Scientists have finally been able to create a link between the sun and lightning frequency. However, not the kind that we’ve traditionally heard in the weather community. In fact, it kind of takes an entirely new approach to defining why thunder, lightning, and thunderstorms happen in the frequency or way they do on Earth, and when they do.
Their findings were relatively straight forward. The scientists, based in the UK, found that when the Sun’s magnetic field was pointed away from Earth – lightning strikes spiked in the UK – rising by 50%. What they believe is happening is that the magnetic field of the sun is impacting the magnetic field here on Earth. Essentially, there is a stretching and skewing happening within the magnetic field of Earth – and that allows more rays to hit our atmosphere, charging it even further.
The scientists note that this could be the most important fact of all that was noted because cosmic rays alone can trigger lightning, as “out of this world” as that might sound. “Some groups in American do outrageously cool things like fire rockets with metal wires attached to them into clouds. And that directly triggers the lightning. Because the lightning has a nice metal wire to travel down.”
Most of that research hinges on the notion that ultimately, within the atmosphere, lightning is looking for the quickest and most effective route to the ground to release itself. What these scientists noted within that is that cosmic rays serve that type of purpose. “These energetic particles that are coming from space essentially produce thin channels of ionization that behave like a thin metal wire. And that enable lightning to occur from the bottom of the cloud to Earth.”
The overall goal of the research is to better understand lightning, which for all of its power and devastation, remains one of the most misunderstood natural phenomenon’s to occur here on Earth. Ultimately, what we’re talking about is improving forecasts and timing.
At the end of the day, scientists are looking to better understand how as Earth continues to destabilize in terms of weather pattern, how the sun is impacting that beyond our control. A better understanding of that will lead to a better understanding of how we can prevent the devastating and oftentimes deadly results of lightning and weather to that extent.