Skip to main content

Global Warming Experts Predict 50% More Lightning

Every day around the world, lightning strikes the ground about 10 times per second.
That's nearly one million strikes a day!
In the U.S. there are 20 million strikes on average every year, and now David Romps, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California Berkeley, says we can expect to see that number grow in the coming years.

“What we find by looking in the climate models is that on average they’re predicting a 50 percent increase in the amount of lightning that you get in the United States, during this century, the 21st century," said Romps.
And the cause?
Many scientists point to global warming creating bigger thunderstorms to explain more frequent lightning strikes.
“As we warm the planet, storm energy goes up and that’s what’s driving this increase in lightning," said Romps.
Romps explained that one element that causes thunderstorms to grow and thrive is the presence of water vapor.
“Water vapor is the fuel for thunderstorms, so if we have more of this water vapor lying around because the Earth is warmer, when a storm goes, it’s going to go in a bigger way and more energetic way and that’s going to drive more lightning," said Romps.
The biggest threat from more lightning strikes is to forests. If lightning strikes more often wildfires could happen more frequently. Wildfires spread quickly, igniting brush, trees and homes, and threatening lives and property.
“Half of the wildfires in this country are started by lightning," Romps said.
Other researchers who monitor this kind of data agree that a 50 percent increase in lightning is possible. Scientists will continue to monitor lightning strikes in the future to check their predictions.
-Karin Heineman, Inside Science TV

Karin Heineman is the executive producer of Inside Science TV. She has produced over 600 video news segments on science, technology, engineering and math in the past 14 years for Inside Science TV and its predecessor, Discoveries and Breakthroughs Inside Science.


Popular Posts

How 4,000 Physicists Gave a Vegas Casino its Worst Week Ever

What happens when several thousand distinguished physicists, researchers, and students descend on the nation’s gambling capital for a conference? The answer is "a bad week for the casino"—but you'd never guess why.

Ask a Physicist: Phone Flash Sharpie Shock!

Lexie and Xavier, from Orlando, FL want to know: "What's going on in this video ? Our science teacher claims that the pain comes from a small electrical shock, but we believe that this is due to the absorption of light. Please help us resolve this dispute!"

The Science of Ice Cream: Part One

Even though it's been a warm couple of months already, it's officially summer. A delicious, science-filled way to beat the heat? Making homemade ice cream. (We've since updated this article to include the science behind vegan ice cream. To learn more about ice cream science, check out The Science of Ice Cream, Redux ) Image Credit: St0rmz via Flickr Over at Physics@Home there's an easy recipe for homemade ice cream. But what kind of milk should you use to make ice cream? And do you really need to chill the ice cream base before making it? Why do ice cream recipes always call for salt on ice?