A new study has found that contrary to many previous climate studies, lightning strikes will occur much less frequently even under the worst case climate change scenarios where temperatures increase by five degrees Celsius by the year 2100.
Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Leeds, and Lancaster found that many climate change studies that project an increase in lightning strikes don’t take into account the decrease in cloud ice.
Climate change is predicted to increase storms and extreme weather events, cause drought, wildfires, heat waves, and sea level rise as well as habitat degradation and coastal flooding.
However, in a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the researchers found that decreased cloud ice due to increased temperatures will likely lead to a 15 percent decrease in lightning strikes.
As tiny ice particles form and move within the clouds, it builds up an electrical charge in the particles. When it rains or storms, the release of the particles causes the electrical charge to create lighting and thunder.
For the study, the researchers created a method that calculated cloud ice and factored in the cloud ice relationship on future lightning strikes under worst-case scenario conditions.
Fewer lightning strikes mean fewer natural wildfires and damage to power lines and buildings.
According to the Daily Mail, in the US alone lightning strikes cause anywhere between $5 to $6 billion in damage each year.
The results show how worst-case scenarios and climate change projections, while important to understanding the effects of warming temperatures, don’t always consider all the factors that should be accounted for.
“’In previous studies of the impact of climate change on lightning, researchers often didn’t include consideration of changes in cloud ice,” Declan Finney, a member of the researcher team, told Daily Mail. “This research questions the reliability of previous projections of lightning, and encourages further study into the effects of climate change on cloud ice and lightning.”