Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Lightning Surprises Near North Pole With 48 Strikes

Science
Lightning Surprises Near North Pole With 48 Strikes
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.

A crowd of climate activists march behind a banner in NYC during Climate Week on September 20, 2020. Erik McGregor / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Breanna Draxler

After decades on the political periphery, the climate movement is entering the mainstream in 2020, with young leaders at the fore. The Sunrise Movement now includes more than 400 local groups educating and advocating for political action on climate change. Countless students around the world have clearly communicated what's at stake for their futures, notably Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who just finished her yearlong school strike for climate. Youth activists have been praised for their flexible, big-picture thinking and ability to harness social media to deliver political wins, as Sunrise recently did for U.S. Sen. Ed Markey's primary campaign. They necessarily challenge the status quo.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Presidential nominee Joe Biden has not taken a stance on gas exports, including liquefied natural gas. Ken Hodge / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Simon Montlake

For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.

All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables will boost the immune system. Stevens Fremont / The Image Bank / Getty Images

By Grayson Jaggers

The connection between the pandemic and our dietary habits is undeniable. The stress of isolation coupled with a struggling economy has caused many of us to seek comfort with our old friends: Big Mac, Tom Collins, Ben and Jerry. But overindulging in this kind of food and drink might not just be affecting your waistline, but could potentially put you at greater risk of illness by hindering your immune system.

Read More Show Less
A graphic shows how Rhoel Dinglasan's smartphone-based saliva test works. University of Florida

As the world continues to navigate the line between reopening and maintaining safety protocols to slow the spread of the coronavirus, rapid and accurate diagnostic screening remains critical to control the outbreak. New mobile-phone-based, self-administered COVID-19 tests being developed independently around the world could be a key breakthrough in making testing more widely available, especially in developing nations.

Read More Show Less
A meteorologist monitors weather in NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate Prediction on July 2, 2013 in Riverdale, Maryland. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The Trump White House is now set to appoint two climate deniers to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in one month.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch