Vaisala has published its 2023 Annual Lightning Report, which reveals the 20 most at-risk metropolitan areas in the continental USA.
The Vaisala Xweather Annual Lightning Report ranks all 50 states plus Washington DC by total lightning count and lightning density. Now in its seventh year, the Vaisala Xweather annual lightning report reveals a total of 242,101,157 in-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning events in the continental USA in 2023 and 2,102,170,206 lightning events worldwide.
“2023 set a record for the number of billion-dollar weather disasters in the United States,” said Samuli Hänninen, head of Vaisala Xweather. “By year-end, 19 of the 25 events with losses exceeding US$1bn were attributed to severe storms. Severe weather can also be life-threatening, especially without the right safety measures in place.
“Lightning triggers wildfires, disrupts power, impacts businesses and poses a significant hazard to life and property. Our 2023 annual lightning report focuses on the risks to windfarms and metropolitan areas. Early warning systems with severe weather forecasting and real-time lightning alerts play an important role in protecting people, businesses and infrastructure from thunderstorms.”
The 2023 Annual Lightning Report highlighted a total of 77,494 lightning strokes at or near 1,500 windfarms in the USA in 2023. A wind farm in Hansford County, Texas and another straddling Blaine and Custer Counties, Oklahoma, saw more than 1,000 strokes each.
In Oklahoma, a wind farm in Pushmataha Country saw an average of 14.4 lightning strokes per turbine in 2023, followed by a wind farm in Freeborn County, Minnesota, with 12 lightning strokes per turbine. In total, three wind farms received more than 10 cloud-to-ground lightning strokes per turbine on average. On the flipside, one-third of US wind farms saw no lightning strikes at all in 2023.
The researchers estimate that lightning damage costs the industry more than US$100m annually and accounts for 60% of blade losses and almost 20% of operational losses overall. When counting lightning strokes per square kilometer, five metropolitan areas in Florida ranked highest for lightning risk in 2023: Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Palm Bay–Melbourne, Cape Coral, Orlando, and Jacksonville.
With 120,998 cloud-to-ground lightning strokes – more than 35 per square kilometer – Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was the most lightning-prone metropolitan area in the USA in 2023. Houston, Texas, saw 73,114 strokes, followed by Atlanta, Georgia, with 55,490 strokes. The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area in Texas racked up 41,038 strokes. On the East Coast, the New York-Jersey City-Newark metropolitan area in the states of New York and New Jersey had 28,132 lightning strokes.
Altogether, 10 of the most famously tall buildings in the USA were struck by lightning 104 times in 2023. The Willis Tower in Chicago, Illinois, was struck by lightning 38 times. In New York City, One World Trade Center came up second with 26 lightning strikes. In third place was 875 North Michigan Avenue (formerly known as the John Hancock Center), in Chicago, with 15 lightning strikes.
Lightning activity around specific buildings varies considerably from year to year. Chicago has a higher average lightning density than New York City, yet, over the last five years, One World Trade Center was struck by lightning significantly more often than Chicago’s high-rise buildings.
With 42,388,860 lightning events in total, Texas had more lightning than any other state in 2023. When measuring lightning density, however, Florida took the number one spot with 112.6 lightning events per square kilometer.
The data comes from the Vaisala US National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) and the Vaisala Global Lightning Dataset (GLD360). These two networks detect and pinpoint the location of in-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning events 24 hours a day. Together, they detect 99.9% of thunderstorms worldwide, recording more than two billion lightning events every year.
Read more of the latest lightning detection updates from the meteorological technology industry, here.