# How many tons of TNT do I need to vaporize Nebraska? Need Answer Fast

In one of my favorite movies, “Aliens” there is a line where they say this area is going to be a cloud of vapor the size of Nebraska.

So I’ve decided to vaporize an area the size of Nebraska with a nuke. How many equivalents tons of TNT do I need?

Since the explosion in the movie seems to be a hemisphere, let’s assume that I actually want to vaporize an area 200,356 km² (the size of Nebraska) and not a explosion that would encompass Nebraska.

Further, let’s assume by vaporize this means effected by the blast and heat wave of the nuclear detonation sufficient to level all buildings in the effected area as opposed to literal vaporization (although if somebody wants to tackle that, well, cool).

beep launch now? beep

Not yet, we still need to calibrate the warhead. I mean … ummm… <whistles innocently>

Subtle but important question: How many bombs do you want to use? It’s going to be a lot harder with one big nuke than with a bunch of smaller ones with the same total megatonnage. After a while, a bigger nuke doesn’t mean a larger area of damage, but just that the area of damage is even more vaporized-er.

I would say that “a cloud of vapor the size of Nebraska” and “vaporizing an area the size of Nebraska” are different. Vapors tend to be larger than the thing they once were.

Don’t worry, it will be just as flat after as it was before.

A gallon of water will yield about 3000 gallons of vapor at the same pressure. A gallon of Liquefied Natural Gas will yield about 600 gallons of gas at room temperature / pressure.

Another pesky issue is that we think of Nebraska as two dimensional while a vapor cloud seems much more three dimensional. What is the volume of Nebraska?

A 1 MT blast will cause “destruction of most civilian buildings” to a 6.2-km radius, an area of 120 km[sup]2[/sup]. Simple math gets you to 1659 devices, or 1.659 gigatons. However, these are round blast zones, so you don’t get complete AND uniform coverage. You’ll actually need a closer spacing than 12.4 km between grounds-zero if you want to perfectly obliterate every square inch of your target area; this will require 2.6 gigatons.

Let’s say the least number possible.

True enough. I’m assuming the first one is going to be really hard to compute because it would need to known what is being vaporized to figure out to what degree it will expand. I’m trying to avoid that complication.

From Wikipedia, the severe damage radius for the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombs was was 2 km.

That’s roughly 12 sq km. So 200, 356 km2 will need about 17,000 of these bombs. These bombs were 16 kilotons and 22 kilotons. So roughly 340,000 kilotons will be needed.

Of course, modern bombs are more efficient and I am assuming an equal distribution which may effect the final numbers.

Yeah, I remember reading that a nuke can only be so big. Any bigger and all the explodey stuff get launched out into orbit.

So in order to achieve the OP’s objective, it would have to be a bunch of smaller bombs.

Maybe spread out an extremely wide carpet of thin TNT layer?

Not sure but it’s pretty shallow.

That’s not a worry. I just worry about all the destruction of the…, the loss of the cultural value of…uh, the wondrous variety of… corn porn, something about the Huskers, … hmmmm…Carhenge?

OK, I’ll drop it.

Well Colibri was pretty calm about getting plowed into the ocean.

If by Carhenge you mean Cadillac Ranch don’t worry - it’s outside Amarillo, TX. So fire away.

Kidding aside, I thought the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument was pretty cool.