Spatial variability of lightning intensity over the Mediterranean sea correlates with seawater properties

Mustafa Asfur*, Colin Price, Yoav Yair, Jacob Silverman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The divergence of total alkalinity (TA) from conservation with salinity (S) and relatively acidic conditions (pH) in surface seawater was suggested to explain the high prevalence of lightning superbolts in the Mediterranean sea, North sea and upwelling regions of the oceans. In this study we tested the combined effects of changes in S, TA and pH of Mediterranean sea surface water on the intensity of laboratory generated electrical sparks, which are considered to be analogous to cloud to sea-surface intensity of lightning discharges. The experimental results were used to develop a multivariate linear equation (MLE) of Lightning Flash Intensity (LFI) as a function of S, TA/S and pH. This relation was validated with wintertime (DJF) LFI measurements along a Mediterranean sea zonal profile during the period 2009–2020 compared to corresponding climate model outputs of S, TA and pH. Based on the resulting MLE, the combined effects of climate change, ocean acidification and the damming of the Nile, may have increased LFI in the Levantine Sea by 16 ± 14% until now relative to the pre-Aswan Dam period. Furthermore, assuming that salinization and acidification of the Levantine Sea will continue at current trends, the LFI is predicted to increase by 25 ± 13% by the year 2050.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5834
JournalScientific Reports
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

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