Does climate warming mean more lightning in Alaska?


Fig. 1. Yearly and monthly number of lightning flashes in Alaska from 1986-2010 (Farukh and Hayasaka, 2012)

A recent article in Science magazine (Romps, et al. 2014) postulated a 12% increase in lightning strikes over the continental US for each degree C of warming.  If this model holds true for Alaska, we should have already seen an increase in lightning strikes of roughly 20% in interior Alaska over the last 25 years since summer temperature has warmed by about 2.5 F–up to 3.7 F north of the Brooks Range (data from UAF Geophysical Institute).  So, has anyone looked at the trends in Alaska’s Automatic Lightning Detection Data to see what has been observed?  AFS has been collecting this data (publicly available at since 1986. It turns out the answer is yes!  Drs.Farukh and Hayasaka (2012) published an article on how large lightning storms characterized some of our largest recent fire seasons including this figure.  I’d like to challenge other  investigators to look at the regional significance of this phenomenon in the state, which could be an important fire regime driver in boreal forest/tundra, with the data which is now complete (ALDS went offline in 2013, replaced by a time-of-arrival system)!

One comment on “Does climate warming mean more lightning in Alaska?

  1. Pingback: An Alaska View of an Ever-Warming World – Quan Cuoi

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