Decryption – Should you fear the dangers of lightning? Here are some reflexes to adopt

Decryption – Should you fear the dangers of lightning? Here are some reflexes to adopt
Decryption – Should you fear the dangers of lightning? Here are some reflexes to adopt

Although it is difficult to obtain exact statistics, it is estimated that each year lightning causes several thousand deaths around the world. Although these accidents remain rare, they nonetheless remain extremely dangerous for humans. What behaviors should you adopt to protect yourself?

A new tragedy occurred in the North of France this Thursday, May 23. The coach of the amateur club AS Courrières was killed, suddenly struck by lightning, as he returned to the locker room to take shelter. Two other people were also injured, one seriously. In France, lightning strikes around a hundred people and around 20,000 head of livestock each year. In Belgium, it is estimated that 30 people are struck by lightning each year, with sometimes very serious consequences. It must be said that the intensity of a lightning strike is considerable, reaching 30,000 amps and several million volts.

Take shelter as quickly as possible

The first instinct to have is to find out about the weather. Whether using weather applications, or via television and radio which will issue storm alerts” explains Sébastian Doutreloup, climatology researcher at the University of Liège. So, how can you recognize a storm nearby? “This is the cumulonimbus, or the cloud associated with the storm. It is a cauliflower-shaped cloud that buds enormously and rises very high in altitude, where it will spread out to form an anvil. As soon as people see anvils on the horizon, they know it’s a storm and need to start finding shelter if it’s heading in their direction.

Gusts of wind followed by sudden precipitation generally occur during the passage of a cumulonimbus, and therefore potentially a thunderstorm. “As soon as there is a storm, you must stay indoors, in an enclosed space, to protect yourself from the rain, but also from lightning. Whether it’s a house, but also a car that will act as a Faraday cage. In other words, as the car is electrically isolated from the ground thanks to its rubber tires, you will not be hit by lightning at all. Since there is no transmission between the car and the ground, nothing will happen at all.”

We can never say it enough, but it is extremely unadvisable to shelter under a tree in the event of a storm. “They act as lightning rods and are regularly struck by lightning. So this is a very bad idea. If you really are in an open environment, like in the middle of fields, you have to crouch or stay seated and wait for the storm to end. Generally speaking, in times of storm, you should avoid finding yourself jogging in the middle of fields or a road.

The risk of being struck by lightning also varies depending on the environment, whether it is urban or rural. “Cities protect a lot more, because there are buildings all around that are taller than the inhabitants. And so it is first of all buildings, antennas, and churches that will attract lightning. Whereas in the countryside, the risk is still higher, given the lower density of housing.

Generally speaking, all pointed buildings risk attracting lightning, such as a church tower or a GSM antenna for example. Or even an isolated house located on a rocky promontory. “Lightning is a little lazy, he wants to reach the earth as quickly as possible by taking the shortest route. It therefore passes through everything that is high in altitude. So if it’s in a field isolated from everything, it might be a human being playing football.” he explains. “Even if lightning doesn’t strike you, it can still pose a real danger. QWhen there are large differences in electrical potential between the cloud and the ground, there can be electrical branches going off to the sides of the main flash. Which can therefore prove dangerous for people nearby. .

Lightning strike does not necessarily kill

Injuries caused by lightning vary depending on the intensity of the discharge and the duration of exposure. According to the MSD Manual of Medicine, lightning strikes can cause loss of consciousness, transient or permanent neurological deficits, or more rarely, severe burns and internal injuries. Auditory and ocular after-effects are regularly observed.

In the most serious cases, lightning can also cause cardiac arrest, and therefore death.If we compare lightning with electric current passing through the body, it’s the same thing. If you are levitating and touch an electrical cable, you will not be electrocuted, because air does not carry electricity” indicates Philippe Boxho, forensic doctor. “On the other hand, if you touch the ground, there will be a potential difference between the ground and the electric current, and you will serve as a relay between the two. The voltage of the electrical current then spreads through the body, via blood vessels or nerves, finally reaching the heart. And by touching the heart with a certain amperage, it defuses and stops it. And at that moment, we die. The current will pass through the human body, from the Source to where it is in contact with another structure.”

What about climate change?

Therefore, will climate change increase the number of storms and, by extension, the risk of being struck by lightning? A question that is difficult to answer clearly for Sébastien Doutreloup. “At the moment, we do not yet know very well how global warming affects storms. A priori, warming increases the energy in the atmosphere, and therefore the probability of having more storms. Because if it gets hotter, the air rises and creates storms. Except that global warming also strongly warms the upper atmosphere, which annihilates storms. If we take the example of a hot air balloon, it rises into the sky because the air around the balloon is colder, but if the air around the balloon becomes hotter, the hot air balloon will go down. It’s the same in the cumulonimbus, if it arrives in warmer air, it will descend and attenuate and disappear” explains the climatologist who admits that the models are not “still super clear at this level.“It is therefore difficult to know whether the frequency of storms will be higher in the future, as will the risk of being struck by lightning.

Lightning storm

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