It may seem counterintuitive that the same amount of fire damage caused by a nuclear weapon could have instead been produced by smaller total yield of thousands of incendiary bombs; however, World War II experience supports this assertion.
The firebombing of Tokyo on the night of 9—10 March was the single deadliest air raid of World War II,  with a greater total area of fire damage and loss of life than either nuclear bombing as a single event.
Despite a true firestorm developing, reinforced concrete buildings, as in Tokyo, similarly remained standing. Signed by the Enola Gay pilot, Paul W.
This Tokyo residential section was virtually destroyed. All that remained standing were concrete buildings in this photograph. American historian Gabriel Kolko also echoed this sentiment:.
Soon small fires spread, connected, grew into a vast firestorm that sucked the oxygen out of the lower atmosphere. Only its technique was novel—nothing more There was another difficulty posed by mass conventional bombing, and that was its very success, a success that made the two modes of human destruction qualitatively identical in fact and in the minds of the American military.
This break from the linear expectation of more fire damage to occur after greater explosive yield is dropped can be easily explained by two major factors.
First, the order of blast and thermal events during a nuclear explosion is not ideal for the creation of fires.
In an incendiary bombing raid, incendiary weapons followed after high-explosive blast weapons were dropped, in a manner designed to create the greatest probability of fires from a limited quantity of explosive and incendiary weapons.
The so-called two-ton " cookies ",  also known as "blockbusters", were dropped first and were intended to rupture water mains, as well as to blow off roofs, doors, and windows, creating an air flow that would feed the fires caused by the incendiaries that would then follow and be dropped, ideally, into holes created by the prior blast weapons, such into attic and roof spaces.
It is for this reason that conventional incendiary bombing raids are considered to be a great deal more efficient at causing mass fires than nuclear weapons of comparable yield.
The second factor explaining the non-intuitive break in the expected results of greater explosive yield producing greater city fire damage is that city fire damage is largely dependent not on the yield of the weapons used, but on the conditions in and around the city itself, with the fuel loading per square meter value of the city being one of the major factors.
A few hundred strategically placed incendiary devices would be sufficient to start a firestorm in a city if the conditions for a firestorm, namely high fuel loading, are already inherent to the city see Bat bomb.
The Great Fire of London in , although not forming a firestorm due to the single point of ignition, serves as an example that, given a densely packed and predominately wooden and thatch building construction in the urban area, a mass fire is conceivable from the mere incendiary power of no more than a domestic fireplace.
Despite the disadvantage of nuclear weapons when compared to conventional weapons of lower or comparable yield in terms of effectiveness at starting fires, for the reasons discussed above, nuclear weapons also do not add any fuel to a city, and fires are entirely dependent on what was contained in the city prior to bombing, in direct contrast to the incendiary device effect of conventional raids.
In contrast, early in World War II, the ability to achieve conventional air raids concentrated in "point of time" depended largely upon the skill of pilots to remain in formation, and their ability to hit the target whilst at times also being under heavy fire from anti-aircraft fire from the air defensives of the cities below.
Nuclear weapons largely remove these uncertain variables. Therefore, nuclear weapons reduce the question of whether a city will firestorm or not to a smaller number of variables, to the point of becoming entirely reliant on the intrinsic properties of the city, such as fuel loading, and predictable atmospheric conditions, such as wind speed, in and around the city, and less reliant on the unpredictable possibility of hundreds of bomber crews acting together successfully as a single unit.
Portions of the following fires are often described as firestorms, but that has not been corroborated by any reliable references:.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about fires. For other uses, see Firestorm disambiguation. Winter Spring Summer Autumn.
Dry season Harmattan Wet season. Hiroshima after the bombing and firestorm. No known aerial photography of the firestorm exists.
Archived from the original PDF on 18 February Retrieved 11 May A fire storm is characterized by strong to gale force winds blowing toward the fire everywhere around the fire perimeter and results from the rising column of hot gases over an intense, mass fire drawing in the cool air from the periphery.
These winds blow the fire brands into the burning area and tend to cool the unignited fuel outside so that ignition by radiated heat is more difficult, thus limiting fire spread.
A Tornado of Fire Revisited". Retrieved 22 July The town was at the center of a tornado of flame. The fire was coming from all directions at once, and the winds were roaring at mph.
Archived from the original on 24 August Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union. Archived from the original on 6 October Finding a Fire Cloud from Space: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Synthesis of Knowledge of Extreme Fire Behavior. Explicit use of et al. Powerful winds fueled tornadoes of flame in Tubbs Fire".
Archived from the original PDF on 4 March Archived from the original on 3 March Retrieved 23 April Archived from the original on 5 December Retrieved 7 December Exploratory analysis of Firestorms.
Five days in August: The firebombing of Dresden". Ellsworth Air Force Base. United States Air Force. Archived from the original on 29 September Retrieved 8 August Retrieved 3 March It was reported that the weight of fuel per acre in several California cities is 70 to tons per acre.
This amounts to about 3. Archived from the original PDF on 9 March Keep in mind, none of these figures even take the builtupness factor into consideration, thus the all-important fire area fuel loading is not presented, that is, the area including the open spaces between buildings.
Unless otherwise stated within the publications, the data presented is individual building fuel loadings and not the essential fire area fuel loadings.
The table on pg 88 of Cold War: United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved November 6, One hundred and twenty-five Bs carrying 1, tons of bombs Page 25 would have been required to approximate the damage and casualties at Nagasaki.
Also see Taylor , front flap, which gives the figures 1, heavy bombers and 4, tons. Vance 14 August The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Archived from the original on 13 November Burning the Heart Out of the Enemy". The Politics of War: Control of fire by early humans Historic fires Native American use of fire in ecosystems.
Chain reaction Combustion Fire ecology Flash point Pyrolysis. Fuel Oxygen Heat Flame Smoke. By type By country By year.
Arson Death by burning. Cremation Fire worship Terra preta. Retrieved from " https: Unfit url CS1 maint: Archived copy as title Webarchive template wayback links Use dmy dates from April All articles with failed verification Articles with failed verification from May All articles with unsourced statements Articles with unsourced statements from June CS1 errors: Views Read Edit View history.
In other projects Wikimedia Commons. This page was last edited on 28 January , at Crises have impacts — for good and bad.
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