More Lightning, Less Lightning: striking proof of the mess we’re in

“If you want to know the answer to anything, ask a teenager.” Such were the wise words of a sometime contributor to this blog. By which she meant that older persons are more aware of the complexities, and tend to go for questions rather than over-simplified answers.

Which is why we find ourselves confronting two apparently irreconcilable stories today. More lightning in the High Arctic. less everywhere else. At least in 2020 anyway. Let’s start with less. According to Will Sullivan of ABC News,[1] there seemed to be a lot less lightning around in 2020. Interestingly, he puts this down to Covid-19. As economic activity dropped off, so there were less aerosols produced, which in turn led to less electrical storms, as Will explains in a remarkably clear passage. Yet over at the Guardian, Leonie Chao-Fong is concerned by a dramatic rise in lightning strikes above latitude 800 N. Her experts attribute this to the rise in humidity as the artic sea melts. The graph which accompanies the article is truly jaw-dropping.[2]

What are the readers of LSS to make of this? Firstly, the clear and tight link between our activities down here and what goes on up in the atmosphere. An object lesson indeed for the crash-bang-wallop-let’s have GDP at all costs school. Even the most committed denialist can’t deny this. Secondly, what will be the runaway effect of more wildfires in the arctic? Less trees, less carbon captured. More methane, more global warming. It’s that stark. And so what happens next as economic activity picks up after Covid-19?

with thanks to Peter Seymour

[1]https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/lightning-covid-lockdowns/story?id=82143368

[2]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jan/07/lightning-high-arctic-rise-scientists-worried

#climate change #global warming #lightning #arctic #melting

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