Storms ‘getting stronger’ due to warmer ground

Storms 'getting stronger' due to warmer ground
Photo: DPA
Storms over Germany have been more intense over the past year, and are causing more damage, because the ground is warmer, weather experts said on Tuesday.

Up to a million bolts of lightning hit European soil each day – every single one of which are tracked and measured by storm monitoring company Nowcast.

Although the numbers have remained constant, their increased strength makes it feel as if there are more storms, said Nowcast head Hans-Dieter Betz.

“It might seem like there has been more lightning than usual this year,” he said. But storms have actually been stronger, he explained. Wild weather phenomena like hail often accompany what would have been a “calmer” storm in the past.

“For that reason it seems like there are more electrical storms, especially in southern Germany,” said Betz.

The reason behind this, Michael Kunz from the Karlsruhe institute for meteorology and climate research explained, was because the ground temperature has risen. This causes rising damp air, which, said Kunz, “is exactly the kind of energy that storm clouds devour. This increases the potential for a storm.”

South-western Germany has particularly seen warmer ground temperatures this year.

Nowcast provides its clients, including Munich airport, the army and the German weather service (DWD), with accurate information about where and how quickly storm clouds are travelling.

When lightning strikes it emits radio waves which are collected by the company’s sensors, allowing the team handling the data to pinpoint a storm to within 100 metres. This is, Betz said, especially handy for airports.

But lightning is not just a risk for aeroplanes and people wandering in large open spaces, normal households are also seeing an increase in how much damage it can do.

The average cost of damage done by lightning annually has risen by 25 percent over the past five years and now stands at around €500,000. If a family home gets hit, they normally have to reckon with an €800 repair bill, according to statistics from the German association of insurers (GDV).

As for the rest of this summer, the DWD has forecast that while it will remain warm it could also be uncomfortably humid – meaning a hearty dose of storms for the whole country.

Betz, despite making his living from lightning, was not enthusiastic about this, saying that “there are enough storms already, so I’m emotionless.”

DAPD/The Local/jcw

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