Claim: Global warming to increase lightning activity 12% per degree C of warming

“… lightning shapes the evolution of species and ecosystem.”

The media release is below.

The Effect of Global Warming On U.S. Lightning Activity

As the world gets hotter, lightning strikes will increase by about 12% for every 1 degree Celsius rise in global average air temperature, a new study reports. Observations have shown that lightning occurs more frequently when it is hotter than when it is colder, but it is difficult to know how much more lightning we should expect as global temperatures continue to increase. Previous estimates of the sensitivity of lightning strikes to temperature change have used indirect techniques that weren’t very sensitive to physical factors like precipitation rate; these estimates have predicted lightning strikes could increase anywhere between 5 and 100% for every 1 degree Celsius rise in global average air temperature. Now, David Romps and colleagues have constructed a new proxy to mimic the frequency of lightning strikes across the continental U.S., a region where lightning strikes frequently, and is well-recorded. Critically, their new method is based on physical characteristics — the energy available to make air in the atmosphere rise, and precipitation rates. The researchers validated their proxy against observations, and then applied it in 11 global climate models to predict future increases in lightning strikes. Their results suggest lightning strikes will increase by about 12% (from the current annual number of around 25 million) for every 1° C rise in global average air temperature. Because lightning is the primary trigger for wildfires, and generates nitrogen oxides that impact atmospheric content, the method Romps et al. developed has important implications for understanding future changes to wildfire frequency and atmospheric chemistry. It could also be used to assess future changes in lightning rates in other parts of the world.

15 thoughts on “Claim: Global warming to increase lightning activity 12% per degree C of warming”

  1. We could use a few more frequent wild fires. It limits the buildup of combustible fuel and hence, the severity of inevitable fires in the future.

  2. Lightning does not occur at the same frequency around the world. Certain areas get a lot more than others.

    So even if (a very big if) the average global temperature rose 1 degree, the places with the greater increases might not be the places where lightning forms more often.

    So even if you accept everything they say (and accept global warming as gospel!), their 12% figure still has no relationship to reality. It is a purely made up guess – like, “how high an increase should we say to get a large government grant?” 12% per degree works pretty good.

  3. Alan, unless someone checks, calling it “bollocks” is as useful as any Global Warming supporting claim. The problem people have with science is the basic misunderstanding that “common sense” doesn’t need to be studied.

  4. In the AP article it states that the Cal-Berkley researchers used weather data from 2011 on which to base their calculations. Really? One year? To then project an 80+ year forecast? Al Gore and his hockey stick chart must be so proud..

  5. There is an easy way to test this aginst reality, just find any two places a couple of hundred miles apart in a north/south orientation, assuming geography is similar, height and surrounds, the average temp will be at least one degree C different. Does the warmer place have 12% more lightning? if not, this is B0ll0cks.

    In fact, don’t bother checking, it is B0ll0cks.

  6. Big deal. Benjamin Franklin worked out how to protect against lightning strikes a couple of centuries ago.

    As for wilderness areas, many are composed of fire-climax communities. Grassland and forest management can replace fire as the dominant control and in the process protect human settlements. But the risk of fire is ever present and thus fire-fighting systems have been set up where the risk is high enough to warrant them.

    Since the main cost of fire-control and fire-fighting systems are the capital costs, a 12% increase in lightning strikes per degree Celsius may not cost much more than at present even if the cost is 12% greater. .

    However, the cost might not be 12% greater. increased vigilance will be stimulated by increased fire incidents and this will probably lead to more often catching fires before they become costly to put out. Thus, increased vigilance could offset the cost of the increased frequency of fires caused by strikes.

    I conclude that this is another example of the boy who cried wolf. The US has better things to worry about: the state of highways.

    For every billion dollars saved by not maintaining US highways, how much is the cost in loss of American live and injuries and property?

    For every billion dollars saved by not improving primary education, how many people grow up to be functionally illiterate?

  7. Volcanoes? Hurricanes? Your knowlege of powerful forces must be slim. Lightning can cause some scarring of the ground or a tree to catch fire. A volcano can destroy an entire island, or civilization.

  8. “the method Romps et al. developed has important implications for understanding future changes to wildfire frequency.”

    No, it’s not important.

  9. Lighting does nasty things to electronics and all living matter.
    I know of no more powerful force on this planet.
    I creates lots of ozone.

  10. Won’t more lightning give us more food? Kinda like more CO2?
    Funny, the article mentions only negatives. Of course, we know from climate science that man can never adapt to anything!

  11. The researchers validated their proxy against observations, and then applied it in 11 global climate models to predict future increases in lightning strikes.

    While their lightning physics may be correct, they got the wrong results because the climate models are wrong.

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