Lightning Threatens Developing Countries

TECHNOLOGY

Developing countries have long lists of problems—illiteracy, disease, hunger, corruption. There’s one more problem that has gotten less attention, until recently: Lightning strikes. (National Geographic News)

Use our resources to better understand lightning.

The map above shows the average yearly counts of lightning flashes per square kilometer based on data collected by NASA satellites between 1995 and 2002. Places where less than one flash occurred (on average) each year are gray or light purple. The places with the largest number of lightning strikes are deep red. NASA image by Marit Jentoft-Nilsen, based on data provided by the Global Hydrology and Climate Center Lightning Team

The map above shows the average yearly counts of lightning flashes per square kilometer based on data collected by NASA satellites between 1995 and 2002. Places where less than one flash occurred (on average) each year are gray or light purple. The places with the largest number of lightning strikes are deep red. (Click to enlarge!)
NASA image by Marit Jentoft-Nilsen, based on data provided by the Global Hydrology and Climate Center Lightning Team

Discussion Ideas

  • Read this great, short article from Nature magazine. How might the lightning network tested in Guinea benefit developing nations mentioned in the Nat Geo News article?
    • The lightning network tested in Guinea is much less expensive and less complex than the weather satellites or pulse-Doppler systems used in developed nations such as the U.S. and European Union. It relies on lightning-detection sensors sitting atop cell-phone towers, which are common in developing nations. (In addition to Guinea, the company that manufactures the sensors already has networks in Brazil and India.)
  • How might lightning sensors described in the Nature article benefit from the educational outreach campaigns described in the Nat Geo News article? (Read our article on FrontlineSMS to get some ideas!)
    • Guinea, and many developing nations, lack communications infrastructure. In the Nature article, the director of Guinea’s national meteorological organization says “his agency must now find ways to disseminate the alerts, perhaps by phone.”
      • Education campaigns, like the ones mentioned in the Nat Geo News article, could help residents react to lightning strikes. Simple procedures such as “When thunder roars, go indoors!” could save dozens of lives every year. Education could also help dispel misconceptions mentioned in the Nat Geo News article, such as the “common idea in the developing world that lightning only hits sinful people.”
      • FrontlineSMS allows nonprofit organizations in remote areas of the world to harness mobile technology common throughout the developing world. Organizations could efficiently, inexpensively alert citizens to approaching thunderstorms through text messaging.

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