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Riddle me this: If someone were to drop an 8 Megaton Nuclear Bomb on Lake County would anyone actually notice??

Most people are already aware of the Valley Fire, which started roughly 100 miles from here in Lake County (North of Napa) just one week ago on Saturday afternoon at 1:30 or so. Within 12 hours the fire had consumed 40,000 acres (see my previous attempt in the new talkabout for the description of how big an area that is- hint: Ocean Colony to Moss Beach to SFO to Belmont…)

Being a curious sort I was wondering how much actual energy was released during this event.

The somewhat astonishing conclusion I came to was that the total release of energy in that 12-hour period was equivalent to an 8.1 megaton bomb. (For reference the largest ever US nuclear test was Castle Bravo, which yielded 15 Megatons of TNT.)

Here is the route to that conclusion: (As Tony Condotti will tell you- don’t get your legal advice, or your physics advice from the TalkAbout!!)

Each acre of woodland averages 90 metric tons of biomass fuel.

90 MT of biomass is equivalent to 137 barrels of fuel-oil.

1 barrel of Fuel-oil releases 5,800,000 British Thermal Units (BTUs).

Thus to calculate the total energy release in BTUs we multiply 40,000x137x5,800,000, which gives us 31,784,000,000,000 BTUs.

31,784,000,000,000 BTUs is equivalent to 9,314,970,871.2 KWh (Kilowatt Hours)

9,314,970,871.2 KWh is equivalent to 33,533,895.1362 GigaJoules (GJ)

33,533,895.1362 GJ is equivalent to 33,530 TeraJoules. (TJ)

1 kiloton of TNT equals 4.1 TJ, therefore 33,530 TJ/4.1TJ=8,178 kilotons (KT)

8,178 KT equals 8.1 megatons (MT)

Of course the conversion of that energy happened over a twelve-hour period instead of in a few milliseconds, which is why there was no actual explosion, but it is still awe-inspiring to think that with nothing more than air, fire, and fuel a full 8.1MT of TNT was expended in the first twelve hours of that fire. (Another way of looking at it that might be more understandable is that the energy release in the first twelve hours of the Valley Fire was equal to a full 532 bombs of the type dropped on Hiroshima)

I remain open to critique- the number is so staggeringly huge I am still doubting my calculations, despite having re-run them numerous times.


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