Slideshow: Seven types of lightning—from the common to the bizarre

Lightning doesn’t just produce breathtaking natural fireworks. It’s also responsible for starting thousands of dangerous wildfires every year. Researchers have long known that lightning strikes are correlated with higher temperatures—hotter summers often mean more wildfires. Now, new research published online today in Science suggests that with climate change, the United States could see many more lightning strikes each year: about a 12% increase, or 300,000 more strikes, with every 1°C rise in temperature. By the end of the 21st century, the rate of lightning strikes per year could increase by as much as 50%.

In order to make this calculation, researchers relied on counts of cloud-to-ground lightning strikes within the contiguous United States. But cloud-to-ground isn’t the only type of lightning—it’s not even the most common. From ball lightning to volcanic lightning, here’s a tour of some of Mother Nature’s most startling displays.

Think you can do better? Send your most electrifying photos of lightning to sciphotos@aaas.org for a chance to see your image published online!

Related articles: