BHUBANESWAR : The Mayurbhanj-Sundargarh-Keonjhar (MSK) region of Odisha is turning out to be a hotbed for lightning activities and related deaths. The region is a part of lightning red hot route between north India, Odisha, Jharkhand, North East and Bangladesh.
At an average of 299 lightning deaths per year, Odisha has recorded 5,706 fatalities between 2000-01 and 2019-20. The fatalities have been the highest from 2015-16 to 2019-20 with 400, 398, 465, 332 and 351 deaths respectively.
Of the lives lost to lightning strikes in last two decades, the MSK zone accounted for 1,195 (20 per cent) deaths. The highest 522 deaths were recorded from Mayurbhanj while 346 fatalities were from Sundargarh and 327 from Keonjhar.
Moreover, the State has topped in thunderbolt strikes in the country with a rise of around 37 per cent (pc) during the period. Lightning flashes rose from around 14.2 lakh strikes to 20.43 lakh in a year.
According to researchers, the anthropogenic aerosol particles from the mining belt and industries have led to the rise in intensity of thunderstorms besides the density and frequency of lightning. The emission of smoke from forest fires also had an impact on the electric processes of thunderstorms leading to increase in lightning activity.
“The increase in concentration of aerosol in the MSK region due to anthropogenic activities like open cast mining and industrialisation could be responsible for the rising lightning activities. The natural elevation and steep slope in the zone also give impetus for thunderstrikes,” said Associate Professor at Department of Natural Resource Management and Geoinformatics of Khallikote University Manoranjan Mishra.
Odisha’s MSK a hotbed for lightning strikes
Mishra is a member of a global university- level research team comprising experts from India, Brazil and South Africa which is studying the lightning patterns. “The lightning red hot condition is created in Bay of Bengal during monsoon season and intensifies due to aerosols and moves to north east and Bangladesh. The mining districts producing aerosols may cause intensification of cloud to ground lightning activities.
We are conducting more research on it with data collected from satellite and different independent sources,” he said. Apart from the MSK zone, the coastal districts of Ganjam (359), Balasore (252), Kendrapara (239), Khurda (197) and Jagatsinghpur (120) and Dhenkanal (348), Cuttack (340), Jajpur (236) and Angul (241) region have also recorded high lightning deaths.
The districts like Sonepur, Malkangiri, Gajapati, Kandhamal and Boudh have the lowest reported deaths of 72, 64, 56, 49 and 43 respectively. “The spatial death variations may be due to topography, vegetation and socio-economic characters as it also depends on the density of population and risk of exposure,” Mishra said. Geo-tagging of lightning deaths will help researchers and policy makers in understanding the pattern and identifying the hotpots which help in devising plans to avert the lightning related deaths in coming days, he added.