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Second World War air raids could have disrupted Earth’s atmosphere

Cologne, Germany in 1945. Credits: Wikipedia / U.S. Department of Defense

A recent study highlights today that shock waves generated by air raids during the Second World War reached the edge of space, weakening Earth’s ionosphere. 

In 1942,  air raids carried out by the allied forces ravaged German cities.  However the enormous explosions created by heavy bombs also had an affect higher up in the atmosphere, with some shock waves reaching Earth’s ionosphere situated between 80 and 580 kilometers above Earth’s surface.  The study, published in Annales Geophysicae reveals that the ionosphere, which is electrified by solar radiation would have been temporarily weakened.

The images of neighbourhoods across Europe reduced to rubble due to wartime air raids are a lasting reminder of the destruction that can be caused by man-made explosions,” stated Chris Scott Physics Professor at Reading University and lead author of the study.  “But the impact of these bombs way up in the Earth’s atmosphere has never been realized until now.”

This study focuses on the ionospheric measurements which were recorded between 1943 and 1945 above the Radio Research Centre in Slough, United Kingdom where researchers studied Earth’s atmosphere.  The aim was to evaluate whether the changes registered in the ionosphere’s structure could possibly be linked made-made activities, such as the war rather than natural phenomenons.

By analysing the centre’s results, researchers could observe a series of radio frequency pulses over a range of short waves frequencies which were able to reach 100 to 300 kilometres above Earths surface.  Researchers have deduced these pulses correspond to the days the allied forces carried out air raids on targeted German cities. With each pulse, the electron concentration in the ionosphere “considerably reduced“, causing a temporary weakening.

It is astonishing to see how the ripples caused by man-made explosions can affect the edge of space,” explained the researcher. “Each raid released the energy of at least 300 lightning strikes. The sheer power involved has allowed us to quantify how events on the Earth’s surface can also affect the ionosphere.”

The structure of Earth’s atmosphere can molded by divers natural events from solar winds, coronal mass ejections, earthquakes an even lightning.  It is interesting to discover that destructive man-made powers are also able to influence the ionosphere and it’s structure.


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