KZN’s lightning getting more ‘explosive’ as climate warms up

2011-03-23 00:00

THESE photos, taken by a reader in Anerly, show why fulminologists rate KwaZulu-Natal among the hottest of hot spots for global lightning studies, and it is said our storms are getting more explosive.

Atmospheric research by the geophysics and planetary sciences department at Tel Aviv University projected in 2007 that the Earth’s warming will create a drier climate, which should produce fewer thunderstorms and less lightning. Their modelling studies showed, however, that as tropical regions warm up the traditional global lightning spots will experience more lightning.

The research, published for the 13th International Conference on Atmospheric Electricity in 2007, explains the conflict in theory and Sunday’s storm over parts of the province: “This paradox may be explained by noting that while drier climate conditions result in fewer thunderstorms and less rainfall, the thunderstorms that do occur are more explosive, resulting in more lightning activity.”

Lightning bolts frequently strike rural homesteads in KZN, which have led to a lot of superstitious claims about sangomas “calling down fire”. A recent study published in The Witness postulates that smoke from fires creates a “path” for lighting, while the high fatality rates that typically accompany such a rural strike can be explained by the the natural conductivity created by a group of bodies huddling together. — WR.

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