# Calculators

## Nuclear Explosion Effects Calculator

Written: 2003-04-24
Last Revised: 2003-05-03

This form will calculate blast effects for nuclear weapons of arbitrary yield, based on the scaling laws printed in Carey Sublette's well-known Nuclear Weapons FAQ. These scaling laws are mathematical approximations and are actually very easy to use on your own, but most people prefer the ease of a pre-designed calculator format.

## Input Weapon Yield

 Yield (megatons)

## Calculated Values

Notes

• All figures assume optimum burst height
• Thermal radiation is non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation which has a significant heating effect. Air is virtually transparent to thermal radiation. At the destructive radius, the thermal radiation intensity is sufficient to cause lethal burns.
• The first air blast is 4.6psi overpressure, which is sufficient to collapse most residential and industrial structures. Note that exposed humans can actually survive such a blast, about 1/3 bar above standard. However, that much pressure exerted against the face of a building exerts very high force (a 40 foot tall, 50 foot wide structure would be hit with more than 600 tons-force).
• The second air blast category is 20psi overpressure, which is sufficient to destroy virtually any large above-ground structure and cause nearly 100% fatalities.
• Ionizing radiation is electromagnetic radiation of sufficient frequency (and hence energy) to literally "knock off" electrons from atoms, thus ionizing them. Ionizing radiation is extremely dangerous but it is also strongly absorbed by air, unlike thermal radiation. At the 500rem dosage, mortality is between 50% and 90%, although this can be mitigated with prompt and sophisticated medical care (which may not be available in the aftermath of a nuclear attack).
• Fireball duration is based on emission intensity reduction to 10% of peak.
• Fireball radius is based on a scaling law from "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons" (1977), Chapter IIc, from excerpts reprinted at EnviroWeb in April 2003. According to that source, fireball radius scales with (Y^0.4), where Y is yield. Also note that a ground-contact airburst creates a larger fireball because some of the energy is reflected back up from the surface.

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