The awesome power and energy released is difficult to wrap your head around. Think on this: a cubic meter of water weighs a ton. Now imagine taking a single cubic meter of water and lifting it, say, 100 meters in the air, accelerating it to several hundred kilometers per hour.
Now look again at that plume. How many cubic meters of water were are in it? Even being conservative I’d say it was in the millions, meaning millions of tons of water blasted upward and outward by the force of the explosion. It’s terrifying. And mind you, the test shown was for a relatively small blast: about an 8 or 9 kiloton yield (the equivalent of 8-9 thousand tons of TNT), whereas big nukes are capable of 20 megatons, over a thousand times the explosive yield shown.
I’m fascinated by big bangs – from the first one, to supernovae, and all the way down to bombs we humans make in our clever and plodding attempts to kill one another. Every now and again it’s good to get a solid reminder of just what these explosions are capable of.
If you’ve read my book Death from the Skies!, you may remember pages 103-105 where I wrote about a nuclear test called Starfish Prime. The U.S. detonated a nuke several hundred kilometers high in space to see what would happen, and the results were dramatic: the pulse of energy from the 1.4 megaton bomb blast overloaded electrical circuits, and blew out power lines and streetlights in Hawaii from over 900 km away! It also seeded the Earth’s magnetic field with high-energy subatomic particles that took years to completely drain away.
A lot of the results from this test are still classified to this day, but NPR recently reported on some of the effects of the explosion including some newly released pictures. They also have an interesting video too, with some very interesting and frankly scary footage.