Scientists simulated what would happen if a nuclear bomb was dropped on a large city.
Whether you’re close enough to instantly vaporize, or within range of possible radiation poisoning, there’s not much good to go if someone leaves where you live.
But a new peer-reviewed study, published in the Physics of Fluids at the American Institute of Physics, aims to focus on the specific effects on people who manage to shelter indoors.
Using advanced computer models, researchers studied how a nuclear explosion from an intercontinental ballistic missile sweeps through a building.
According to their results, while some would be destroyed, it wouldn’t be enough to avoid the risk of serious injury even in solid structures that might eventually survive the bomb itself.
Tight spaces can exacerbate an already large shock wave, as the resulting air bounces off walls, bends around corners and bounces through buildings at speeds high enough to lift people into the air.
In the worst case, it can generate a force equivalent to 18 times the body weight.
The airspeed of the explosion was ‘pretty dangerous’
“Before our study, the dangers to people inside concrete-reinforced buildings exposed to shock waves were unknown,” said study author Dimitris Drikakis from the University of Nicosia.
He added that the “high airspeeds” caused by a nuclear explosion were a “considerable danger”, in addition to more established threats such as the detonation itself and subsequent radiation.
There are only a few seconds between the explosion and the arrival of the shock wave.
The ‘most dangerous’ indoor shelters
The researchers highlighted three significant hazards when sheltering indoors: windows, hallways, and doors.
Ioannis Kokkinakis says these are “the most dangerous and critical indoor locations to avoid”.
“People should stay away from these places and seek refuge immediately,” he warned.
“Even in the front room facing the explosion, if located in the corner facing the explosion, high-speed flight can be avoided.”
The study’s authors hope that understanding the effects of a nuclear blast will help prevent injuries and guide rescue efforts, though they certainly hope their advice will never be needed.
Earlier, New York authorities released a video counting locals How to Survive a Nuclear Attackstressing the importance of staying indoors and washing off any fallout or ash.
The release of the video last summer caused confusion and some panic, but officials stressed that it had nothing to do with any specific threat and was only meant to raise awareness.