Thunderstorms, accompanied by lightning, cause more than 2,000 deaths every year in India, state experts from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said.
“In India, over the recent years, there's an increasing trend in death toll and damages reported due to lightning. Lightning and thunderstorms cause widespread loss every year, despite the improved understanding, monitoring, and prediction capability brought about by scientific and technological progress,” said Rajendra Singh, Member, NDMA.
“Lightning has become a serious threat in recent years. This is due to, primarily increased exposure of people, especially farmers, fishermen and labourers who remain outside for reasons of livelihood,” added Dr M. Mohapatra, Director General, IMD.
The reason for this has been identified by experts as a communication gap that does not result in last-mile connectivity.
In order to address this issue, the Indian Meteorological Society (IMS) along with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and the National Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF) organized the workshop-cum-awareness session on the lightning forecast and warning dissemination, for media and state-level disaster managers from Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, Kerala, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country.
“Loss of human lives and properties due to lightning is significantly high - it is more than that of people killed in tornadoes or hurricanes globally,” said Singh.
According to Mohapatra, economic losses like that of cultivated fields and buildings occur, infrastructure like communication networks, power plants and so on are often destroyed by lightning events and sometimes, lightning and thunderstorms may ignite potentially devastating wildfires.
He stated that the joint initiative taken by scientists of IITM, IMD and NCMRWF in 2018 had led to the development of a Lightning Warning System having a location-specific forecast up to 48 hours about the occurrence of thunderstorms, lightning, squally winds, gusty winds, hailstorms.
This apart, IMD has about 30 radars in the country, which help to provide weather information in every 10 mins. Besides, ISRO is providing satellite information from INSAT-3DR about convective clouds, which is uploaded every 15 mins.
“We are also capable of having real-time information about lightning updated every 5 mins,” added the weather scientist.
The models developed by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, in real-time, are very definite and are utilized by forecasters. Information is provided every three hours for each and every district of the country. Damini App provides location-specific information which remains valid for every half an hour, informed Dr Mohapatra.
"We also have very location-specific information for 1085 stations spread across the country. We are going to increase that number so that we can reach out to every block and sub-blocks at the panchayat level", stated Dr Mohapatra.