Tracking 443,000 lightning strikes across Germany

Tracking 443,000 lightning strikes across Germany
Business news |
Siemens' lightning information service detected about 443,000 lightning strikes in Germany in 2017, up 11,000 on the previous year.
By Nick Flaherty


Germany’s “capital of lightning” was Mainz, followed by Wiesbaden and Berlin. Overall, the Garmisch-Partenkirchen district in Upper Bavaria was struck most often with 3.51 strikes per square kilometre, with the lowest rates in the city of Pirmasens at 0.16 strikes.

Siemens has now extended its monitoring service BILDS to central Europe, showing that Slovenia leads the ranking for the most lightning strikes. The company has 160 connected measurement stations in Europe and supports the measurement network in Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the Benelux Union, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

Power grid operators need this data to protect increasingly sensitive equipment and insurance companies that cover damage to equipment from strikes. The data can now be transferred to users within than 10 seconds after lightning strikes. To achieve this, the lightning service also uses MindSphere, Siemens’ cloud-based, open IoT operating system to provide lightning data to customers on PCs and mobile devices.

“BLIDS can provide evidence that a lightning strike was the cause of damage or downtime,” said Stephan Thern, head of Siemens’ lightning information service. Lightning causes a great deal of damage to electrical appliances and equipment. The electronics used in devices such as television sets, satellite receivers, washing machines and industrial control systems, for example, are usually highly sensitive, and even distant lightning strikes can damage them.

Across Europe, Slovenia had an average of 4.53 lightning strikes per square kilometre while Ireland and Norway trail the list with a lightning density of 0.3 in both cases. Sensors are set up at intervals of 350 km, which significantly reduces the cost of installation, operation and maintenance, and BLIDS is expanding the network. The most recently installed station is located in the Greek capital of Athens. “With the latest software, we can detect – to an accuracy of 100 meters – where exactly lightning has just struck, and we do this with an efficiency rate of up to 98 percent. Since 1991, Siemens has been analyzing detected lightning strikes and immediately sending warning notices to our thunderstorm alarm customers – to protect people, technology and infrastructure,” said Thern.

“In 2017, we again detected a relatively low number of thunderstorms,” he said. “Overall, it was too warm. The cold fronts – one of the prerequisites for severe thunderstorms – were not as pronounced. This year’s winner, the Garmisch-Partenkirchen district, has consistently been among the top candidates over the past decade. This high ranking is primarily due to the district’s exposed location at the foot of the Alps, where cloud masses accumulate.”

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