climate in crisis

Lightning Frequency Could Increase as Climate Changes

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When we think of climate change, lightning may not immediately come to mind but it’s something we could see more of in the future. Remember back in 2020 when we had our highly unusual California – Bay Area lightning event where hundreds of lightning strikes were observed that set over 500 wildfires.

This was an event that many of us had never observed in the Bay Area. In fact, the lightning flash density was greater than 100% of our annual Bay Area lightning average.

So how does lightning specifically relate to our changing climate? Well putting this simply, warmer temperatures can add more fuel to storms and bring those increased lightning chances. Back in 2020 when we had that highly unusual lightning event, we were also in the middle of a record warm year, ranking in the 99th percentile for above average temps.

Checkout the forecast into 2050 below. You’ll see with warmer temperatures expected, this warmer air holds more moisture and can boost incoming storms and make them more unstable. All of this creating increased possibilities for lightning in our future that may spark more wildfires in California.

You can find out more about how the Bay Area climate is changing in a series of stories the Microclimate Weather Team worked on across the Bay Area.

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