Does warmer weather mean I’m more likely to be hit by lightning? We ask an expert | Social trends

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Last month, Britain’s joint-hottest summer ended in a flash with more than 36,000 lightning bolts recorded around the UK in just 12 hours. But if warmer temperatures bring more chance of lightning, does that bring more chance of being struck, too? I asked Nick Finnis, meteorologist and storm expert at Netweather.

I was camping during the 36,000-bolts night and at one point, when the storm was roaring above me and it felt as if someone was turning the lights on and off on the countryside, I thought: ‘This is the end.’ Still, I always wanted to go out with a bang.
I feel sorry for you. I’ve camped in a storm and it’s really quite frightening. You’re just lying there waiting for the lightning to hit you.

Or in my case, lying there Googling ‘chances of surviving a lightning strike’. But why has there been so much lightning?
To produce a lot of lightning you need warm and moisture-laden air – which we had during the storms you’re talking about; it came up from the continent and became unstable when it clashed with a cold front from the west. This clash builds up the charge in the cloud, with rain and hail bouncing around creating a positive charge at the top of the cloud, and a negative charge at the bottom where rain or hail falls. That polarisation creates bolts of electricity we see as lightning. You can get lightning in the winter as well, but generally those storms are quite weak.

So even though the data shows we’re getting fewer storms, it being warmer overall means those storms could be more electric, more lightning-y?
Yes.

Which surely means more chance of being hit by lightning?
Well, scientists are saying that for every 1C temperature rise there’ll be a 12% increase in lightning strikes. And scientists reckon that by the end of the century, if we don’t intervene in climate change, we could see a 3C rise in global temperatures.

OK, let’s do some maths here. A 3C rise would mean a 36% increase in lightning and if the odds of getting struck and killed by lightning are as high as 1 in 10 million then that means … Well, it means I’m not good enough at maths to figure this out. But sadly, it seems more likely than winning the lottery. Should we be preparing more for lightning strikes?
Certainly if your work or leisure involves being outdoors a lot, on a boat, or in places that are exposed, it’s something I’d think more about. I’ve been on campsites where you’re on top of a hill and you could be the highest point.

See, I was an inner city kid so I’ve only been discovering the great outdoors as an adult, and what helped me take the plunge was the knowledge that I’m in England – no animal is going to eat me, it’s pretty safe. But maybe it’s the weather I should be looking out for.
If you’re exposed there are certain tips you can use to protect yourself. Make sure you’re not the highest point around. If you’re walking in a field, don’t shelter under a tree because it might strike the tree and fall on you, but go into a wood. Though the chance of getting struck is still really, really unlikely.

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