Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study shows lightning adds to ozone level

20.03.2003


Lightning may be Mother Nature’s 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 world’s 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 Earth’s 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.


Zhang’s research is published in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the study was supported by NASA and the Texas Air Research Center.

Each year, about 77 million lightning bolts strike the United States, and worldwide lightning flashes occur about 60 times per second. Zhang and his colleague, Xuexi Tie of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, have confirmed increased levels of nitrogen oxides following lightning strikes. Their study analyzed lightning strikes over a 5-year period in the United States.

"Ironically, over the U.S., lightning accounts for only about 5 percent of the total nitrogen oxide annual emissions and about 14 percent of the total emissions in July," Zhang explains.

"The largest source of nitrogen oxides over the U.S. is the burning of fossil fuels, but such a small emission by lightning plays a huge role in influencing regional air chemistry. The reason is that nitrogen oxides from fossil fuels burning is released close to the Earth’s surface and is consumed rapidly by chemical reactions before being transported upward. But lightning directly releases nitrogen oxides throughout the entire troposphere, or as high as eight miles," Zhang adds.

In addition, Zhang says there is strong evidence that urban air pollution may contribute to more lightning, creating more ozone over the United States. Zhang says nitrogen oxides can lead to the formation of ozone and smog, and these can greatly increase chemical reactions in the atmosphere.

Ozone can also affect chemical activities in the atmosphere and even affect climate changes around the world by acting as a greenhouse gas.

Zhang believes the results of his study show both good and bad news.

"The good news is that lightning makes more oxidants, which do help to clean up the atmosphere," he says.

"The bad news is that lightning also generates more ozone, which is not good for the environment. We can’t control lightning, but we now know we can learn a lot about it and what it creates."

Renyi Zhang | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tamu.edu/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Atmospheric scientists reveal the effect of sea-ice loss on Arctic warming
11.03.2019 | Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

nachricht Sensing shakes
11.03.2019 | University of Tokyo

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

Im Focus: Sussex scientists one step closer to a clock that could replace GPS and Galileo

Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock

Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...

Im Focus: Sensing shakes

A new way to sense earthquakes could help improve early warning systems

Every year earthquakes worldwide claim hundreds or even thousands of lives. Forewarning allows people to head for safety and a matter of seconds could spell...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Levitating objects with light

19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New technique for in-cell distance determination

19.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Stellar cartography

19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>