Today’s Planet Earth Report: Allied Bombing in WW2 Reached Into Space Altering the Upper Atmosphere

 

Imagine what 21st Century nuclear technology would do. “Each raid released the energy of at least 300 lightning strikes,” said professor Chris Scott, from the University of Reading, describing research on the impact on the Ionosphere of the Allied bombing raids over Europe during WW2.

Researchers studied daily records kept at the Radio Research Centre in Slough, UK. They looked at how the concentration of electrons changed in the upper atmosphere around the time of 152 Allied air raids in Europe. The data showed the concentration of electrons fell significantly when a bomb was detonated, which in turn heated the upper atmosphere. This caused a small but significant depletion in the ionosphere above Slough, even though the bombs were deployed hundreds of miles away.

 

During the conflict, Royal Air Force (RAF) and other Allied planes could carry much more weight than their counterparts in the German Luftwaffe. This allowed them to deploy such monster bombs as the “Grand Slam,” which weighed in at some 22,000 pounds and left a crater some 70 feet deep and 130 feet around during a top-secret test in March 1945. The image below shows the devastating impact of the Allied air raids on Dresden.

 

 

The researchers who conducted the new study found that when Allied bombs hit the ground, the shockwaves reached as far as 1,000 kilometers (or 621 miles) into space. This heated up the upper atmosphere and caused the concentration of electrons in it to drop, resulting in a temporary weakness in the ionosphere.

“These were very temporary effects which heated the atmosphere very slightly,” the new study’s co-author, Chris Scott, a space and atmospheric physicist from the University of Reading (U.K.), told BBC News. “The effects on the ionosphere would only have lasted until the heat dissipated.”

“This [research] is really important if we’re going to understand the ionosphere as a whole,” Scott added. “We know the ionosphere is controlled by solar activity but it varies much more than can currently be explained.”

These findings have implications for understanding the impact of other, natural events on the ionosphere, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and thunderstorms. “Because we know the energies involved in these explosions, that gives us a real quantifiable way of assessing how much energy is required to make the ionosphere warmer,” Scott told CNN.

Research into how the volatile particles that make up the ionosphere react to such events is critical, as many modern technologies—including radio communications systems and GPS—can be affected when the ionosphere is disturbed. NASA is already studying the ionosphere as part of its ICON and GOLD missions, both launched in 2018.

The Daily Galaxy via BBC News and CNN

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