The Seismic Evidence & Molten Iron in the Rubble
by Christopher Bollyn
August 27, 2002
Two unexplained "spikes" in the seismic record from 9-11 indicate huge bursts of energy shook the ground beneath the World Trade Center's twin towers immediately prior to the collapse.
I have learned of pools of "molten steel" found at the base of the collapsed twin towers weeks after the collapse. Although the energy source for these incredibly hot areas has yet to be explained, New York seismometers recorded huge bursts of energy, which caused unexplained seismic "spikes" at the beginning of each collapse. These spikes suggest that massive underground explosions may have literally knocked the towers off their foundations, causing them to collapse.
In the basements of the collapsed towers, where the 47 central support columns connected with the bedrock, hot spots of "literally molten steel" were discovered more than a month after the collapse. Such persistent and intense residual heat, 70 feet below the surface, in an oxygen starved environment, could explain how these crucial structural supports failed.
Peter Tully, president of Tully Construction of Flushing, N.Y., told me that he saw pools of "literally molten steel" at the World Trade Center. Tully was contracted after 9-11 to remove the debris from the site. Tully called Mark Loizeaux, president of Controlled Demolition, Inc. (CDI) of Phoenix, Md., for consultation about removing the debris. CDI calls itself "the innovator and global leader in the controlled demolition and implosion of structures."
Loizeaux, who cleaned up the bombed Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, arrived at the WTC site two days later and wrote the clean-up plan for the entire operation. I asked Loizeaux about the report of molten steel on the site.
"Yes," he said, "hot spots of molten steel in the basements." These incredibly hot areas were found "at the bottoms of the elevator shafts of the main towers, down seven [basement] levels," Loizeaux said. The molten steel was found "three, four, and five weeks later, when the rubble was being removed," Loizeaux said. He said molten steel was also found at WTC 7, which collapsed mysteriously in the late afternoon. Construction steel has an extremely high melting point of about 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Asked what could have caused such extreme heat, Tully said, "Think of the jet fuel." Loizeaux said the steel-melting fires were fueled by "paper, carpet and other combustibles packed down the elevator shafts by the tower floors as they 'pancaked' into the basement."
However, some independent investigators dispute this claim, saying kerosene-based jet fuel, paper, or the other combustibles normally found in the towers, cannot generate the heat required to melt steel, especially in an oxygen-poor environment like a deep basement. Due to the lack of oxygen, paper and other combustibles packed down at the bottom of elevator shafts would probably be a smoky smoldering pile.
Experts disagree that jet-fuel or paper could generate such heat. This is impossible, they say, because the maximum temperature that can be reached by hydrocarbons like jet-fuel burning in air is 1,520 degrees F. Because the WTC fires were fuel rich, as evidenced by the thick black smoke, it is argued that they did not reach this upper limit. The hottest spots at the surface of the rubble, where abundant oxygen was available, were much cooler than the molten steel found in the basements.
Five days after the collapse, on Sept. 16, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) used an Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) to locate and measure the site's hot spots. Dozens of hot spots were mapped, the hottest being in the east corner of the South Tower where a temperature of 1,377 degrees F. was recorded. This is, however, less than half as hot at the molten steel in the basement.
The foundations of the twin towers were 70 feet deep. At that level, 47 huge box columns, connected to the bedrock, supported the entire gravity load of the structures. The steel walls of these lower box columns were four inches thick. Videos of the North Tower collapse show its communication mast falling first, indicating that the central support columns must have failed at the very beginning of the collapse. "Everything went simultaneously," Loizeaux said.
"At 10:29 the entire top section of the North Tower had been severed from the base and began falling down," he writes. "If the first event was the falling of a floor, how did that progress to the severing of hundreds of columns?"
Asked if the vertical support columns gave way before the connections between the floors and the columns, Ron Hamburger, a structural engineer with the FEMA assessment team said, "That's the $64,000 question."
Loizeaux said, "If I were to bring the towers down, I would put explosives in the basement to get the weight of the building to help collapse the structure."
Seismographs at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., 21 miles north of the WTC, recorded strange seismic activity on Sept. 11 that has still not been explained. While the aircraft crashes caused minimal earth shaking, significant earthquakes with unusual spikes occurred at the beginning of each collapse.
The Palisades seismic data recorded a 2.1 magnitude earthquake during the 10-second collapse of the South Tower at 9:59:04 and a 2.3 quake during the 8-second collapse of the North Tower at 10:28:31. However, the Palisades seismic record shows that—as the collapses began—a huge seismic "spike" marked the moment the greatest energy went into the ground. The strongest jolts were all registered at the beginning of the collapses, well before the falling debris struck the Earth.
These unexplained "spikes" in the seismic data lend credence to the theory that massive explosions at the base of the towers caused the collapses. A "sharp spike of short duration" is how seismologist Thorne Lay of University of California at Santa Cruz said an underground nuclear explosion appears on a seismograph.
The two unexplained spikes are more than 20 times the amplitude of the other seismic waves associated with the collapses and occurred in the East-West seismic recording as the buildings began to fall. Experts cannot explain why the seismic waves peaked before the towers actually hit the ground.
Asked about these spikes, seismologist Arthur Lerner-Lam, director of Columbia University's Center for Hazards and Risk Research said, "This is an element of current research and discussion. It is still being investigated." Lerner-Lam said that a 10-fold increase in wave amplitude indicates a 100-fold increase in energy released. These "short-period surface waves," reflect "the interaction between the ground and the building foundation," according to a report from Columbia Earth Institute.
"The seismic effects of the collapses are comparable to the explosions at a gasoline tank farm near Newark on Jan. 7, 1983," the Palisades Seismology Group reported on Sept. 14, 2001. One of the seismologists, Won-Young Kim, told me that the Palisades seismographs register daily underground explosions from a quarry 20 miles away. These blasts are caused by 80,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and cause local earthquakes between Magnitude 1 and 2.
Kim said the 1993 truck-bomb at the WTC did not register on the seismographs because it was "not coupled" to the ground. "Only a small fraction of the energy from the collapsing towers was converted into ground motion," Lerner-Lam said. "The ground shaking that resulted from the collapse of the towers was extremely small."
Last November, Lerner-Lam said: "During the collapse, most of the energy of the falling debris was absorbed by the towers and the neighboring structures, converting them into rubble and dust or causing other damage—but not causing significant ground shaking." Evidently, the energy source that shook the ground beneath the towers was many times more powerful than the total potential energy released by the falling mass of the towers. The question is: What was that energy source?
While steel is often tested for evidence of explosions, despite numerous eyewitness reports of explosions in the towers, the engineers involved in the FEMA-sponsored building assessment did no such tests. Dr. W. Gene Corley, who investigated for the government the cause of the fire at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing, headed the FEMA-sponsored engineering assessment of the WTC collapse.
Corley told me that while some tests had been done on the 80 pieces of steel saved from the site, he said he did not know about tests that show if an explosion had affected the steel. "I am not a metallurgist," Corley said.
Much of the structural steel from the WTC was sold to Alan D. Ratner of Metal Management of Newark, N.J., and the New York-based company Hugo Neu Schnitzer East. Ratner, who heads the New Jersey branch of the Chicago-based company, sold the WTC steel to overseas companies, reportedly selling more than 50,000 tons of steel to a Shanghai steel company known as Baosteel for $120 per ton. Ratner paid about $70 per ton for the steel. Other shipments of steel from the WTC went to India and other Asian ports. Ratner came to Metal Management after spending years with a metal trading firm known as SimsMetal based out of Sydney, Australia.