Lightning may be Mother Natures greatest show on Earth, but scientists now know it can produce significant amounts of ozone and other gases that affect air chemistry.
Lightning Has a Big Effect on Regional Pollution
Summertime lightning over the United States increases regional pollution by significant amounts and also over a large portion of the northern hemisphere, surpassing those by human activities. CREDIT: Photograph by M. Garay
The Microlab Satellite and the OTD Lightning Detector
The Optical Transient Detector (OTD), aboard the Microlab satellite, is the worlds first space-based sensor capable of detecting and locating lightning events in the daytime as well as during the nighttime with high detection efficiency. It was designed and built at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).
Researcher Renyi Zhang of Texas A&M University helped lead a study on the impact of lightning, and the results are surprising: Lightning can be responsible for as much as 90 percent of the nitrogen oxides in the summer and at the same time increase ozone levels as much as 30 percent in the free troposphere, the area that extends 3-8 miles above the Earths surface.
The amount of ozone and nitrogen oxides that lightning creates is greater than those created by human activities in that level of the atmosphere, the study shows.
Renyi Zhang | EurekAlert!
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