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The ionospheric response over the UK to major bombing raids during World War II

Scott, C. J. ORCID: and Major, P. (2018) The ionospheric response over the UK to major bombing raids during World War II. Annales Geophysicae, 36 (5). pp. 1243-1254. ISSN 0992-7689

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To link to this item DOI: 10.5194/angeo-36-1243-2018


The Earth’s ionosphere is subject to disturbance from above (via solar variability and space weather effects) and from below (such as tectonic activity, thunderstorms and sudden stratospheric warmings). Identifying the relative contribution of these effects remains challenging, despite recent advances in spacecraft monitoring near-Earth space. Man-made explosions provide a quantifiable proxy for natural terrestrial sources, enabling their impact on ionospheric variability to be studied. In this paper, the contribution of ground-based disturbances to ionospheric variability is investigated by considering the response of the ionospheric F2-layer over Slough, UK, to 152 major bombing raids over Europe during World War II, using a superposed epoch analysis. The median response of the F2 layer is a significant decrease in peak electron concentration (~0.3 MHz decrease in foF2). This response is consistent with wave energy heating the thermosphere, enhancing the (temperature dependant) loss rate of O+ ions. The analysis was repeated for a range of thresholds in both time of bombing before the (noon) ionospheric measurement and tonnage of bombs dropped per raid. It was found that significant (~2-3σ) deviations from the mean occurred for events occurring between approximately 3 and 7 hours ahead of the noon ionospheric measurements and for raids using a minimum of between 100 and 800 tonnes of high explosives. The most significant ionospheric response (2.99σ) occurred for 21 raids up to 5 hours before the ionospheric measurement, each with a minimum of 300 tonnes of explosives. To ensure that the observed ionospheric response cannot be attributable to space weather sources, the analysis was restricted to those events for which the geomagnetic Ap index was less than 48 (Kp < 5). Digitisation of the early ionospheric data would enable the investigation into the response of additional ionospheric parameters (sporadic E, E and F1 layer heights and peak concentrations). One metric ton of TNT has an explosive energy of 4.184 109 joules, which is of the same order of energy as a cloud to ground lightning stroke. Since the occurrence of lightning has distinctive diurnal and seasonal cycles, it is feasible that a similar mechanism could contribute to the observed seasonal anomaly in ionospheric F-region electron concentrations. Further investigation, using less extreme examples, is required to determine the minimum explosive energy required to generate a detectable ionospheric response.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Modern European Histories and Cultures
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:79412
Publisher:Copernicus Publications


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