How much TNT do you need to blow up Mount Everest?

Is this even possible and can mankind survive a huge explosion like this? Or would the whole world be covered with dust?

And if you can survive this huge explosion then from how many kilometers away would you still able to hear the explosion?

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    $\begingroup$ Would you be amenable to removing the "TNT" requirement? The United States took 500 tons of TNT to simulate one nuclear explosion in Operation Sailor Hat: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Sailor_Hat $\endgroup$
    – Mikey
    Jan 19, 2015 at 13:11
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    $\begingroup$ Down to sea level? $\endgroup$
    – mouviciel
    Jan 19, 2015 at 14:00
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    $\begingroup$ . . . are you planning anything, Stefan? On a more relevant note, Mount Everest's structure is also below the surface, which itself is high above sea level - as @mouviciel pointed out. Just how much of it do you want to remove? $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Jan 19, 2015 at 14:08
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    $\begingroup$ I want to make it flat so you can walk straight forward without having to move up or down :-) So around the normal ground level there $\endgroup$
    – Stefan
    Jan 19, 2015 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ If you mean "down to sea level" you shouldn't say "Mount Everest". Mount Everest is a relatively small peak among many high mountains. Many mountains with lower peaks are much larger than Everest (Fujiyama, Kilimanjaro, Rainier, to name a few). You are talking about blowing up the entire Himalayas if you mean flattening. Or do you mean creating a crater where the bottom of it, however small, is at sea level? Because you could not flatten the Himalyas; much of the debris would settle right back down where it came from. $\endgroup$ Jan 20, 2015 at 22:17

3 Answers 3


The most valuable data probably comes from Operation plowshare. In one test, a 104 kt explosion, displaced 11 million tons of soil, about 100 ton of soil for a ton of TNT. Let's say for the sake of getting a lower bound, that Mount Everest is made of soil.

Mt. Everest has a volume of about 1.5 million million cubic meters, and a cubic meter of soil weighs about 1.5 tonnes, so a soil Everest should weigh a little over 2 million million tonnes. So we should need at least 20 000 million tonnes of TNT for the job. If instead we used thermonuclear bombs of the highest yield, we'd only need 344 of them. In 1960 the combined yield of the US nuclear stockpile was just about 20 000 Mt, so that would be in the ballpark of what is required.

Of course, Mount Everest isn't made of soil, but on the other hand, you may be able to use the weight of the mountain to crush most of the rock, by starting at the base.

  • $\begingroup$ I really don't want to bring up dampening... Must resist temptation to kvetch... $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2015 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ @SerbanTanasa I'm sure there are many things wrong with this. Think of it as a Fermi estimation. I'm also assuming that we're allowed to blow it up bit by bit, or at least with lots of separate charges. If a singe charge should do the trick, then I expect the amount goes up. $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2015 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ Placement, subterranean vs. surface. Is Everest solid? Or are there cracks and fissures throughout? What does "blow up" mean, anyway? Reduction to dust? Or merely reduced to enough rubble to raise the elevation of Nepal by 5 feet? $\endgroup$
    – JohnP
    Jan 19, 2015 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ Tsar Bomba was not the highest possible yield, just the largest bomb that anyone has ever been mad (MAD?) enough to explode. $\endgroup$
    – nigel222
    Jan 31, 2016 at 22:52

It depends a lot on the geology of the mountain, of which I know nothing. Is the rock sedimentary? Does it have horizontal strata or do they slope steeply downwards? Is one of the strata weak?

It might be that all you have to do is shake it hard enough and gravity will do the rest. One really big hydrogen bomb? A medium or small one? Look up Cumbre Vieja (Canary islands) for a case of serious instability, and if you live on the USA Eastern seaboard, worry.

Somewhere on my travels, I forget exactly where, I passed a roadside memorial to the people who had once been camping in the valley below. There was no valley below, just a field of boulders. One summer day, after heavy rain which lubricated a fault, a mountain had collapsed downslope under its own weight. That's an extreme case but not a unique one.

It's said that the Swiss have permanent explosive mines in carefully selected locations in their mountain passes. If someone ever tries to invade, a large chunk of mountain will fall on them.


I estimate that if you were to attempt such a thing ( which I would not recommend ), the necessary force would be at minimum 3.332\times 10^{10} tonnes of TNT to level Mt Everest.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding! Would you be able to show how you came to this answer? In addition, you can put maths around the usual Latex \$...\$ and \$\$...\$\$, which would make it easier to read (addition: I've just noticed this even works in comments) $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2018 at 20:00

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