April 23, 2024

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Where you're most likely to be struck by lightning in the US: Map shows where 36.8 million lightning bolts will strike the nation in 2023… Was your state a danger zone?

Where you're most likely to be struck by lightning in the US: Map shows where 36.8 million lightning bolts will strike the nation in 2023… Was your state a danger zone?

The odds of being struck by lightning are one in 15,300, but certain parts of the United States are hot spots for lightning strikes.

New data from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM) reveals that Americans experience 36.8 million ground strikes annually, with Florida being the hardest hit.

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area alone saw more than 120,000 lightning strikes in 2023.

The state's location combined with its peninsula shape surrounded by water is why thunderstorms occur almost every afternoon.

Meteorologists found that Louisiana has the highest volume of deadly “cloud-to-ground” lightning strikes and that “Tornado Alley” also receives its fair share of lightning strikes.

New data from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM) reveals that Americans experience 36.8 million ground strikes annually, with Florida being the hardest hit. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area alone saw more than 120,000 lightning strikes in 2023

According to meteorologist Chris Vagaski, who works at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, lightning strikes kill or maim about 250,000 people worldwide each year.  Above, lightning strikes Chicago during two days of unseasonably warm weather, on February 27, 2024

According to meteorologist Chris Vagaski, who works at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, lightning strikes kill or maim about 250,000 people worldwide each year. Above, lightning strikes Chicago during two days of unseasonably warm weather, on February 27, 2024

In the United States, an average of 28 people were killed by lightning each year between 2006 and 2023. meteorologist Chris Vagaski subscriber in Conversation.

According to Vagaski, lightning strikes kill or maim about 250,000 people worldwide each year.

The new map revealed that lightning strikes are more intense around the Gulf Coast and southern Plains, while the western United States witnesses fewer strikes.

The reason states like California rarely see lightning strikes is because of the Pacific Ocean's atmosphere, which produces cloud-to-cloud lighting — rather than cloud-to-ground strikes.

Arizona usually only experiences lightning strikes during the monsoon season, which occurs during the summer.

The map also showed that New England is in the safe zone, which is likely due to the presence of salt particles within the clouds, causing the droplets to fall as rain instead of rising to form ice.

If fewer ice particles form, there will be less chance of cloud electrification.

Vagaski and his colleagues examined six years of data from the National Lightning Detection Network's (NLDN) extensive antenna network, which records bursts of radio waves produced by lightning.

The researchers' analysis of lightning data between 2017 and 2022 was published this week in Bulletin of the American Meteorological SocietyHe revealed that many bolts or “flashes” hit the ground in multiple places at once, like the prongs of a giant electric fork.

“We found that the average flash in the United States is 23.4 million,” Vagaski noted.

But each one of those flashes of light scatters, breaking up into 55.5 million strokes or bolts of lighting and 36.8 million “ground strikes” of lightning each year.

The new map revealed that lightning strikes are more intense around the Gulf Coast and southern Plains, while the western United States witnesses fewer strikes

The new map revealed that lightning strikes are more intense around the Gulf Coast and southern Plains, while the western United States witnesses fewer strikes

Their work discovered that lightning flashes in some parts of the country are more likely to strike the ground at multiple points than others, but most of the United States has a ratio of between 1.4 and 1.8 ground lightning strikes per flash (ratio shown above).

Average number of cloud-to-ground lightning points per flash across the United States between 2017 and 2022

Before this study, estimates of lightning strikes in the United States were rough and inconsistent, with meteorologists since the 1990s often repeating the conventional wisdom that about 25 million strikes occurred across America annually.

Later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claimed that the rate was closer to 40 million lightning strikes per year, a discrepancy that hampered lightning safety and protection efforts.

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While Vagaski and his colleagues also found that lightning flashes in some parts of the country are more likely to strike the ground at multiple points than others, they found that most of the United States has a ratio of between 1.4 and 1.8 ground lightning strikes per flash.

There were two notable exceptions.

The first was a triangle in the Central High Plains, where the team recorded the only average rate of less than one groundstroke per flash, an oddity they linked to a 2014 study showing more “abnormally electrified storms” in the Plains. .

These storms had a greater number of lightning bolts traveling within and between clouds.

The second case was in the western United States, which they said may be due to a lack of data due to a lack of lightning, or “statistical noise.”

Vagaski said the damage threatens not only people's lives and the natural environment, but also the country's economy.

Vagaski said the damage threatens not only people's lives and the natural environment, but also the country's economy.

The insurance agency spends about $1 billion annually on lightning damage claims (above, lightning strikes an American Eagle plane full of passengers in Arkansas)

The insurance agency spends about $1 billion annually on lightning damage claims (above, lightning strikes an American Eagle plane full of passengers in Arkansas)

“Both of these exceptions to the typical ratio should be taken into account when making lightning protection designs in these areas,” Vagaski and his colleagues wrote in the publication.

But government weather safety aside, the researchers expressed hope that their study will simply lead to more basic science about the geological and geophysical conditions that produce lightning.

They wrote that there may be “applications” or safe construction techniques that “benefit from the knowledge that a single flash may transmit charge to Earth at multiple, widely spaced locations.”

What's more, according to the Idaho website National Interagency Fire CenterAbout four million acres of land across the United States are consumed in raging wildfires ignited by lightning strikes each year.

Vagaski said the damage not only threatens people's lives, homes and natural environment, but also the country's economy.

Insurance agencies spend about $1 billion annually on lightning damage claims, according to a report Insurance Information Institute.

“Each giant spark of electricity travels through the atmosphere at 200,000 miles per hour,” according to the meteorologist.

Each bolt of lightning is “hotter than the surface of the sun, and provides thousands of times more electricity than the power outlet that charges your smartphone,” he said.

Lightning is more common near the warm waters of the Gulf, according to Vagaski, because the region is rich in the essential atmospheric ingredients for thunderstorms: warm, moist air close to the ground, combined with cooler, drier air above it, ready to mix.

“Anywhere there are these components, lightning can occur,” he said. All that is needed is a weather event to lift warmer, more humid air upward.

Across the country, relatively cool Pacific waters tend to reduce the chances of thunderstorms, but those less frequent storms still pose a significant risk of sparking wildfires.