In Australia, about 10 people die each year from lightning strikes.  A hundred more gets injured each year.  To be safe, at the first signs of visual lightning or audible thunder - go indoors.  No place outdoors is safe.

How about lightning strikes on commercial planes?  Is it safe to fly in lightning?

Commercial planes are hit by lightning daily and designed to take lightning strikes.  Lightning typically strikes a relatively sharp edge of a plane, like a wingtip or nose, and the current exits via the tail. This happens because an aircraft’s body acts as a Faraday cage.

A Faraday cage operates because an external electrical field causes the electric charges within the cage's conducting material to be distributed such that they cancel the field's effect in the cage's interior. When a lightning strikes an airplane, the energy and electric charge run around the outside of the vessel, protecting the interior from any voltage.

Therefore from a safety standpoint, lightning strikes on commercial planes are not a severe problem compared to turbulence or hail damage which can cause more catastrophic consequences.

Lightning flashes behind a Qantas plane, as captured from La Perouse on October 2015. Photo: Daniel Shaw

h1-amos-logoOver two fair days in Hobart, OWS Senior Forecaster Angelo Portelli attended many and varied presentations at the AMOS Conference held at Grand Chancellor Hotel on February 13-14, 2014.

The Thursday morning sessions provided excellent presentations by Sally Lavender on the influence of sea surface temperature on Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi.  Also notable was the presentation of evidence of low-level volcanic ash clouds during the 2008 Chilean eruption by Andrew Prata.

The session attended on Thursday afternoon was the “The weather and climate of the Maritime Continent region in observations and models” including a presentation by Jules Kajtar on the importance of the atmospheric bridge on the Indo-Pacific climate feedback interactions. Another interesting presentation was also provided by Eric Oliver on the Madden-Julian Oscillation and the Gulf of Thailand sea level and circulation variability.

After an excellent dinner at MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) the previous night, Friday brought new sessions on “Waves and Coastal Inundation” and “The Structure, Dynamics and Predictability of High Impact Weather”. An update on the operational wave model in the Bureau of Meteorology was provided by Aihong Zhong in the former session, along with an excellent presentation by Joanna Burston on the potential for forecasting of coastal inundation from Tropical Cyclones using case studies from QLD in the latter session.

The latter session included two more interesting presentations specific to tropical cyclone eyewall replacement cycles and then dynamical sensitivity of tropical cyclones to SST. Also, an update on the U.S. CLIVAR Hurricane Working Group activities was provided by Kevin Walsh.

The Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS) is an independent Australian society that supports and fosters interest in meteorology, oceanography and other related sciences, providing a forum for people with a common interest, and by publishing relevant material.

Early trials of the WRF ARW high resolution mesoscale atmospheric model developed by Dr Simon Caine specifically for squall forecasting in the Gulf of Thailand have shown great promise with convective cells being accurately modelled both temporally and spatially when compared with available radar data. This model is in the early stages of development and further refinement of the model's convective parameterisations are expected to yield even better results resulting in more accurate squall forecasts for OWS clients in the Gulf of Thailand as the 2014 squall season begins from early May.

The Advanced Research WRF (ARW) is one of the two dynamical core versions of WRF.

For more information on OWS modeling capabilities, please contact us through our Contact link.


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