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Lightning and Wildfires: Climate Crisis Indicator


  • The current increase in wildfires in Canada has sparked questions regarding lightning’s potential role in starting these life-threatening natural disasters. In a warming world, lightning, which is known to be the primary cause of wildfires, is anticipated to occur more frequently.
  • The devastating effects of lightning strikes are not limited to Canada; they have also occurred in India.
  • Since lightning is a crucial climate variable, its influence on patterns of the world’s climate cannot be disregarded.


GS Paper 3 : Disaster Management

Mains Question

Analyse how the climate crisis has affected lightning patterns and the importance of lightning as a key climate variable. How can lightning function as a climate change indicator? (150Words)

Increasing Wildfires Caused by Lightning:

  • Lightning strikes are mostly to blame for the current wildfires in Canada, particularly in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.
  • According to reports, human activity has also increased the severity of these forest fires.
  • A study that appeared in the journal Nature emphasises the relationship between lightning and wildfires and the significance of long-continuing currents (LCC) in starting fires.
  • According to the study, worldwide lightning activity and LCCs will grow by the 2090s, along with an increase in surface temperatures.

Long-continuing currents (LCC) – what are they?

Long-continuing-current lightning (LCC lightning) is a term used to describe lightning flashes that have an electrical discharge that lasts longer than 40 milliseconds.

Identifying the Climate Indicators of Lightning

  • When thunderstorm clouds accumulate static electrical charges, a sudden discharge of electric charge results in lightning.The wider effects of the climate crisis are reflected in changes in lightning patterns, which have been identified as climate indicators.
  • The World Meteorological Organisation considers lightning to be a crucial factor in determining the climate of the planet, and it also plays a role in the generation of ozone and other greenhouse gases by emitting nitrogen oxides.

Lightning Strikes in India

  • India’s biggest natural disaster in recent years is lightning strikes, which have become more common there. The number of lightning strikes in the nation increased significantly between April 2020 and March 2021, rising by 34% to around 18.5 million strikes.
  • Since 1995, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology has noticed a dramatic increase in lightning strikes. While there have been deaths from lightning in several states, certain areas have seen fewer strikes as a result of awareness-raising campaigns and the provision of safer shelter choices.

Implications for North America and Central Asia:

  • There is a possible rise in LCC lightning activity, even if simulations indicate that overall lightning activity may drop in some areas of North America and Central Asia.
  • This change may increase the likelihood of wildfires being started by lightning. Understanding how the dynamics of shifting lightning patterns affect local wildfire hazards is essential.


  • The growing frequency of wildfires in Canada that are connected to lightning strikes emphasises how urgent it is to confront the climate catastrophe.
  • The Earth’s climatic patterns are shaped by lightning, which is a crucial climate variable. Comprehensive initiatives, such as better readiness, early warning systems, and public awareness campaigns, are needed to reduce the risks related to wildfires.
  • We may prevent the deadly effects of these natural disasters by taking preventative measures by recognising the connection between lightning, wildfires, and climate change.

May 2024