Mark Boslough’s super computer generated, comet airburst simulation is a must see.
In it we see the exploding comet detonating high in the atmosphere, and becoming a supersonic down draft of thermal impact plasma hotter than the surface of the sun. But watch the sequence closely. And pay particular attention to the post impact updraft at the center of the flow. And to the directions of flow of the airburst vortex at the surface, as the impact plume develops at the center of the vortex. You might want to replay it a few times.
“Ongoing simulations of low-altitude airbursts from hypervelocity asteroid impacts have led to a re-evaluation of the impact hazard that accounts for the enhanced damage potential relative to the standard point-source approximations. Computational models demonstrate that the altitude of maximum energy deposition is not a good estimate of the equivalent height of a point explosion, because the center of mass of an exploding projectile maintains a significant fraction of its initial momentum and is transported downward in the form of a high-temperature jet of expanding gas. This “fireball” descends to a depth well beneath the burst altitude before its velocity becomes subsonic. The time scale of this descent is similar to the time scale of the explosion itself, so the jet simultaneously couples both its translational and its radial kinetic energy to the atmosphere. Because of this downward flow, larger blast waves and stronger thermal radiation pulses are experienced at the surface than would be predicted for a nuclear explosion of the same yield at the same burst height. For impacts with a kinetic energy below some threshold value, the hot jet of vaporized projectile loses its momentum before it can make contact with the Earth’s surface. The 1908 Tunguska explosion is the largest observed example of this first type of airburst. For impacts above the threshold, the fireball descends all the way to the ground, where it expands radially, driving supersonic winds and radiating thermal energy at temperatures that can melt silicate surface materials. The Libyan Desert Glass event, 29 million years ago, may be an example of this second, larger, and more destructive type of airburst. The kinetic energy threshold that demarcates these two airburst types depends on asteroid velocity, density, strength, and impact angle.”
~Dr. Mark Boslough Sandia National Laboratories
The old way of imagining one of those events was to think of it as a point explosion high in the atmosphere. And it’s still popular in the press to pretend the atmosphere dissipates the blast. As you can see, it doesn’t. Using super computers has allowed them to retain the downward momentum. So we can see the impact vortex hit the ground as a supersonic blast hotter than the surface of the sun. It would be naive to a fault to think such energies can be dissipated without significant planetary scarring, or ablative geomorphology.
And, in fact, in north central Mexico, the recent marks of thermal airburst down blasts are terribly common. Forensically speaking there are thousands of square miles of pristine blast effected materials in central Mexico that describe the fall of a super cluster of too many air bursting fragments like the one Dr Boslough’s simulation shows, and even larger, to count.
I’ve chosen an ordinary-typical example of a geo-ablative airburst scar. Note the radial, outwards flowing curtain of melt. The wind-driven patterns of flow are a perfect match for the bottom of the large airburst vortex in Dr Boslough’s simulation.
The white line in the image is 5 miles long.
Click here to view a 3D PhotoSynth of the mountain
As you can see, the radial, outwards flowing ejecta curtain is almost perfectly pristine, exposed on the surface. There is no question but that the mountain is the source location of the materials in the ejecta curtain. But the mountain is a Questa that consists of uplifted meta sedimentary strata. It’s not a volcanic vent, or rift.
This ejecta curtain of geo-ablative melt was blown outwards by the impact down-blast. These are the patterns of movement you see when a fluid is driven across a surface by high velocity atmospheric pressure like the froth on a stormy beach.
The indication of the speed of the materials in the emplacement of the ejecta curtain is the outwards pointing chevrons.
The shocker here, is that the mountain probably didn’tt exist in any form at all at the moment of impact. To really understand the process that formed the uplift, we need to look closely at the ablative patterns in its outer surface.
In the simulation, note the supersonic upwards flow in the center of post impact vortices. The mountain was born almost in an instant as the surface bounced back from pressure of the shockwave, and rebounded up into the impact vortex. So, at the same time the material in the radial ejecta curtain was being ablated, and blown outwards, the rebounding surface at the center was ablated, and the materials that were removed, were drawn up into the impact plume by the upwards flow at the center of the vortex.
And the signature of that ablative upwards flow is in the deep V shaped excavations that wider at the top, and center of the flow.
There are well over 50,000 square miles of geo-ablative terrains like this in central Mexico alone. And the region is unique on the surface of the Earth. The Arid climate has preserved the blast effected materials in context, and in perfect condition. Most of it is in almost the same condition as it was the first year after the impact storm.
These kind of strange, and surreal geo-ablative terrains can also be found in other parts of the world. But everywhere else on Earth the geo-ablative melt has decomposed to become soils. Or the materials have eroded so much the patterns of movement, and flow, in the emplacement event are no longer legible. So the melt has become indistinguishable from ordinary volcanic tuff.
The ability to read the fluid emplacement motions of all of the blast effected materials of such an event with such confidence, and in such detail, makes it a kind of written language, or choreographic dance chart.
The blast effected materials of the Mexican impact zone can be thought of as a kind of cipher key, or ‘Rosetta Stone’, for learning to read the empirically true, geo-history of the world from the rocks themselves.