India saw 13 million dangerous lightning strikes last year
India had last year recorded nearly 23% increase in lightning episodes compared to 2019 with Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha and West Bengal turning out to be among the top vulnerable states in terms of reporting this extreme weather phenomena.
Though the lightning along with thunderstorm had claimed more lives in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra compared to the top five that reported lightning episodes last year, the increase in number of such weather events, recorded by the Earth Networks - a private agency of a nationwide lightning detection network in India – shows vulnerability of most part of the country.
The Earth Networks’ report, released on Monday, shows its network had detected 39.55 million of lightning pulses in India, of which nearly 13.03 million were dangerous ‘cloud-to-ground’ strikes – the lightning which hit the ground, making lives and property vulnerable.
“It’s a huge number which practically makes a large part of the country vulnerable. Even episodes of 26.52 million of ‘in-cloud’ lightning are problematic as it contributes to formation of dangerous thunderstorms,” said Kumar Margasahayam of the Earth Networks, reports TOI.
He said issuing timely alerts as part of a robust early warning system, dissemination of those alerts for vulnerable populations and creating awareness among people about the danger of lightning were the three crucial steps to save lives. “India is extremely susceptible to severe weather events, and our ability to predict and warn citizens of severe weather up to 45 minutes before it arrives helps save lives and protect property,” he said.
In 2020, India witnessed the highest concentration of lightning in May, June, and September. Although the rainfall average across India last year reached 109% (just 1% less than the 2019 average of 110% of the long period average), the lightning episodes increased by nearly 23% compared to 2019.
“India experiences extreme amounts of heat and moisture due to the country’s proximity to the equator and the Indian Ocean, contributing to severe and sudden thunderstorms throughout South Asia,” said the report while underlining that the incidence of severe thunderstorms will only increase with “climate change and rising temperatures”.
The India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) report on ‘Climate of India during 2020’, released in January, shows that thunderstorms and lightning had claimed 815 lives out of a total of 1,374 lives from different parts of the country due to extreme weather events. Among these, 280 deaths were reported from Bihar followed by 220 from Uttar Pradesh, 122 from Jharkhand, 72 from Madhya Pradesh, 23 from Maharashtra and 20 from Andhra Pradesh.
The Earth Networks claimed that it has been working with various central and state agencies, universities, and private industry sectors across India. “Governmental agencies such as the Indian Armed Forces, ministry of earth sciences, and North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NESAC) collaborate with Earth Networks’ lightning sensors and their data and analytics to increase their preparations for severe weather,” it said.