Explosions are tricky to measure. For one, what's the criteria? And most data on "blasts from the past" are speculation at best.

So consider this list "10 of the biggest explosions since the dawn of time," measured by magnitude of the blast, loss of lives and impact on world history.

In no particular order:


1. Atomic blasts over Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and 9, 1945)
Ordered by U.S. President Harry S. Truman to force Japan into submission and prevent greater loss of life from an endless war, the devastating dropping of the "Little Boy" atomic bomb was the first use of a nuclear weapon in world history. The bomb contained 130 lbs. of uranium-235 and detonated at approx.

1,900 feet above the city with a force that equaled about 13 kilotons of TNT.

Scientists considered "Little Boy" to be inefficient, estimating that less than 2% of the bomb's nuclear material actually fissioned in the blast, and yet its effect was devastating: the blast radius was about 1 mile across, killing approximately 140,000 (mostly civilians) almost instantly, with thousands more to die of radiation poisoning and other injuries in the weeks and years to come.

Three days after the Hiroshima blast, U.S. forces dropped the "Fat Man" atomic bomb over Nagasaki, prompting the Japanese to surrender on August 15. It would be the second, and to date, last use of a nuclear weapon in history, killing an estimated 80,000 Japanese.

2. Soviet Nuclear Test, Novaya Zemlya (October 1961)
In the years following the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts, the U.S. and Soviet Union began a Cold War campaign of nuclear one-upmanship that saw its single biggest explosion in a October 1961 Soviet-conducted test blast over the Arctic.

The detonation was caused by a 58-megaton bomb, 4,000 times more powerful than "Little Boy."

3. MINOR SCALE, U.S. Defense Nuclear Agency, White Sands Missile Range (June 27, 1985)
The ironically named "MINOR SCALE" blast in the desert of New Mexico in 1985 consisted of up to 4,800 short tons of Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil (ANFO).

Considered by many to be the largest artificial, non-nuclear explosion in recorded history, the test simulated the effects of an 8-KT nuclear weapon in order to test possible responses of weapon systems and the blast's effects on communications equipment, vehicles and buildings.

 


4. Krakatoa volcanic eruptions (August 26-27, 1883)
The Krakatoa eruptions of 1883 exploded with a force of approx. 200 megatons of TNT, or approximately 13,000 times the yield of the Hiroshima atomic blast, making it one of the most violent volcanic blasts in modern history.

The blast's death toll was more than 36,400, and it's believed to be the loudest sound ever observed, having been heard as far as 3,000 miles away.

The Krakatoa blast is also said to be the cause of the red sky in the famous painting "The Scream" by Edvard Munch.

The volcanic blast had spewed so much debris into the atmosphere that it caused deep red twilights visible in the skies over Europe (including Munch's hometown in Norway) from November 1883 to February 1884.

 

5. The Halifax Cargo Ship Explosion, Nova Scotia, Canada (December 6, 1917)
A cargo ship from France carrying explosives for WWI was struck by another ship in Halifax Harbor.

The explosion hurled debris, caused fires and building collapses, killing 2,000 people and injuring 9,000 more.

The blast also caused a tsunami in the harbor, along with a pressure wave of air that devastated the shoreline and hurtled shards of the destroyed ship for many miles.

 

6. Explosion at Port Chicago (July 17, 1944)
Two ships loaded with more than 4,600 tons of explosives to be used in WWII collided at Port Chicago, 30 miles north of San Francisco.

This impact, coupled with an additional 400 tons of explosives sitting on adjacent railway cars, killed around 320 workers, damaged buildings, caused injury as far away as San Francisc, and caused tremors felt as far away as Nevada.



7. Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Disaster, U.S.S.R. (April 25, 1986)
The worst nuclear power plant disaster in history occurred April 25, 1986 in the U.S.S.R. region of Chernobyl.

Four inexperienced engineers conducted an electrical experiment on Chernobyl's number 4 reactor, setting off a cataclysmic chain of events that caused the reactor to explode, blowing off its concrete and steel lid.

The blast sent more than 50 tons of radioactive material into the atmosphere, killed 32 people at the scene and led to an estimated 5,000 deaths from cancer and other radiation-caused illnesses in the following years.

 

 

8. The Yellowstone Caldera Eruption, Wyoming, USA (640,000 years ago)
Perhaps the largest explosion the Earth has known occurred approx. 640,000 years ago at the site of the Yellowstone Caldera in the northwest corner of Wyoming.

The blast was estimated to be about 2,500 times the magnitude of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption, affected an area of approx 34 miles by 45 miles, and spread a layer of ash over most of North America.

The area is now commonly referred to as the "Yellowstone supervolcano" referring to its potential for massive devastation that many scientists feel will re-occur some day in the distant (or not so distant) future.

 

9. Gamma Ray Burst, 12 billion light years from Earth (observed on Earth in 1998)
Scientists in 1998 observed an almost unfathomable burst of gamma ray energy 12 billion light years away from us.

They measured it to have released an amount of energy equaling all the estimated 10 billion trillion stars in the universe.

Its distance from our own galaxy prevented the blast from affecting us or our sun, yet the scale of the explosion has led astronomers to label it the biggest documented explosion in history.

 

 

10. The Big Bang, Birth of the Universe (13.7 billion years ago)
Though still the subject of debate in the scientific and theological communities, the "Big Bang" would have to be considered the largest explosion EVER.

The forces involved may not meet a strict definition of "explosion," yet Georges Lemaitre's Big Bang theory postulates that all the mass in the universe began as a condensed "primeval atom" that burst forth with such dense energy and high temperature and pressure to give birth to everything within the universe

. While initially discounted by his peers when Lemaitre introduced the concept in 1931, other related discoveries such as the cosmic microwave background radiation in 1964 helped solidify the Big Bang as the most well-reasoned theory on the origin of the cosmos.


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Date: 5 Jan 2009 | Author: mesmerX | Category: News, Pictures | Views: 19625

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Comments: 12

sidthekidlol | 10 Jul 2012 - 16:32
good top 10 list!

Guest | 12 May 2012 - 18:01
Your a idiot

Science Nerd | 19 Jul 2011 - 19:15
No offense, but it seems that little research was done here. I understand that "biggest explosion" is hard to pin down due to many factors (lives lost, energy released, total damage done etc), however, there seem to be a number of explosions, even famously large explosions missing.

Also, you may want to either get rid of gamma ray bursts and the big bang and rename this to largest explosions on earth, OR keep your title as it is but include space explosions that are MUCH larger than anything here on earth : big bang and gamma ray sure. However, include other explosions like supernova explosion SN 1006, which was so large that it lit up our night sky as bright as the moon for YEARS. The incredibly large eruption of the galaxy MS 0735.6+7421, releasing hundreds of millions of times the energy of any gamma ray burst and widely referred to as the biggest explosion since the Big Bang. There are many, many more space explosions, but this is a reply so I'll keep it short.

If you decide to only include earthly explosions, Chernobyl, Port Chicago and Halifax were horrific explosions, but there are worse explosions in the category of size, lives lost, energy released, damage done, almost every category you can think of. You didn't include things like the K-T Extinction Impact Event (definitively confirmed in March 2010) that killed the dinosaurs. Sure no human lives were lost but it freakin' caused an extinction! The 10 mile wide rock delivered an estimated 96 TERAtons. You don't hear that phrase, teratons a lot. You know why? Because it's a crazy amount. That's 612,709,757,329,767,363,772,416 tons of TNT; compared with the Tsar Bomba at a comparably pathetic 19,770,609,664. Yes, I just called the Tsar Bomba (your number 2 on the list) pathetic, but don't forget the modifier: COMPARABLY pathetic. Again, "biggest explosion" is hard to pin down, but this is a no contest.

Note : Halifax DID kill a ton of people: 1950 souls. Horribly tragic, but it was a pansy explosion, it's just that it unfortunately happened in the middle of a city, basically.

Or what about the Tunguska event? You know, the largest impact event over land in Earth's recent history? Again, no lives were lost, but it was a damn big explosion. It caused a magnetic storm that lasted five hours. The sound of the explosion was heard 800 kilometers away, meaning if you lived in London, and turned your stereo up, then flew to Switzerland (2 countries and an English channel away), you could get off the plane and still hear your music. If the Hiroshima bomb had this kind of power, it would have woken people up INDOORS in Tokyo, which is about 650 kilometers away. It MIGHT have crashed the very plane that dropped the bomb (remember that at the time there was no human built thing that could outrun sound). The shockwave measured a 5.0 on a Richter Scale. That doesn't sound impressive until you consider that means that the air pressure around the impact hits you with a 5.0 earthquake, the AIR could turn your entire body into squished Jell-o in an instant. Not the explosion, not the heat or fire, but the air around it.

The N1 Launch explosion on July 1969, the Trinity nuclear explosion in 1945, Mount Tambora in 1815, the Japanese battleship Mutsu in 1943, Mt. St. Helens in 1980, Pompeii in 79, c'mon, everyone has at least heard of those last two, and they were insanely larger than say, Chernobyl. If I remember correctly, only about 20-30 people died initially, and the radiation has killed about 200 since. Even if we say that 2000 people will die as a result (an outlandish number), you are really talking about radiation sickness and cancer, NOT the explosion, which is what I thought we were talking about here. So the Chernobyl explosion was basically also a pansy explosion, like Halifax, only the Chernobyl explosion killed about 30 people, not even in the neighborhood of these other, very heavy hitter explosions.

Note : I didn’t mean to insult anyone, including the author. My apologies if I did, I just felt that this list was not really well done.

Note: I am a science nerd and not a computer nerd and apologize for not knowing how to place links, but everything I mentioned is easily found in several reputable articles that will come up in Google (American Science, NASA, BBC, Geology.com, Britannica, several others, look for yourself) . Or, you can be lazy and just look everything up on Wikipedia. These days, it really is pretty damn accurate.

giltin1 | 26 Jan 2011 - 19:17
this is horriblesmile

Guest | 26 Jan 2011 - 19:16
this is horriblesmile

DailyCognition | 3 Jan 2010 - 06:53
1. Atomic blasts over Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and 9, 1945)
Ordered by U.S. President Harry S. Truman to force Japan into submission and prevent greater loss of life from an endless war, the devastating dropping of the "Little Boy" atomic bomb was the first use of a nuclear weapon in world history. The bomb contained 130 lbs. of uranium-235 and detonated at approx.

1,900 feet above the city with a force that equaled about 13 kilotons of TNT.

Scientists considered "Little Boy" to be inefficient, estimating that less than 2% of the bomb's nuclear material actually fissioned in the blast, and yet its effect was devastating: the blast radius was about 1 mile across, killing approximately 140,000 (mostly civilians) almost instantly, with thousands more to die of radiation poisoning and other injuries in the weeks and years to come.

Three days after the Hiroshima blast, U.S. forces dropped the "Fat Man" atomic bomb over Nagasaki, prompting the Japanese to surrender on August 15. It would be the second, and to date, last use of a nuclear weapon in history, killing an estimated 80,000 Japanese.

2. Soviet Nuclear Test, Novaya Zemlya (October 1961)
In the years following the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts, the U.S. and Soviet Union began a Cold War campaign of nuclear one-upmanship that saw its single biggest explosion in a October 1961 Soviet-conducted test blast over the Arctic.

The detonation was caused by a 58-megaton bomb, 4,000 times more powerful than "Little Boy."

3. MINOR SCALE, U.S. Defense Nuclear Agency, White Sands Missile Range (June 27, 1985)
The ironically named "MINOR SCALE" blast in the desert of New Mexico in 1985 consisted of up to 4,800 short tons of Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil (ANFO).

Considered by many to be the largest artificial, non-nuclear explosion in recorded history, the test simulated the effects of an 8-KT nuclear weapon in order to test possible responses of weapon systems and the blast's effects on communications equipment, vehicles and buildings.




4. Krakatoa volcanic eruptions (August 26-27, 1883)
The Krakatoa eruptions of 1883 exploded with a force of approx. 200 megatons of TNT, or approximately 13,000 times the yield of the Hiroshima atomic blast, making it one of the most violent volcanic blasts in modern history.

The blast's death toll was more than 36,400, and it's believed to be the loudest sound ever observed, having been heard as far as 3,000 miles away.

The Krakatoa blast is also said to be the cause of the red sky in the famous painting "The Scream" by Edvard Munch.

The volcanic blast had spewed so much debris into the atmosphere that it caused deep red twilights visible in the skies over Europe (including Munch's hometown in Norway) from November 1883 to February 1884.



5. The Halifax Cargo Ship Explosion, Nova Scotia, Canada (December 6, 1917)
A cargo ship from France carrying explosives for WWI was struck by another ship in Halifax Harbor.

The explosion hurled debris, caused fires and building collapses, killing 2,000 people and injuring 9,000 more.

The blast also caused a tsunami in the harbor, along with a pressure wave of air that devastated the shoreline and hurtled shards of the destroyed ship for many miles.



6. Explosion at Port Chicago (July 17, 1944)
Two ships loaded with more than 4,600 tons of explosives to be used in WWII collided at Port Chicago, 30 miles north of San Francisco.

This impact, coupled with an additional 400 tons of explosives sitting on adjacent railway cars, killed around 320 workers, damaged buildings, caused injury as far away as San Francisc, and caused tremors felt as far away as Nevada.



7. Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Disaster, U.S.S.R. (April 25, 1986)
The worst nuclear power plant disaster in history occurred April 25, 1986 in the U.S.S.R. region of Chernobyl.

Four inexperienced engineers conducted an electrical experiment on Chernobyl's number 4 reactor, setting off a cataclysmic chain of events that caused the reactor to explode, blowing off its concrete and steel lid.

The blast sent more than 50 tons of radioactive material into the atmosphere, killed 32 people at the scene and led to an estimated 5,000 deaths from cancer and other radiation-caused illnesses in the following years.





8. The Yellowstone Caldera Eruption, Wyoming, USA (640,000 years ago)
Perhaps the largest explosion the Earth has known occurred approx. 640,000 years ago at the site of the Yellowstone Caldera in the northwest corner of Wyoming.

The blast was estimated to be about 2,500 times the magnitude of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption, affected an area of approx 34 miles by 45 miles, and spread a layer of ash over most of North America.

The area is now commonly referred to as the "Yellowstone supervolcano" referring to its potential for massive devastation that many scientists feel will re-occur some day in the distant (or not so distant) future.



9. Gamma Ray Burst, 12 billion light years from Earth (observed on Earth in 1998)
Scientists in 1998 observed an almost unfathomable burst of gamma ray energy 12 billion light years away from us.

They measured it to have released an amount of energy equaling all the estimated 10 billion trillion stars in the universe.

Its distance from our own galaxy prevented the blast from affecting us or our sun, yet the scale of the explosion has led astronomers to label it the biggest documented explosion in history.





10. The Big Bang, Birth of the Universe (13.7 billion years ago)
Though still the subject of debate in the scientific and theological communities, the "Big Bang" would have to be considered the largest explosion EVER.

The forces involved may not meet a strict definition of "explosion," yet Georges Lemaitre's Big Bang theory postulates that all the mass in the universe began as a condensed "primeval atom" that burst forth with such dense energy and high temperature and pressure to give birth to everything within the universe

. While initially discounted by his peers when Lemaitre introduced the concept in 1931, other related discoveries such as the cosmic microwave background radiation in 1964 helped solidify the Big Bang as the most well-reasoned theory on the origin of the cosmos.

skilay | 9 Jun 2009 - 12:34
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sdf | 9 Jun 2009 - 09:45
i lalallala :D:D:D

Miss Lazy | 1 Mar 2009 - 22:26
i have homework about Indonesia and the volcano Krakatoa. i guess homework is fun!

Writer | 25 Jan 2009 - 02:49
And I apologize, I don't mean to ignore your first introduction to the top ten "Explosions are tricky to measure. For one, what's the criteria?"

Writer | 25 Jan 2009 - 02:46
Hi, I'm doing a research paper on nuclear power, and I was wondering if mesmerX inform me on his sources or experience/qualifications

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