Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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.

Lakota spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse attends a demonstration against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2015. Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to cancel the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on the first day of his administration, a document reported by CBC on Sunday suggests.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Seabirds often follow fishing vessels to find easy meals. Alexander Petrov / TASS via Getty Images

By Jim Palardy

As 2021 dawns, people, ecosystems, and wildlife worldwide are facing a panoply of environmental issues. In an effort to help experts and policymakers determine where they might focus research, a panel of 25 scientists and practitioners — including me — from around the globe held discussions in the fall to identify emerging issues that deserve increased attention.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A damaged home and flooding are seen in Creole, Louisiana, following Hurricane Laura's landfall on August 27, 2020. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Elliott Negin

What a difference an election makes. Thanks to the Biden-Harris victory in November, the next administration is poised to make a 180-degree turn to again address the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
The new variant, known as B.1.1.7, spread quickly through southeastern England in December, causing case numbers to spike and triggering stricter lockdown measures. Hollie Adams / Getty Images

By Suresh Dhaniyala and Byron Erath

A fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been found in at least 10 states, and people are wondering: How do I protect myself now?

Read More Show Less
A seagull flies in front of the Rampion offshore wind farm in the United Kingdom. Neil / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

A key part of the United States' clean energy transition has started to take shape, but you may need to squint to see it. About 2,000 wind turbines could be built far offshore, in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast, in the next 10 years. And more are expected.

Read More Show Less