In 2020, Earth’s atmosphere produced far less lightning than it had in previous years. And scientists believe COVID lockdowns may be the reason.
According to Fox News, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) noticed a 10-20% reduction in lighting bolts during the first year of the pandemic. And it claims that the drop is directly related to people staying home.
Physical meteorologist Earle Williams from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology studied the reduction. And during the annual AGU fall meeting this year, he shared his results.
Williams noted that his team measured the activity using three different methods.
What they found was that there were fewer fossil fuel particles—or air pollution—in the atmosphere. And that’s relevant because those particles create more cloud formations and absorb more moisture.
Because the fossil fuel particles suck in water, they create tiny ice crystals that collide in the clouds and build up the charges that create lightning.
The study looked at lightning activity and particle levels between March and May 2020 and compared them to the same periods in 2018, 2019, and 2021.
The regions that had the biggest reduction in lighting were over Asia, Africa, and Europe. And those were the areas that had the fewest aerosol particles at the time. The Americans didn’t see as much of a change in air pollution or lighting activity.
And as Fox added, the drop in air pollution didn’t just affect lightning activity. Another study that was published last year found that healthier air also led to fewer heart attacks around the globe.
Scientists Think It’s Only a Matter of Time Before We Find Proof of Life on Mars
Is there alien life out there? An astrophysicist named Sarah Cruddas seems to think so. And more importantly, she believes it’s only one planet away—on Mars.
According to the New York Post, Cruddas thinks we’ll find definite proof of life in about two decades.
Thanks to recent endeavors, scientists have learned a lot about the red planet in a short amount of time. And many studies have found signs of early life, but not actual organisms.
It is thought that Mars was once similar to Earth, meaning it had large bodies of water and warmer weather. And because of that, it could have actually hosted human life.
Currently, a rover named Perseverance is taking samples inside a crater that was likely a lake in the distant past. In 2028, a retrieval craft will collect those samples. And Sarah Cruddas thinks they’ll include the proof we need.
“When you look at the numbers, it’s likely that we’re not alone in the universe,” she told the Daily Star. “We know Mars has been warmer and wetter, so has the conditions for microbial life, which is single-cell organisms. We just haven’t been able to prove it yet. Whether it is microbial life or something beyond explanation is yet to be seen. But once we have an answer, we can then extrapolate that to work out how much life might actually be out there.”