Mumbai, June 29 | Thunderstorm, accompanied by lightning strikes, is the single-biggest natural killer in the country causing more than 2,000 deaths each year, according to the top experts from the IMD and the NDMA.
India has witnessed an increasing death toll and damages due to lightning bolts over the past few years, said Rajendra Singh, Member, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), while addressing a national-level workshop on the issue organised by the Indian Meteorological Society, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting.
“Despite improved understanding, monitoring and prediction capabilities brought about by scientific and technological progress, lightning and thunderstorms still cause widespread loss of life and property every year in the country,” said Singh.
Terming lightning hits as “a serious threat”, Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, the Director-General of India Meteorological Department (IMD), said this happens primarily due to increased exposure of people, especially farmers, fishermen and labourers who remain outdoors for reasons of livelihood.
“Among the reasons identified by the experts is a communication gap which does not result in last mile connectivity,” said Mohapatra.
Addressing disaster experts and managers from Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal, Kerala, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other states, Singh said that loss of human lives and property due to lightning strikes is significantly higher, and it is more than the number of people killed in tornadoes or hurricanes globally.
With the joint initiative of scientists from the IMD, IITM and NCMRWF, a Lightning Warning System was developed in 2018, having a location-specific forecast of up to 48 hours about the occurrence of thunderstorms, lighting strikes, squalls, gusty winds or hailstorms.
Besides, the IMD has around 30 radars around the country which provide weather updates every 10 minutes along with the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) satellites relaying information about convective clouds every 15 minutes from INSAT-3DR, said Mohapatra.
The country is now capable of having ‘real-time’ information about lightning updated every 5 minutes to alert the people about the potential threats.
The models developed by the Ministry of Earth Sciences are very definite and utilised by forecasters around the country to provide detailed information for each district in the country every three hours.
Mohapatra said that the Damini App provides location specific data which remains valid for half-an-hour through 1,085 weather stations around the country, which shall be enhanced to reach out and cover every block and sub-blocks right up to the village panchayat level.
He said that economic losses occur with cultivated fields and buildings, infrastructure like communication networks, power plants and so on, which are often destroyed by lightning strikes, and occasionally even igniting potentially devastating wildfires.