Kolkata in middle of country’s largest ‘lightning hotspot’ – Times of India

Kolkata News

Kolkata: Kolkata sits in the middle of the country’s biggest lightning hotspot, with more than a third of last two years’ natural calamity deaths caused by this natural phenomenon alone, a study has revealed. What’s more worrying, it looks like matters will only get worse in the coming years, as there’s a direct correlation between climate change and lightning.
The study, conducted by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune (IITM-Pune), reveals that the city lies in the hotspot region covering south Bengal and north Odisha; the other hotspot is in Kerala.
“Kolkata and its suburbs are increasingly becoming more lightning-prone,” confirmed IITM-Pune project director (monsoon mission) Partha Sarathi Mukherjee. The numbers bear out his claim. In 2019-2020, of the 529 calamity-caused deaths in Bengal, as many as 278 — which translates to 52.6% — were caused by lightning. In 2020-2021, which was hotter than the previous year, there were 299 lightning deaths out of 763 (39.2%, though more in absolute numbers). In the current year (2021-2022), there have already been 226 lightning deaths recorded between April 1 and August 17.
Scientists warn that the situation will worsen in Kolkata and the rest of south Bengal. The study has found a direct correlation between climate change, lightning and deaths. More lightning activity and deaths have been recorded in years that have been hotter than others, the scientists said, while pointing out that lightning deaths did not always reflect the frequency and intensity of lightning incidents.
“Overall, lightning accounts for nearly a third of calamity deaths and causes damage to infrastructure worth billions of dollars. Yet it attracts little attention of policy-makers. The power sector, for instance, is the worst sufferer. Only an early warning and effective public alert system can save us,” said state additional chief secretary (power), S Suresh Kumar.
Sanjib Bandyopadhyay of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) pointed out that the IMD does generate early warnings and alerts but admitted that last-mile communication remains a challenge. “Despite having multi-channel communications, somehow the last-mile gap sometimes remained unabridged. We might need to revive the age-old method of triggering sirens to warn farmers in the field or workers at under-construction against the impending thunderstorms,” he said.
The lightning threat level is largely determined by changing micro-physical characteristics of the environment of the place that determines the energy level of each strike. The more intense it is, the higher the damage it can cause. IITM-Pune scientist Sunil Pawar said the energy output of lightning in south Bengal was much higher than that of Guwahati. That makes lightning strikes in the state more fierce. “The lightning carries massive energy of 500 Mega joules. this generates temperatures of up to 50,000 °C, 10 times hotter than the sun’s, though of a very short lifespan. The impact is quite disastrous for the ferocity with which it hits objects,” said Professor Anirban Guha, a lightning expert from Tripura University.
The scientists deliberated on the topic during a symposium on lightning organised jointly by Calcutta University and Tripura University. “Creating awareness and breaking myths around lightning can reduce fatalities significantly,” said Gopa Kumar of the Kerala-based Lightning Awareness & Research Centre (LARC), which is credited for bringing down lightning deaths in Kerala from 70 to four per year. “You need to propagate the science behind lighting and make people aware why and how lightning kills people,” he said.

Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/kolkata-in-middle-of-countrys-largest-lightning-hotspot/articleshow/85817942.cms