Doctor Strangelove, Or: How We Learned That Bombs We Drop On Earth Can Be Felt In Space According To New Research

Friday, 28 September 2018 - 11:56AM
Physics
Military Tech
Earth
Friday, 28 September 2018 - 11:56AM
Doctor Strangelove, Or: How We Learned That Bombs We Drop On Earth Can Be Felt In Space According To New Research
< >
Pixabay Composite
Los Alamos scientists joked about the Manhattan Project's nuclear bomb test setting the Earth's atmosphere on fire, but it turns out that you don't need to go nuclear in order to have far-reaching effects on the planet. According to Christopher Scott, a scientist at Reading University in the U.K., some bombing runs during World War II were so violent that they temporarily disrupted Earth's ionosphere, which lies between 50 and 375 miles above our planet's surface.

The research, published this week in Annales Geophysicae, originally began with Scott's research into whether lightning affects the ionosphere. After discovering that it indeed does, he wanted to know whether it was the lightning's electrical charge or the explosive power of the bolts that made the difference. To figure that out, he decided to investigate major bombing campaigns during World War II, including the infamous London Blitz, which dropped roughly 30,000 tons of bombs on the English capital and killed over 40,000 people. When Scott couldn't find enough data to accurately measure the explosive power of the Blitz, he turned to the Allied bombings of Berlin.

According to Patrick Major, some of the ordinance used by the Allies were so powerful that "[r]esidents under the bombs would routinely recall being thrown through the air by the pressure waves of air mines exploding, and window casements and doors would be blown off their hinges," according to Patrick Major, one of Scott's colleagues. Based on their records, Scott estimates that each bombing raid was equivalent to 300 lightning strikes. According to Scott: "I was able to see an effect in the U.K. ionospheric records from bombing over 1,000 km [620 miles] away. I was surprised by that."

Scott's research discovered that though the impacts of the bombings were surprisingly potent on the ionosphere, they were relatively short-lived – usually lasting less than a day. "The ionosphere is largely controlled by solar radiation," he said in an interview. "The bombing represents a small impact by comparison." With this piece of research concluded, Scott can get back to his original question: whether it's explosive power or electrical charge that gives lightning its effect on the ionosphere.
Science
Science News
Physics
Military Tech
Earth
No