Lightning Facts page of the Colorado Lightning Resource Page

 


Lightning Facts for the World:

Lightning Capital of the World: Tropical Africa. Why? Lightning storms typically occur in these warm humid locations many days of the year. Click  here for more information (see United States section below to find out what State in the United States is #1). .

Lightning Facts for the United States:

Lightning Capital of the United States: Florida. More information on why can be found here. More National lightning statistics information can be found here.

In an average year, over 22 million cloud to ground lightning flashes hit the contiguous United States and surrounding coastal waters (R. Holle/NSSL, personal communication).

Across the United States, most lightning casualties occur between 12 noon and 4 pm local time. (Curran et al 1997)

When people are mortally wounded by a lightning flash, 91% of the time it is only 1 person that is killed. (Curran et al 1997).  On a related topic, most of the time, when lightning hits the ground and causes casualties to people, usually only 1 person is affected.  (Holle et al 1996)

STORM DATA is estimated to under report lightning deaths by at least 28%, and injuries requiring hospitalization by at least 42%. (Lopez et al, 1993)

It is estimated 307,000 lightning claims are filed per year across the United States. It is also estimated lightning causes over $330,000,000 a year across the United States (1996 Dollars)  Holle et al 1996.

In a study by Holle et al 1996. , it was found that there was 367 more times more damage than what was reported in STORM DATA (Damage was 27 million dollars in STORM DATA,  while it is estimated to be more like 330 million).

National lightning detection network data in recent years was used to estimate that...

  •    One lightning casualty occurred for every 86,000 flashes in the United States,
  •    One death occurred for every 345,000 flashes,
  •    One injury occurred for every 114,000 flashes,
Overall, a rate of 7.7 casualties per million people per 100 million flashes was found for the entire
United States. (Curran 1997)

Your chances of being struck by lightning in the United States in a given year is 1 in 500,000 (NWS Jetstream)

Lightning Facts for Colorado:

Approximately 494,000 cloud to ground lightning flashes occur in Colorado every year. Colorado ranks 26th in the nation (Ron Holle, Global Atmospherics, quoted from the Rocky Mountain News,  30th June, 2001)

In a study in the Denver, Colorado area, it was found 1 out of every 52 lightning flash results in an insurance claim, It is estimated nationwide, that 1 claim is filed for every 57 Cloud to Ground (CG) lightning flashes.  (Holle et al, 1996)

In a study of Colorado lightning storms, it was found that the first lightning strike usually occurs in the mountains, around 11 am MDT.  (Lopez et. al., 1990)

In a 1 year study of Northeast  Colorado lightning storms, it was found that the lightning activity on a day to day basis varied quite extensively, Some days had some flashes, while other days had  many flashes. 123,663 flashes were counted during this year (some data was missing). The maximum amount of lightning occurs between 4 and 5 pm mst (21%). As with previous studies, the lightning normally begins around 11am (~32% of the time). Very little lightning occurred between 3am and 11 am.    (Lopez & Holle 1986)

A lightning climatology study for Colorado can be found here. Another smaller study completed in 1999 can be found  here.

General Lightning Facts: (From NOAA, unless otherwise noted)

   Number of thunderstorms occurring at any given moment across the continental United States - 2000

  Number of lightning strikes every second across the continental United States - 100

  Number of lightning strikes per day across the continental United States - 8 Million

  Number of thunderstorms in the USA per year - 20 Million

  Number of VOLTS in a lightning flash - 30 million (R. Holle/NSSL - personal communication)

  Number of AMPS in a lightning flash - between 10,000 and 200,000

  The average lightning flash would light a 100 watt light bulb for 3 months.

Lightning has been documented to strike over 25 miles away from the actual thunderstorm.

 


References:

Curran, Holle & Lopez: 1997. Lightning fatalities, injuries and damage reports in the United States, 1959-1994. NOAA technical Memorandum NWS SR 193. Contact: Nat'l Tech. Info. Service, 5385 Port Royal road, Springfield, VA 22161 to purchase this document.

Holle, Lopez, Arnold & Endres: 1996. Insured lightning caused  property damage in three western states. Journal of Applied Meteorology. Vol 35, #8 Amer. Met, Soc. Boston, MA

Lopez, Holle, Heitkamp, Boyson, Cherington & Langford: 1993. The underreporting of lightning injuries and deaths in Colorado. Bull. of the Amer. Met. Soc., Vol 74, #11. Amer. Met, Soc. Boston, MA

Thunderstorms and Lightning. 1994. NOAA/American Red Cross safety brochure.

Lopez, Otto, Ortiz & Holle, 1990: The lightning characteristics of convective cloud systems in northeast Colorado. 16th conf on severe local storms, Amer. Met. Soc.,  Boston, MA.

Lopez & Holle, 1986: Diurnal and spatial variability of lightning activity in northeast Colorado and central Florida during the Summer. Mon. Wea. Rev., Vol 114, Amer. Met, Soc. Boston, MA.
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