Solar Wind Linked to Lighting Strikes; Researchers Find
Representational ImageWikimedia Commons/Bidgee

Researchers have found the connection between speedy solar particles striking our planet's atmosphere and its influence in lightning. As per the study, lightning strikes may be more frequent in the near future.

Researchers from University of Reading in England have found that the rate of lightning have increased with speedy solar winds striking the Earth's atmosphere. Previous theories have suggested that lightning on the surface of the Earth is triggered by cosmic rays, whereas new evidence explains that thunderstorms may be influenced by other such energy particles.

Though the exact mechanism is not entirely known by the researchers, it is believed that electrical properties of the air change the incoming solar wind charged particles that collide with the earth's atmosphere.

"Our main result is that we have found evidence that high-speed solar wind streams can increase lightning rates. This may be an actual increase in lightning or an increase in the magnitude of lightning, lifting it above the detection threshold of measurement instruments." said lead author of the study, Chris Scott of University of Reading, in the press release.

Cosmic rays, tiny particles from all across the Universe accelerated almost to the speed of light by bursting stars and have been thought to have a role in showering thunder down on Earth, but this research provides new evidence and similarly, that lower energy particles produced by the Sun also affect lightning, explained Scott. 

"As the Sun rotates every 27 days, high-speed streams of particles pass our planet with predictable regularity and such information could prove useful when producing long-range weather forecasts. It gives us a tantalizing possibility for improving long-term weather forecasting," Scott concluded.

The study was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.