TABLE 1927 Selected Effects from Blast Waves

The rapidly expanding gases from an explosion also displace air, causing it to move away at very high velocity and produce transient blast winds that travel immediately behind the shock front of the blast wave. The blast wave may also accelerate loose objects (e.g., people) through the air, causing acceleration-deceleration injuries. In the immediate vicinity of an explosion, this windage can cause atomization, or total disintegration, of a body, evisceration, or traumatic amputations, depending on the force of the explosion. Illustrative of the force of such winds, an overpressure of about 5200 mmHg (100 psi) produces a blast wind having a velocity of about 2400 kph (1500 mph).

In addition to the amount and duration of overpressure caused by an explosion, the overall effect of the blast wave also depends on the exact waveform of the overpressure (i.e., its rise time), the victim's body mass and orientation to the explosion, the presence of deflecting and reflecting surfaces in the environment, and the medium through which the shock wave is conducted. For example, because of the greater density of water and its relative incompressibility, blast waves produced by underwater explosions travel much faster and farther than those produced by terrestrial explosions. Consequently, blast injuries in water occur at greater distances from the detonation point and tend to be more severe. Underwater blast injury has other peculiarities, too, but these are beyond the scope of this discussion.

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