Coarse Sea Spray Inhibits Lightning
The known effects of thermodynamics and aerosols can well explain the thunderstorm activity over land, but fail over oceans. Here, we track the full lifecycle of tropical deep convective cloud clusters shows that adding fine aerosols significantly increases the lightning density for a given rainfall amount over both ocean and land. In contrast, adding coarse sea salt (dry radius > 1 μm), known as sea spray, weakens the cloud vigor and lightning by producing fewer but larger cloud drops, which accelerate warm rain at the expense of mixed-phase precipitation. Adding coarse sea spray can reduce the lightning by 90% regardless of fine aerosol loading. These findings reconcile long outstanding questions about the differences between continental and marine thunderstorms, and help to understand lightning and underlying aerosol-cloud-precipitation interaction mechanisms and their climatic effects.