Lightning hits the ground in a 2017 thunderstorm in Bavaria. Researchers in this study wanted to measure how lightning generates certain elements essential to atmospheric oxidation.Getty
DC-8 undertook this harrowing journey for one primary purpose: to understand lightning’s ability to clean Earth’s atmosphere. The specific kinds of measurements performed here “are the first-ever in thunderstorms,” William H. Brune tells Inverse. Brune is one of the authors of a new study detailing DC-8’s findings and a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University.
What the craft found on this intrepid journey could change the course of atmospheric science as we know it. But more immediately, these measurements hold some pretty strange implications for how we can best face the climate crisis.