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As the planet gets warmer and humidity is more noticeable, lightning strikes are likely to increase by almost 50 percent inside the United States in the following years, scientists say.
Even though the fact that such conditions raise the frequency of thunderstorm occurrences is already known, researchers have now focused only on lightning strikes.
Calculations were conducted to see the scale at which air warmth affects lightning flashes as well as how clouds take on more energy because of water vapor, leading to the intensification of rainfall. These calculations were based on weather data in the United States, in the year of 2011.
The study showed that the United States will experience an increase of 7 percent in all lightning strikes for each degree Fahrenheit, 12 percent for each degree Celsius respectively.
“There are about 30 million strikes per year in the contiguous U.S. now. So, in 2100, we would expect about 45 million per year.”
David Romps, climate scientist at the University of California and lead author of the study published in the journal Science on Thursday, said. He added that instead of two lighting strikes, we’ll most likely see three in the stormy sky, which represents a substantial increase.
The actual link between lightning and global warming is that warm air contains more water vapor, which is the main fuel for thunderstorms. The more water vapor, the bigger are the chances for a thunderstorm to happen, thus more lightning strikes.
Since half of the wildfires in the U.S. are triggered by lightning strikes, we should expect the number of these natural disasters to increase as well, which makes the results of this study even more noticeable.
However, because of modern technology, people have started to be more aware about the risks of thunderstorms so the number of deaths caused by lightning strikes has dropped substantially. During the 70s, there was an average of about 100 deaths per year, in the last decade that number dropped to approximately 33 deaths per year.
“We are pushing our climate system into uncharted territory, and that means we’re going to see phenomena that are extreme compared to what humans have experienced thus far during the relatively short amount of time we have been flourishing on this planet,” said Jacob Seeley, climate researcher at the University of Berkley.