Everyone loves a good lightning storm. Visually, these electrical storms are a sight to behold with dramatic bolts and flashing often accompanied by impressive thunder.
According to an article from the CBC, lighting also breaks down and removes atmospheric pollutants from the air. The study, conducted by William Brume of Penn State University, examines the levels of oxidating radicals found in electrical storms. Oxidating radicals are molecules that can break down gasses like carbon monoxide and methane. Hydroxyl is a specific oxidating radical that is the star of this show.
The study finds that lighting storms produce far more hydroxyl than suspected. This molecule is very chemically reactive. This means it is quick to react with other chemicals such as carbon monoxide or methane found in the atmosphere. Hydroxyl can break down these gasses and remove them from the atmosphere.
The report cautions that is hard to gauge the quantity of pollutants that lightning removes from the atmosphere globally. That said, Brume believes that it is a notable figure. Scientists believe that global warming will bring an increase in lightning storms.