Climate Change

Increasing Lightning Death needs a new policy in Bangladesh and Northeast India

 The maximum lightning incidents are attributable to climate change in the entire Indian subcontinent, central Bangladesh and Northeast India in the Brahmaputra Basin. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has recently issued a weather forecast for Assam and Meghalaya that, thunderstorm accompanied by lightning mostly occurred on March 5 and 6, 2019. The Weather Channels also predicted rain or snow accumulation in the east and Northeast India till Thursday evening. The fury of nature has been left many parts of Northeastern region of India in tatters. Incessant rainfall in most areas of Garo Hills in Meghalaya has left trails of destruction with houses, schools, and trees strewn in the aftermath of this horrific weather. While some districts of Assam and West Meghalaya have been partially affected, the districts of North and East Garo Hills in the state of Meghalaya were worst hit. Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening. Deaths from lightning strikes is now one of the most discussed subjects in the country. Most of the victims are the lone breadwinners in their families. The maximum lightning incidents in the entire Indian subcontinent occur in central Bangladesh and the states of Meghalaya, West Bengal, and Assam before the monsoon season (March-May) with 40 lightning strikes per square kilometer. The data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) says lightning kills more people in India than any other natural calamity. According to a 2014 NCRB report, out of 20,201 accidental deaths attributable to natural causes, 12.8 percent were due to a lightning strike. The 2014 report published by Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) reported the period between March 15 to June 15, 2014, Assam experienced the highest number of thunderstorms followed by Arunachal Pradesh in March, Meghalaya in April and Tripura in May and June. During the entire period, the frequency was the highest during the night (30 percent) followed by evening (21 percent). In Bangladesh the lighting strike death toll is unbelievable. On last May 2018, 29 people died from lightning in 12 districts in 24 hours, and almost all of them are farm workers. Earlier, at least 12 people died in March, and 58 people died in April 2018 in parts of Bangladesh, according to government data. In the last two days of April last year, as many as 33 people were killed as storms swept across the country, said Disaster Management Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya. The number of deaths was 160 in 2015, 170 in 2014, 185 in 2013, 201 in 2012 and 179 in 2011. Lightning poses a significant threat as an increasing number of people are losing life due to the natural disaster every year, experts say. Scores of people die every year after being struck by lightning during the rainy season in Bangladesh, which runs from April to October. The officials say the numbers are exceptionally high this year. Every day 10 to 12 people are dying from a lightning strike. Authorities declared lightning strike to be a natural disaster after 82 people were killed in a single day in May 2016. Independent monitors estimated that some 349 Bangladeshis died from lightning that year. In Bangladesh, the thunderstorm usually occurs from March to May, but sometimes it takes place until October or November. Owing to a sudden change in weather, heavy rain and strong gales that originate in the Bay of Bengal, end up causing lightning strikes and loss of lives in the Bangladesh and Indian Northeast. According to a new study, the above numbers can dramatically increase if the current rate of global warming continues. As reported in the journal of Science, it is expected to see a 12% increase in lightning activity for every 1 degree centigrade (1.8 degrees F) of warming, meaning the U.S. could experience a 50% increase in strikes by the turn of the century. In affected regions, people suffer “light dumb” disorder and significantly suffer a moderate headache. Many people succumb to severe heart failures. In Bangladesh, there are records of people suffering light heart failure and neural damage. Moreover, some suffered from moderate skin irritation and headache and some with severe heart failure and neural damage disease. Is climate change responsible? Lightning emerged as a new natural disaster in the Northeast Indian states and the Bay of Bengal area. The Brahmaputra flows through the region and ends at the confluence of the Bay of Bengal. This entire region is prone to lightning because of its complex topography, killing many people every year. Studies have shown thunderstorms are very frequent during the pre-monsoon season over northeastern India and Bangladesh. They are especially distinctive by their nature and severity compared to other storms, which occur over some other regions or during some different seasons. Lightning, as well as thunder and storms, are hazardous. Mostly they appear together. Anyone can strike and kill people, and also trigger potentially devastating wildfires. Studies exploring how lightning could change with rising temperatures are few and far between, and those that have been conducted have produced wildly different results. For the current study, scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, started by examining the relationship between atmospheric variables and lightning rates. They hypothesized that two factors– precipitation (the amount of water that hits the ground) and the amount of energy available to make atmospheric air rise– could predict lightning flash rate. These variables can both be used as measures of storm convection (the vertical movement of air), a process that is known to generate lightning which requires two key ingredients: water in all three states (liquid, solid and gas) and quickly rising clouds to keep the ice suspended. Next, they applied these variables to 11 different climate models, all of which assume that there will be no significant drops in greenhouse gas emissions, and found that lightning would likely increase by around 12% per 1 degree Centigrade. Since it is predicted that temperatures will be around 4°C higher at the end of the century, this means there could be a 50% increase in strikes in the US by 2100. This could potentially mean more human injuries and more wildfires since around half of all fires are started by lightning. The entire Bay of Bengal, a part of Assam, Meghalaya and West Bengal are prone to lightning because of the complex topography. Studies have shown thunderstorms are very frequent during the pre-monsoon season in northeastern India and Bangladesh. They are especially distinctive by their nature and severity compared to other storms, which occur over some other regions or during some different seasons. Presently most scientists believe, with the increase in global temperature, the intensity of thunderstorms and lightning will magnify in intensity. The thundercloud formation because of excess heat over Bangladesh is resulting in thunderbolts and lightning, particularly in the regions where water bodies are high, such as Haor areas. The wind convergence occurs in active convection which is the upward movement of warm and moist air. The subsequent instability results in widespread precipitation with chances of thunderstorms. According to Prof Rashid, the temperature rose in April in Bangladesh, which has caused water to vaporize and leads to rain, clouds, and lightning. Bangladesh is witnessing increasing numbers of casualties from lightning, a natural disaster, for the last few days, mainly because of the rise in temperature that is leading to the formation of upper air circulation in the geographical region, experts say. The geographical location of Bangladesh with the Himalayas in the north, the Bay of Bengal in the south, as well as the Indian Ocean and Arabian sea in the proximity, it is adding to the creation of thunderstorms in the region. It is to be noted that Northeast India, together with Bangladesh, is one of the most thunderstorm-prone regions in the world, substantiated by Tetsuya Fujita of the University of Chicago in 1973. Fujita along with Allen Pearson had developed the Fujita Pearson Scale for measuring the damage caused by tornadoes. Of all the severe thunderstorm events in the Northeast region during the 55 years of the study period, about 30 percent of the incidents resulted from storms (nor’easters), with hail and lightning accounting for 18 percent and 10 percent of all recorded events. While severe thunderstorms can develop at any time of the year, over half of the severe thunderstorm events occurred in the region during March, April, and May, peaking during the latter months. A secondary peak in severe thunderstorm events occurs in September and is likely due to the impact of tropical cyclones or their remnants flowing from the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal. The data compiled by the ICRC on the occurrence of severe thunderstorm incidents show that they are first seen on an isolated day in February under the influence of a western disturbance, and it becomes a familiar feature during the hot afternoons of April to May to early morning hours of the next days. Summer monsoon season with 60 percent incidents is the most favored time of the year for the occurrence of lightning strikes in Assam, followed by pre-monsoon season with 32 percent of the incidents. During the 55-year study period, it was reported that 22 people died on an average per year from severe thunderstorm hazards in Northeast India. More than 60 percent of these death cases were due to lightning. In general, severe thunderstorm impacts like loss of life and injury, loss of livelihood and damage to infrastructure are significantly more on impoverished and vulnerable rural population in the western part of Assam. The total climatology of lightning activity showed that the region of the west of Assam experiences higher lightning activity. Another study published in the International Journal of Climatology in September 2015, which was carried out by Hupesh Choudhury, Partha Roy, Sarbeswar Kalita and Sanjay Sharma states that during the pre-monsoon season, the frequency of lightning is quite significant in the Northeast due to the interaction of moisture-laden wind with the complex topography of the region. The Meghalaya plateau and foothills of Patkai hill range, in particular, experience severe lightning. Iqbal R Tinmaker and Kaushar Ali of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology finds almost the same result attributed to space-time variation of lightning activity over Northeast India. They revealed lightning flash rate density is the maximum over the west of northeast India. The study, published in Meteorologische Zeitschrift in April 2012, said this high flash rate density is attributable to the topography and the geography of the region, along with the moisture availability. The 2014 report published by Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said the highest number of thunderstorms in each month of the storm period (March 15 to June 15, 2014) was recorded in Assam, followed by Arunachal Pradesh in March, Meghalaya in April and Tripura in May and June. During the entire period, the frequency was highest during the night (30 percent) followed by evening (21 percent). Apart from agriculture fishing is at risk condition at the time of thunderstorm and lightning and fishes were at very risk condition during TS ( thunder and storm) and lightning. Moreover, these (TS) affected agricultural production very much. For TS and lightning, agrarian land was unsuitable for agricultural production. Trees and crops were uprooted, damaged and fired. So, people lose their property and fail with their regular lifestyle. A thunderbolt struck farmers while they were working at paddy field and harvesting paddy field. Lack of Awareness It is observed, casualties are increasing because of a lack of awareness among people. We find that most illiterate and lack of knowledge about lighting as well as thunderstorm and they assume it as a supernatural phenomenon or God’s fury. Awareness is crucial to reduce the toll and its harmful impact. Routine research works involving government and NGO and government regulation are needed to mitigate the menace. Mohan Kumar Das, the senior research fellow of the Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM) at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said deaths from lighting could also be avoided if people take some cautious steps according to BMD. The Bangladesh government is deeply concerned about the peril of such incidents, but measures are not adequate. Moreover, Meteorologists from the developing world say lightning incidents and their impacts remain under-reported as they are sporadic, making them difficult to record. It is observed, the shortage of adequate tall trees in rural areas could be a reason for the rise in the number of deaths from lightning. So people should be aware of lightning protect forest and danger of standing under a lone high tree during bad weather. Bangladesh Government authority has recorded almost all records of lightning death, but governments in India have not done it. Despite being the most lightning-prone zone in the Northeast, Assam and Meghalaya governments do not have any separate programme to create awareness among the people about lightning and TS. The state revenue and disaster management authority do not have any independent campaign for lightning. Awareness is critical to reducing the toll and harmful impact. Routine research work with broad public awareness, government, and NGO participation, and government regulations are necessary for a safe and sound environment. The Bangladesh government is more concerned about the tragic incidents. But state governments of Assam and Meghalaya as well as Central Government in India are not profoundly involved yet. It needs an urgent policy, program, and execution at the grass-root level to address the problem. The data compiled by the ICRC on the occurrence of severe thunderstorm incidents show that they are first seen on an isolated day in February under the influence of a western disturbance, and it becomes a familiar feature during the hot afternoons of April to May to early morning hours of the next days. Summer monsoon season with 60 percent incidents is the most favored time of the year for the occurrence of lightning strikes in Assam, followed by pre-monsoon season with 32 percent of the incidents. During the 55-year study period, it was reported that 22 people died on an average per year from severe thunderstorm hazards in Northeast India. More than 60 percent of these death cases were due to lightning. In general, severe thunderstorm impacts like loss of life and injury, loss of livelihood and damage to infrastructure are significantly more on impoverished and vulnerable rural population in the western part of Assam. The total climatology of lightning activity showed that the region of the west of Assam experiences higher lightning activity. Another study published in the International Journal of Climatology in September 2015, which was carried out by Hupesh Choudhury, Partha Roy, Sarbeswar Kalita and Sanjay Sharma states that during the pre-monsoon season, the frequency of lightning is quite significant in the Northeast due to the interaction of moisture-laden wind with the complex topography of the region. The Meghalaya plateau and foothills of Patkai hill range, in particular, experience severe lightning. Iqbal R Tinmaker and Kaushar Ali of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology finds almost the same result attributed to space-time variation of lightning activity over Northeast India. They revealed lightning flash rate density is the maximum over the west of northeast India. The study, published in Meteorologische Zeitschrift in April 2012, said this high flash rate density is attributable to the topography and the geography of the region, along with the moisture availability. The 2014 report published by Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said the highest number of thunderstorms in each month of the storm period (March 15 to June 15, 2014) was recorded in Assam, followed by Arunachal Pradesh in March, Meghalaya in April and Tripura in May and June. During the entire period, the frequency was highest during the night (30 percent) followed by evening (21 percent). Apart from agriculture fishing is at risk condition at the time of thunderstorm and lightning and fishes were at very risk condition during TS ( thunder and storm) and lightning. Moreover, these (TS) affected agricultural production very much. For TS and lightning, agrarian land was unsuitable for agricultural production. Trees and crops were uprooted, damaged and fired. So, people lose their property and fail with their regular lifestyle. A thunderbolt struck farmers while they were working at paddy field and harvesting paddy field. Lack of Awareness It is observed, casualties are increasing because of a lack of awareness among people. We find that most illiterate and lack of knowledge about lighting as well as thunderstorm and they assume it as a supernatural phenomenon or God’s fury. Awareness is crucial to reduce the toll and its harmful impact. Routine research works involving government and NGO and government regulation are needed to mitigate the menace. Mohan Kumar Das, the senior research fellow of the Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM) at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said deaths from lighting could also be avoided if people take some cautious steps according to BMD. Despite being the most lightning-prone zone in the Northeast, Assam and Meghalaya governments do not have any separate program to create awareness among the people about lightning and TS. The state revenue and disaster management authority do not have any independent campaign for lightning.

by Chandan kumar Duarah

– See more at: http://southasiajournal.net/increasing-lightning-death-needs-a-new-policy-in-bangladesh-and-northeast-india/

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