detonation simulator by Alex Wellerstein. An earlier version which is less graphic intense (smoother running for older PC's) has other features which make it still relevant. That earlier version is available on this blog's button keys in the right-hand column.

For this version you will have to be sure your Google Earth is up to date.


Here are some screenshots I took when I decided to nuke NYC. These are simulated air-bursts over downtown Manhattan.

If one were to take the Metro-North Hudson Line train, north out of Grand Central Terminal to the end of the line, you would wind up in Poughkeepsie NY. That city is roughly the halfway point between NYC and the state capitol in Albany. So for these simulations, I decided to stand that far away, in order to get a sense of how large these explosions would be. By highway, it's a distance of about 85 miles from Poughkeepsie, to the foot of Manhattan at Battery Park. 

A great vantage point to see such a spectacle would be from atop the Walkway Over the Hudson, an old railroad bridge which has been converted into a public park. Most of these simulated long-distance images are taken from there.

This first shot simulates a 20 kiloton air-burst nuclear detonation over downtown Manhattan. Keep in mind here, that one single kiloton, is the general equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT. The "Little Boy" bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima is believed to have detonated with the force of 13-18 kilotons. The "Fat Man" which was dropped on Nagasaki a few days later, was 20-22 kt. So in general, this simulates a bombing of NY about the size of what we did to Japan at the close of WWII.




This is what that same blast would look like if you were on Staten Island at the ferry docks.


And if you were flying over New York in an airliner at an altitude of 30,000 feet it would look something like this.


The following map depicts the general immediate effects of a nuclear blast. Keep in mind that there are many variables when estimating damage in a real world detonation based on the height of the burst, the specific sort of weapon that used, building materials and so forth. Weather patterns will greatly effect secondary radiation fallout patterns as well.

Effects radii for a 20 kiloton bomb (smallest to largest):
Fireball: 660 ft (0.05 mi²)Maximum size of the nuclear fireball; relevance to lived effects depends on height of detonation.
Air blast: 2,510 ft (0.71 mi²)20 psi overpressure; heavily built concrete buildings are severely damaged or demolished; fatalities approach 100%.
Radiation: 0.87 mi (2.4 mi²)500 rem radiation dose; between 50% and 90% mortality from acute effects alone; dying takes between several hours and several weeks.
Air blast: 1.17 mi (4.33 mi²)5 psi overpressure; most buildings collapse; injuries universal, fatalities widespread.
Thermal radiation: 1.52 mi (7.28 mi²)Third-degree burns to all exposed skin; can start fires.



Radioactive fallout could rain down as far away as Long Island is long.



This image simulates a 100 kiloton detonation over downtown Manhattan. This is the yield of America's most popular nuclear warhead, the W76. 8 to 12 of these warheads can be mounted on a single, submarine launched, Trident II ballistic missile in order to shower multiple independent targets. 


The "Ivy King" was the largest pure fission nuclear device ever tested by the United States. In November of 1952 it was dropped on an uninhabited Pacific atoll, and exploded with the force of 500 kilotons. (See video). This is what it would have looked like from Poughkeepsie, looking south to NYC.


This image simulates what it would look like if NYC were to be hit by one of China's Dong Feng 5 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. Their premier ICBM detonates with a yield of 5 megatons, and can strike almost anywhere on the planet except for South America due to range limitations. China's nuclear arsenal is estimated to be anywhere from several hundred to several thousand warheads. Plans to put multiple warheads on the DF-5 have met with some technical difficulty and it is not believed that any of the missiles have been deployed with MIRV capability.


At 15 megatons, "Castle Bravo" reigns as America's largest ever nuclear detonation. Unfortunately, it was an unexpected achievement, with the yield only expected to be about 4 to 5 megatons. As a result of the unexpectedly large explosion, there was significant exposure to civilian populations from radiation and fallout. The 1954 test created international concern for atmospheric testing of nuclear bombs. (See video)


For better or worse, and perhaps having learned a lesson after getting burned playing with firecrackers, the Unites States appears to have been content enough to leave well enough alone. The Soviet bear on the other hand, felt they had more to prove.

The largest nuclear detonation ever on our planet was the former USSR's Tsar Bomba. That behemoth exploded with the nearly incomprehensible force of 50 megatons. Astonishingly, this test was set to go off with only half of the yield the bomb was actually designed for, an Earth-cracking 100 megatons. The following two images from about 80 miles from Ground Zero barely capture the scope of such explosions.




Now let's do a direct comparison from about 100 miles up, in a low-Earth orbit from space. We will place the marker in Poughkeepsie as a point of reference. In this first image we see the small spot over Manhattan that is the mushroom cloud from a 20 kiloton bomb like the ones that were dropped on Japan.



And here, is the Tsar Bomba, as seen from outer space.


Keep in mind, we human beings have created an explosion that large. Finally, this is what we have built, and are capable of. The 100 megaton blast which the Tsar Bomba was designed for. First in low earth orbit, and then from high above, directly overhead.



Here are the damage maps for the 100 megaton Tsar Bomba. The fireball alone would be nearly 4 miles wide. Anyone standing outside, almost as far away as Poughkeepsie, New York would suffer third degree burns to exposed skin and anything fairly combustible like cloth, paper and leaves would ignite. Stell liquifying firestorms would be widespread. Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Jersey City would be leveled.


If prevailing winds happened to move from east to west, fatal levels of radioactive fallout would reach as far as the Rocky Mountains. Alternately, if a bomb this size were to be detonated over Colorado Springs, deadly fallout would reach as far as New York.



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