The paper deals with the mechanism of generating a ground potential gradient electric field in regions of seismic activity and its penetration into the ionosphere. The mechanism is based on the electrode effect of charge separation under the action of the natural atmospheric electric field, A large, non-compensated, space charge is formed following a chain of ion-molecular reactions as a result of the anomalous increase of radon and aerosol emanation from the crust. This space charge leads to anomalous variations of the electric field ground level, which is supported by the experimental observations made in the seismo-active regions. In turn the variations of the strong electric field over the large earthquake areas lead to the modification of ionospheric parameters due to penetration of the anomalous electric field into the ionosphere. A theoretical model of these phenomena is proposed in this paper.