Quantcast

Lightning Surprises Near North Pole With 48 Strikes

Science
Lightning strikes within 300 miles of the North Pole on Aug. 10. NWS Fairbanks

Forty-eight lightning strikes were detected within 300 miles of the North Pole on Saturday, The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang reported Wednesday. The event was so unusual that the National Weather Service (NWS) published a statement.

"This is one of the furthest north lightning strikes in Alaska forecaster memory," NWS Fairbanks, Alaska said.


Lightning is less likely near the North Pole, as National Geographic explained, because it forms when warm, wet air sits under cold, dry air, destabilizing the atmosphere. Warm air isn't common in the high Arctic. But this has already been an unusual summer for the far North as it feels the effects of the climate crisis: Alaska is free of sea ice, Greenland's ice sheet melted at record rates and a wildfire continues to burn in the West of the country.

The lack of sea ice means warmer sea surface temperatures, which may have made the Arctic atmosphere unstable enough for the lightning to form, The Washington Post speculated.

"It has been an extraordinary year and an extraordinary summer in the far north," University of California, Los Angeles climate scientist Daniel Swain told National Geographic.

Saturday's lightning was detected by the Vaisala GLD360 network, which picks up on lightning through a global network of radio receivers, according to National Geographic. The strikes were first reported in a tweet from NWS Fairbanks, which located them at around 85 degrees North.


Inventor of the GLD360 network and Vaisala research scientist Ryan Said told National Geographic that lightning occurs almost every summer in parts of the Arctic circle like Siberia and Northern Alaska, but is rare north of the Arctic Ocean coastline. He dug into the archives to see just how rare, and found that, between 2012 and 2018, there were only three times when lightning was detected north of 85 degrees. A maximum of seven discharges were detected per storm, according to The Washington Post.

Slightly farther south, lightning is more common. There are between three to four storms north of 80 degrees every summer, Said said, with 50 discharges or fewer per storm. One storm in July 2018 generated more than 300 discharges north of 80 degrees. But this year's event was unique for its latitude and for the number of discharges it generated.

"For comparison, in the storm last weekend, we observed over three times that number (over 1,000 [discharges]) north of 80 degrees, with 48 discharges north of 85 degrees," Said told The Washington Post in an email.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Kokia drynarioides, commonly known as Hawaiian tree cotton, is a critically endangered species of flowering plant that is endemic to the Big Island of Hawaii. David Eickhoff / Wikipedia

By Lorraine Chow

Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.

Read More Show Less
Frederick Bass / Getty Images

States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A couple works in their organic garden. kupicoo / E+ / Getty Images

By Kristin Ohlson

From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
A competitor in action during the Drambuie World Ice Golf Championships in Uummannaq, Greenland on April 9, 2001. Michael Steele / Allsport / Getty Images

Greenland is open for business, but it's not for sale, Greenland's foreign minister Ane Lone Bagger told Reuters after hearing that President Donald Trump asked his advisers about the feasibility of buying the world's largest island.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
AFP / Getty Images / S. Platt

Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.

Read More Show Less
Newly established oil palm plantation in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay

By Hans Nicholas Jong

Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.

It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."

Read More Show Less
jurgita.photography / Moment / Getty Images

By Grace Francese

Outbreaks of potentially toxic algae are fouling lakes, rivers and other bodies of water across the U.S. Nationally, news reports of algae outbreaks have been on the rise since 2010.

Read More Show Less