Sudden ionospheric disturbance

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A sudden ionospheric disturbance (SID) is an abnormally high ionization/plasma density in the D region of the ionosphere caused by a solar flare. The SID results in a sudden increase in radio-wave absorption that is most severe in the upper medium frequency (MF) and lower high frequency (HF) ranges, and as a result often interrupts or interferes with telecommunications systems.[1]


The Dellinger effect, or sometimes Mögel–Dellinger effect, is another name for a sudden ionospheric disturbance.[2] The effect was discovered by John Howard Dellinger around 1935 and also described by the German physicist Hans Mögel (1900-1944) in 1930. The fadeouts are characterized by sudden onset and a recovery that takes minutes or hours.


When a solar flare occurs on the Sun a blast of intense ultraviolet and x-ray radiation hits the dayside of the Earth after a propagation time of about 8 minutes. This high energy radiation is absorbed by atmospheric particles, raising them to excited states and knocking electrons free in the process of photoionization. The low altitude ionospheric layers (D region and E region) immediately increase in density over the entire dayside. The ionospheric disturbance enhances VLF radio propagation. Scientists on the ground can use this enhancement to detect solar flares; by monitoring the signal strength of a distant VLF transmitter, sudden ionospheric disturbances (SIDs) are recorded and indicate when solar flares have taken place.[3]

Effects on radio waves[edit]

Short wave radio waves (in the HF range) are absorbed by the increased particles in the low altitude ionosphere causing a complete blackout of radio communications. This is called a short wave fading. These fadeouts last for a few minutes to a few hours and are most severe in the equatorial regions where the Sun is most directly overhead. The ionospheric disturbance enhances long wave (VLF) radio propagation. SIDs are observed and recorded by monitoring the signal strength of a distant VLF transmitter. A whole array of sub-classes of SIDs exist, detectable by different techniques at various wavelengths: the SPA (Sudden Phase Anomaly), SFD (Sudden Frequency Deviation), SCNA (Sudden Cosmic Noise Absorption), SEA (Sudden Enhancement of Atmospherics), etc.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Federal Standard 1037C Glossary of Telecommunications Terms,, retrieved 2011 Dec 15
  2. ^ Davies, Kenneth (1990). Ionospheric Radio. IEE Electromagnetic Waves Series #31. London, UK: Peter Peregrinus Ltd/The Institution of Electrical Engineers. pp. 316–317. ISBN 0-86341-186-X. 
  3. ^ AAVSO: SIDs - Sudden Ionospheric Disturbances

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