GIANT thunderstorms so big you can see them from space have sparked fears over a warming Arctic.
Nearly 50 rare strikes occurred within 300 miles of the North Pole, a spot hardly known for its lightning.
Lightning strikes (circled in red) were detected on August 10, around 300 miles from the North Pole in a remote spot over the Arctic Ocean. They were so big you could see them in satellite images[/caption]
They’re thought to be the result of July’s record-breaking heat, which took a particularly hard toll on Earth’s Arctic region.
Scientists at the US National Weather Service detected multiple strikes on August 10 over a remote region of the Arctic Ocean.
“This is one of the furthest north lightning strikes in Alaska forecaster memory,” the weather service, which is based in Fairbanks, Alaska, said in a statement.
While summer lightning strikes do occur in the Arctic, they are extremely rare. That’s because the air is normally too cold and dry for major storm clouds to form.
Brian Brettschneider, a climate scientist at the University of Alaska, gave an approximate location of the strikes[/caption]
Yet over the weekend, the icy region saw 48 individual lightning strikes within 300 miles of the pole, with more than 1,000 hitting within 600 miles of the pole, according to National Geographic.
Thunderstorms are most common over Central Africa and other scorching tropical regions.
Climate scientist Daniel Swain dubbed the Arctic strikes “pretty wild” in a series of tweets on Sunday.
“It’s very hard to get deep convective clouds in the polar regions (especially in the vicinity of Arctic Ocean waters that used to be ice-covered, even in summer),” he tweeted.
A recent Arctic heatwave has wreaked havoc in the region, and is thought to be responsible for the weekend’s storms.
Scientists reckoned July 2019 would be Earth’s hottest month ever with record-breaking heat waves singing the northern hemisphere.
Vanishing Arctic ice makes lightning strikes more likely (stock)[/caption]
No single event can be tied directly to climate change, but our warming planet is increasing the likelihood of Arctic storm, scientists said.
Arctic ice is retreating at a rapid pace, with spots in Greenland recently seeing huge ice loss and even raging wildfires.
Vanishing ice makes lightning strikes more likely as it leaves more water exposed to the sun, National Weather Service weather expert Alex Young said.
“The probability of this kind of event occurring would increase as the sea ice extent retreats farther and farther north in the summertime,” Young told Wired.
What causes lightning?
Here's everything you need to know…
- Lightning is a big flash or bolt of electricity caused by a thunderstorm
- They’re thought to kill between 75 to 100 unlucky souls every year
- Strikes are actually formed by frozen raindrops in the sky
- Within a thunderclap, bits of ice bump into one another, forming an electrical charge
- After a while, the whole cloud fills up with electrical charges
- These split into negatively charged electrons at the bottom of the cloud and positively charged protons at the top
- Eventually, the cloud discharges by sending a bolt of current to the ground
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