Electric storms

A group of researchers at DTU Space is developing an observatory to be mounted on the International Space Station. Called ASIM, the observatory will among other things photograph giant lightning discharges above the clouds. The objective is to determine whether giant lightning discharges affect the Earth’s climate.

The question is whether giant lightning discharges, which shoot up from the clouds towards space, are simply a spectacular natural phenomenon, or whether they alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere, affecting the Earth’s climate and the ozone layer.

In recent years, scientists at DTU Space have studied giant lightning using high-altitude mountain cameras. From time to time, the cameras have succeeded in capturing low-altitude lightning flashes which have shot up from a thundercloud. The International Space Station provides a clear view of these giant lightning discharges, and the opportunity to study them will be significantly improved with the introduction of the observatory.

The researchers will also use ASIM to study how natural and man-made events on the ground – such as hurricanes, dust storms, forest fires and volcanic eruptions – influence the atmosphere and climate.

/english/~/media/Institutter/Space/English/research/climate_and_environment/electric_storms/kaempe_lyn380.ashxPhoto: ESA