Extremely high temperatures were evident before and during the destruction of the World Trade Center Twin Towers and at Ground Zero. Seven minutes before the destruction of the South Tower, a flow of molten metal appeared, accompanied by several smaller flows, as documented by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The material’s glowing color showed that its temperature was close to “white hot” at the very beginning of the flow and “yellow-orange” further down. Iron-rich spheres in the WTC dust are additional proof of temperatures above the melting point of iron. Pyroclastic-like, rapidly expanding dust clouds after the destruction of the Towers can also be explained only by the expansion of hot gases.
The high-temperature phenomena at Ground Zero are documented by various sources:
Bechtel engineers, responsible for safety at Ground Zero, wrote in the Journal of the American Society of Safety Engineers: “The debris pile at Ground Zero was always tremendously hot. Thermal measurements taken by helicopter each day showed underground temperatures ranging from 400ºF to more than 2,800ºF.”
The fact that high-temperature phenomena were an important issue at Ground Zero is underscored by the large number of thermal images acquired: images by SPOT, MTI, AVIRIS/NASA, "Twin Otter"/U.S. Army, and at least 25 images by EarthData, taken between Sept. 16 and Oct. 25. In addition, temperature measurements by helicopter were taken each day, and the firefighters used onsite sensors too.
Many witnesses, including rescue personnel and firefighters working on the piles, described the phenomenon of “molten steel.” Terms used in witness statements are, for example, “molten steel,” beams “dripping from molten steel,” “molten steel … like you’re in a foundry. Like lava, from a volcano.” A photograph taken on September 27 by a Ground Zero worker shows an excavating machine lifting debris from the WTC wreckage dripping yellow/orange molten metal.
WTC clean-up workers and 9/11 artifacts architect Bart Voorsanger, in the PBS video “Relics from the Rubble,” described what must have been several tons of “fused element[s] of steel ... molten steel and concrete and all of these things …all fused by the heat,” weighing several tons each. These foreign objects came to be known as “meteorites.”
The heat at Ground Zero was not only extreme, it was also persistent, as proven not only by witness statements and a photograph by LiRo Group / Engineering of orange-red glowing steel as late as October 21, but also by thermal images taken by NASA and EarthData satellites. The EarthData thermal images also show that the “hot spots” remained at the same locations. The phenomenon did not “move” across the site, like one would expect from fire as it consumes the fuel available in any one location.
University of California professor Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl, the first structural engineer given access to the WTC steel at Fresh Kills Landfill notes, “I saw melting of girders at the World Trade Center.” Astaneh also “describes the connections [between supporting columns] as being smoothly warped: ‘If you remember the Salvador Dalí paintings with the clocks that are kind of melted – it’s kind of like that. That could only happen if you get steel yellow hot or white hot – perhaps around 2,000 degrees.’”.
Iron workers at the site pointed out that huge columns that were bent into horseshoe shapes - without the flanges showing any cracks or buckling. They cited, "It takes thousands of degrees to bend steel like this".
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