North Korea warned this week that it might test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean, after saying the country had already successfully detonated one.
A hydrogen bomb has never been used in battle by any country, but experts say it has the power to wipe out entire cities and kill significantly more people than the already powerful atomic bomb, which the U.S. dropped in Japan during World War II, killing tens of thousands of people.
As global tensions continue to rise over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, here’s what to know about atomic and hydrogen bombs:
Why is a hydrogen bomb stronger than an atomic bomb?
More than 200,000 people died in Japan after the U.S. dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima and then another one three days later in Nagasaki during World War II in 1945, according to the Associated Press. The bombings in the two cities were so devastating, they forced Japan to surrender.
But a hydrogen bomb has the potential to be 1,000 times more powerful than an atomic bomb, according to several nuclear experts. The U.S. witnessed the magnitude of a hydrogen bomb when it tested one within the country in 1954, the New York Times reported.
Hydrogen bombs cause a bigger explosion, which means the shock waves, blast, heat and radiation all have larger reach than an atomic bomb, according to Edward Morse, a professor of nuclear engineering at University of California, Berkeley.
Although no other country has used such a weapon of mass destruction since World War II, experts say it would be even more catastrophic if a hydrogen bomb were to be dropped instead of an atomic one.
“With the [atomic] bomb we dropped in Nagasaki, it killed everybody within a mile radius,” Morse told TIME on Friday, adding that a hydrogen bomb’s reach would be closer to 5 or 10 miles. “In other words, you kill more people,” he said.
Hall, director of the University of Tennessee’s Institute for Nuclear Security, called the hydrogen bomb a “city killer” that would probably annihilate between 100 and 1,000 times more people than an atomic bomb.
“It will basically wipe out any of modern cities,” Hall said. “A regular atomic bomb would still be devastating, but it would not do nearly as much damage as an H-bomb.”
What’s the difference between hydrogen bombs and atomic bombs?
Simply speaking, experts say a hydrogen bomb is the more advanced version of an atomic bomb. “You have to master…