Imagine a nuclear bomb powerful enough to generate a mushroom cloud seven times taller than Mount Everest. For those of you that like numbers, I’m talking something like 64 kilometers tall. Sounds absurd, right? Well it didn’t sound at all absurd to Soviet military strategists in the 1960’s. They detonated “Tsar Bomba” on October 30, 1961. You can read all about it at this very interesting Wikipedia article. I can’t resist quoting their description of the bomb:
The fireball touched the ground, reached nearly as high as the altitude of the release plane and was seen and felt almost 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from ground zero. The heat from the explosion could have caused third degree burns 100 km (62 miles) away from ground zero. The subsequent mushroom cloud was about 64 kilometres (40 mi) high (nearly seven times the height of Mount Everest), which meant that the cloud was well inside the Mesosphere when it peaked. The base of the cloud was 40 kilometres (25 mi) wide. The explosion could be seen and felt in Finland, breaking windows there and in Sweden. Atmospheric focusing caused blast damage up to 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) away. The seismic shock created by the detonation was measurable even on its third passage around the Earth. Its seismic body wave magnitude was about 5 to 5.25. The energy yield was around 7.1 on the Richter scale but, since the bomb was detonated in air rather than underground, most of the energy was not converted to seismic waves.
For those of you that are more visually inclined, you can even watch the damn thing go off here:
The test took place in the arctic on Novaya Zemlya island, which has a population of polar bears. I can’t help wondering how many bears were senselessly killed during this test. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any sort of statistics on “average polar bear density” on Novaya Zemlya island, so I couldn’t approximate how many bears might have died in this catastrophe… hopefully the Russians took measures to chase wildlife away.