The Sun May Cause Lightning

Solar winds appear to trigger storms

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted May 16, 2014 1:54 PM CDT

(Newser) – The weather on the sun might just have an effect on the weather here on earth. Fast-moving solar winds tend to go hand-in-hand with an uptick in lightning storms, a new study reveals. The finding is somewhat puzzling as scientists have long believed that increased solar activity led to a decrease in lightning strikes, the LA Times explains, because when it's most active, the sun's magnetic field holds in the cosmic rays that are believed to cause lightning strikes.

But scientists from the University of Reading in England found that in the sun's most active periods, while cosmic rays did decrease, lightning increased. "That surprised us," the lead author says. In the 40 days after a solar wind passed, researchers found there were an average of 422 lightning strikes, as opposed to 321 in the 40 days prior, Australia's ABC Science reports. Their suspicion: particles are riding solar winds into thunder clouds. "So they could be making the air slightly more electrically conductive so that a spark can start and jump more easily."

  (Shutterstock)
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