Monday, March 8, 2010

Is Global Warming Responsible For Increased Lightning Strikes?

Photo courtesy: TreeHugger

In the past decade, Brazil has emerged as the forerunner in a race for most unusual side effects of global warming. Brazil has set a world record for being the recipient of the most lightning strikes in the past ten years - an estimated 57 million strikes.

Sadly, this astounding natural record is not without a human cost. During this time frame, 1,321 people have been struck by lightning in Brazil alone; and, scientists fear the numbers will only increase. New research reveals that global warming may increase the frequency of lightning strikes; and, therefore, loss of life from being struck.

According to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE), global warming may dramatically increase the occurrence of lightning. A recently-released hypothesis postulates that each degree of increase in global mean temperature will result in a 10 to 20 percent increase in the amount of lightning.

Casualties from lightning strikes were not the motivating factor behind the research; but, rather, the force behind the research was the resultant fires that often accompany lightning.

Osmar Pinto explains in a report from Globo:

At the meeting, it was hypothesized that the rays would increase the greenhouse effect by causing more forest fires, which in turn release more carbon dioxide, fueling a continuous cycle.

INPE will be working with NASA and other USA agencies in order to test this theory of the correlation between global warming and lightning events.

While the main thrust of the research will be to study and analyze this climate change phenomena, the sun's behaviour will be examined as a possible culprit for the increase in lightning.

According to Pinto, sun-spots may play a role in the creation of thunderstorms that is not fully understood as yet.
[Sun spots] can facilitate the formation of ice in the clouds and the rays only occur when there is ice inside the clouds.

Scientists intend to closely follow the next increase of sun-spots in 2012.

Via TreeHugger and Globo

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