Speed Reads

What are the odds?

Global warming will probably sharply increase your chances of being struck by lightning

Add this to the things to worry about from a warming planet: Late Thursday, researchers reported in the journal Science that they've discovered a formula to estimate the prevalence of lightning strikes, and lightning will rise sharply if global warming goes unchecked.

If global temperatures rise 7 degrees F this century, lightning strikes in the U.S. will likely rise by 50 percent, estimate David Romps, a U.C. Berkeley atmospheric scientist, and his team. While a 50 percent increase is the most likely number, their model's forecast ranges from a 14 percent jump to a 90 percent spike. Hotter air charges the atmosphere and changes its chemistry, raising the odds of lightning strikes by about 12 percent per degree of rise, the report suggests.

The increased lightning would start more forest fires, but also probably "kill more people directly, although lightning causes well under a hundred deaths a year in this country," The New York Times notes. If temperatures rise 7 degrees, though, humans will have more than lightning strikes to worry about, The Times adds:

Recent reports have warned that an increase that high would likely be devastating to the food supply, and would lead to the long-term melting of the ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica, causing a rise of the sea that would probably exceed 30 feet over centuries and could flood the world's major coastal cities. [New York Times]

Point taken.