Reported September 2008
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Florida is the lightning capital of the U.S., followed by Texas, North Carolina, Ohio and New York. More people die from lightning than tornadoes and hurricanes, and most people don’t realize they can be struck by lightning even when the center of a thunderstorm is more than 10 miles away. Now, engineers are using a new, improved way to keep you safer when a storm strikes.
Jessica Lynch was taping a storm when she was hit. She wasn’t seriously hurt -- but that’s not the case for everyone. Lightning can carry an electric potential of more than 100 million volts and a current as strong as 100,000 amps. Now, compare that to your entire house, which only needs 200 volts and 220 amps.
Measuring lightning's power can be difficult. Traditionally, lightning is measured by detection strikes on flat ground, but in the lightning lab at the University of Florida, electrical engineer Vladimir Rakov, Ph.D., found a way to more precisely measure lightning’s current strength on tall buildings.
"Initially, there will be two waves or pulses propagating in opposite directions from the tower top," Dr. Rakov told Ivanhoe. "Each of those two waves will contribute to the magnetic field measured by the lightning detection network."
Current measurements on the ground are larger than at the actual strike point on a building. By developing a new mathematical equation, Dr. Rakov can now better determine lightning strength and provide better lightning protection for buildings and power lines -- which helps to keep us all safer.
"You calculate how many outages you will have per year and then you can decide if you can live with that number of outages, or if you should invest more money in lightning protection," Dr. Rakov said.
And remember, when you see lightning, go inside. Even inside, talking on the phone is the leading cause of lightning injuries. Standing under a tall tree is the most dangerous place to take shelter. And if you don’t think lightning strikes the same place twice -- think again.
"This is not true … I know this for sure!" Dr. Rakov said. "Tall buildings are definitely struck by lightning multiple times, even during the same thunderstorm."
The odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in your lifetime is one in 3,000; and here’s something you may not have known -- most Florida lightning strikes that result in death happen on Wednesdays. It’s not clear why.
The The American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, the American Meteorological Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., and the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report. contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Vladimir A. Rakov, Ph.D.
University of Florida
American Mathematical Society
Mathematical Association of America
American Meteorological Society
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. IEEE-USA
Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences
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