Being struck by lightning is not something people tend to worry about in the Arctic. Encountering a polar bear or being caught in a snowstorm are more pressing concerns. But new data shows that rising temperatures in the Arctic have significantly increased the probability of thunderstorms bubbling up, particularly during the summer months.
Researchers used the World Wide Lightning Location Network to monitor lightning strikes occurring at latitudes above 65°N for the years 2010 aan 2020. Their findings, published in Geophysical Research Letters, show the number of lightning strikes during the summer months tripled over this time period, van omtrent 18,000 strikes in 2010 to more than 150,000 in 2020. Over the same time period Arctic temperatures increased by an average of 0.3C, creating more favourable conditions for intense summer thunderstorms.
Compared with other more lightning-prone parts of the world, the risk of being hit by lightning in the Arctic is still low, but the rising threat combined with a lack of awareness about lightning among the local population is likely to make people more vulnerable to being caught out. And as Arctic sea ice continues to retreat (oor 13% a decade, according to Nasa), shipping vessels may also have to start taking the threat of lightning seriously.