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Look Out! Lightning Strikes Could Rise 50 Percent by 2100: Study

Lightning strikes could increase by 50 percent in the U.S. in this century as a result of global warming, according to a new study. The study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University at Albany in New York, looked at various climate models’ predictions about cloud formations as the world warms. The study said a 12 percent increase in cloud-to-ground strikes could occur for each extra degree Celsius in the contiguous U.S. — about 50 percent overall with the expected increase of 4 degrees Celsius (7 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.

The researchers said the increase could lead to more human injuries along with more wildfires. More than 22,000 fires of all kinds are started by lightning each year, and wildfires started by lightning tend to be larger than those that are started by human causes, according to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association. Each year, lightning-caused fires burn more than 4.1 million acres in the U.S., mostly in the western states. Lightning deaths have dropped dramatically since the 1940s, but have been under 30 in each of the past four years, according the National Weather Service. The report is in the Nov. 14 issue of the journal Science.

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— Gil Aegerter