Unusual Arctic thunderstorms spark rare lightning strikes in Northern Alaska

Lightning is rare in the Arctic — but it's quickly becoming more common.

By Reuters - July 16, 2021

Thunderstorms in Northern Alaska over sea ice on Monday sparked rare lightning strikes.

The Washington Post reported lightning strikes occurred north of Prudhoe Bay, directly over sea ice, a rare phenomena that occurs once or twice a decade.

Scientists have warned that Alaska could see an increase of thunderstorms, floods, landslides and wildfires if current climate trends continue.

Two studies suggest the rapidly warming U.S. state could see triple the number of thunderstorms by the end of this century.

[Arctic lightning has tripled since 2010, thanks to rapid warming]

As air temperatures rise, the atmosphere holds more moisture and can also cause more rapid updrafts — two key factors in lightning.

Alaska is also affected by the rapid retreat of Arctic sea ice, which is exposing more open water nearby, allowing more water vapor to enter the air, the scientists explain in the two related papers published in the journal Climate Dynamics.

[Meteorologists just spotted lightning strikes near the North Pole]

The link between climate change and lightning is still being investigated. Research published a study in 2014 in the Journal Science suggests there is roughly 12 percent more lightning for every 1 degree Celsius of atmospheric warming above pre-industrial temperatures.

With increased thunderstorms, the new research projects an increase in extreme rainfall by 37 percent by 2100.

Production by Kia Johnson.