Author:Chris Cavanagh
Course:EEE 460
Date:Spring 2002

Nuclear Detonations:
The Immediate Effects of Air & Surface Bursts to People & Structures

"Ghostly shadows of these people will be formed on any concrete or stone that lies behind them, and they will be no more.  They literally won't know what hit them, since they will be vaporized before the electrical signals from their sense organs can reach their brains." - Russell D. Hoffman

Outline of Nuclear Detonations

I.  Home
    A. Immediate Effects
        1. Thermal Radiation & Blast Wave
            a. Thermal Radiation Damage
                i. Structure Damage
                ii. Human Injury
            b. Blast Wave Damage
                i. Structure Damage
                ii. Human Injury
        2. Ionizing Radiation
            a.  Ionizing Radiation Damage
    B. Air Bursts
        1. Blast Wave
        2. Thermal Radiation
    C. Surface Bursts
        1.  Blast Wave
    D. References

Nuclear weapons have been a reality since the 1940's and were introduced to the world most predominantly during WWII with the two bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Despite the common awareness of nuclear weapons, many people do not have a great sense of how the weapon causes destruction.  The most common perceptions are that they cause an immense amount of radiation fire to produce the damage they inflict.  In reality, the effects of a nuclear weapons are numerous, complicated and intricate.  The effects of a nuclear blast can be separated into the two categories of immediate and delayed.

This webpage focuses solely on the immediate effects (i.e., within one minute of the detonation).  Narrowing the discussion further, particularly, the effects caused by air and surface detonations.  Other types of detonations exist such as sub-surface and underwater and exhibit their own unique immediate effects.

As an overview, the webpage first discusses the immediate effects of air and surface detonations.  Since both these types of bursts produce similar effects, but different characteristics, they are discussed jointly.  Further, air bursts and surface bursts are discussed independently once the common effects are explained in detail.

Immediate Effects

Air Bursts

Surface Bursts