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Oceanic Thunderstorms Are Being Intensified by Ship Exhaust

Source: Phys.org/American Geophysical Union - September 11, 2017 in Environment

Oceanic Thunderstorms Are Being Intensified by Ship Exhaust
Photo: Keith Pomakis/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Thunderstorms directly above two of the world’s busiest shipping lanes are significantly more powerful than storms in areas of the ocean where ships don’t travel, according to new research.

A new study mapping lightning around the globe finds  occur nearly twice as often directly above heavily-trafficked shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea than they do in areas of the  adjacent to  that have similar climates.

The difference in lightning activity can’t be explained by changes in the weather, according to the study’s authors, who conclude that aerosol particles emitted in ship exhaust are changing how storm  form over the ocean.

The new study is the first to show ship exhaust can alter thunderstorm intensity. The researchers conclude that particles from ship exhaust make cloud droplets smaller, lifting them higher in the atmosphere. This creates more ice particles and leads to more lightning.

The results provide some of the first evidence that humans are changing  on a nearly continual basis, rather than after a specific incident like a wildfire, according to the authors.

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