When lightning strikes: America’s most struck states revealed

New research reveals the U.S. states that experienced the most lightning strikes in 2018 – Florida and Texas are at the top of the list.

The Sunshine State had the highest density of lightning strikes. Florida had the highest average of negative ground-to-cloud flasher per square mile, with 24, according to the study. Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma made up the rest of the top five.

Texas, however, had the highest flash count, with 2,483,805 negative cloud-to-ground flashes. Florida came in second with 1,385,710, while Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska all experienced just under one million flashes in 2018.

Using data from its National Lightning Detection Network, environmental measurement specialist Vaisala released its Annual Lightning Report this week at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Phoenix.

At a county level, Harrison County in Mississippi has the highest 10-year average of flashes, although Florida accounted for 14 of the top 15 counties for lightning strikes during 2018.

Across the entire U.S., lightning strikes actually decreased to 17.8 million during 2018, an 11 percent dip from the 10-year average. “This marks the third-fewest flashes in the last 10 years and a 1.9 million flash decrease from the 2009 – 2018 average of 19,728,634 lightning flashes across the U.S. annually,” explained Vaisala, in a statement.

Experts explain that 2018’s weather conditions are the reason behind fewer lightning strikes.

“The likely reason for the reduction is simply that there were fewer big storms,” said Ryan Said, lightning research scientist at Vaisala, in the statement. “Specifically, there were fewer days with very strong air mass contrasts across the Central Plains and Upper Midwest during the spring and summer of 2018, which contributes to the severe weather season.”

“We found some large areas that had less lighting than usual, including Texas, which had nearly one million fewer lightning flashes in 2018 than it had in 2017,” Said added. “Additionally, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri all had relatively cool weather last spring, and that meant fewer lightning flashes. At the same time, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota had larger organized storms, which resulted in a higher-than-average lightning activity compared to the 10-year average.”

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