Inhibiting Marine Lightning

Lightning strikes at night over the water.

Thunderstorms over the ocean have substantially less lightning than a similar storm over land. Scientists wondered whether this difference could be due to lower cloud bases over the ocean or differences in the cloud droplets’ nuclei. But a new study instead implicates coarse sea spray as the deciding factor. By tracking the full lifetime of storm systems through remote sensing, the team found that fine aerosols can increase lightning activity over both land and ocean. But adding coarse sea salt from sea spray reduced lightning by 90% regardless of fine aerosols. With sea salt in the mix, clouds seem to develop fewer but larger condensation droplets, providing less opportunity for the electrification necessary to generate lightning. (Image credit: Z. Tasi; research credit: Z. Pan et al.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.