A team of Tel Aviv University researchers are mapping thunderstorms to help better understand climate change worldwide.

According to TAU professor Colin Price, the thunderstorm map that he is creating with the help of graduate student Keren Mezuman is the first of its kind.

It is also an important way to gauge how global warming is impacting the planet.

“To date, satellites have only provided snapshots of thunderstorm incidence,” Price said, pointing out that his map will provide an entirely new way to analyze changing weather patterns.

He also explained that understanding the link between thunderstorm patterns and global temperatures is key to predicting the impact of climate change.

“We want to use our algorithm to determine how climate change will affect the frequency and intensity of thunderstorms,” he noted. “According to climate change predictions, every one percent rise in global temperature will lead to a 10 percent increase in thunderstorm activity. This means that we could see 25 percent more lightning by the end of the century.”

Price’s team used GPS coordinates and the World Wide Lightning Location Network to track the exact location of lightning. Then, by calculating the data, the team grouped detected flashes into thunderstorm cells.

“When we clustered the lighting strikes into storm cells, we found that there were around 1,000 thunderstorms active at any time somewhere on the globe,” Price explained.

The ability to analyse these storm cells and their frequency is an important first step to better understanding how the earth’s rising temperatures may impact weather in the future.

Yet Price said his team’s map is just the beginning.

“How lightning will be distributed in storms, and how the number and intensity of storms will change in the future, are questions we are working on answering,” he said, stressing there is still much to learn about the connection between lighting and global warming.

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