Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Physics


Department of Engineering Physics

First Advisor

Robert D. Loper, PhD


One threat to the United States is a nuclear weapon being detonated at high altitude over the country. The resulting electromagnetic pulse (EMP) could devastate the nation. Despite its destructive nature, the response of the ionosphere to such an event is poorly understood. This study assesses if existing ionospheric models, which are used to nowcast and forecast ionospheric changes, can be used to model the response to a high-altitude nuclear detonation (HAND). After comparing five ionosphere models, the Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Electrodynamics General Circulation Model (TIE-GCM) was selected and modified to incorporate an array of F10.7 indices to serve as a proxy for the localized heightened extreme ultraviolet activity and, using the temperature of the fireball attenuated over distance, drive the chemistry. It was found that the modified model had an increase in electron content over the standard model that was in good agreement with the changes resulting from a geomagnetic storm. However, the examined ionospheric models are not sufficient to simulate the effects of a HAND due to the limitations in the models' calculations.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number


Included in

Nuclear Commons