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Bombing raids during WWII sent out shockwaves powerful enough to alter the Earth's ionosphere

Re: 300 lightning strikes

The 300-strike-equivalent bombing was presumably much more localized than a typical thunderstorm..?

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Re: 300 lightning strikes

"The 300-strike-equivalent bombing was presumably much more localized than a typical thunderstorm.."

In the latter days of the war, once we'd developed precision bombsights, H2S, Oboe, Pathfinders, "Christmas tree" marker flares and so forth then yes. Early days of the war? Not so much!

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Re: 300 lightning strikes

I was thinking that as the ionosphere above is being measured then the air raids effect had to be taken in the context of a million square miles of sky.

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Re: 300 lightning strikes

An American writer who served as a bombardier quoted evaluations by instructors after training runs: well, you missed the Ruhr, but then you still hit Germany.

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Re: 300 lightning strikes

Raids could be swift. The concentration of bombers in space and time is what allowed the RAF to overwhelm the Luftwaffe defences.

In operation Gomorrah, the July 1943 attack on Hamburg, "728 aircraft dropped their bombs in 50 minutes"

In the 1945 attack on Dresden the first 250 bombers dropped their payload (500 tons of HE and 370 tons incendiaries) in a space of 10 minutes.

In the second part of that raid, 3 hours later, 500 bombers took 25 minutes to unload 1800 tons of bombs.

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Re: 300 lightning strikes

I was wondering about the 300 lighting strike equivalent but a quick bit of searching revealed that an average -ve lightning stroke delivers ~500MJ of energy (+ve bolts are more intense but less common ~5%). TNT (as a rough yardstick) yields a little over 4MJ / kg, so it would seem that ~125kg of TNT (a fairly small bomb) ~= 1 average bolt of lighting.

If we use Pete 2's lowest number for the total weight of bombs dropped, 1 Mt, and multiply it by 2000 (for US tons, to get a lower bound) we get get 2 Glb. Divide this by 2.2 to get 9.09e8 kg.

Tot energy = 9.09e8 * 4e6 = 3.6e^14 J

Divide this by 5e8 to give equivalent number of lightning bolts = 7.2e4 = 720,000.

If we go with 6 bolts per minute then we have 720,000 / 6 = 120,000 minutes = 2,000 hours = 83.3 days.

But note that if that figure of 6 bolts per min is for the whole of Europe then we really need the average rate just for Germany, which must be considerably lower.

Corrections welcome for any errors in the maths.

Of course, another way of looking at it is to remember that bombs did far more damage during the war than lightning ever did.

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Re: 300 lightning strikes

@LeeE

The 6/min was the current european level, but even with the global 120/min at the moment the numbers still show the bombing as a big multiple over nature.

It would take a massive localised storm to swamp the effect and at that level, all the planes would be grounded - who'd want to fly a plane carrying electrically detonated bombs near lightning!

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Grand Slam

"The bombs carried by the Allied Forces’ planes were four times heavier than the ones carried by Germany’s Luftwaffe. One in particular, the Grand Slam bomb carried by the RAF, was a whopping 10,000 kilograms, and was nicknamed the “Ten Ton Tess.”"

This suggests that Grand Slams were commonly used in bombing raids, but only a hundred or so were made of which 42 were actually dropped in raids against particular hardened targets. Its predecessor, the Tallboy, got up to 850; it too was mainly used against particular 'hard' targets, among them the battleship Tirpitz, U-boat docks and railway bridges and tunnels. Both had the weight and strength to penetrate reinforced concrete bunker domes, or penetrate the ground next to a target and explode underneath it, wrecking the foundations.

The 4000 to 12000 lb HC "blockbuster" bombs were the ones that were often used in bombing raids, and in numbers totalling about 90.000 (nearly all of that being the 4000 lb type). These were used for their blast wave effect where the Tallboy and Grand Slam were considered 'earthquake' bombs.

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Re: Grand Slam

Also Tallboy and Grand Slam were precision weapons, only dropped by 2 squadrons (617 and 9), and required much training to use effectively. The HC bombs were purely designed for area bombing and did not even have fins or streamlining.

Tallboys were not considered expendable; crews were under orders to bring them back if they could not drop them on the designated target (which must have made landing interesting!).

There's a lovely story in Paul Brickhill's The Dambusters. When the first Grand Slam was completed the RAF and Wallis wanted to examine the in-flight stabilisation provided by the fins. It was therefore decided to bury a high-speed film camera on the range, pointing vertically upward, in order to capture the required footage. After much debate it was decided that the safest (if also the most cynical) place to put it was in the centre of the target. Of course, 617 proceeded to release the bomb in precisely the right place, ensuring that with Wallis' superb design the bomb arrowed down, striking the target less than 10' from the centre of the aim point. Bye-bye camera...

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Re: Grand Slam

Yup. 'Camouflet'. Rearrange the ground under the target, creating a void which then collapses, messing with any structures built above. Streamlined, armour piercing, fancy steel casing .. go to the memoirs to find aircrew saying they were different from other bombs, as they fell they didn't tumble, they just dropped straight down, spinning as they picked up speed.

The 4000 to 12000 lb HC "blockbuster" bombs on the other hand .... cookies! Unremarkable steel dustbins full of high explosive, often dropped in company with about 1000x 4lb incendiaries. The cookie might knock down lots of buildings, such as an entire street of houses, and the incendiaries would then set fire to the wreckage. Not nice? No. But Bomber Command learned part of its business by looking at bomb sites in the UK.

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Re: Grand Slam

As I recall reading these bombs took a long time to make. The casings were large and difficult to make. They had to pour hot Torpex into the case and took a month to cool down before they could move the bomb.

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"The duo aren’t sure how radio communications were impacted during these raids"

Given that on later raids, the RAF were flying airborne jamming aircraft within the bomber stream, and using high powered transmitters in the UK for man-in-the-middle-attacks on German radio control of their nightfighters the researchers might find they have some confounding factors to deal with.

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Pint

War Is Bad

We get it. So is the subjugation of an entire continent by a genocidal military dictatorship. It's up to each individual to decide which air they prefer: a disrupted ionosphere or the stench of occupying fascism. I know which I'd choose.

Cheers and eternal gratitude to the brave men and women of the RAF. They didn't start the war in Europe but they damn well finished it.

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Re: War Is Bad

You have read the results of the strategic bombing survey carried out after the war? The tactical air arm made a huge difference, the strategic less so.

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Re: War Is Bad

The campaign against oil facilities was fairly effective according to the post war bombing survey.

The American daylight bombing campaign crippled the Luftwaffe by forcing German day fighters to engage the bombers, the Allied fighter escorts then shooting them down. (The nighttime attacks are credited with drawing resources -eg 88mm guns, ammunition, and gun crews - away from the ground fronts.)

With the Luftwaffe in the West nowhere to be seen on D-Day and the North West Europe campaign it's not surprising the Allied tactical air forces were particularly effective.

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Re: War Is Bad

>>>You have read the results of the strategic bombing survey carried out after the war? The tactical air arm made a huge difference, the strategic less so.<<<

The bombing offensive may had little direct impact on war operations, but keeping about half a million troops & 10,000 88mm guns in Germany and not on the front line pointing at allied ground troops certainly did help.

After the dams raid in May '43 a lot of effort went into protecting the repaired dams from (never attempted) repeat attack and the repairs themselves (vast amount of concrete & steel) are one reason why the Atlatic wall in Normandy wasn't completed by d-day a year later.

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Re: War Is Bad

Fighter escorts were kind of useless. They were far more effective when they had the range to loiter above German airfields, attacking aircraft whilst taking-off/landing.

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Re: War Is Bad

I think you may be getting your anti-Me 262 and anti-night fighter operations confused with the melee between the Mustangs, Thunderbolts and Spitfires and the Me 109s and Fw190s over Europe.

In "Big Week" February 1944 the Luftwaffe lost 355 fighters and 100 fighter pilots. In March-April 1944 (according to Galland) the Luftwaffe lost 500 aircraft and 400 pilots. In the first half of 1944, Germany lost 2000 pilots while the US had far more pilots to replace their own losses.

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Re: War Is Bad

@Aladdin Sane

Fighter escorts were kind of useless.

Sir, I must disagree with you. The daylight bombing raids of 1943 and early '44 were primarily designed to FORCE the Luftwaffe into the air. Hitler HAD to defend the key cities and industrial targets those raids went after. The Luftwaffe was ordered to intercept those bombers at any cost. Early on, the Allies' tactic worked fairly well, but soon the Germans figured out where the fighter escorts (mostly P-47s, which were good fighters, but had limited range) had to turn back and attacked the unescorted bombers. After the P-51s came along, with their "all the way to the target and back" range, the escorts inflicted massive casualties on the Luftwaffe before D-Day. This is what gave the Allies the air superiority without which the Normandy landings wouldn't have been possible.

Air superiority is critical, and both sides knew it. Goering launched "Operation Eagle Attack" with the aim of achieving air superiority over Blighty. His failure to achieve that air superiority, due to the RAF's heroic efforts in the "Battle of Britain," was a key factor that prevented Hitler from ordering his own "D-Day" attack on Blighty, Operation Sea Lion.

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Re: War Is Bad

Having double checked, it's somewhere between our two points - the long range fighters were no long 'escorting', but were sweeping well ahead of the bomber formation.

Links here and here.

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Just the Allies?

"The volume of bombs dropped by the Allied Forces in the Second World War were powerful enough..."

Guess the Axis powers' bombs weren't powerful enough?

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Re: Just the Allies?

Per the Ars Technica article, "[A]ccording to Major, German bombings during the famous London "Blitz" were so frequent as to be nearly continuous, making it difficult to distinguish which ionospheric effects were due to the bombings and which could be chalked up to the usual seasonal variation."

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Re: Just the Allies?

Guess the Axis powers' bombs weren't powerful enough?

The Axis powers never had any proper four engined heavy bombers that reached service in any numbers, and their twin motors were incapable of carrying a large bombload. So a Heinkel 111 carried about two tonnes of bombs internally, compared to a Lancaster's internal load of 6.4 tonnes, a Halifax's 6 tonnes, or about 3.5-5 tonnes for a Liberator. Not to mention that the Axis powers never had anything like the number of bombers as the Allies.

Most US bombers carried much lower loads than the RAF's (mainly) night bombers, and the argument was that the greater accuracy of daylight bombing offset the lower loads. I'm not convinced that the evidence really supports either approach. Both night and day bomber took appalling losses, and the fighter escorts were only really effective when the war had dragged on to the point that the Luftwaffe couldn't put up a strong defensive force.

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Re: Just the Allies?

>>>Guess the Axis powers' bombs weren't powerful enough?<<<

Indeed. They couldn't drop a bomb bigger than their aircraft could lift, and the numbers produced were dwarfed by UK & US production levels.

The Luftwaffe was designed primarily as a tactical airforce for supporting fast moving blitzkrieg operations, they never really managed to get any bigger designs into production.

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Re: Just the Allies?

Guess the Axis powers' bombs weren't powerful enough?

The Luftwaffe had significantly less bombers than the RAF had, and they also had less capacity: their one heavy bomber was the Heinkel 177, 10 ton bomb load, mostly used on the Eastern front and only from by and large 1943. 1170 built (including prototypes and small-run specials). The Heinkel 111, Junker 88 and the Dornier Do 17 were used in the Blitz, were built in larger numbers (5500 Heinkels, 15000 Junkers, 2000 Dorniers), but those had a much smaller bomb load, only up to some 3000kg. Blitz raids were also quite spread out over time; they didn't make for concentrated ionosphere disruptions the way the raids over Germany did.

By contrast, at the start of the Area Bombing Directive early 1942 the RAF had the Halifax, Stirling and Lancaster, able to carry well over 5000kg (Lancasters had to be adapted to accept the Grand Slam), the lighter Hampden, Wellington, Whitley and the Mosquito, plus what the USAAF brought to the table once they came in. RAF Bomber Command was able to mount a number of "1000 bomber raids" with, in one case, 2000 tons of bombs dropped.

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Re: Just the Allies?

The US Bombers did carry a smaller load. But on the other hand they were built much tougher than the RAF's bombers and flew much higher (reducing the effectiveness of flak and fighters). There are many photos of B17's coming back to base missing large chunks of wings/tails/body.

As with all such things there are trade-offs.

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Bah!

"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."

Hmm. A bit "revisionist" for my tastes and doesn't go far enough.

How about:

"The images of neighbourhoods across Europe reduced to rubble due to countries making war on their neighbours are a lasting reminder of the destruction that can be caused by bellicose politicians and the racist/jingoist idiots that attend their rallies"".

Let's put the blame squarely where it belongs. No annexation of the Sudetenland, invasion of Poland, Blitzkrieg in France, no rubble, no explosions and the ionosphere remains placid.

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Re: Bah!

Let's put the blame squarely where it belongs.

Where will that be? Adolf was a product of his time and the political economy of the time (also Franco, Mussolini and a few others), and arguably the blame then goes back to the Treaty Of Versailles for creating the conditions for them to flourish....but that came after the first big pagga, and who do we blame for that? Serbian hot heads, I presume.

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Re: Bah!

>>>Where will that be? Adolf was a product of his time and the political economy of the time (also Franco, Mussolini and a few others), and arguably the blame then goes back to the Treaty Of Versailles for creating the conditions for them to flourish....but that came after the first big pagga, and who do we blame for that? Serbian hot heads, I presume.<<<

The Serbs were annoyed for being badly done to by the Habsburgs....

Gramps said that climbing down from the trees and walking about on your back legs would lead to trouble!

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Re: Bah!

Gramps said that climbing down from the trees and walking about on your back legs would lead to trouble!

And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

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Re: Bah!

Its always seemed to me that in the run-up to WW1 almost all the participating nations' rulers and military were just looking for an excuse to have a go at each other. Any semi-believable excuse would be justification enough, so one hot-headed Serb did very nicely, thank-you.

Once the war was rolling the various Empires got dragged in along with the Americans.

Hindsight shows that the Versailles Treaty was vindictive enough to virtually guarantee trouble would erupt a bit later. I've always wondered about its severity: possibly something to do with the pro-war politicians on the winning side distracting attention from their own misdeeds?

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Happy

...no one should ever have left the oceans.

@Stoneshop. TBH the Dolphins look pretty happy to me. I'm coming back as one of those. PP :)

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Boffin

Think positive

After all those negative electrons were blasted from the ionosphere into space, our planet must have gotten positively charged.

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