The intensity and frequency of lightning is increasing global warming

Recently, at least 74 people died due to lightning in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. Of these, 42 deaths were recorded in Uttar Pradesh alone, with Prayagraj topping the chart with 16 deaths. 11 tourists lost their lives after lightning struck Amer Fort near Jaipur. Madhya Pradesh reported at least 7 deaths.

Although lightning is underestimated, in reality, it is the most deadly natural phenomenon for humans. According to meteorologists, it is also seen as one of the oldest observed natural phenomena on Earth.

According to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 2,500 deaths have been reported in India due to lightning and thunderstorm-related incidents. Thunderstorms including thunderstorms are the single biggest killer of natural disasters in India, causing over 2000 deaths every year. Rajendra Singh, a member of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), said that in fact, the death toll is higher than the number of people killed in tornadoes or storms globally.

Here now it is important to know what is celestial electricity.

What is lightning?

Actually, it is a huge spark of electricity in the atmosphere between clouds, air or land. Thunderclouds have an electric charge (charge) of millions of volts and have different polarities within the cloud itself. In the early stages of development, the air acts as an insulator, between the cloud and the ground, and between the positive and negative charges in the cloud. When the opposite charge builds up enough, this insulating ability of the air breaks down and there is a rapid discharge of lightning that we know as lightning. Lightning can be between opposite charges within a thunderstorm cloud (intra-cloud lightning) or between opposite charges in the cloud and on the ground (cloud-to-ground lightning).

Where does the lightning fall?

The most common targets for lightning are trees and skyscrapers. Mountains also make good targets. This is because their peak is closer to the storm cloud base (cloud floor). Skymet Weather meteorologist G.P. Sharma said, “Remember, the atmosphere is a good electrical insulator. The less insulation the electricity has to pass through, the easier it is for it to fall. However, this doesn’t always mean that it can fall on high objects. It is the lightning that will fall. It all depends on where the charge is stored. Even if there is a tree line nearby, lightning can also strike the ground in an open field.

When does the lightning strike?

The atmospheric conditions are quite favorable for the formation of strong thunderstorms in the pre-monsoon season. There are pockets of sensitive weather that increase the toughness of these storms. G.P. Sharma also said that “Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh including Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha and the Indus-Gangetic plains of North India are vulnerable to deadly lightning. The North and North East hilly regions are prone to this disaster. Lightning coupled with high-speed winds and heavy rain creates a deadly combination. Adequate precautions are the only defense to minimize the damage.”

The serious relationship between lightning and global warming

Damage from natural hazards has shown an increasing trend in recent years, and climate change is likely to make such events even more dangerous. What is more worrying is that both the intensity and frequency of thunderstorms/duststorms/lightning are likely to increase due to an increase in global temperature.

Thunderstorms occur throughout the year in different parts of the country. But their frequency and intensity are maximum during the summer months: March to June, which can also be called the pre-monsoon season in the country. This is because the most important factor in thunderstorms is the rapid heating of the atmosphere at the surface level, and the landmass heats the most during the summer months.

India usually sees massive lightning strikes during this period. However, with Monsoon not progressing further into Northwest India this year and with a minimum delay of 10 days in Monsoon, the absence of rain has given way to surface warming. Now with the arrival of the monsoon, thunderclouds developed due to the increase in humidity and the collision of ice particles caused by charging and lightning.

“We see the development of more thunderclouds during the pre-monsoon season, which has a lot of energy. Also, there is a lot of instability in the atmosphere due to changes in winds and high temperatures. However, during the monsoon season, the atmosphere is quite stable, the temperature also drops and the convection is less. Thus, there is less lightning activity during the monsoon. But it is quite clear that the incidence of lightning has increased due to climate change,” said Mahesh Palawan, meteorologist, Skymet Weather.