'Lightning strikes will increase by 50 percent'

Scientists say we should expect lightning strikes to become vastly more common as the earth warms up and there will be more deaths as a result.

Global warming will see 50 percent more strikes by 2100, according to experts like Professor Matrin Uman.

More than 100 lightning bolts strike the surface of the earth every single second, it is the cause of more than half the world’s bushfires and worldwide more than 6000 people are killed every year.

"It means there’s going to be lots more wildfires … and there’s going to be a lot more house fires, there’s going to be more damage," he said.

"There will be more people killed."

"The simple answer would be [to take] control of the weather."

Professor Uman is running testing in Florida to actually create lightning and learn from it that way.

He says getting hit by lightning is also something scientists should understand better.

"What happens is you have a current driven through your body and across the surface of your skin so get your skin burned.

“There are characteristic patterns across a skin, arborescent patterns, nerves can be damaged because the current flows through the nerves and the heart can be stopped," Professor Uman said.

No one knows the pain of being struck more than Melvin Roberts.

Melvin claims he has been struck by lightning 11 times and wife Martha has been with him on nine of those occasions.

"It’s like it hunts me. Like it‘s stalking me," Melvin told reporter Denham Hitchcock.

The 62-year-old from South Carolina says he was struck by lightning while driving a bulldozer, twice while mowing the lawn and even once while standing on the front porch.

While scientists are skeptical at the odds of such bad luck, his medical records show repeated injuries consistent with being struck by lightning.

Melvin Roberts
Melvin Roberts

"Yeah, it was a bad shock. You can’t taste anything for days, and days, ringing in my ears," he says in the interview.

"I could eat possum stew or monkey brains and it would taste like sulphur, you know."

There are up to a billion volts in each lightning strike, four times hotter than the surface of the sun, and lightning expert Martin Uman says that's why many people don’t survive it.

Melvin's medical records from his 11 strikes
Melvin's medical records from his 11 strikes

Jayden's story

In November last year Jayden Morissey, 15, became a victim of a lightning strike from a clear sky.

He was surfing with his best mates when a storm came in, but it was after it had passed and they were on the beach that the lightning struck.

"I was in the water with them and um we were all paddling in and the boys were trying to get a last wave in of course," said family friend Steve, who was with them.

"Jayden was just standing there holding the board and I heard the bang and the shudder and the shock and all that, I just sort of turned around, just had a look and thought, 'Oh he is playing silly buggers' but he wasn’t.”

Jayden Morrissey was killed by a 'bolt from the blue' while standing on a beach
Jayden Morrissey was killed by a 'bolt from the blue' while standing on a beach

Jayden was on the ground, he had been struck in the chest by lightning known as a 'bolt from the blue' and, when he realised, Steve began CPR.

Dad Mark said he felt something that afternoon, before he even knew what had happened.

"It was about 4:15 at night, we always keep in contact with Jayden and wherever he was [I had] an eerie feeling, or just a parent thing, but I’d send him a text message..."Are you still alive?" Mark said.

But he got no reply. Jayden never made it to hospital.

"Being coal miners, you’re meant to be big and tough but when you lose a kid it doesn’t matter how big and tough you are it’ll bring anyone to their knees."

Jayden's father Mark
Jayden's father Mark

Lightning facts
• Lightning can warm the air by 27,700C, five times hotter than the surface of the sun
• A strike can contain a hundred million electrical volts
• If your hair stands on end in a storm be careful as it could indicate positive charges are rising through you, and you should get indoors
• Thunder is cause by the expansion of rapidly heated air
• Lightning from the top of a thunderstorm cloud carries a large positive charge, and is known as positive lightning
• Positive lightning can strike as far as 16kms from a storm

Lightning myths not to believe
• Lightning never strikes the same place twice
• A lightning victim shouldn't be touched because you can become electrocuted
• You should shelter under a tree to stay safe
• Structures with metal or jewellery attract lightning

Source: National Geographic and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

How to stay safe:

IF YOU'RE INSIDE: Close windows and doors and keep away from windows, doors and fireplaces. Don't go outside unless it is absolutely necessary.
Before storm hits unplug appliances including radio, television and computers and do not touch electrical items or telephones during the storm.
Do not take a bath (both water and metal are electrical conductors).

IF YOU'RE OUTSIDE: Get inside vehicle or building if possible. Avoid water and objects that conduct electricity (eg. golf clubs, umbrellas, metal fences). Do not stay in open space or under tall objects (trees, poles). If no shelter is available,crouch down, feet close together with head tucked down. If in a group spread out, keeping people several metres apart.
Remember, lightning victims can be revived with CPR even though there is no pulse.

IF YOU'RE IN THE CAR: Stay in vehicle with windows closed. Avoid touching metal parts of vehicle. Do not drive, wait. But don't park under trees or other tall objects that may fall over in storm.
Be wary of downed power lines that may be touching your car. You should be safe in the car but may receive a shock if you step outside.