From Iceland — THUN-DER!


Published November 10, 2017

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Mike Lehmann, Mike Switzerland/Wikimedia Commons

Last week, lightning struck twice in Iceland during a severe gale storm. On both occasions, it struck a major power line, cutting off power to large swaths of people—first, in Reykjanes, and then in a portion of South Iceland and the Westman Islands. Lightning is supposed to be an extremely rare occurrence in Iceland, as it requires a collision between cold and warm air fronts. However, lightning has been gradually increasing in Iceland, and we may need to prepare for it better.

Losing power in a storm is usually caused by high winds. Lightning, not so much. When people from the power company were interviewed by reporters in the wake of the storm, they said these cables did have safeguards against lightning, but that the voltage level was so high that the lightning strikes damaged them badly.

A change in the weather

The fact is, our safeguards against lightning may have fallen short. When a single cable provides power to an entire region of the country, and when that cable is suspended on a tower instead of buried in the ground, you’re pretty much asking for trouble.

In fairness, lightning is not something we normally have to contend with, but this has changed in recent years. Temperatures have been warming, rainfalls have gotten heavier, and lightning has become more frequent. It doesn’t really matter how “green” Iceland is if larger countries cause climate change that can have effects on our immediate environment.

Stay grounded

Until such time as the global community solves the problem of global warming (ha!), we’re going to have to take preventative measures against the impacts of climate change. This will mean fortifying our shore lines against rising sea levels, strengthening the infrastructure against flooding from melting glaciers, and yes, overhauling our electric grid against increasing lightning strikes.

On the positive side, lightning is very pretty, and for many, thunderstorms are part and parcel with a romantic summer night. We can enjoy that, too; we just need to prepare better against the damage lightning invariably causes.

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