Hot drilling into ice. Really hot.

As an up and coming super-villain, I’ve decided that the South Pole need to be visible rock, and not floating over an ice sheet. Never mind why, I just want it done, OK? ok. I could send drills down to dig out the ice, but what fun is that when we have nuclear bombs? Now, of course there’s a ban on any kind of weapons testing in Antarctica but as a super-villain I don’t have to worry about that. I am wondering though, how many bombs would I need, would I need to drill, then bomb, then drill again, or what, exactly. The ice sheet is supposed to be 9000 feet thick right at the pole. The math to figure this out is smarter than I, so that’s where you all come in!

Also, what would the weather be like in the short term and long term? I’m guessing the explosions will make giant craters in the ice and there’ll be radioactive snowstorms in the area for a week or so. Would the new giant basin eventually be refilled with blown snow, or would the climate stay like it is now? Would it make the sea levels rise at all?

it doesn’t matter how much megatonnage you use (short of killing everyone on earth.) the moment the thermal radiation stops from the blasts, the vaporized water will freeze back and fall onto the continent. you’ll be as cold as before. if you can find a way to mechanically remove that much ice (haul it to a higher lattitude where it will melt) new ice will form over the exposed rock.

the only way you can melt the ice capping over the entire continent would be heat the entire planet in a number of ways (reduce tilt/wobble, burn millions of acres or forrest, released millions of tonnes of CO2, etc.)

How about stopping the circumpolar current instead? That will warm Antarctica in fairly short (in geological terms) order.

What if you use the nukes to accelerate the glaciers?

accelerate? or do you mean cause them to recede?

No, accelerate - push them out faster, leaving the bare rock behind.

Antarctica is really just one big, cold desert. It really doesn’t precipitate there much at all. How about just coating the ice with a layer of carbon? The black would absorb the sun’s light and turn it into heat, which would start the melting process. No rain to block the sun or wash off the soot.

I think the OP just wanted to make a decent sized hole in the ice right at the Pole itself. Not to eliminate all ice on or near the whole continent.

Ref this: They drilled a small hole down ~650 ft in rock & and set off a ~100KT nuke. They got a 330ft deep crater ~1300ft across (~1/4 mile).

So the crater was ~50% shallower than the drilled hole. And at ~330 ft per shot, it’ll take ~27 shots to dig through the ~9000 ft of ice over the rock at the Pole.

Bigger bombs would do more per shot, but the effect is less than linear. Double the explosive yield won’t double the depth of the crater.

I’m making the heroic assumption that rock & ice react about the same to nukes. Given the temps involved, the vaporization temp of water & rock aren’t that different percentage-wise. I’d WAG that at best you’ll get double the effect on ice vs. rock. So it might take only a dozen or so Sedan-sized shots.
As others have noted above, I’m sure that once the OP has his 1/4 mile diameter 2 mile deep shaft leading down to the pole, it’ll immediately start filling with water which will freeze as soon as the rock cools, probably within a week at most, and maybe just hours. It might take 100 or 500 years to fill completely, but fill it will.

Ice is not rock. Ice is vaporized when the temperature is raised over 212 degrees. Rock vaporizes at a significantly higher temperatures.

Yes, this exactly. I’m not wanting to flood the earth, just make a big-ass hole through the ice down to the actual bedrock.

So bring a small nuclear power plant, the kind that powers submarines, and slowly melt a hole by heating the ice and pumping out the water.

Small nuclear power plant? Slowly melt a hole? What kind of a henchman are you? Where’s your red shirt?

Well, you wouldn’t want to damage all the spaceships frozen under there…

If you search around, there has already been a thread about evil villains getting rid of the ice caps. The consensus is that there aren’t enough nukes in the world, that our total worldwide electrical output would take centuries at best, and that the sheer surface area is too much to cover with paint or other heat-absorbing materials.

I know that isn’t the exact question that was asked, but there was some math in that thread that could prove useful.

The ice would also flow in from the sides as glaciers move.


However, consider this: Water vaporizes at ~375K, iron vaporizes at ~3000K, and silicon at ~2600K. Iron & silicon are the major solid constituents of Earth rock. The rest is mostly oxygen which boils well below even Antarctic temperatures.

The temperature inside a nuclear explosion is ~10,000,000K. Seen as a percentage of ten million, three thousand and five hundred are not that far apart. The explosion is ~3300 times hotter than necessary to boil rock & ~25,000 times hotter than necessary to boil water. In either case the target material is thoroughly boiled.

Given the lower atomic weight of the constituents of H2O versus any mineral elements, there will probably be poorer coupling between the X-ray & neutron flux & the water than there will be with the rock. Which, if true, would mean better energy transfer to the rock which is the target needing more heating to disrupt.

So I’m gonna say at the arm-waving level that the results will be comparable against the two materials. Certainly within an order of magnitude either way, and probably between 0.5x & 2.0x.

Hit send a moment too soon. Replace the last paragraph above with this:

So I’m gonna say at the arm-waving level of precision that the results will be comparable against the two materials. Certainly within an order of magnitude either way, and probably between 0.5x & 2.0x.

Which is why I suggested in my earlier post that the OP’s nukes would be about twice as effective against Antarctic ice as the DOE’s Sedan test was against Nevada rock.

I think its even worse than that.

With 9000 feet of ice above, I suspect the ice walls of the “well” at the bottm of the well would fracture/explode into the shaft. If they didn’t do that, the ice would probably flow in in a very short period of time (like hours to days).

from my basic geology: crevasses are rarely more than 50 meters deep. anything deeper than that and the ice will fuse back into a solid mass. that’s some consolation for guys who fall in.