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WW2 Bombing Shock Waves 'Reached Edge Of Space'

New research says explosions from huge Second War World bombs disturbed the upper atmosphere.

A night attack on a German tank and vehicle depot during the Second World War (Picture: Crown Copyright).

Scientists have discovered that shock waves from huge bombs dropped on Germany during the Second World War were powerful enough to affect the edge of space.

A team from the University of Reading published the findings after comparing records of the raids with data from British wartime scientists investigating the upper atmosphere.

The researchers say the massive explosions of heavy bombs that included the British 10-tonne "Grand Slam" also disturbed the ionosphere hundreds of miles above the Earth.

Chris Scott, Professor of Space and Atmospheric Physics at the University of Reading, said:

"Ripples caused by man-made explosions can affect the edge of space. Each raid released the energy of at least 300 lightning strikes."

Upper atmosphere
Researchers found shock waves from bombing raids reached the upper atmosphere. (Picture: NASA)

The four-engine heavy bombers such as the Avro Lancaster and Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress used in allied raids were capable of carrying much larger bombs than those dropped on Britain during "The Blitz" by the German Luftwaffe's two-engine aircraft.

A bomb load weighing as much as 2,000 tonnes could be dropped in a single raid.

University of Reading historian Professor Patrick Major said ripples from bombing raids posed a danger to aircraft. 

"Aircrew involved in the raids reported having their aircraft damaged by the bomb shock waves, despite being above the recommended height."

RAF 22,000lb 'Grand Slam' bomb.
The RAF 22,000lb "Grand Slam" bomb was designed to detonate deep underground (Picture: Crown Copyright).

Allied bombing raids on Nazi Germany began in 1942 and reduced major cities such as Dresden and Hamburg to rubble and ash.

Professor Major said people on the ground reported the shock waves from explosions would blow window casements and doors off their hinges.

"Residents under the bombs would routinely recall being thrown through the air by the pressure waves of air mines exploding"

Professor Scott said 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.

"The impact of these bombs way up in the Earth's atmosphere has never been realised until now."