Alafua lightning strike was dangerous – Meteorology Office

A cloud-to-ground lightning strike at Alafua on Tuesday night could have caused a fire and can be dangerous, the Samoa Meteorology Office has warned.

Residents at Alafua were shocked by the loud bang when the natural weather phenomenon striked, the explosion-type of noise at around 10.30pm on Tuesday was heard from as far as Siusega and neighbouring villages.

A resident at Alafua, who did not want to be identified, said the lightning strike was loud and felt so close to his residence.

"It was really loud and really close as well. It was like a vibration that went off,” he said.

A weather technician at the Samoa Meteorology Office, Manu Solomona, told Samoa Observer that the cloud-to-ground lightning strike was a result of thunderstorms developing over Apia in recent days.

He said a speed convergence which descended from the north of the islands on Tuesday night provided instability and sufficient moisture content for the development of thunderstorms which triggered the lightning strike.

"The cloud to ground strike which happened on Tuesday night at 10:30 pm at Alafua is severe to organic material, which can cause immediate incineration and is highly dangerous," he said.

"This type of weather phenomena is normal in the tropics and with the higher tropopause layer in our region we get to experience these weather phenomena more frequently and violently depending on the instability of the atmosphere.”

Other factors which contributed to the development of the thunderstorms that evening, included warmer ocean temperatures and the cooling of the upper levels of the atmosphere, which Mr Solomona highlighted as other contributing factors.

"Additionally, warmer oceans sustain thunderstorms development at night and the cooling in the mid to upper level of the atmosphere creates the perfect environment for thunderstorms also temperature data as of the last 30 years states March 2020 being the hottest on record, evidence signifying this situation is how severe Tropical Cyclone Harold was which affected our region."

The altitude of a place can determine its risks of getting hit by cloud-to-ground lightning, according to Mr Solomona, who indicated that higher altitude locations are more vulnerable to such lightning strikes. 

"A recent cloud-to-ground strike earlier this year caused the power blackout that affected the whole of Samoa," he added. 

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