Lightning

Warming planet could spawn bigger, badder thunderstorms

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 23, 2013   View Article

As the Earth continues to warm during this century, atmospheric conditions ripe for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes will increase in the U.S., according to a new study.

Given the amount of damage caused by the straight-line winds, golf-ball-sized hail or flash floods associated with any given severe thunderstorm, understanding whether they will increase in frequency or intensity on a warming planet is a key question in climate science.

To fight climate change, don’t mention it, study suggests

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 29, 2013   View Article

Shhh! Widespread adoption of energy-efficient technologies such as compact fluorescent light bulbs and electric cars promises to curb the pace of global climate change. But if widespread adoption is the goal, don’t mention the environmental benefits, a new paper suggests.

“There is likely to be a significantly sized group that may not like these environmental messages,” Dena Gromet, a researcher at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the paper’s lead author, told NBC News.

How lightning shoots for the stars

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: May 20, 2011   View Article

On rare occasions, jets of lightning escape from the tops of thunderclouds and shoot up into the atmosphere where they pose a threat to weather balloons and other scientific instruments. New research explains how it happens.

“In some instances there is enough energy and electric charge available for that lightning to just keep propagating up and up and up and it keeps going to about 50 miles high,” Steven Cummer, a lightning expert at Duke University, told me today.

The jets come to a halt at 50 miles high because they run into the ionosphere, the electrically conducting part of the atmosphere, which “sort of shorts it out and prevents it from getting any farther,” he added.

Saturn Lightning Storm Breaks Solar System Record

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 15, 2009   View Article

A lightning storm has been raging on Saturn since mid-January, making the tempest the longest-lasting storm ever detected in our solar system, astronomers announced today.

The lightning flashes are 10,000 times stronger than lightning flashes on Earth, research team member Georg Fischer, of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, said via email.

Lightning Warns of Hurricanes’ Most Intense Moments?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: April 6, 2009   View Article

Lightning may help improve hurricane forecasts by signaling when the storms are about to reach peak intensity, according to a new study.

Current satellite and radar technologies can fairly accurately predict a storm’s path, but when and how much a storm will intensify are harder to pin down.

Key to Lightning Deaths: Location, Location, Location

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 22, 2004   View Article

Lightning is a killer. It claims more victims each year than do snowstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes. It keeps a low profile as the second largest weather-related killer, usually striking one person at a time. Only floods, which can wipe out towns, kill more people.

According to the U.S. National Weather Service, 73 people die from lightning strikes each year and hundreds more suffer life-debilitating injuries. Memory loss, attention deficits, sleep disorders, numbness, dizziness, and weakness are some of the maladies cited.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach