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What causes the mushroom shape of a nuclear detonation?

I’m curious about the physics behind what really causes the shape of a mushroom cloud after a nuclear detonation. Is it possible to have a different shape? If so, what other shapes might it resemble? If no, what forces are acting upon the cloud to make it only take a single form? I assume there are lots of environmental factors such as wind, air pressure, temperature and such. What I want to really know, is how do all the factors work together to create such a beautiful, but deadly symbol of nuclear technology.

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2 Responses to “What causes the mushroom shape of a nuclear detonation?”

  1. physics guy said :

    It really has to do with the bomb itself the mushroom shape is caused because as the extremely hot nuclear material cools it rises up the hot column which is very dense and falling, and then once it is free at the top the density decreases and it spreads out forming the top of the mushroom, the environmental factors are non-existent anyway because the bomb destroys any wind patterns, humidity ( evaporates ), and it causes the temperate to rise to huge levels.

    Although different bombs leave different types of ” mushrooms” e.g. hydrogen bombs cores are so dense they tend to say low to the ground and form huge tops that are very fat and wide, all conventional nuclear devices leave that shape.

  2. turingschild said :

    Physics guy is correct. But I wanted to add that ANY large explosion will create that mushroom shape. Just on a smaller scale. The one I find difficult to explain is the column with a ‘string of beads’ of clouds running up it. Perhaps some sort of reverberation phenomenon.


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