The Slogan, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors”, has helped countless people understand how to protect themselves from lightning. But this slogan doesn’t resonate with those who can’t hear. Realizing there was a gap, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and organization serving the deaf and hard of hearing have introduced a new slogan based on sight rather than sound. They produced a public service announcement to promote, “When You See a Flash, Dash, Inside!”
While lightning activity in the Islands are less frequent than in other parts of the US, consider this: “In May 2011, O‘ahu experienced a particularly impressive storm with an estimated forty thousand cloud to ground lightning strikes over a 30 hour period. In March 2012, lightning struck the hull of a 36-foot catamaran in O‘ahu, and the boat sank to the bottom of Keehi Lagoon Boat Harbor. A storm in Dec 2013 on the Big Island of Hawai‘i yielded an estimated ten to twenty thousand lightning strikes.” While no injuries were documented during any of these incidents, the risks are high because of the time people spend outdoors.
And if you are visiting a volcano, make note that lightning can accompany eruptions.
Source: “Tropic Lightning: Myth or Menace?” by John McCarthy, MD
Photo: Oliver Spalt, CC-BY-2.0
Lightning is so rapid that it is hard to recognize how much area a strike can cover. While we usually see one strike a time, the reality is that lightning can occur along the entire front of a thunderstorm. These videos from NASA illustrate this:
As founder and producer of the AEC – Science and Technology conferences, George Borkovich helped a generation of designers and builders learn about computers and other electronic tools. Yet there was one lesson he had to learn the hard way: All those gadgets upon which we depend are vulnerable to lightning.
His security system, phones, appliances, computers, and other electronics were all damaged when lightning struck his home and office. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and he has since had a complete lightning protection system installed.
The next AEC-ST events will be in 2018 in Anaheim, CA and Washington, DC.
The Theme Park University website suggests, “Next time you are at an Orlando theme park, look at the roofs of nearly every building. Lightning rods dot the rooftops of nearly every single building in Orlando theme parks. Many of the air terminals are cleverly disguised as part of the building’s theme. For example, atop the Crossroads of the World at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the ear of a giant Mickey Mouse statue is made of copper and acts as a strike termination device.
Is lightning protection really required? Take a look at this video from a theme park and decide for yourself.
Photo: CL Photographs (CC BY-ND 2.0)
While East Coast Lightning Equipment brings lightning down to earth, our sister company, Scientific Lightning Solutions, reaches into space.
SLS uses rockets, for example, to trigger actual lightning strikes for research and testing. The firm is active in the aerospace industry and its team members have extensive experience designing lightning protection systems for mission-critical applications for NASA, the Air Force, and other rocket launch facilities.
SLS also provides state-of-the-art systems for lightning surveillance systems to pinpoint where it strikes. In December 2016, the launch of the CYGNSS satellites was able to continue its countdown despite fierce lightning at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station just days before the scheduled deployment. Officials with NASA’s Launch Services Program were concerned that lightning would delay the mission by requiring avionic systems on the launch vehicle and payload to be tested for damage. The delay and cost of testing were avoided, however, when SLS proved that the lightning was not as close to the launch vehicle as feared, and that transient currents induced by lightning were well within acceptable limits. The system includes sensitive current and voltage sensors inside the aircraft plus exterior electromagnetic sensors to measure the effects of nearby lightning. SLS also monitored the Cape Canaveral airstrip with two of the firm’s Optical Jupiter high-speed, zero dead-time cameras that are triggered by lightning strikes.
To read more about how lightning safety came to the aid of CYGNSS, see article here.
A new scientific study comparing urban areas to non-urban areas finds that “demographic and land-use changes feed back to local atmospheric processes that promote thunderstorm formation and persistence… Results demonstrate positive urban amplification of thunderstorm frequency and intensity for major cities… the degree of urban thunderstorm augmentation corresponds to the geometry of the urban footprint.” View full article here.
Ashley, W.S., Bentley, M.L. & Stallins, J.A. Climatic Change (2012) 113: 481. doi:10.1007/s10584-011-0324-1
Here’s a tip from an architect on Cape Cod, MA. He stretches monofilament fishing line or fine wire between air terminals (lightning rods) to prevent seagulls from perching on the ridges, parapets, and other high places on his buildings. The birds don’t like flying into the almost invisible filament or wire, so go elsewhere. This allows the air terminals to do double duty, protecting the building from lightning plus bird droppings.
Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis
Researchers at Stanford and Purdue Universities report, “Severe thunderstorms are one of the primary causes of catastrophic loss in the United States… We use an ensemble of global climate model experiments to probe the severe thunderstorm response. We find that this ensemble exhibits robust increases in the occurrence of severe thunderstorm environments over the eastern United States… Given current vulnerabilities, such increases imply increasing risk of thunderstorm-related damage if global warming continues.”
“Robust increases in severe thunderstorm environments in response to greenhouse forcing”, Diffenbaugh et al, 2013.
Air terminals, the technical term for “lightning rods”, are usually slender metal rods just 10 or more inches tall. Yet other metal items can be used instead of air terminals if they meet the requirements of NFPA 780 – Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems. For example, this monumental bronze sculpture of a griffon, on top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is connected via cables to the lightning protection system and to ground. Learn more about the project by reading “Lightning Protection is a Work of Art” in the Fall 2016 edition of Building Enclosure Magazine.