The number of lightning strikes has increased by over 37% between April 2020 and March 2021 as compared to the previous corresponding year, according to a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and Down to Earth. 18.5 million strikes were reported this year, a significant increase from 13.8 million last year.
The study has attributed an increase in the number and frequency of lightning strikes in the country to climate change and unplanned urbanization. Data revealed that over 1,697 people died in the country between April 2020 and May 2021 after getting hit by a lightning bolt. Recently, on June 11, 11 tourists visiting the Amer Fort in Rajasthan became victims of the natural phenomena. In fact, over 100 people have died in northern India since the onset of the monsoon this year, according to a report by India Today.
According to Down to Earth magazine’s editor Richard Mahapatra, the increased pace of urbanization and population growth has intensified the danger of humans getting exposed to lightning.
Scientists have also found a strong link between forest fires and increased lightning strikes. Research conducted on the concentration of cloud condensation (CCN) in the central Himalayas found that CCN was 5 times higher during forest fires as compared to rains. “Researchers in Australia linked excess CCN to the increased number of lightning strikes during the 2019-20 Australia forest fires,” says Kiran Pandey, program director at CSE.
In order to mitigate the damage caused by lightning strikes, Pandey emphasized the need to create awareness among citizens. He advised that if the duration between lightning and thunder is less than 30 seconds, people must take refuge indoors for up to 30 minutes after the last flash is seen.
The Indian Meteorological Department(IMD) has now started to issue lightning forecasts and a Lightning India Resilient Campaign has also been launched by the Indian government. Arguing that the seasonality of lightning strikes differs across regions, Pandey also recommends decentralization of predictions and risk management.