Wednesday, May 16, 2007

An Inconvenient Bolt of Truth

Lightning storm severity in Africa correlates to hurricane severity in America.

What creates an Atlantic hurricane? The most devastating ones are spurred by intense thunderstorms in the Ethiopian highlands, according to new research.

The link between lightning strikes and hurricane formation should give researchers a heads-up about when a nasty hurricane might form, weeks before it could make landfall in the United States, says Colin Price of Tel Aviv University in Israel. Today, scientists apply various models to predict storm tracks and strength, but only once they form over the Atlantic Ocean. "This is what is unique about our work," Price says. "We look at the initial stages of these devastating storms before they have become hurricanes."

Price and his colleagues at Israel's Open University studied the 2005 and 2006 hurricane seasons, which were markedly different from each other. In 2005 there were a record 28 named storms, including the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, while 2006 brought only 10 named storms — a 64% reduction. Summertime lightning activity in eastern Africa, mainly in the Ethiopian highlands, was also quite different in each of the years, the researchers found, with 23% less activity in 2006 over 2005.

The two phenomena are linked, says Price, an atmospheric scientist who has long studied lightning.

This guy obviously did not get the memo to ix-nay on offering non-Goracle theories.


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