In a picture of the dystopian future many paint for us, the world is scorched, and full of powerful storms. A new report suggests that might not be too far from the truth, should climate change continue unfettered. In a study published today in the Journal of Science, we find that the new thinking around climate change will bring increased lightning storms. According to the study, every two degrees fahrenheit we see in global warming will result in 12% more lightning in the US.
the main author of the study, David Romps, said “his has to do with water 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 ignition, it can go big time…the faster the updrafts, the more lightning, and the more precipitation, the more lightning.”
That’s what is referred to as CAPE, or Convective Available Potential Energy. It’s measured by balloons released over the US meant to watch our weather. The team also measured lightning statistics for the year 2011, and noticed a rise in atmospheric heat and moisture was responsible for a large variation in lightning activity.
Applying those stats to a future world of warmth, the team found the same statistics would likely take effect, just on a larger scale.
Via the study, we are reminded of why lightning can be bad. More lightning-caused fires, ozone pollution (which leads to more global warming), and more lightning related damage and death.
The study was supported by the US department of Energy’s Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research.