Mon Feb 18, 2019 | 19:42
Researchers count thunderstorms
Thu, 07 Apr 2011 09:55:41 GMT
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Researchers have used a global network of monitoring stations to count the number of thunderstorms that happen across the Earth every hour.

The World Wide Lightning Location Network detects the electromagnetic pulses produced by major bolts of lightning, the state-funded BBC reported.

According to the latest findings announced at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna, about 760 thunderstorms happen every hour.

"The monitoring stations might miss some bolts of lightning, but we think we're getting the big ones - and that's enough to tell you where the thunderstorms are," said head of the Geophysics and Planetary Sciences department of Tel Aviv University Colin Price.

"And so with this global network we're able to improve on numbers that have been in standard use since the 1920s."

Scientists say the figure is substantially lower than numbers that have been used for nearly a century. Their findings also showed that thunderstorms are mainly a tropical phenomenon - and the Congo basin is the global hotspot.

"That's perhaps because it's drier there than in the Amazon, for example - thunderstorms seem to form more easily in drier conditions," Price explained.

British climatologist CEP Brooks was the first who tried to estimate the number of thunderstorms in 1925.

His calculated showed that there were around 1,800 per hour on average across the world.

In the 1950s, OH Gish and GR Wait flew over the top of 21 thunderstorms in the US, carrying equipment to measure voltages and currents in the air. Extending their findings to the rest of the world, they came up with a global figure of 2,000-3,600 thunderstorms per year.

Satellites were used to do the calculations recently, but they do not see the whole world.

This background makes the new study significant as it uses a completely different technique, with more than 40 stations around the world that detect electromagnetic pulses produced by strong lightning bolts.

Each continent shows peaks during its daytime, but the global peak time is around noon GMT.

The World Wide Lightning Location Network is planning to add new observation points to improve results, and recently started a program to detect explosive volcanic eruptions via the lightning flashes that occur in the ascending plumes of hot ash.

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