This is what a kiloton looks like

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

If you haven’t seen the massive explosion in Beirut, it is legitimately terrifying:

That’s thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate going off, with roughly the energy of kilotons of TNT.

There’s not much left.

(Hat tip to our Slovenian Guest.)


  1. Kirk says:

    Sheerest f**king stupidity on display in that video; you see something like that happen, the first thing you do is get down and get away from glass and anything else that’s going to be propelled by the blastwave. Conventional, nuclear–It does not matter. Get down, close your eyes, and get to cover. Shit is going to be flying everywhere, and the blastwave victims are mostly going to be due to secondary projectiles.

    I’m surprised that people living in Beirut aren’t familiar with that, and don’t know better. The blastwave is the most serious thing to worry about at those distances, and because it’s not traveling at the speed of light, you’ve got some opportunity to get down and out of the line of flying glass and other debris when you see the detonation.

    The other thing is this: Here we see on display the typical Arab/Islamic “Inshallah” approach to life. No Western warehouse manager or port authority would ever consider just storing that much ammonium nitrate or other potentially dangerous blast agent in a quayside warehouse for six fucking years. God alone knows what that stuff has been doing, decomposing in the heat over all that time. Potentially, you could have set that crap off just moving it, or having static electricity do it.

    Same thing happened in 2011 on Cyprus, only that was confiscated munitions stored in the open that blew up. Stuff should never have been where it was, but the feckless incompetents stored it there. With entirely predictable results.

    Arabs should only be allowed near things like that with adult supervision that’s got the authority to shoot to kill when they start doing stupid shit like smoking while working with munitions.

  2. Grasspunk says:

    I was in Toulouse for the AZF explosion that was only 300 tonnes of ammonium nitrate: Big bang that felt like it was outside your window, plaster fell from the ceiling, shop windows broke and we were a few kms from the explosion. This Beirut explosion with thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate is so much more it is hard to imagine. Wikipedia article on AZF:

  3. Ezra says:

    They never were able to determine if the Toulouse blast was a terrorist act. Some Muslim dude just hired at the plant was found to be wearing four undershorts and five pants or five undershorts and four pants. Attire of a jihadi suicide bomber as supposed. The significance of which was not explained.

  4. Slovenian Guest says:

    Related must read Isegoria post: Flash, then Bang

  5. Harry Jones says:

    I’m not inclined to second guess those who should know better, as it occurs to me they may in fact know better… than I do.

    Wikipedia has a page about ammonium nitrate disasters. I’m reading about the “deflagration to detonation transition.”

  6. Isegoria says:

    To quote from Flash, then Bang, all you hear in a nuclear explosion is:

    1. The crack-like (pistol shot) sound of the abrupt rise in pressure when the shock front arrives (if it takes 1 ms to go from ambient pressure to peak overpressure, that is a frequency of around 1 kHz).

    2. The sound of the wind blowing behind the shock front (which is only 40 miles/hour peak wind speed at 10 miles from 1 megaton, but is much higher closer in).

    3. Sounds from damage caused like breaking windows, impacts of blown debris.

  7. Jim says:

    Does anyone know why there has been no aboveground nuclear testing in recent times?

    Do people just not think that it would be incredibly wicked to see a mushroom cloud, filmed by iPhone(tm), brought to you by Twitter(tm), or what…

    Come on, military bros, bring back the cool.

    Let’s go back to the future.

  8. Sam J. says:

    Harry Jones says,”I’m not inclined to second guess those who should know better, as it occurs to me they may in fact know better… than I do.”

    These days those that know better than you are most likely lying to you so if their story doesn’t make sense then you shouldn’t believe them at all. Many people don’t understand this yet.

  9. Harry Jones says:

    Duly noted, Sam. Of course I don’t believe what people say to me. I outgrew that years ago.

    However, I take what people do to heart. When those in a position to know aren’t acting scared, I figure the danger is either greatly overrated…

    Or they could be fatalists. Fatalism is more a cultural than an individual trait. It comes built into certain belief systems.

  10. Bob Sykes says:

    In 1963, the UK, US, and USSR signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which prohibited atmospheric, outer space and underwater testing of nuclear devices. Below ground tests were permitted. The reason for the treaty was the widespread contamination of the atmosphere and ground surface, including crops and farm animals. Think Chernobyl. Other nuclear powers like China, France, India, Israel, and Pakistan have also abided by the treaty.

  11. Sam J. says:

    This is a great video (with proper exclamations that it’s awful and terrible). It’s very close.

    Beirut explosion in 4K slow motion

  12. Sam J. says:

    As far as I can see the story the press is saying, big surprise, actually probably the truth. It appears a bunch fireworks went off to start the whole thing. I expect all the dust, carbon from the firework, etc. combined created a cloud that then caused the fertilizer to detonate and I mean detonate as in the technical term.

  13. Slovenian Guest says:

    And this is why you duck & cover:

    Notice how merely a few seconds into the video, people are first startled by the bang (the woman in the middle even grabs her ear) with the shockwave following one second later.

Leave a Reply