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Beirut explosion: TNT equivalence from the fireball evolution in the first 170 milliseconds

Aouad, CJ, Chemissany, W, Mazzali, PA, Temsah, Y and Jahami, A (2021) Beirut explosion: TNT equivalence from the fireball evolution in the first 170 milliseconds. Shock Waves. ISSN 0938-1287

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Open Access URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00193-0... (Published version)


The evolution of the fireball resulting from the August 2020 Beirut explosion is traced using amateur videos taken during the first 400 ms after the detonation. Thirty-nine frames separated by 16.66–33.33 ms are extracted from six different videos located precisely on the map. Time evolution of the shock wave radius is traced by the fireball at consecutive time moments until about t≈170t≈170 ms and a distance d≈128d≈128 m. Pixel scales for the videos are calibrated by de-projecting the existing grain silos building, for which accurate as-built drawings are available, using the length, the width, and the height and by defining the line-of-sight incident angles. In the distance range d≈d≈ 60–128 m from the explosion center, the evolution of the fireball follows the Sedov–Taylor model with spherical geometry and an almost instantaneous energy release. This model is used to derive the energy available to drive the shock front at early times. Additionally, a drag model is fitted to the fireball evolution until its stopping at a time t≈500t≈500 ms at a distance d≈145±5d≈145±5 m. Using the derived TNT equivalent yield, the scaled stopping distance reached by the fireball and the shock wave-fireball detachment epoch within which the fireball is used to measure the shock wave are in excellent agreement with other experimental data. A total TNT equivalence of 200±80t200±80t at a distance d≈130d≈130 m is found. Finally, the dimensions of the crater size taken from a hydrographic survey conducted 6 days after the explosion are scaled with the known correlation equations yielding a close range of results. A recent published article by Dewey (Shock Waves 31:95–99, 2021) shows that the Beirut explosion TNT equivalence is an increasing function of distance. The results of the current paper are quantitatively in excellent agreement with this finding. These results present an argument that the actual mass of ammonium nitrate that contributed to the detonation is much less than the quantity that was officially claimed available.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 0203 Classical Physics
Subjects: Q Science > QC Physics
Divisions: Astrophysics Research Institute
Publisher: Springer
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2022 09:54
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2022 10:00
DOI or ID number: 10.1007/s00193-021-01031-9
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/15966
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