(ORDO NEWS) — The volcanic eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai in January 2022 sent shockwaves around the world.
Now, researchers have revealed another interesting fact: the eruption caused more than 25,500 lightning strikes in just five minutes.
According to a report by environmental monitoring company Vaisala, the above “catastrophic eruption” broke “all records”.
“This is the most extreme concentration of lightning we have ever detected,” meteorologist and lightning expert Chris Wagaski told CNN.
“We’ve been detecting lightning for 40 years now, and it’s really an extreme event.”
Vaisala’s annual report found that 2022 was the year of extreme lightning.
In 2022, the number of lightning strikes in the US increased, reaching over 198 million lightning strikes. This is 4 million more than observed in 2021 and 28 million more than in 2020.
“We are seeing an upward trend in the number of lightning strikes,” Wagaski said.
The Worldwide Lightning Location Network, led by the University of Washington, said Vaisala’s findings on global lightning as well as the Hunga Volcano are consistent with their own observations.
“We can do this because stronger eruptions generate lightning, and lightning sends detectable radio signals around the world,” network director Robert Holsworth told CNN.
“The Hunga volcano eruption was spectacular in its lightning-fast activity.”
Researchers have used lightning as a key indicator of a climate crisis, as the phenomenon usually signals rising temperatures.
Lightning occurs during severe storms associated with an unstable atmosphere that require relatively warm and humid air, so they mainly occur in tropical latitudes and elsewhere during the summer months.
Wagaski said lightning in colder areas will only intensify as the planet warms, noting that meteorologists and climate scientists are collecting more data to not only clarify climate links but also keep people safe.
“That’s why they named lightning as an important climate variable,” he said, “because it’s important to know where it occurs, how much it occurs, and so you can see how thunderstorms occur as a result of climate change.”
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