Japanese Scientists: Beirut Port Blast Led To Electron Disturbances In Earth’s Ionosphere

NASA | @christian.atallah

Scientists have found that the Beirut blast that took place on August 4th, 2020, caused disturbances to the election content in Earth’s upper atmosphere, the ionosphere.

Made up of electrically charged particles, the ionosphere is where Earth’s atmosphere meets space and is the boundary between where humans live and breathe and the vacuum of space, according to NASA.

It is the ionized part of Earth’s upper atmosphere from around 50 to 965 kilometers in altitude and includes the thermosphere and parts of the mesosphere and exosphere. 

Disturbances in electron content in the ionosphere can be caused by natural events like geomagnetic storms, but have also been recorded as results of nuclear testing… and now, by the Beirut blast.

Aided by colleagues from the National Institute of Technology Rourkela in India, a team of scientists at the Hokkaido University in Japan calculated and discovered changes in the electron content in the ionosphere caused by the blast.

“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 per second,” said the university’s Earth and Planetary scientist Kosuke Heki. That’s similar to the speed of sound waves traveling through the ionosphere.

Bhaskar Kundu, et al. Scientific Reports

The researchers also found that the wave caused by the Beirut blast was larger than the wave that was made by the 2004 eruption of Asama Volcano in central Japan.

“[The Beirut explosion] led to a southward-bound, high-velocity atmospheric wave that rivaled ones generated by volcanic eruptions,” wrote the Hokkaido University in its press release.

Over 7 months since the explosion, this study comes to reaffirm and measure just how massive and disastrous the Beirut blast was, though it was a non-nuclear explosion.

According to the study, the Beirut blast, which was caused by the mysterious detonation of nearly 3,000 tonnes of unsafely stored ammonium nitrate, was equivalent to an explosion of 1.1 kilotons of TNT.

Yet Lebanese officials are treating it like a mere accident that was an inevitable fate and dealing with the investigation as of no priority.

The scientists findings have been published in the Scientific Reports‘ journal.

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