Compare the effects: 50-kiloton nuke vs 50,000 MT TNT

Suppose you detonate both on the ground, how different would the effects be? I know that a nuke releases unearthly heat in just a few thousandths of a second. The heat will cause everything to expand and vaporize. An explosive, on the other hand, chemically converts a solid into a gas at a linear rate of at least 100 meters a second. How differently would the following surroundings “react”

  1. a heavy structure like a dam or bomb shelter.
  2. a low-built-up but heavily settled area (suburb)
  3. agricultural area
  4. a thick ice sheet.

I’m guessing that there is a typo in the OP. A 50-kiloton bomb of any kind would be far less powerful than a 50-megaton bomb of any other kind.

May I suggest that future posters presume that the two bombs are of the same tonnage. (Or did I totally misunderstand the OP?)

Worse than that. The 50,000 MT specified is 50 Gigatons. ETA: I think you’re right he meant to have the same tonnage.

50 gigatons is more or less equivalent to an asteroid strike from an object a bit under a kilometer in diameter, so I’m going to have to go with the 50,000 megatons of TNT as being more “impactful” than 2 Fat Man nuclear bombs.

As I understand it, a nuke of the same energy does more damage than a chemical explosive because it produces a far “sharper” shockwave; the energy is released much more quickly. The difference between a shove and a punch of the same strength, basically. It will have effects that even a much larger chemical explosive won’t; for example nukes and meteorites create “shocked quartz” by their shockwaves, while chemical explosives and exploding volcanoes don’t.

50 kilotons of TNT will be a block about 1000ft on a side. I’m guessing this is not an experiment that has been run. I’d love to see it. If all of that detonates at once, it should be plenty fast. I’m not certain there would be a huge difference. I think the TNT would have a huge pressure wave from all of the generated gasses. I think the TNT might win his one.

High-order explosives can detonate at rates far in excess of 100 m/s. TNT, for example, has a listed detonation velocity of 6900 m/s.

Minor Scale was a test in which 4.8 kilotons of ANFO ws detonated to simulate the effects of a nuclear blast. Based on a density of 840 kg/m^3, that’s a sphere of ANFO 22 meters across. With ANFO’s detonation velocity of 3200 m/s, if detonation was initiated at the center of the sphere (assuming the initial form was indeed a sphere) the entire mass of ANFO would have detonated in about 3 milliseconds.

TNT is twice as dense as ANFO, so a 50-megaton sphere of TNT would be about 17x as large, i.e. 381 meters in diameter. With its higher detonation velocity, the entire sphere would be detonated in about 28 milliseconds. That’s considerably slower than the nuclear reaction that took place in the Tsar Bomba, but plenty fast enough to generate a ridiculous blast wave. The 50MT nuke releases a whole bunch of thermal energy and relies on the surrounding atmosphere to intercept it, heat up, and expand accordingly, but a lot of that released energy doesn’t get intercepted by the atmosphere - just gets pissed away into heating up solid surfaces that have a view of the blast. The Sphere-O’-TNT, OTOH, initially dumps all of its energy into a particular 50MT of gases, the products of the detonation reaction.

Except for very close range, I’d expect comparable damage between the two blast events.

I assumed he meant Metric Tons, which MT is also a shorthand for; 50,000 metric tons=50kilotons.

Sorry guys but ‘MT’ has always been understood to mean ‘metric tons’ or ‘tonnes’ when clearly denoting weight.

After a bit of googling, it turns out that Wikipedia has a page listing the largest artificial non-nuclear explosions. The biggest is listed as “only” 6-7 kilotons equivalent.

I’ve seen it used as “megaton”, both for weight and explosive force. Of course, I’m an American; metric doesn’t come up much.

Your dollars are in metric! :stuck_out_tongue:

Ignorance fought. I stand corrected. Thank you.

Yeah, but the British pound has gone metric too.
Unlike the American pound, which is still, as it has always been, sixteen ounces.

It’s curious that you switched notation mid sentence.

Not so curious. I imagine he was drawing a distinction between nominal yield in the one case and actual mass in the other.

I believe MT and “metric ton” are US-specific terms. In most other places, 1000 kg is a “tonne”.

I had understood that conventional explosives in that quantity would tend to blow apart, disrupting and fragmenting the explosion. Thus, instead of exploding all at once, you have multiple smaller explosions, diminishing the overall effect. No idea if this is correct.

You mean the ammo dump or fireworks factory effect? Yes in a way but expert blasters would know how to arrange and time their firings for one big effect.