Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 34, Issue 6, pp 755–767 | Cite as

Lightning Applications in Weather and Climate Research

  • Colin G. Price


Thunderstorms, and lightning in particular, are a major natural hazard to the public, aviation, power companies, and wildfire managers. Lightning causes great damage and death every year but also tells us about the inner working of storms. Since lightning can be monitored from great distances from the storms themselves, lightning may allow us to provide early warnings for severe weather phenomena such as hail storms, flash floods, tornadoes, and even hurricanes. Lightning itself may impact the climate of the Earth by producing nitrogen oxides (NOx), a precursor of tropospheric ozone, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Thunderstorms themselves influence the climate system by the redistribution of heat, moisture, and momentum in the atmosphere. What about future changes in lightning and thunderstorm activity? Many studies show that higher surface temperatures produce more lightning, but future changes will depend on what happens to the vertical temperature profile in the troposphere, as well as changes in water balance, and even aerosol loading of the atmosphere. Finally, lightning itself may provide a useful tool for tracking climate change in the future, due to the nonlinear link between lightning, temperature, upper tropospheric water vapor, and cloud cover.


Lightning Severe weather Climate Thunderstorms 



This paper was the result of an invited lecture at the European Science Foundation TEA-IS Summer School entitled “Thunderstorm effects on the atmosphere–ionosphere system”. Support from ESF is appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geophysical, Atmospheric and Planetary ScienceTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

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