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Our pollution might actually be causing thunderstorms (STA BREAKING NEWS and ARCHIVES)

by Theresa @, Saturday, September 09, 2017, 21:19

Lightning tends to trigger in us a sense of awe, of reverential respect mixed with wonder and fear. When bolts of electricity streak across the sky and thunder claps so loud you can feel it in your body, well, it becomes pretty clear why our ancestors so frequently attributed storms to the gods: Xolotl in the case of the Aztecs, Zeus in the case of the Ancient Greeks, and Thor in Norse Mythology.

But a recent study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters gives humanity the credit for at least some of our planet's thunderstorms. The researchers found that pollution released by boats as they traverse shipping lanes can and does trigger lightning storms. A lot of lightning storms. In fact, these areas of oceanic congestion see up to twice as many storms as would otherwise be expected. Who knew that the push to feed our online shopping addictions could have so much power?

Researchers have known for a while that if you pump small particles into the atmosphere you can get a thunderstorm, where lightning forms. Lightning forms in clouds with a mix of ice, liquid water, and a kind of vigorous up and down motion called updraft. As heavier ice particles—a sort of small hale that nephrologists, or cloud researchers, call graupel—move downward thanks to gravity, smaller, snowier particles move upward because of the updraft, bumping into each other and their respective electrical charges. Graupels generally carry a negative electrical charge, and the snowy floaters a positive one. So when they bump into each other, you get a bit of electrical discharge—the sparks we see as lightning.

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