Simulation shows how climate change could change them
Where there could be significantly more lightning
Climate change and thunderstorms: The risks could increase significantly
Lightning discharges in the sky over Salgotarjan in Hungary. According to a forecast, there could be even fewer thunderstorms in Central Europe by 2100 (archive image).
© Source: Peter Komka/MTI/AP/dpa
It is a gloomy scenario that the researchers have chosen for their simulation: the countries of this world are continuing their current climate policy, using fossil fuels even more than they already do – and climate change can therefore continue almost unchecked. The British scientists admit in their article that it is “not the most likely” scenario. But it is still a “plausible scenario”.
The researchers addressed the following question: How would lightning activity change in Europe by the year 2100 if this extreme event occurred? The answer should come from a high-performance computer, which the thunderstorm researchers use in a simulation to track thunderclouds in various regions of Europe and forecast lightning activity.
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Forecast for 2100: More thunderstorms in the north, less lightning in central Europe
Their results, which were published in the journal “Environmental Research Letters“ were published show that the regional differences are large. In northern Europe and the Alps, lightning activity is projected to increase by 2100 in this scenario. For example, there would be twice as many lightning bolts in July and August in the British Isles by then. The researchers suspect that the predicted higher frequency of summer thunderstorms is largely responsible for this.
In winter there could also be a higher risk of lightning in the North and Baltic Seas. According to the forecast, lightning activity in southern Europe could even have decreased by 2100 – at least in the summer months, which will most likely be drier by then. In spring and especially in autumn, however, the simulation predicts more lightning in this region.
For Central Europe, the researchers predict a decrease in lightning activity. They explain this by saying that the higher temperatures mean that there are fewer ice crystals in the clouds. Because ice crystals are important so that the electrical charge of the thunderstorm can build up.
Consequences of the changed lightning activity: forest fires and higher risk for offshore wind farms
As described at the beginning, the simulation only relates to a scenario in which there is unchecked climate change – the actual development of lightning activity could therefore deviate significantly from this forecast if, for example, many countries drastically reduce their CO2 emissions. If the extreme case occurs, however, the results of the simulation suggest that the risk of forest fires in northern Europe could increase by 2100 due to the increasing number of lightning strikes.
Offshore wind farms in the North and Baltic Seas could also be at higher risk of being struck by lightning. The researchers therefore emphasize that the risk of lightning for humans and the environment must be reassessed.