Possible implications of global climate change on global lightning distributions and frequencies


  • Colin Price,

  • David Rind


The Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) general circulation model (GCM) is used to study the possible implications of past and future climate change on global lightning frequencies. Two climate change experiments were conducted: one for a 2×CO2 climate (representing a 4.2°C global warming) and one for a 2% decrease in the solar constant (representing a 5.9°C global cooling). The results suggest a 30% increase in global lightning activity for the warmer climate and a 24% decrease in global lightning activity for the colder climate. This implies an approximate 5–6% change in global lightning frequencies for every 1°C global warming/cooling. Both intracloud and cloud-to-ground frequencies are modeled, with cloud-to-ground lightning frequencies showing larger sensitivity to climate change than intracloud frequencies. The magnitude of the modeled lightning changes depends on season, location, and even time of day.