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What it would look like if the Hiroshima bomb hit your city

imrsThe Hiroshima A-bomb blast, photographed by the US military on 06 August 1945. EPA/HIROSHIMA PEACE MEMORIAL MUSEUM

Maps bring the horror of Hiroshima home — literally

Seventy years ago Thursday, the U.S. dropped an atomic uranium bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The bomb, code-named Little Boy, killed 66,000 people, mostly civilians, and injured at least 69,000 more, according to estimates the U.S. Army made in 1946.

After Japan refused to surrender in the following days, the U.S. dropped another bomb on Aug. 9, this time on Nagasaki. That bomb, Fat Man, killed 39,000 and injured 25,000 more, according to the same Army report. Different sources provide different estimates for casualties and mortalities, and countless more people were likely affected by radiation, malnutrition and illness.

Those bombs, the only nukes that have ever been used in war, helped bring an end to World War II, with Japan surrendering on Aug. 15. They also allowed U.S. troops to avoid what would have likely been a deadly ground invasion of Japan. But that victory came at a great toll to humanity.

Alex Wellerstein, a nuclear historian at the Stevens Institute of Technology, created a NukeMap that allows you to visualize what the Hiroshima and Nagasaki explosions would look like in your hometown. Kuang Keng Kuek Ser at Public Radio International has also developed a version, using slightly different estimates.

Here is what Little Boy, the Hiroshima bomb, would look like on Wellerstein’s map if detonated in Washington, D.C. An explanation of what the colors mean is below.

imrsNuke Map, Alex Wellerstein

The effects of a nuclear bomb depend a lot on the height of the detonation. Little Boy, a 15 kiloton bomb, was detonated higher in the air, increasing the size of its effects.

As the key below shows, the area within the central yellow ring would be the maximum size of the nuclear fireball. The red ring shows the air blast radius, in which the pressure from the bomb is intense enough to severely damage or demolish heavily built concrete buildings, and fatalities approach 100 percent.

The green ring shows the radiation radius. Without medical treatment, 50 to 90 percent of people within that circle will die from the acute affects of radiationalone, either within several hours or several weeks. The gray circle shows the air blast radius, in which pressure is high enough to knock over most residential buildings. Injuries are universal and fatalities are widespread, says Wellerstein.

Finally, the yellow circle shows the thermal radiation radius. People within this circle would sustain third degree burns, which can cause severe scarring or disablement, and can require amputation.

Wellerstein says those who are out in the open would fare far worse than those inside buildings. But either way, the resulting scene would be absolutely horrific.

Here’s what the Hiroshima explosion would look like if it hit New York City, using the same key as above. Most of lower Manhattan would likely be devastated.




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