When human activities came to a full stop as we were all confined to our homes due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown, it had some fascinating effects on nature. From clearer skies and improved air quality to even cleaner water bodies, nature seemed to have benefited significantly from the lockdown. One such phenomenon that had been puzzling people for quite a while was the absence of lightning activity during the lockdown period. Now, a recent study published by the Science Direct has attributed that to the reduction in atmospheric aerosols. According to a physical meteorologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Earle Williams, some atmospheric aerosols contribute to the formation of cloud droplets by collecting water. Due to extensive human activities more of these aerosols are released into the atmosphere which results in greater number of small-sized droplets in the clouds.
A report published by Inside Science further explains that the small droplets later form ice crystals and hail called graupel. When these graupels collide which each other, some get negatively charged while others acquire positive charge and this difference in charge causes the lightning phenomenon.
The study highlighted that microscopic aerosols are produced by the burning of fossil fuels by humans. When the industries were shut and vehicles not running, there wasn’t enough small particles in the atmosphere to cause lightning.
Researchers at the American Geophysical Union carried out the study by using three different methods of measuring lightning to explain the occurrence. “All results showed the same trend — that is, a diminished lightning activity associated with a diminished aerosol concentration,” said William who was also the presenter of the research. William and his team even recorded a 19% reduction in lightning flashes between March 2020 to May 2020 as compared to the same period in 2018, 2019, 2021.
Meanwhile, the findings also indicated that there wasn’t much impact of the lockdown on lightning activity in America. But, a significant effect of reduced aerosol in atmosphere was seen in regions of Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa.