FIT study: Lightning over ocean more powerful than land

By Greg Pallone, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 11, 2017, 4:04 PM EDT

A new Florida Tech study suggests that lightning is more powerful over the ocean than land.

  • Florida Tech professors conduct lightning study
  • Lightning over ocean more powerful than land, study found
  • Coastal residents in added danger, research suggests

Assistant professor of physics and space sciences Amitabh Nag, along with research professor Kenneth Cummins, measured peak currents of a variety of cloud-to-ground lightning over both land and ocean from 2013 to 2015.

It had to do with the duration of the electrical channel moving downward from a thundercloud.

The scientists determined the strikes over water were significantly shorter than those over land as they headed to the ground.

But no matter where they strike, lightning can be deadly.

"When you are dealing with those types of currents, it doesn't matter that there is a factor of two difference, even the weak lightning discharge on land can be fatal for anyone," Nag said.

The study suggests people living in coastal areas may be in more danger as these storms move onshore. It also could lead to ways for offshore oil platforms and ships could be built to better protect them.