Brazil, lightning champion, should see increased discharges with climate crisis

It is already known that climate change intensify heat waves, droughts and affect population health. However, another aspect less explored, but still problematic, should also grow with the climate crisis: lightning!

Researchers from INPE (National Institute for Space Research) point out that climate change should lead to an increase in electrical discharges that affect Brazil, which is already a champion in this regard.

Considering a scenario in which nothing is done and greenhouse gas emissions remain as they are currently, Brazil could jump from 24 millions of lightnings per year to an average of 100 millions. The data are contained in the book “Brazil: World Lightning Champion”, recently released by researchers from Elat (Atmospheric Electricity Group), from Inpe, and which tells the evolution of lightning monitoring in the country.

At the request of the Folha, the scientists also developed estimates for different scenarios of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) emissions in the Brazilian regions.

In the intermediate IPCC scenario, for example, from 2081 to 2081, the North region may have a up to 18% increase in lightning log. Then appear the Midwest (18%) and Southeast (10%).

Even in the best scenarios for controlling global warming —which studies show to be difficult to happen— the increases in the North, Midwest and Southeast are still above or very close to 18%.

And what’s the problem with that?

First and foremost are deaths associated with lightning.

According to Osmar Pinto Jr., coordinator of Elat and one of the authors of the book, together also a researcher at Elat Iara Cardoso, it can be said that, with the increase in lightning, it is also possible that the situation of deaths gets worse.

Added to the human losses, the fall of lightning can also have an economic effect, with burning of machines, for example.

In addition to the leadership in electrical discharges, Brazil is in the top of deaths in the world. A survey by Elat points out that, from 2019 to 2019, there were 2.100 deaths by lightning in the country. The state of São Paulo leads this ranking, with 194 deaths, most of them in the capital of São Paulo. Manaus is second on the list of deaths.

The high number of lightning strikes in São Paulo can be explained by pollution. For a ray to be formed water particles (which form by condensation nuclei, which in turn are influenced by pollution) and ice particles (which form from water particles) are needed. In storm clouds, ice shocks generate electrical charges that, when exceeding the insulating capacity of the air, give rise to discharge — lightning, lightning and thunder.

As for the case of Manaus and for the large number of discharges in the North, there are other points at play.

“The forest has a very large interaction with the atmosphere, it is responsible for the humidity that will give rise to storms “, says Pinto Jr.. “Moving in the forest is changing the amount of lightning in the future.”

And that’s where another issue comes in that has everything to do with the climate crisis: deforestation, the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil.

Brazil has been showing high data on deforestation in the Amazon, compared to the history of the last decade. a thousand square kilometers.

The researcher states that, in the Amazon, electrical discharges cause the death of thousands of trees a year, but because of the high humidity, the lightning strikes the vegetation and does not cause fires.

“The lightning and the trees are in balance”, says Pinto Jr.. “If the rays increase, it can increase the number of dead trees and generate an imbalance in the structure.”

How to protect yourself

According to the Inpe researcher, the main way to avoid lightning tragedies is based on information.

E m storms, for example, it is recommended to avoid using equipment that are connected to the electricity network and also not to be near outlets in the house.

Another indication is not to use the telephone with wire or a cell phone that is connected to the charger. Bathing in electric showers, proximity to metal windows and doors, and with taps and pipes should also be avoided. Even buildings with lightning rods are not fully protected.

During storms, it is worth seeking shelter and not staying in open areas or near bodies of water.

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