A projected decrease in lightning under climate change

Finney, Declan L. and Doherty, Ruth. M. and Wild, Oliver and Stevenson, David. S. and MacKenzie, Ian. A. and Blyth, Alan. M. (2018) A projected decrease in lightning under climate change. Nature Climate Change, 8. pp. 210-213. ISSN 1758-678X

[thumbnail of DFinney_NatureCC_final_manuscript]
PDF (DFinney_NatureCC_final_manuscript)
DFinney_NatureCC_final_manuscript.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial.

Download (2MB)


Lightning strongly influences atmospheric chemistry1,2,3, and impacts the frequency of natural wildfires4. Most previous studies project an increase in global lightning with climate change over the coming century1,5,6,7, but these typically use parameterizations of lightning that neglect cloud ice fluxes, a component generally considered to be fundamental to thunderstorm charging8. As such, the response of lightning to climate change is uncertain. Here, we compare lightning projections for 2100 using two parameterizations: the widely used cloud-top height (CTH) approach9, and a new upward cloud ice flux (IFLUX) approach10 that overcomes previous limitations. In contrast to the previously reported global increase in lightning based on CTH, we find a 15% decrease in total lightning flash rate with IFLUX in 2100 under a strong global warming scenario. Differences are largest in the tropics, where most lightning occurs, with implications for the estimation of future changes in tropospheric ozone and methane, as well as differences in their radiative forcings. These results suggest that lightning schemes more closely related to cloud ice and microphysical processes are needed to robustly estimate future changes in lightning and atmospheric composition.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Nature Climate Change
Additional Information:
© 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved.
Uncontrolled Keywords:
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
20 Mar 2018 14:58
Last Modified:
16 Sep 2023 01:37