Welcome to 'Did You Know'. A daily OCC segment where we tackle some of the easy and not so easy questions we come across on our social networks.
Did You Know:
What part of Australia am I most likely to get hit by lightning in?
ANSWER - While overall lightning flash density is similar in the South-Western region of the NT's Top End and North-West Kimberley of WA, it's the North-West Kimberley region of Western Australia that sees the most dangerous lightning. Dangerous being classed as the amount of lightning that hits the ground. Therefore the simple answer to this question is a person walking around individually is most likely to get hit by lightning around the Mitchell Plateau of the Kimberley region in Western Australia. If we were to take a more complex correlative approach between lightning GROUND flash density and population density. Darwin (and Palmerston) is the place we are most likely to find a lightning strike victim, followed by South-East Queensland.
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On average over 80% of the earth's approximately 2 billion lightning strikes a year do not hit the ground which is probably a good thing, imagine 2 billion lightning strikes hitting the ground in a world with a population of 7.5 billion - it would not end well for a lot of us. In Australia, the area that receives the greatest density of ground strikes is the NW Kimberley around Mitchell Plateau. However we see high cloud to ground strike densities all the way from Darwin to Jabiru to Katherine to Halls Creek to Roebuck (just east of Broome) to Kalumburu. That area is the storm capital region of Australia and if you want to take some of the most amazing lightning photos in Australia, that's where you go. But what about those that can't take a trip that far north or north-west for lightning pics? Well for Queenslanders, notable mentions need to also go to the Gulf country just south of Normanton and the Toowoomba Range. In fact the Toowoomba Range and border ranges of QLD/NSW sees more cloud to ground strikes than any other region of Australia proportional to the total strikes recorded. For Westerners, inland of Port Hedland (places like Nullagine, Wittenoom and Marble Bar) are your cloud to ground lightning hot spots outside of the big zone further north.
Northern Australian places you generally wanna avoid for lightning photography is the North-East QLD coastline, The Far Northern Cape York Peninsula, Nhulunbuy, and the Pilbara/Gascoyne coastline. These places generally witness just 1-1.5 cloud to ground strike per square kilometre per year. So if you're a lightning photographer living in these areas, it might be time to find another hobby, or you can be like us and travel away from the coast to catch a glimpse of some of the much better lightning action further inland.
So while the Mitchell Plateau is the deadliest place for lightning strike risk to folks on the ground in Australia, the lack of population density in the Kimberley region as a whole makes it extremely unlikely we will witness a person getting struck. But with over 700 people per square kilometre and a ground flash density of 4.0 - 5.0 strikes per square kilometre, the folks in Darwin (and Palmerston) are the population most likely to get hit by lightning followed by South-East Queenslanders with over 3.5 million people in South-East Queensland (pop density of 160.6/square km) and a ground flash density between 3 and 4.5 strikes per square kilometre.
If you live in the north, there's a large chunk of Northern Australia away from the coastlines that can keep any avid storm photographer busy in the hot season (October to April). So all you have to do is find a good storm potential day drive 50-100kms inland and you can find many opportunities to take a good lightning shot. Hmm... but I wonder, what stops a lot of those inland northern storms from making it to the Northern coastlines?
Well unfortunately you'll have to wonder for another week or two because that's a topic for another 'Did You Know'
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