Lightning crackles over North Pole in very rare storm

It’s been an unusual summer for the Arctic. Unprecedented tracts of land have burned as wildfires spread beyond any capacity to control them. Temperature records have been smashed. And now lightning has sparked next to the North Pole.

A number of lightning strikes were recorded Saturday evening (Aug. 10th) within 300 miles of the North Pole. The lightning strikes occurred near 85°N and 126°E. This lightning was detected by Vaisala’s GLD lightning detection network.

Weather-savvy Canadians might already know lightning strikes north of the Arctic Circle aren’t unheard of, but the frequency of strikes drops off dramatically as you move north. Saturday evening’s bolts were within 550 km of the North Pole — that’s about 2050 km north of the Arctic Circle. A look at the global lightning frequency maps, below, represents this fact well.

The darker reds and yellows on the maps (which are separated into three-month spans) show where lightning strikes are most frequent, the cooler colours where strikes are less frequent. Near both poles, the grey colour represents regions that average fewer than 0.01 strikes per square km per year. Saturday’s strikes were even further north than that.

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