In what could be termed as another harmful effect of degrading climatic conditions, a new study has found that the global warming will trigger a 50 percent rise in the lightning strikes across the United States during this century.
“Thunderstorms become more explosive with the global warming effect. This is related to the water vapour that acts as a fuel for explosive deep convection in the atmosphere. Warming causes production of more water vapour in the atmosphere and if you have more fuel lying around, when you get ignition, it can go big time,” said David Romps, an environmentalist and climate change expert from the University of California, Berkeley.
For the study, the researcher group looked at predictions of cloud buoyancy and precipitation in 11 separate climate models and discovered that their combined effect will lead to generation of electrical discharges to the ground more frequently.
According to Romps, the findings suggest a worse time ahead as more lightning strikes would never be a good thing for the humans and other living organisms. More lightening strikes would lead to more human injuries. An estimated hundreds to nearly a thousand of people will be struck by this event each year, causing scores of deaths. This is not just the end, Romps stressed, adding another major impact of more numbers of lightning strikes would be increased incidents of wildfires.
Deriving a hypothesis that two atmospheric factors, including cloud buoyancy and precipitation, together are the predictor of lightning strikes, Romps along with his team member Jacob Seeley, a graduate student, closely studied the observations made during 2011 in order to find out a correlation between the two.
Precipitation is defined as the total amount of water that hit the ground in the form of rainfall, snowfall, hailing or several other forms. Notably, it is a measurement of how much convective the atmosphere. The study researchers kept precipitation as a basis of their research hypothesis because of the fact that ‘convection generates lightning’.
They further elaborates the ascent speed of the convective clouds are decided by a factor known as convective available potential energy or CAPE.
Following the research, the study group concluded that 77 percent of the lightning strikes variations could be easily predicted from knowing about the two parameters, i.e. cloud buoyancy and precipitation.
They further looked at 11 climate models, completely different from each other, which predict CAPE and precipitation through this century. The findings are archived in the Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project (CMIP5).
On an average, the climate models predicted an 11 percent surge in CAPE in the United States for per degree Celsius increase in global average temperature by the end of this century.