Assuming an earth-like planet, how would annual, hour-long, literal bladestorms transform: ecology, geology, and human society?

  • Assuming the first one happens tomorrow, what changes in the next few decades? What changes in the next few million years?
  • Is the biosphere suffocated in layers of metal? If it can preserve itself, does it remain human miscible? What do the evolved flora and fauna look like?
  • How does a modern society handle the situtation? Likewise for a medieval one.
  • If the current parameters (annual, hour-long) are too crippling to sustain human life, at what point can we barely survive?

Making an edit to simplify the question somewhat;

The swords:

  • Fall from a 2000m height.
  • Are claymores crafted using 18th century materials and techniques.
  • Have 33cm long grips, 107cm long blades, and weights of 2.5kg each.
  • Hit the ground once every second, per square meter.
  • Fall across the entire planet.
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    $\begingroup$ From how high do they fall? How long are they and how much do they weigh. Do they fall only on land or also over the sea? How many will fall per square meter in per hour? $\endgroup$ – Binary Worrier Sep 27 '19 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ I really like that question, although it's a little (juste a little) surreal. Where you inspired by "Adventure time" when writting this question ? (adventuretime.fandom.com/wiki/Knife_Storm?file=ATGif_120.gif) $\endgroup$ – Don Pablo Sep 27 '19 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ How does x affects the world is too broad for any x. Please narrow it down $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Sep 27 '19 at 14:59
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE HereToHelp, glad you found us. We have a tour and help center you might wish to check out. While this is an interesting question, it needs some editing to be viable here. First, get rid of the bonus questions (no funsies here!). It makes the question too broad. Second, tell us the parameters. You can't ask if the biosphere is covered in layers of metal because it depends on your setup: what is the volume of metal that rains down? And so on. $\endgroup$ – Cyn says make Monica whole Sep 27 '19 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ I foresee significant improvements in umbrella technology. $\endgroup$ – Gary Walker Sep 27 '19 at 16:09

Unguided dumb kinetic projectiles have been used in wars gone past, such as the "Lazy Dog" used in Vietnam. You just shovel loads of them into the sky over the target, and let their kinetic energy take them through any cover (such as light roofing or tree canopy) and through any soft target underneath. To quote from the wiki page on kinetic bombardment,

These were dumped from aircraft onto enemy troops and had the same effect as a machine gun fired vertically. Observers visiting a battlefield after an attack said it looked like the ground had been 'tenderized' using a gigantic fork. Bodies had been penetrated longitudinally from shoulder to lower abdomen

(original sources are books, and the google book links don't work for me)

One of the dart shapes could apparently penetrate over 60cm of sand, which is quite effective for such a small projectile. Similar weapons (called, more generally, flechettes) were used in WW1 and 2, though I don't have any reports on their use or effectiveness.

If your swords fall lengthwise, either the pointy end first or a suitably sharp pommel (not that such things are very common), then the effects will be fairly similar, though swords are generally a bit bigger and heavier than flechettes or lazy dog projectiles.

Rain generally falls from 2000m upwards. Lets say a sword ways 1.5kg. If it falls from that height it'll be going at about 200m/s, giving it a kinetic energy of nearly 30kJ (neglecting air resistance, but swords and skinny and dense so it shouldn't make too much difference. Probably). This is nearly twice the muzzle energy of a 50 cal machinegun round, but with an awful lot more momentum due to its substantially greater mass. I'm not totally certain what kind of penetration this will have in most materials, but investigation of the effects of 50cal MG fire might be informative. Velocity of the falling swords scales according to the square-root of the height they fall from, so their kinetic energy scales linearly with height. Some storm clouds can be very tall... I'm not sure what the terminal velocity of a slender bit of falling steel is, but it is likely to be fast so this 50cal comparison is probably at the lower end of destructive potential.

That just leaves the how many swords fall. A seriously heavy rain shower might drop 50mm of rain in an hour. Over a 1 metre square patch of land, that'll be 50l of water. Given the same mass of stuff falling, that's 100 of the aforementioned swords for every 3 square metres of land. If your plot of land is slightly larger than 5x5 metres, you'll get enough swords every year to make your very own iron throne. Melting the metal bounty down might be tricky though, because all the trees will be gone, so no charcoal or wood for cooking or forging. Maybe you'll have access to coal, and can use the swords as mining tools.

As well as the trees, this bombardment will also destroy most light constructions (such as houses), erode rock, churn up land and ruin crops, sink boats, slaughter livestock, etc etc. It won't take many years of this happening to destroy most large woodlands and macrofauna. If it has been going on for a while, trees and livestock and horses and so on simply won't be things that exist anymore, except in carefully maintained armoured environments. Steep valleys will fill with rusting iron. Rivers will turn read and brown, and might poison fish (those that haven't already been shredded, so probably only the little ones) or at least cause dissolved oxygen reduction. You might get sword avalanches on very steep hillsides.

The UK's current area of land devoted to agriculture is about 93 billion square metres, so in order to keep the land useable (lets not think about the fact that anything growing or living on that land might have been ruined) you need to shift some 4.65 gigatonnes of steel. With about 55 million adults in the country, they'll each need to shift about 85 tonnes of steel. I don't know where they'd put it all, though. You could send it out to sea, but all the boats will probably have sunk...


Sword facts and figures were added after I did my calculations. They end up being even more bad news than my example. 3600 swords per square metre per hour instead of 34, 9 tonnes of steel instead of 50kg. I won't bother working out the coverage of land, because it would be pointless. Everything gets buried and crushed to death, even if it doesn't get stabbed. Underground facilities have to tunnel their way out through a layer of steel to escape.

Oh, and projectile kinetic energy now nearly 50kJ instead of nearly 30. Swords fall, everyone dies.

  • $\begingroup$ If you want to know what a chunk of metal with 30kJ of kinetic energy is capable of, watch a modern-day BattleBots fight. Most spinners these days output energy in that range or even higher, and I've seen them dent or tear thick steel plates, and smash clean through bulletproof glass panels. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Sep 27 '19 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ @F1Krazy yeah, it is certainly not something to take lightly. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Sep 27 '19 at 15:48

Under the given scenario, we all die. Some people die from swords. Most forms of complex life will be wiped out either by swords or starvation. You've just reduced everything to insects.

Why? Because you just buried all the plant life under a whole bunch of swords, wiping out almost all agriculture. (Some trees might survive, but that's about it.)

Even if that wasn't a problem, all the roads and other forms of transportation are buried in swords.

(I'm using the calculated rate I used above to determine how much stuff there is. 3.6 metric tons per square meter after an hour, minimum.)

  • I think the first thing people are going to invest on is better roofs, and then it's up for more portable versions of said roofs. I'd imagine the government putting up emergency shelters where people can hide in whenever these bladestorms happen.
  • This may actually benefit us quite a bit since that's basically free metal raining from the sky. The cost of steel drastically lowers (though I guess it would depend on the purity of the iron/steel/whatevermetal the swords are made of). but this would mean an abundance of metals, which is generally good for infrastructure, etc.
  • Modern society would handle it quite well (in fact, we'd benefit from it). Likewise, a medieval society would fine themselves with an overabundance of metal and likely progress so far ahead in metallurgy thanks to having access to such materials.
  • I don't see how metal lightning works though, probably some sort of giant chunk of steel randomly dropping.
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    $\begingroup$ I think your first bullet point depends on a) what the kinetic energy of these falling blades actually is, and whether a standard roof would be sufficient to stop it or not; and b) how many of these bladestorms need to occur before people (and especially governments) realise that this is just going to keep on happening. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Sep 27 '19 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ eh sticks and stones, regardless of their kinetic energy I don't see humans resorting to living underground just because of this. It's basically just hail with extra steps (and is global) so it'll probably take a while for governments to realize that this is gonna keep happening, but when they do realize I'd assume that the smart thing to do is just reinforce our existing shelters. $\endgroup$ – Wind Helm Sep 27 '19 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ The numbers put up by Starfish Prime strongly suggest no amount of reinforcement will suffice for most non-bunker structures. I’ve been unable to find a flaw in Prime’s math. $\endgroup$ – SRM Sep 28 '19 at 13:22

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