Lightning drought depend on air temperature, not rains
– In all emissive scenarios, by the end of the century the frequency of lightning droughts will increase significantly. And in every region of the planet. But mitigating global warming can slow this process down a lot. Helping to protect a greater amount of agricultural land, among the most exposed to this type of phenomena.
What are lightning droughts?
Unlike the common drought periods, which are prolonged in time and are anticipated by a number of factors, this different type of drought occurs suddenly and can cause considerable damage to agriculture even if it lasts for a few weeks. One such episode in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota in 2017, for example, caused $2.6 billion in damage.
And unlike normal droughts that are caused by lack of rain or water resources, lightning droughts depend on a different factor: air temperature. Too high temperatures that can reduce moisture levels in the soil in no time.
In Europe, flash droughts will increase by 60% by 2100
In a study published in Communications Earth & Environment, Researchers at the University of Oklahoma have combined forecasting models with data on historic land use and droughts over the past 170 years around the world to draw a map of how the risk of lightning drought could evolve as a function of future climatic trajectory.
If all regions are affected by several such incidents, North America and Europe are particularly exposed. In the first, the risk that in a given year a parcel of land will face a lightning drought will increase from 32% in 2015 to 49% in 2100, while for Europe it will increase from 32 to 53%. This in the most extreme emissive scenario. While in the more favorable one, which respects the threshold of 1.5°C, the increase is there but stops well below 40% for both continents.