Lightning deaths in the UK: a 30-year analysis of the factors contributing to people being struck and killed

Elsom, Derek M. ; Webb, Jonathan D. C.

Année de publication
In the UK in the past 30 years (1987-2016), 58 people were known to have been killed by lightning, that is, on average, two people per year. The average annual risk of being struck and killed was one person in 33 million. If only the past ten years are considered, a period with fewer average lightning deaths, the risk was one person in 71 million. The likelihood of being killed by lightning is much less than it was a century ago when it was around one person in every two million per year. The current UK lightning risk is compared with USA risk. The risk of being killed by lightning in the UK differs by the activity being undertaken at the time. This paper groups activities into three broad types. During the past 30 years, work-related activities accounted for 15 per cent of all deaths, daily routine for 13 per cent, and outdoor leisure, recreation and sports pursuits for 72 per cent. Leisure walking on hills, mountains and cliff-tops together with participating in outdoor sports activities, notably cricket, fishing, football, golf, rugby and watersports, gave rise to around half of all leisure, recreation and sports activity deaths. The highest number of deaths occurred amongst the 20-29 year-age-range. Men accounted for 83 per cent of all lightning deaths reflecting the higher proportion of male participation in outdoor work-related activities and specific outdoor leisure activities (hill and mountain walking) and sports activities (cricket, fishing, football and golf). Sundays gave rise to 26 per cent of all deaths reflecting this is a day when large numbers of people participate in higher lightning risk leisure activities. The four months from May to August accounted for 80 per cent of all deaths. A specific study is conducted of the synoptic and weather situations during days when thunderstorms developed and resulted in deaths amongst people undertaking leisure walking activities. Overall, this paper highlights the factors that should help to lessen the risk of being killed by lightning in the future.

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