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Recent studies of lightning safety and demographics

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Monday, 24 January 2011: 11:00 AM
Recent studies of lightning safety and demographics
602/603 (Washington State Convention Center)
Ronald L. Holle, Holle Meteorology & Photography, Oro Valley, AZ
Manuscript (1.6 MB)

Several studies of safety-related issues have been made by the author since 2007. They involve analyses of large datasets of lightning casualties and flashes, and are oriented toward results that relate to safety topics that have needed clarification. Since they have been presented and published at a variety of conferences and venues, they will be summarized in short reviews with an accompanying bibliography.

The following seven topics will be described briefly:

1) The monthly distribution of U.S. cloud-to-ground lightning from the National Lightning Detection Network has a rather sharp concentration in June, July, and August in most parts of the country that should affect lightning safety avoidance recommendations (Holle et al., this conference).

2) The U.S. states with the most lightning fatalities, when weighted by population, are in the southeast and the Northern Rocky Mountains.

3) Lightning injury is due to five distinct mechanisms, but while the direct strike is the most discussed, it is actually the least common (~5%) so it should not be a significant factor in lightning education.

4) Fully-enclosed metal-topped vehicles are very safe places from lightning that should be reached when they are nearby, although they are often damaged and the experience frightening; motorcycles are very unsafe from lightning.

5) Large well-constructed buildings are very safe from lightning if people inside are not in contact with conducting paths of wiring and plumbing. Unfortunately many buildings in lesser-developed areas of the world are not safe, including dwellings, schools, and other small straw-roofed structures.

6) Anywhere on the water places a person at risk from lightning; the largest casualty categories are fishing, beach, and boat events.

7) A very general extrapolation of six deaths per million people applying to four billion people results in an estimate of 24,000 lightning deaths and 240,000 lightning injuries per year worldwide, but data to verify these numbers are very sparse.