The incidents of lightning strikes in the country are gradually increasing due to rising temperature and climate variability caused by global warming, taking its heavy toll on human lives, experts said.
According to reports published in different national dailies, nearly 120 people were killed and scores of others injured in lightning strikes at different parts of the country in the last two and a half months since March last, creating panic among people.
At least 40 people were killed and many others injured in lightning strikes alone on Thursday and Friday, showing an increased frequency in lightning strikes this year.
Experts, however, suggested that people should not get panicked but keep in mind the appropriate steps one needs to take during lightning strikes and they need to check the weather forecast before participating in outdoor activities.
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 increasing gradually since 1981 due to climate variability and increase in temperature. Temperature in the country marked a rise this year which is the main cause for increased incidents of lighting,” said M Abdul Mannan, a meteorologist at the Meteorological Department.
He suggested making people aware of lightning and strengthening warning systems and network to reach the warning messages to people for bringing down the casualty rate caused by thunderbolt strikes.
Mannan, however, said the Met Office is not currently equipped enough to forecast and issue early warning about thunderbolts. “We’re taking an initiative to strengthen our lightning warning capacity and send early messages to people through a proper network.”
Shah Alam, ex-director of Meteorological Department, said though Bangladesh experiences lightning strikes mainly during pre-monsoon period (April-May), climate change is contributing to its increased intensity. “Rising temperature, erratic rainfall and abnormal behaviour of weather are contributing to the recurrence of thunderbolt strikes.”
He said the entire Dhaka and Sylhet divisions, Bogra, Pabna, Sirajganj, Comilla and Jessore are prone to thunderbolt strikes, and it mainly hit the areas in the afternoon, evening and morning.
Shah Alam said the Disaster Management Ministry and the Meteorological Department should carry out a vigorous campaign to make people aware of lightning preparedness. “We can’t stop the lighting strikes, but we can save lives by informing people what they should do during lighting.”
He said many people in Bangladesh usually take shelter under any tree or tall things like pillar and tower during lighting, but it is a suicidal attempt. “Everyone should take shelter inside a house, but should not stand near any window. One should also not use electronic items during lighting.”
Amanat Ullah Khan, a professor of Geography and Environment department at Dhaka University, said the earth is vulnerable to thunder and lightning from time to time. “With the increased amount of warm moist air over the atmosphere due to increase trend of warming, the frequency of lightning is becoming severer.”
Though the frequency of lightning is intensified in recent times in Bangladesh, there is no study here to find whether the climate change or any other reason behind it.
Talking to UNB, Prof Anwarul Islam, an assistant professor of Geography and Environment Department at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST), said the intensity of lightning strikes during summer is increasing due to the growing environmental imbalance and climate change.
He noted that as the haor landscapes have the scarcity of charge transferable objects under the sky, the people of these areas are prone to lightning strikes.
Dr Thomas W Schmidlin, a professor of Certified Consulting Meteorologist Department of Geography, Kent State University, Kent OH USA in his article ‘Risk Factors and Social Vulnerability’ said Bangladesh has among the highest death rates in the world from the hazards of tornadoes, strong wind, lightning, and hail.
“Lightning occurs with all thunderstorms. Numerous cloud-to-ground lightning strokes in severe local storms pose a serious threat to people who are outdoors and may even injure people in homes,” he said.
According to him, the maximum occurrence of lightning over the entire Indian subcontinent occurs in central Bangladesh during the pre-monsoon season (March-May) with 40 lightning strikes per square kilometer.
Over 150 people are killed annually by lightning in Bangladesh, as reported in newspapers, but the actual death toll may be 500-1,000,” Thomas W Schmidlin mentioned in his article.