Winter lightning storms in the UK

Posted on December 16, 2015 by heightw in Blog Entry

Winter lightning is common in middle latitude climates – that is, climates with with warm summers and mild winters. There are three scenarios that can cause it, including normal thunderstorms, thundersnow, thundersleet and high-elevation. It is important to ensure that structures at risk of being struck by lightning are protected throughout this period. To do this they need bespoke protection systems that will effectively and safely redirect any excess current.

When designing lightning protection systems it is important to understand what can causes the weather phenomenon. Normal thunderstorms occur when ice particles within a cloud collide, creating an electrical charge. If this builds the current can jump to clouds or prominent objects on the landscape with an opposing charge. Occasionally the lightning can even strike the ground directly.

Thundersnow is another name given to a winter thunderstorm. The storm can develop because of a cold, unstable layer of air close to the ground with a colder layer above it. The lower layer can lead to snow clouds forming and warm air from the sea rising can cause the creation of cumulonimbus clouds. The end result is that you can have a thunderstorm with snow falling rather than rain. The lightning that can occur in these cases can be incredibly bright as it is reflected off the snowflakes. Thundersleet occurs in the same conditions when it is not cold enough to create snow.

Thunderstorms can happen at any time of year at high elevations, but they become more frequent in the winter because the low temperatures encourage the precipitation to freeze and become sleet, snow or hail. The storms can be a major hazard, particularly for hikers and climbers.

The UK experienced thundersnow at the end of 2014 and in January this year with the phenomenon reported in several regions including Cornwall, South Wales and Teesside. Property owners need to ensure their properties are protected against the lightning the storms can bring because it can cause huge damage to electronics and even cause fires. At Heightwise we can offer bespoke protection systems for all kinds of structures this winter. Our professional steeplejacks will help you to ensure that your property is protected, giving you peace of mind.

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