Nuclear bombs are the most destructive weapons on the planet. The blast wave from the explosion of the Russian Satan II nuclear missile would destroy, for example, Central Park in New York, writes The Vice. But for those outside the immediate range, nuclear explosions are survivable, even with the powerful wind generated by the blast wave.
Using computer models, researchers from the University of Nicosia (Cyprus) studied the effect of wind from a nuclear explosion on the human body and the buildings in which they will hide in case of danger.
The study, called “Nuclear Explosion Impact on Humans Indoors” and published in Physics of Fluids on Tuesday, is a deep dive into how high speed winds impact shelter and the human body. Nuclear warfare experts divide the immediate zones around a nuclear explosion into three segments: the Severe Damage Zone, the Moderate Damage Zone, and the Light Damage Zone.
People and buildings in the first will mostly be obliterated. Those in the last may sustain light injuries, most that won’t be life-threatening. It’s in the Moderate Damage Zone where life is most precarious. Radiation persists, and concrete structures — and humans — can survive. This zone is the focus of the study.
According to the researchers, the main danger comes from the structures, which for a short time became wind tunnels for the powerful nuclear wind.
“The primary danger to human survivability in indoor spaces becomes the extreme high-speed winds that enter through the various openings in the building, e.g., windows,” the study said. “In addition, the propagation of shock waves indoors will interact with walls and deflect around corners, doors and obstacles. These interactions may induce higher pressures due to channeling effects, thus increasing the injury risk.”
Bottom line — if you see a nuclear explosion on the horizon, move to the back of the building you’re in and stay as far away from doors, windows, and hallways as possible. According to the study, hallways and doors will briefly accelerate the overpressured winds as they move through a home. This effect will be brief, just half a second, but the force of the winds is high enough that it can damage the human body. The effect will be worse around hallways, windows, and doors.
For the study, scientists used computer models to simulate overpressure, or the level of pressure that follows the blast wave after a nuclear explosion. A nuclear warhead with a capacity of 750 kilotons was used in the simulation.
With such a power, the zone of moderate destruction would begin about 4 km from the place of the explosion and extend for more than 48 km. The nuclear warheads that the US dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had a capacity of about 20 kt, since then weapons have become much more powerful. Several weapons in the US and Russian arsenals have a yield of more than 750 kt, and the researchers said they had Russia’s Satan II intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in mind when developing the study.
The simulation assumed a 750 kt blast and considered a pressure of 1.3 to 2.3 kg per square inch in the resulting blast wave. Under such pressure, the impact on the human body would be very pronounced.
“The force hitting a standing person indoors is equivalent to several g−forces of body mass acceleration and could lift a person off the ground and throw them to the walls,” the study said. “At an overpressure of 3 psi, the acceleration can reach 80 g’s, while at 5 psi, the acceleration exceeds 140 g’s. However, there are areas inside the rooms where the airspeed and the associated forces are reduced.”
The escalation of Russia’s war in Ukraine, new Chinese sites for ICBMs, as well as America’s desire to build new plutonium mines — all this has renewed the fear of nuclear weapons. Last year, New York released a social media ad detailing what the city’s residents should do in the event of a nuclear war.
Professor and one of the authors of the study, Dimitris Drikakis, said that the team started working on the study after the war in Ukraine began.
“The motivation emerged from the debate in the media in the past year about a possible nuclear war,” Drikakis said. “Moreover, there was no previous study showing the effects of wind forces on humans indoors in the moderate damaged zone, where humans have a chance to survive inside a building which has not collapsed from the explosion. If people see the explosion from far away, they must take shelter ASAP. If they are at the window, they should run away from it inside the building and take shelter in a room without openings or in the corners of the rooms/corridors.”