Definition of an EMP


electromagnetic pulse (EMP):

The electromagnetic radiation from a nuclear explosion or a suddenly fluctuating magnetic field. The resulting electric and magnetic fields may couple with electrical/electronic systems to produce damaging current and voltage surges.

A broadband, high-intensity, short-duration burst of electromagnetic energy.

In the case of a nuclear detonation, the electromagnetic pulse consists of a continuous frequency spectrum. Most of the energy is distributed throughout the lower frequencies between 3 Hz and 30 kHz.

An instantaneous, intense energy field that can overload or disrupt at a distance numerous electrical systems and high technology microcircuits, which are especially sensitive to power surges.

A large scale EMP effect can be produced by a single nuclear explosion detonated high in the atmosphere. A similar, smaller-scale EMP effect can be created using non-nuclear devices with powerful batteries or reactive chemicals. Several nations, including reported sponsors of terrorism, may currently have a capability to use EMP as a weapon for cyber warfare or cyber terrorism to disrupt communications and other parts of the U.S. critical infrastructure.

The most important mechanism for Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) production from a nuclear detonation is the ionization of air molecules by gamma rays generated from the explosion. These gamma rays ionize the air molecules by interacting with the air molecules to produce positive ions and recoil electrons called Compton electrons. This pulse of energy, which produces a powerful electromagnetic field, particularly within the vicinity of the weapon burst, is called an electromagnetic pulse. EMP can also be produced from non-nuclear sources, such as electromagnetic bombs, or E-bombs.

High-altitude nuclear detonations and electromagnetic bombs can generate EMP that has the potential to damage or destroy electronic devices over widespread areas. Electric power systems would also be at risk from surges produced by such weapons.

A 1.4 Megaton bomb launched about 250 miles above Kansas would destroy most of the electronics that were not protected in the entire Continental United States.

During the brief return to atmospheric testing in 1962, a 1.4 megaton nuclear weapon was detonated over Johnston Island at an altitude of about 250 miles. The effects of EMP were observed in Hawaii, 800 miles east of the detonation. Streetlights and fuses failed on Oahu and telephone service was disrupted on the Island of Kauai.

EMP is not radioactive, but a pulse of energy produced as a side effect of a nuclear detonation or electromagnetic bomb.

EMP has no known effect on living organisms, but can temporarily or permanently disable electrical and electronic equipment.

A big enough EMP will induce currents in semiconductor components and fry them.

Instead of simply cutting off power in an area, an EMP would actually destroy most machines that use electricity. Generators would be useless, cars wouldn’t run, and there would be no chance of making a phone call. In a matter of seconds, a big enough EMP could thrust an entire city back 200 years.


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  1. As everybody knows, Edison invented electricity in around,1900-with a little help from his friends. Even allowing for later rural electrification, there are not many “civilized” people today who have lived without the plug-it-in mind set. The “shock” to this group will produce a stress that dwarfs their current tramas of their cell battery going out, or having the wrong tie. Then comes the cage fighting,without a cage,or any rules.First responders and hospitals will be useless or targets themselves. If this occures in the winter, the short term problems will be shorter, as there will be many more dead and less moving around.

    Going to the store to buy some bottled water and a flashligh,the usual survival equipment of the “too little too late” bunch,will be a waste of time.A plan might be to team up now, if you run into any actual thinking decent people, gather up some gear and figure out a way to get out of any city for the duration. Make some practice runs to iron out the wrinkles.
    If you live in a rural area, better; but remember “little house on the prarie” was replaced by “sex in the city” on the media that people who do not live in a city arealso subjected tothe lowering effect on IQ. There are a lot less
    “rural folk” in rural areas than there used to be,but there are enough to know which end of an axe to use and the difference between a turkey and a hoodie, in regards to a 12 ga etc. Bettet yet would be driving out into the country where some real deals on real estate may be found.Get to know some people in the area so if this deal goes down, they won;t shoot first.

  2. “Instead of simply cutting off power in an area, an EMP would actually destroy most machines that use electricity. Generators would be useless, cars wouldn’t run, and there would be no chance of making a phone call. In a matter of seconds, a big enough EMP could thrust an entire city back 200 years.”
    @ Ken & ed bryant. Genuine interest – what is the specific feature of EMP that would stop a car running… I aready have an old diesel truck – mechanical fuel injection, but it still has an electric primer pump and of course the starter and alternator….
    Any advice re: Specifically making sure the ol’ girl will run ‘no matter what’ much appreciated… :-)

    1. In short, an EMP will (could) damage semiconductor ‘junctions’. That is, the electrical current that will be induced from the EMP will force itself across diode junctions, transistor junctions, microprocessors (which are made up of zillions of transistors), etc… Most all modern electronics use some form of simple or very complicated semiconductor technology. You may be surprised to discover how many systems are integrated with one form or another of electronics.

      In your car’s alternator… the diode / regulator junction is vulnerable. I know that older vehicles are pretty well safe (except maybe for their alternators), prior to the days of the computer and electronic fuel injection. I am not familiar with diesel engines and can’t offer advice there, as I’ve only owned gasoline engines. I have owned a number of older cars though, and I can understand how they will be more likely to survive. Thing is though… even those vehicles will require gasoline or diesel fuel to operate. So, where’s that going to come from? Only if you’ve got it stored – for the most part.

      1. So purchasing a spare regulator/brush assembly would be recommended, but presumably this would need to be shielded or stored in some way that would prevent damage in the event of EMP? Is there a way of doing this?

        1. Exactly.
          I plan to do an in-depth article on this one day (Faraday – EMP protection methods), however, the short of it in your example would be to double wrap / insulate it at a very minimum. Search for my old post and video on protecting a portable radio from EMP which shows the basic technique. Better yet will be to store the double insulated devices in a grounded metal container of some sort. The sky’s the limit regarding your own ideas on this – much depends on the quantity and size of what you’re trying to protect. Google ‘Faraday Cage’ and that will get you started.

  3. Electronics protected in a properly earthed Faraday Cage would mist likely survive.
    You home computer desktop is supposed to be encased in a metal surround with proper grounding. This means the case should be connected to the power lead ground wire. The power lead should be the 3 pin active, neutral, earth type and connect back to the 3 pin house power socket. The socket is supposed to have a properly connected ground. (Three pin power outlets are standard in the U.K. and other countries).

    Cars with modern tyres should protect simpler electronics. The latest cars with so many computerized controls don’t count. Petrol powered cars pre 1990 with simple electronics should be O.K. My ’90 model petrol powered Mercedes has all its electronics in protective metal shields.(and everything is earthed)

    It’s the exposed micro electronics which will suffer the most problems. Larger simple Diodes in alternators should survive – unless directly underneath the event.
    An EMP shatters the laws of electricity monetarily. i.e. Inductance breaks down – generators will not work. An electrical spike can occur immediately
    after the momentary break in conductance. These spikes are what do most of the damage.

    CME’s work in a different way. They cause high voltage induction in transformers and long lines.

  4. I want to know why if the N. Korean “satellite” is violating our airspace we don’t destroy it as a potential threat. The little toad with the bad haircut doesn’t have our best interests at heart and he has a need to express his testosterone.

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