Skip to main content

Effects of a nuclear-disturbed environment on electromagnetic wave propagation through the atmosphere...

by Brandon A Wilson, David A Hooper, Warren P Grice, Alexander Miloshevsky, Nicholas A Peters
Publication Type
Journal Name
Optics Express
Publication Date
Page Numbers
3881 to 3896

This paper investigates the effects of a nuclear-disturbed environment on the transmission of electromagnetic (EM) waves through the atmosphere. An atmospheric nuclear detonation can produce heightened free electron densities in the surrounding atmosphere that can disrupt EM waves that propagate through the disturbed region. Radiation transport models simulated the ionization and free electron densities created in the atmosphere from a 1 MT detonation at heights of burst of 5 km, 25 km, and 75 km. Recombination rates for the free electrons in the atmosphere were applied, from previous work in the literature, to determine the nuclear-induced electron densities as a function of time and space after the detonation. A ray-tracing algorithm was applied to determine the refraction and reflection of waves propagating in the different nuclear-disturbed environments. The simulation results show that the free electron plasma created from an atmospheric nuclear detonation depend on the height of burst of the weapon, the weapon yield, and the time after detonation. Detonations at higher altitudes produce higher free electron densities for greater durations and over larger ranges. The larger the free electron densities, the greater the impact on EM wavelengths in regards to refraction, reflection, and absorption in the atmosphere. An analysis of modern infrastructure and the effects of nuclear-disturbed atmospheres on different signal wavelengths and systems is discussed.