Lightning Applications in Weather and Climate Research

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Thunderstorms, and lightning in particular, are a major natural hazard to the public, aviation, power companies, and wildfire managers. Lightning causes great damage and death every year but also tells us about the inner working of storms. Since lightning can be monitored from great distances from the storms themselves, lightning may allow us to provide early warnings for severe weather phenomena such as hail storms, flash floods, tornadoes, and even hurricanes. Lightning itself may impact the climate of the Earth by producing nitrogen oxides (NOx), a precursor of tropospheric ozone, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Thunderstorms themselves influence the climate system by the redistribution of heat, moisture, and momentum in the atmosphere. What about future changes in lightning and thunderstorm activity? Many studies show that higher surface temperatures produce more lightning, but future changes will depend on what happens to the vertical temperature profile in the troposphere, as well as changes in water balance, and even aerosol loading of the atmosphere. Finally, lightning itself may provide a useful tool for tracking climate change in the future, due to the nonlinear link between lightning, temperature, upper tropospheric water vapor, and cloud cover.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)755-767
Number of pages13
JournalSurveys in Geophysics
Volume34
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2013

Keywords

  • Climate
  • Lightning
  • Severe weather
  • Thunderstorms

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