Experts blame global warming for increase in lightning strike
Bangladesh is witnessing unusual casualties from lightning strikes well ahead of monsoon this year due to change in the thunderstorm formation area along with other causes like deforestation, climate variability, and global warming, experts said.
According to reports carried by different national dailies on lightning incidents, over 200 people were killed and scores of others injured in lightning strikes at different parts of Bangladesh, mainly in the central and northern parts, from March to May 17.
However, the data on the website of the Disaster Management and Relief Ministry said at least 187 people died in lightning strikes this year as of May 18.
At least 112 people were killed in lightning strikes in the first 10 days of May. A total of 29 people died in lightning strike on May 9. Besides, over 70 people were killed in March and April.
Most of the victims were agricultural workers as they were hit by lightning strikes while harvesting on or carrying paddy from open fields during storms, creating panic among farmers.
Experts, however, suggested that people should not be worried, but they need to take appropriate steps during lightning strikes and check the weather forecast before participating in outdoor activities.
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They urged people to keep away from tall trees, electric pillars and towers, not to touch metals and corrugated iron, and take shelter under a concrete ceiling during thunderbolts.
"As per our record, the lightning frequency is gradually rising during the pre-monsoon period [April-May] since 1981. But we are observing greater number of fatal incidents of lightning in the recent years due to global warming," M Abdul Mannan, a senior a meteorologist at the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) told UNB.
He said Bangladesh is witnessing a record number of lightning strikes this year due to the change in thunderstorm formation area.
"The thunderstorm use to form in West Bengal, Bihar, and joining areas in the previous years. But this year, it is forming near the 50km of Bangladesh border, causing the fatal lightning strikes,” Abdul said.
He added districts under Dhaka Division, Rajshahi divisions, and Mymensingh and some districts under Chattogram division, including Noakhali and Comilla, are experiencing increased lightning strikes in 2018.
BMD Meteorologist Ruhul Kuddus said Bangladesh experienced excessive temperatures in February and March this year, which is one of the causes of rise in lightning frequency.
He also said the country's average rainfall is 22% higher than the normal this pre-monsoon season as more Cumulonimbus clouds are gathering this year by comparison to previous years.
"Rising temperature, erratic rainfall and abnormal behaviour of weather are increasing the occurrence of thunderbolt strikes," Ruhul said.
Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, said warmer weather and climate change are causing more water evaporation from the land and ocean, increasing Cumulonimbus clouds, which is generating fatal lightning strikes.
Besides, he said, deforestation and indiscriminate felling of tall trees in rural areas are also contributing to increasing lightning strike intensity.
Atiq said the government needs to carry out vigorous campaigns to make people aware of lightning preparedness.
Mentioning that tall trees can absorb many of the lightning strikes, he hailed the government's steps to plant one million palm trees across Bangladesh to avert deaths occurring from lightning strikes.
"People should also plant tall species of trees in a great number in their respective areas as the frequency of lightning is growing,” he added.
Professor Emeritus of Brac University Ainun Nishat said the lightning frequency is becoming severer during the pre-monsoon time due to the increased amount of warm moist air over the atmosphere.
The water resource and climate change specialist said: "The frequency of lightning has intensified in recent times in Bangladesh, and we think it is happening for the growing environmental imbalance and global warming."
He suggested launching awareness campaigns about lightning and strengthening warning systems.