Scaring Lightning-Studded Sky -Ifrith Islam and Abu Muaj
Once lush green the earth now faces deforestation when the star-studded sky is facing repeated lightning. A danger is looming on the horizon for the humanity. A starry sky always soothes a gazer’s eyes but the illuminations on the horizon created by repeated lightning could have been the sky of the hell not of heaven. Dangerously dazzling lightning might rob off your eyesight and there is no doubt about it that it may kill in the first chance.
Lightning, what is lightning?
In other words, it is aftermath of built up electrostatic charge in clouds. Positive and negative charges are separated and follow different paths. The positive charge goes upward and the negative one finds its way to the bottom of the clouds and then towards the green earth.
Lightning is one of the most spectacular displays of nature. It is the also one of the most deadly natural phenomena known to man. This is deadly yet beautiful phenomenon which can be categorized by its look. There are many types of lightning, such as- Cloud-to-Ground (negative and positive), Ground-to-Cloud, Intra-cloud, Anvil Crawlers, Bolt from the Blue, Cloud-to-Air, Bead, Ball, Heat, Ribbon, Sheet, Strike and Jets.
This type of lightning is very unusual. They are named as Ball Lightning. It is not very often caught in a picture or should I say never, that is how rare this mysterious type of lightning is. It appears during thunderstorm as known as floating, illuminated sphere. It can be quiet or it could produce a loud cracking noise. The only source of this mysterious ball lightning is the eye witnesses.
The Heat Lightning kind usually appears more frequently in hot summer nights in the clear sky. It happens due to thunder clouds, the flashes are created by lightning bolts. The colour of these bolts is orange because the air molecules and the dust particles in the atmosphere refract light in the bolts.
Lightning that strikes the earth consists of one or more electrical charges called strokes. It is only about one inch in diameter, because of its extreme brilliance, it often looks much larger to the human eyes and in photographs. The entire flash lasts only a fraction of a second, even though lightning discharges are typically miles in long.
The bright light that we see in a flash of lightning is called the return strokes. This certain types of horizontal discharges can be upwards of ten of miles in length. Return strokes travel at speed of light and they discharge about 100 million bolt of electricity and release heat in the air about 60000 degree Fahrenheit. The heated air expands quickly and produces a huge wave of pressure and ends up with the name called thunder.
From the category of cloud-to-ground, that is, the negative CG is initiated by downward-moving, negatively-charged stepped leader.
These are more common than the positive CG and also they are mostly consisted of branches of return strikes.
The Positive CGs are more associated with super cell thunderstorms and trailing stratiform precipitation regions behind squall lines. They make a lot of loud thunders like a low frequency series of sonic booms.
The GCs, i.e., Ground-to-Clouds are the opposite of Cloud to Grounds. They could be either positive or negative. The GCs mainly originates from an object on the ground.
The Cloud–to-Air falls in the CG category.
Intra-cloud and Sheet Lightning show similar characteristics.
The Ribbon lightning is the individual return strokes.
The Anvil Crawlers have very high altitude events. The ‘anvil crawler’ is derived from the visible ‘crawling’ motion and their tendency to appear along the underside of the anvil portion of a thunderstorm.
The Bolt from the Blue is sometimes called Anvil Crawler.
Impact on vegetation
Trees are the most frequent conductors of lightning to the ground. The tree may overgrow or cover the damaged area completely, leaving a vertical scar. But for severe damage, the tree may never recover, that is it decays to the end.
The Russian Far East and Siberia are populated areas where lightning strikes are one of the major causes of forest fires. The smoke and mist from large forest fire can cause electric charges which may lead to additional fires.
Shattering of Rocks
In fractured rocks, the water inside gets heated rapidly after the lightning strike, resulting a steam explosion causing the rock disintegration and shift boulders.
Electrical and Structural Damage
Electronic devices like telephones, modems, computers, and routers can be damaged by lightning due to over-current through the phone jack, Ethernet cable or electricity outlet producing electromagnetic pulses (emps) especially during ‘positive’ lightning discharges, because the fast rise of high lightning currents, that is, 40 KA per microsecond through the conductors. The conductors exhibit skin effect causing the most current flow through the outer surface of the conductor.
Moreover, the electrical wiring damage leads to fire, structural and property damage.
Prevention and Mitigation
Lightning protection system’s only purpose is ensuring the safety to a building and its occupants when lightning makes a hit directly, providing a safe path to the ground for the lightning to follow. A lightning strike can inflict a severe damage by simply overloading the electrical system. It can halt outdoor activities for safety concerns as a thunderstorm nears the area.
Over the years, people were experimenting on the safety measurements of lightning by attempting to control the lightning in the atmosphere but all the attempts were in vain. The chaff and silver iodide crystal concepts were devised to deal directly with the cloud cells and were dispensed into the clouds from an overflying aircraft, so that the chaff can deal with the electrical charges of the storm from within, while the silver iodide can deal with the mechanical forces of the storm.
Among the hundreds of devices, a lightning rod is the most popular metal strip or rod connected to earth through conductor and a grounding system. It is used as a pathway to ground if lightning terminates on a structure.
Monitoring and warning system
The Lightning Warning System is a local warning instrument that is designed to provide protection against an approaching storm with lightning discharges by giving a warning ahead. It is microprocessor controlled which provides an alarm, when monitored conditions of the presence of remote lightning or the charges in the local electromagnetic fields that leads to the development of lightning.
There is a new device named Vaisala Lightning solutions are built on 80 years of proven weather measurement technology. These solutions can give alert either on network-based thunderstorm monitoring or as a lightning sensor, even though it is hard to predict where lightning will strike.
Lightning leaves a great impact on the AM (amplitude modulation) radio signals much more than FM (frequency modulation) signals, providing an easy way to gauge local lightning strike intensity.
Lightning striking types-
Direct- a person’s body acts as medium to pass quite a large amount of charge through it. Human body is not good conductors, therefore it results in internal burn and organ damage, explosion of flesh and bone, a damaged nervous system etc.
Indirect- since the ground has high impedance, the large amount of ground current chooses a better conductor such as a person’s leg, to pass through the body. This high current causes more injuries to the body.
People with artificial heart have to be more cautious, because the produced electromagnetic pulses in the pacemaker are very dangerous.
Secondary or Resultant-
From the records of lightning around the world- in Osaka Castle, Japan, lightning ignited the gunpowder, an explosion took place by setting fire to the castle in 1660. Later again, lightning terminated to the tower of the Castle causing fire and burning it down to its foundation, in 1665.
In Brescia, Italy, lightning struck at 90 tonnes of gunpowder causing a massive explosion by killing 3000 people in Church St. Nazaire in 1769.
Lightning struck upper section of the Eiffel Tower and was in need of reconstruction in 1902.
In 1970, the collapsed central mast of the Orlundo radio transmitter in the central Sweden and in1994, the explosion of the fuel tank in Dronka, Egypt, caused 469 fatalities.
In 2011, a lightning strike sent 77 air force cadet to the hospital when it struck in the middle of the camp at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
Again in 2016, a herd of wild reindeer was struck on the Harangervidda in central Norway, killing 323 ‘in a moment’.
The first recording of a lightning strike on a cardiac rhythm strip occurs in a teenage male who had an implanted loop recorder as a cardiac monitor for neurocardiogenic syncope.
Recently, in 2018, it is recorded that around 15000 lightning strikes took place in UK, in four hours according to the BBC Weather.
Altogether, 1,476 people have died from lightning in Bangladesh since 2010 as per the data of Bangladesh Meteorological Department. Only on May 10 the death toll from lightning strikes across Bangladesh rose to 24 people in a single day when 70 such deaths took place in March and April.
About 16 people died and injured dozen more at a Seventh-Day Adventist church in Rwanda due to lightning.
These are the only recorded list, and there many more incidents occurred over the years that were caused by lightning are unknown.
Most stricken human
Roy Sullivan is the well-known human being who holds a record in Guinness Book after surviving 7 different lightning strikes. He had multiple injuries across his body.
Life is wonderful if gets longer and peaceful. But if it was robbed off suddenly you are in the middle of enjoying it everything of you is dashed. Well there is a saying enjoy the ‘present’ while it is there, because present is the gift. But who knows there would be a turning point for everything, like the Flight –Pan Am Flight 214 – in 1963, crashed outside Elkton, Maryland, during a severe electrical storm. About 81 people including passengers and the crew died being struck by lightning.
The Apollo 12 mission’s Saturn V rocket and its ionized exhaust plume became part of a lightning flash channel after 36.5 second lift-off. It was relieving that the discharge occurred through the metal skin and did not get to touch the rocket’s highly comestible fuel in 1969.
LANSA Flight 508, a Lockheed L-188A Electra turboprop, in 1971, crashed after a lightning strike ignited a fuel tank while it was en route from Lima, Peru, to Pucallpa, Peru. A total of 91 people died except a sole survivor named Juliane Keopcke, who remarkably survived the fall and was able to walk for 10 days through the jungle before being rescued.
One estimate is that 24,000 people are killed by lightning strikes around the world each year and about 240,000 are injured.
The discussion of thunder and lightning is also enshrined in the holy Quran. One of the suras of the holy book is named after thunder (Ar Ra’ad) but there is no chapter named after lightning (barq). Three words — ra’adun, swayeekatun and barqun— are used in the Quran in many places.
In chapter 2 verse 19 and 20 Allah says: Or [it is] like a rainstorm from the sky within which is darkness, thunder and lightning. They put their fingers in their ears against the thunderclaps in dread of death. But Allah is encompassing of the disbelievers.
The lightning almost snatches away their sight. Every time it lights [the way] for them, they walk therein; but when darkness comes over them, they stand [still]. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken away their hearing and their sight. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.
In chapter 4 verse 153 Allah says: The People of the Scripture ask you to bring down to them a book from the heaven. But they had asked of Moses [even] greater than that and said, “Show us Allah outright,” so the thunderbolt struck them for their wrongdoing. Then they took the calf [for worship] after clear evidences had come to them, and We pardoned that. And We gave Moses a clear authority.
In chapter 13 verse 12 and 13 Allah says “It is He who shows you lightening, [causing] fear and aspiration, and generates the heavy clouds.”
And the thunder exalts [ Allah ] with praise of Him – and the angels [as well] from fear of Him – and He sends thunderbolts and strikes therewith whom He wills while they dispute about Allah ; and He is severe in assault.
In chapter 30 verse 24 Allah says: And of His signs is [that] He shows you the lightening [causing] fear and aspiration, and He sends down rain from the sky by which He brings to life the earth after its lifelessness. Indeed in that are signs for a people who use reason.
In chapter 24 verse 43 Allah says: Do you not see that Allah drives clouds? Then He brings them together, then He makes them into a mass, and you see the rain emerge from within it. And He sends down from the sky, mountains [of clouds] within which is hail, and He strikes with it whom He wills and averts it from whom He wills. The flash of its lightening almost takes away the eyesight.
In chapter 41 verses 13 and 17 Allah says: But if they turn away, say thou: “I have warned you of a stunning Punishment (as of thunder and lightning) like that which (overtook) the ‘Ad and the Thamud!” As to the Thamud, We gave them Guidance, but they preferred blindness (of heart) to Guidance: so the stunning Punishment of humiliation seized them, because of what they had earned.
In chapter 75 verse 7 Allah says: So when vision is dazzled
Even though lightning is dangerously beautiful yet it can be used as massive charge store, if only it can be stored in a gigantic battery. Unfortunately, the sudden strike makes it difficult on storing the charges.