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Climate change blamed for surge in India's deadly lightning strikes

Lightning strikes have killed 147 people in the last ten days in the north Indian state of Bihar local authorities said Sunday July 5, 2020.
Lightning strikes have killed 147 people in the last ten days in the north Indian state of Bihar local authorities said Sunday July 5, 2020. © AFP / FRANCE 24
1 min

Lightning strikes have killed 147 people in just ten days in the north Indian state of Bihar, local authorities said Sunday, an unprecedented surge in deaths caused by lightning that has been blamed on climate change.

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The latest deaths bring the number of those killed by lightning in the state to around 215 since late March, already surpassing the total number of deaths for the whole of last year.

Lightning strikes are common in India during the monsoon season but the season in Bihar, which typically runs from June to September, has only just begun and authorities have warned of more thunderstorms to come.

The deadly trend has been blamed on rising temperatures caused by climate change.

Elevated heat and excessive moisture are causing large-scale instability in the atmosphere, fuelling thunder and lightning storms, Bihar agrometeorologist Abdus Sattar told AFP.

The last decade was the hottest on record in India, with temperatures averaging 0.36 degrees above normal. The rising temperatures have been linked to increasingly frequent heatwaves followed by delayed but more intense monsoons.

A report last year from India’s Climate Resilient Observing Systems Promotion Council warned the changing weather patterns are making deadly lightning strikes “the new normal” in many parts of the country.

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