New research from the University of Reading suggests that lightning travel through the air, via energetic particles from the sun. Watch the video…
Above: Time-lapse photo of several lightning strikes at night. Credit: NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL)
The study states that cosmic rays from space help to trigger lightning strikes.
Dr Chris Scott, from the University of Reading’s Department of Meteorology, explains how the sun affects our weather, and how these new findings could lead to long-range lightning forecasts to warn people when there’s a greater risk from lightning.
Fast solar wind stream arrival is determined from modulation of the solar wind V y component, measured by the Advanced Composition Explorer spacecraft. Lightning rate changes around these event times are determined from the very low frequency arrival time difference (ATD) system of the UK Met Office. Arrival of high speed streams at Earth is found to be preceded by a decrease in total solar irradiance and an increase in sunspot number and Mg II emissions. These are consistent with the high speed stream’s source being co-located with an active region appearing on the Eastern solar limb and rotating at the 27 d period of the Sun.