“… 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.