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Lightning activity decreased while we were in lockdown, here's why

Research presented at the AGU Fall Meeting 2021 shows how lightning activity decreased during global lockdowns for the pandemic.

Published Dec 17, 2021 5:30 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Jan 11 2022 9:35 PM CST

New research has found that lightning activity decreased globally by a significant amount during the lockdowns of 2020 due to COVID-19.

Lightning activity decreased while we were in lockdown, here's why 01 |

Presented at the American Geophysical Union's (AGU) 2021 Fall Meeting in New Orleans, the research shows lightning activity decreased by eight percent during lockdowns resulting from the pandemic. Yakun Liu, a meteorological researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), attributes this to a decrease in air pollution during lockdowns.

Fewer pollutants being put into the atmosphere by daily life processes as they wind down during lockdowns means fewer chances for ice crystals to collect in storm clouds. Liu and other researchers believe the collisions of such crystals are one of the ways thunderheads generate the electrical charges that produce lightning.

Lightning activity decreased while we were in lockdown, here's why 02 |

The researchers tracked correlations between aerosol pollution and lightning activity worldwide from 2018 to 2021. It follows on from previous research conducted by Liu, showing lightning activity increasing by up to 270% over the Tasman Sea following the devastating bushfires that ravaged Australia over the 2019-2020 summer, as the smoke blew over it.

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