Odisha hit by over nine lakh lightning strikes this year

Five States accounted for half of the cloud-to ground strikes, finds a study

November 09, 2019 10:29 pm | Updated November 10, 2019 12:26 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Five States accounted for half of the lightning strikes in India in 2019, led by Odisha with 9,37,462 or about 16% of the cloud-to-ground strikes.

This is among the findings of an analysis of lightning strikes in India — the most widespread killer among natural calamities — from January to August by the private weather agency Skymet. There were 20 million lightning strikes in that period, with 72% of them being instances of ‘in-cloud’ lightning.

In-cloud strikes result from a friction in a cloud, whereas the cloud-to-ground ones, which are responsible for deaths, happen when electric charges travel to the ground.

Odisha account for nearly 7,00,000 more total lightning strikes than the second placed West Bengal, though it had only 3,50,000 more of the cloud-to-ground strikes. Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh accounted for the rest.

Peak activity in June

June saw the most lightning flashes — 56,04,214 — during the first eight months of 2019, which is when the monsoon sets in. Temperatures are extremely hot during June, ranging from 32 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius. A rise in lightning activity begins in May, peaks in June and tapers by August.

Skymet makes its assessment based on 1,700 sensors spread across the country and claims to send alerts 45 minutes before “dangerous lightning” strikes an area.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 8,684 deaths in the country due to causes “attributable to forces of nature” during 2016. Of them, 38.2% deaths were due to “lightning”, 15.4% to “heat and sun stroke” and 8.9% due to “floods”.

A more recent report from the Climate Resilient Observing Systems Promotion Council ( CROPC) that relies on the India Meteorological Department’s lightning forecasts analysed lightning patterns and deaths this year from April 1 to July 31.

Most deaths in U.P.

Uttar Pradesh registered the maximum number of deaths, 224, followed by Bihar, 170, Odisha, 129, and Jharkhand, 118.

Varied coping mechanisms and grades of infrastructure determine the level of casualty from lightning in the States. For instance, the CROPC report says, Odisha had the highest number of strikes, 9 lakh-plus, and 129 deaths.

But Uttar Pradesh had 300 strikes and 200 deaths.

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