Are You Prepared For More Lightning?

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Are You Prepared For More Lightning

Cloudy, with a 50 percent change of more lightning.

If we continue to go further down the road of global warming, we will have 50 percent more lightning in this century. That will be result of warming temperatures which are connected to climate change.

In the journal called Science, in its November 14 issue, climate scientist David Romps from University of California, Berkeley, reported, that if these effects combine all together, it could generate more frequent electrical discharges to the ground. This conclusion came from predictions of precipitation and cloud buoyancy in 11 different climate models.

“With warming, thunderstorms become more explosive. This has to do with waster vapor, which is the fuel for explosive deep convection in the atmosphere. Warming causes there to be more water vapor in the atmosphere, and if you have more fuel lying around, when you get an ignition, it can go big time,” said Romps, who is  an assistant professor of the Earth and Planetary science and faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

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With more lightning, there is a problem, that none of the scientists like to hear – more human injuries. Another result of more lightning will be of course, more wildfires, since half of all fires are started by lightning.

“Lightning is caused by charge separation within clouds, and to maximize charge separation, you have to loft more water vapor and heavy ice particles into the atmosphere,” Romps said and he also added, “We already know that the faster the updrafts, the more lightning, and the more precipitation, the more lightning.”

 This research is based on 11 different climate models, that predict precipitation and CAPE through this century and are archived in the most recent Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). CAPE is a measure, how the potentially explosive atmosphere is, meaning how buoyant a parcel of air would be if you got it convecting. CMIP was established as a source for climate modelers, providing a  standard protocol for studying the output of coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation models and after that these models can be compared and validated. After careful analysis of all the data that they gathered, the results are shocking – roughly 50 percent increase by 2100 if the Earth sees the expected 4 degree Celsius increase (7 Fahrenheit) in temperature. This assumes carbon dioxide emissions keep rising consistent with business as usual.

The reasons, why CAPE keeps increasing are still under investigation by scientists. Romps said, that it is clear that it has to do with the fundamental physics of water. As we know, warm air contains more water vapor than cold air. The fact is, that amount of the water vapor in the air can grow exponentially with temperature and since water vapor is the fuel for thunderstorms, lightning rates will depend very sensitively on temperature of the whole Earth.

Slow motion Lightning & Rain (Cool Video):

Wonderful Lightning Pics:

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Michaela Miklusak

Michaela Miklusak is deputy editor of and big technology enthusiast. Michaela now lives in Singapore, where she studies System Engineering and Informatics.

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