The Beirut explosion’s atmospheric wave shook the ionosphere


Beirut blast’s high-velocity atmospheric wave rivaled ones generated by volcanic eruptions.

This August 5, 2020 file photo, is the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon. 211 killed , 6500 Injured after 2,750 Tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate Exploded . They were stored there for nearly 7 years, reportedly for use by the Syrian regime in its barrel bombs. The shipment was reportedly confiscated by Badri Daher a close associate of President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil . The shipment arrived at a time when Syria was surrendering its chemical weapons to a UN backed organization for destruction . Aoun officially knew about the Ammonium Nitrate 2 weeks before the explosion but did nothing about it . He , along with his Hezbollah allies refused an international investigation but promised a local investigation that will bring the culprits to justice in less than a week . Judge Fadi Sawan was appointed several months later to investigate the explosion . He charged caretaker PM Hassan Diab , former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, and former public works ministers Ghazi Zeaiter and Youssef Finianos with negligence over the explosion . The politicians behind the charged politicians attacked the judge and accused him of politicizing the issue. The investigation was halted for months and after it was reactivated Judge Sawan issued an arrest warrant for Finianos which prompted the court of sessation to remove the Judge t (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, Beirut, Lebanon(Photo by Anwar Amro/AFP)

By  Derya Ozdemir

The explosion that took place on August 4, 2020, in Lebanon’s port city of Beirut is considered to be one of the most powerful non-nuclear, man-made blasts in human history. The crater left in its wake altered the port, the blast killing at least 210 people and injuring 6,500. More than 300,000 were temporarily homeless.

Now, a new study by Hokkaido University scientists in Japan has given us new findings that can be used to judge just how powerful the explosion generated by more than 2,750 tons worth of ammonium nitrate was.

According to the findings published in the journal Scientific Reports, the atmospheric wave that generated from the explosion led to electron disturbances high in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

The blast ‘shook’ the ionosphere

Earth’s ionosphere —  the part of Earth’s upper atmosphere, from about 30 miles (48 km) to 600 miles (965 km) —  by looking at discrepancies in delays encountered by microwave signals sent by GPS satellites to the ground stations. The press release explains that the changes in electron content affect the microwave signals as they pass through the ionosphere. 

“We found that the blast generated a wave that traveled in the ionosphere in a southwards direction at a velocity of around 0.8 kilometers (0.5 miles) per second,” said Kosuke Heki, Hokkaido University Earth and Planetary scientist. When sound waves travel through the ionosphere, they do so at a similar speed.

As the second part of the study, the scientists compared the size of the ionospheric wave generated by the Beirut blast to other waves following natural and anthropogenic events.

It was seen that the Beirut blast‘s wave was slightly larger than a wave generated by the 2004 eruption of the Asama Volcano in Japan. Beirut blast’s southward-bound, high-velocity atmospheric wave rivaled ones generated by volcanic eruptions.

Forensic Architecture, a research team based at the University of London, has also released a comprehensive investigation of the explosion which you can watch if the topic interests you.



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