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International Journal of Biometeorology ISSN 0020-7128 Volume 56 Number 6 Int J Biometeorol (2012) 56:1011-1023 DOI 10.1007/s00484-011-0515-5
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Int J Biometeorol (2012) 56:1011–1023 DOI 10.1007/s00484-011-0515-5
Lightning safety of animals
Received: 17 September 2011 / Revised: 3 December 2011 / Accepted: 5 December 2011 / Published online: 5 January 2012 # ISB 2012
Abstract This paper addresses a concurrent multidisciplinary problem: animal safety against lightning hazards. In regions where lightning is prevalent, either seasonally or throughout the year, a considerable number of wild, captive and tame animals are injured due to lightning generated effects. The paper discusses all possible injury mechanisms, focusing mainly on animals with commercial value. A large number of cases from several countries have been analyzed. Economically and practically viable engineering solutions are proposed to address the issues related to the lightning threats discussed. Keywords Lightning injury . Animal safety . Step potential . Side flashes . Direct strikes . Preventive measures
Introduction Lightning is a phenomenon based on atmospheric electricity that brings extremely large impulsive currents to earth. A living being can be affected by lightning in several ways. There are numerous papers published on the mechanisms of lightning injuries to human beings (Gomes and Kadir 2011; Cooray et al. 2007; Zimmermann et al. 2002; Norman et al. 2001; Carte et al. 2002; Muehlberger and Vogt, 2001; Elsom 2000; Fahmy et al. 1999; Webb et al 1996; Andrews 1992; Mackerras 1992; Duclos and Sanderson 1990; Andrews and Darvaniza
C. Gomes (*) Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Centre of Excellence on Lightning Protection (CELP), Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia e-mail: email@example.com
1989; Epperly and Stewart 1989; Coorper et al. 1989; Eriksson and Smith 1986; Cooper 1980) which are grossly applicable to animals as well. However there are some specific injury probabilities that should be considered when it comes to lightning safety of animals. Every year thousands of cattle, buffalos, sheep, goats, etc. succumb to lightning injuries all over the world. Animals are much vulnerable to be affected by lightning as they are usually placed outdoor even under thunderstorm conditions. Occasionally, precious animals such as elephants, horses, etc. are also subjected to lightning related injuries. Especially, animals having a large separation between their front and back feet such as elephants, cattle, horses, donkeys, etc. are vulnerable to receive lightning injuries due to the dangerous potential differences that may built up between these feet, in the event of nearby lightning. There are several case studies done on the lightning effects on four legged animals which have been published as research papers (Žele et al. 2006; Boeve et al. 2004; Van Alstine and Widmer 2003; Bedenice et al. 2001; Williams 2000; Appel 1991; Ishikawa et al. 1985; Karobath et al. 1977; Brightwell 1968; Best 1967). All the above papers discuss medical aspects of lightning injuries or injury mechanisms and hardly made attempts to provide technically viable solutions to minimize the lightning hazards. In few papers some precautionary measures are briefly explained. In this paper we provide a comprehensive account on the lightning injury mechanisms with an engineering perspective and describe practical solutions to minimize lightning injuries on captive and movement-controllable animals. Contents of the paper will have valuable applications in livestock industry, game parks, zoological gardens and all activities where animals are involved.
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Information analysis Lightning threat Lightning is a short duration (40–70 μs) transient current which may flow to ground several times during a single flash. It is a double exponential waveform, sometimes followed by slow varying downward ramp (known as continuing current) that has much smaller magnitude than the peak of the initial impulse. The initial impulses have about 30 kA peak value on average whereas extreme values, which are in the order of many 100s of kilo-amperes, have also been detected. The continuing current may last from a few milliseconds to 100s of milliseconds and have magnitudes in the order of a few to several hundred Amperes. The impulse-continuing current combination is called a stroke. In a single flash many such strokes can reach ground with temporal separation of a few to few hundred milliseconds. On average, a negative lightning has 3 – 4 strokes. Positive lightning, which brings impulse currents of much larger amplitudes and continuing currents of longer durations and higher magnitudes, usually has one stroke per flash (Cooray 2003). Positive lightning contributes to less than 5% of the ground flashes in the tropics, whereas they can be as high as 40% in temperate regions and in winter storms in Japan and Korea (Cooray 2003). Lightning current maintains a constant value as it flows through an object at ground level (such source is termed a current generator). Hence, the lightning struck
Fig. 1 a The distribution of potential when a tree is struck by lightning. b An animal in the direction of potential gradient is subjected to step potential hazard
object develops a short-term potential difference between two parts of it along the path of the current. The top of the tree shown in Fig. 1 develops a very high potential with respect to a distant point at ground, when it is struck by lightning. The magnitude of this potential difference depends on the impedance (basically due to series resistance and inductance) between the two points of the object and the magnitude and time derivative of the current. For example, when lightning current flows along highly resistive (let’s ignore the inductance for convenience) material such as the wood of a tree, the potential difference generated will be very high. For lightning with large currents this potential difference may reach values exceeding megavolts if the two points of concern are far apart. In such cases not only the potential difference but also the heat generated will be massive. On the other hand when the lightning current flows along a good conductor, such as a copper rod the potential difference between two points separated by a similar distance, as in the previous case, will be much less, thus the heat dissipation will also be very small. This observation is the basic concept of lightning protection systems which will not be covered in this paper. The potential at the point where the lightning current enters ground is usually at a large value, typically in the order of several tens of kilovolts. This potential rapidly decreases as one moves radially away from the point of injection of current to ground, giving rise to a so-called “ground potential gradient” as shown in Fig. 1a. This potential gradient becomes significantly large if the earth re-
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sistance of soil is high. A potential gradient causes surface currents to flow in many directions from the point of strike. In some experiments done on artificial lightning (triggered lightning), it has been observed that lightning may generate surface flashover (current that flows on ground surface in the form of sparks) that extends to more than 20 m. Therefore, in the subject of lightning safety this potential gradient plays a significant role. Injury mechanisms To be injured or temporarily disabled, an animal may not essentially be struck by lightning. Even if it is close to the point of strike it may receive lethal injuries to which the victim may succumb. Lightning may injure or kill animals, basically in several primary ways: Direct strikes An animal in the open field who keeps itself as a high protrusion in the vicinity may be the subject of a direct lightning strike if the answering leader from the animal meets lightning stepped leader. In such an event, the entire lightning current may pass through or over the body of the victim. The greater the height of the object above others in the vicinity, the higher the chances that it receives a lightning strike, although several other parameters also contribute to the selection of the object being struck. Side flashes Animals underneath a large tree, large pole or inside a tent on wooden poles may receive a side flash if the tree or the tent is hit by lightning. In such cases the entire lightning current or a part of it may pass through the victim’s body. Figure 2 shows such a possibility.
The closer the animal is to the parts of the originally lightning struck object, the greater the chances of it getting a side flash. Step potential This is the most common lightning hazard among four-legged animals. When the feet of an animal are separated in the direction of increasing potential, a partial current may pass through the body if the two parts of the body in contact with the ground align in the direction of potential gradient developed due to the injection of current into the earth from a nearby lightning strike. Figure 1a depicts how the potential distributes during the passage of lightning current, and Fig. 1b shows how an animal in the direction of the potential gradient is subjected to partial currents. In contrast to the case of human beings, lightning current entering from one set of feet of animals may cross over heart, liver, etc. as the path of current will be through these organs. Note that even when the animal is in 90° to the given position it will be subjected to the step potential that develops between its left feet and right feet that may send lethal current through the same organs mentioned before. Touch potential A partial current may pass through the body of an animal, if a part of the body comes in contact with higher elevation of the lightning struck object while the other part remains in contact with ground (refer Fig. 1a). Most often animals with high vertical stretch (giraffes and elephants) are subjected to serious touch potential hazards. Figure 3 depicts how an elephant reaching high branches of a tree while its feet are at ground level may get part of the lightning current due to touch potential. As the lightning
Fig. 2 The possibility of an animal getting a side flash
Fig. 3 The possibility of an animal getting a partial lightning current due to touch potential
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current flows through the tree a large voltage develops along the trunk of it. As a part of the elephant is in contact with the upper parts of the tree it will be exposed to touch potential which may be fatal. Upward streamers As the lightning stepped leader reaches ground from cloud, usually carrying negative charge, it creates an intensive electric field in the vicinity. Hence, many objects in the surrounding starts sending oppositely charged streamers towards the stepped leader. Once one of those answering leaders is successful in meeting the stepped leader the others vanish. These answering leaders give rise to a small current through the body of objects that send them. Such current may most often paralyze the animal; however, depending on the heart cycle that it passes through, even serious injuries or cardiac failure may result. Chances of upward streamer related hazards are rare compared to other mechanisms. Proximity to the strike The shock wave generated by lightning channel due to sudden expansion of air may damage the skin or ear drums when an animal is very close to the point of strike. Furthermore, intense light may cause vision imparity of the animals close by. There are several secondary effects, such as falling from higher elevations due to momentary shock, falling of heavy materials from structures (detached due to lightning strike) on the animal, falling of tree branches and missiling of splitfractions of lightning struck trees, burns and choking hazards due to volatile materials in the surrounding catching fire and psychological trauma, etc. The passage of current inside the body may lead the animal into ventricular fibrillation (unsynchronized muscle operation of the heart), respiratory arrest (inability to breath), burning of vital organs such as brain, liver, kidneys, etc. and internal bleeding due to bursting of blood vessels, mechanical lesions of internal organs and hemorrhages. The animal may also suffer from nervous system damage, broken bones and loss of hearing or eyesight. Lightning injuries can lead to permanent disabilities or death. In the case of human beings, on average, 20% of strike victims die and 70% of survivors suffer long-term disabilities (Cooper 1980). The above described injuries are primarily neurological, with a wide range of symptoms, and are sometimes difficult to cure. Based on the results of animal experiments, Karobath et al. (1977) state that sometimes autopsy is incapable of giving recognizable changes in some of the lightning victims. Most often lightning accidents are reported in popular media rather than in scientific literature. However, the reports sometimes are detailed enough to make conclusions on the injury mechanism. Table 1 depicts some of these accidents reported both in published literature and in news
media. In some cases, more than one source have been referred for the event analysis; however, only the main source was indicated as the source of information. Analysis of experimental observations Experiments done in Japan between the 1960s and 1980s by applying laboratory sparks that simulate lightning to animals have revealed much information on the lethal energy of impulse currents in the body (Ishikawa et al. 1985; Nagai et al. 1982; Ohashi et al. 1978, 1981a, b; Kitagawa et al. 1972). Studies described in Ishikawa et al. (1985), Nagai et al. (1982) and Ohashi et al. (1978, 1981a) reveal that the lethal impulse energy depends on the mass of the animal body. They have shown consistent value around 60 J/kg as the lethal energy that may kill the animal. The findings of Ishikawa et al. (1985) reveal that when negative repetitive impulses (duration 40 μs and rise time 1.5 μs), separated by 40 ms, are applied there is no cumulative effect on the animal. In other words, when impulses below the threshold amplitude are applied animals have not been affected lethally. Thus, under natural lightning conditions the effects of an animal being killed by the lightning current do not accumulate with increasing number of strokes; however, it increases the probability of a stroke having above threshold energy. It should also be noted that once the current waveform and its amplitude is fixed, the lethality has another dependent parameter: the current passage. In the above animal experiments, voltage is always applied between head and a hind leg which ensured the current path to be across the brain and most probably the heart as well. Therefore, in a natural scenario the lethal energy may be higher. ÀR Á The mean energy per unit resistance i2 dt of impulse part of the lightning current is about 50 kJ/Ω for negative lightning and about 600 kJ/Ω for positive lightning (Berger et al. 1975; Anderson and Eriksson 1980). The resistance of a human body from head to feet is about 1000 Ω (Berger 2007). Therefore, if the total lightning current flows through the body, the energy dissipation of a person of mass 50 kg will be about 1 MJ/kg for an average negative first stroke. Even for an Asian elephant, of which the body mass is approximately 5000 kg, the energy dissipation will be about 1 kJ/kg. As this value is much higher than the lethal energy required to kill the animal, once subjected to a direct strike it has almost zero chance of survival. However, as we have discussed earlier only about 20% of the direct strike recipients succumb to injuries (Cooper 1980). The reason is very obvious as per the discussion below. The answering streamer that emerges from the body which sends an opposite charge towards the stepped leader will contribute to filamentary streamers emanating
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Int J Biometeorol (2012) 56:1011–1023 Table 1 Summary of lightning related animal accidents 1015 Case number 1 Incident Source of information “Death by lightning for giraffes, elephants, sheep and cows”, Tetrapod Zoology, July 15, 2009 “Famed elephant killed by lightning in west”, The News-Sentinel, September 7, 1943 Personal observation by the author “Elephant grave yard”, Nature Shock in Channel 5, 30th July 2010 “TV giraffe killed by lightning”, The Telegraph, 09 November, 2010 “Lightning kills six sheep at Aveley Ranch”, Clearwater Times, August 01, 2011 Van Alstine and Widmer (2003)
One elephant belonged to a circus died while in open space One elephant belong to a circus died while in open space One elephant belonged to a Buddhist Temple died while tied to a large tree Five wild elephants died while in an open river bed One tamed giraffe died in an animal park while it was ambling among trees Six sheep in the livestock industry died while seeking shelter under an isolated tree Three pigs in the livestock industry sustained multiple fractures of lumbar vertebral body while in an open pen One pig died and 47 pigs had broken bones while in an enclosed barn (in livestock industry) Three Holstein-Friesian cattle died and 15 had vision imparity, diarrhoea, etc. while they were grazing in pasture (in the livestock industry) Five pigs were dead and 59 paralysed, while in an enclosed barn (in the livestock industry) Seven deer belonging to a national park while in an open field Two wild roe deer died in an open space with low bushes Two domesticated horses had short-term neurological impairment while in an open space not far from trees 18 cattle in the livestock industry died very close to a large isolated tree 16 cattle in the livestock industry died very close to an isolated tree 52 cattle in the livestock industry died while in contact with an ungrounded metal fence in an open field 15 cattle in the livestock industry died in an open space Seven cattle in the livestock industry died in an open space 11 sheep in the livestock industry died in an open space with tall trees not far away Eight bighorn sheep in the livestock industry died in an open space with a tall tree not far away 654 sheep in the livestock industry died on an open hilly terrain 850 sheep in the livestock industry died on an open hilly terrain
2 3 4 5 6 7
Boeve et al. (2004)
10 11 12 13
Best (1967) “Lightning strike kills deer in Kenosha County”, Journal Sentinel, March 22, 2011 Žele et al. (2006) Bedenice et al. (2001) “Humphreys farmer says 18 cattle killed by single lightning strike”, Humphreys County, TN (WSMV), Aug 13, 2011 “Lightning strike kills bullocks”, BBC News, 15 June 2009 “Fifty-two cows are killed after lightning hits a wire fence”, the telegraph, 23 October, 2008 “Lightning kills 15 head of cattle in Lithia”, The Tampa Tribune, June 18, 2009 “Lightning strikes kill child, cattle”, New Vision (Uganda), 30th June, 2011 “Lightning kills 11 sheep at East Coventry farm”, The Mercury, June 29, 2011 “Lightning kills bighorn sheep on Wildhorse Island”, Montana Living, August 10, 2010 NOAA, National Weather Service Forecast Office, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA NOAA, National Weather Service Forecast Office, Salt lake City, Utah, USA
17 18 19 20
from ground and following paths via both internal body and external surface. Once the stepped leader is connected with the answering leader, the current starts increasing along
both passages. However, due to wetness, salinity, contaminants, etc. in the external path, a larger part of the current will take that passage. As the current in these filamentary channels
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increases a potential will be built up across the point of attachment (usually the head or an upper part of an animal) and ground contact point (usually the feet). Once the electric field due to this potential difference exceeds about 450 kV/m, air on the external body collapses, giving rise to a surface arc. At this instant impulse current through the body of an animal i:e: Rðt Þ a Rt
whose current entrance and leaving points are 2 m apart, reaches about 900 A. The Toepler ’s Law (Toepler 1906) states that the resistance of an electric arc at a given time is inversely proportional to the charge which has flown through the arc.
l i ðt Þ dt
where Rðt Þ is the resistance at time t and l is the arc length
Thus, as the current in the arc increases (and the time is elapsed) the resistance of the channel rapidly decreases. Therefore most probably the maximum impulse current that flows through the internal body will be the 900 A which exist immediately before the arc is formed. This current magnitude is reached within about 0.1 μs. Now, assuming a right angled triangle waveform, where the total energy dissipation per unit resistance (ER) can be approximated by ER ¼ 1 3 i0 t0 where i0 and t0 are 900 A and 0.1 μs, respectively, it is found that the total energy dissipation in the 1000 Ω resistance of the body is about 270 J. For an animal of weight 50 kg this is equivalent to energy per unit mass (EM) of about 5.4 J/kg. As the current reaches the maximum value, the resistance of the arc channel across the animal body reduces to about 2 Ω; thus, at peak current of 30 kA, potential difference across the body becomes 60 kV, that results in a maximum current of 60 A across the body. Now again considering a triangular wave shape of total duration 40 μs, we find that there is an energy dissipation of 36 J inside the body because of the formation of the external arc, which gives rise to a value of EM of 0.72 J/kg. Hence, during the total period of the impulse the internal energy dissipation is just above 6 J/kg which is one order less than the lethal energy per unit mass. The following points should be noted with regard to the above calculations: 1. It should be taken into account that the above results are obtained by considering average lightning current amplitude. There is a small probability of receiving lightning currents having peaks in the order of several hundred kilo-amperes. In such cases, the through-body current during the surface-arc phase may reach values several times greater than the 60 A value obtained in the calculations. 2. Continuing current is not taken into account in the analysis. However, if the surface-arc starts during the impulse current phase most of the continuing current will flow through the arc channel. 3. In the event of a positive lightning, the situation may be worse due to two reasons. Currents of positive lightning
have larger amplitudes and slower current fronts. The larger impulse amplitude gives rise to greater throughbody currents during the arc phase, whereas slower front times allow longer time of flow of pre-arc through-body current. Both may adversely affect the chances of survival of the victim. 4. Even smaller currents during a short interval may cause cardiac arrest if the flow coincides with critical phases of the pulmonary cycle. This is one crucial point due to which the energy per unit mass alone cannot be taken as the sole pointer of deciding the lethality of lightning. The above discussion clearly shows that the decisive factor of determining the fate of the lightning victim is the surface arc formation. A delay of such by few microseconds may cause the current adversely affecting the cardiac cycle or the energy per unit mass exceeding the lethal threshold. The experimental evidence provided in Nagai et al. (1982) also justifies that delay in the formation of surface arc causes the death of rabbits, especially due to cardiac arrest. In the case of human casualties there are many observations of no signs of current entrance into the body (personal communications with Prof. Mary Ann Cooper, University of Illinois and information given in Gomes et al. 2006). This may most probably be due to the delayed surface arcing that drives currents sufficient for arresting the heart but insufficient to make burn-through. The above discussion also explains why the touch potential, step potential and upward streamer related accidents are equally lethal for animals as the direct strikes and side flashes where the victim is encountered with almost the entire lightning current. In the three former cases the through-body current will only be a small fraction of the total stroke current; however, due to the very slim possibility of such currents forming sufficiently high potential differences to generate surface arcing, the current passage will exist for the entire duration. In the case of four-legged animals the path of the current will most probably be through the heart which creates cardiac arrest. The current may also affect spinal code and cervical, thoracic and lumbar segments causing hind leg paralyses, commonly seen among animals subjected to step potential.
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The current during contact and touch potentials strongly depends on the contact resistance at current entrance and exit points. The contact resistance may significantly reduce when the feet are in water or slurry of mud, or a part of the body is in good contact with a metal component of the object struck by lightning (e.g. metal pole, fence, etc.). Analysis of lightning accidents The information depicted in Table 1 provides technical insight to the animal injuries due to lightning. The event described in case 1 in Table 1 occurred in the Oquawkas town square, in Illinois, USA, in 1972, where the elephant has been struck by a direct stroke. It was killed on the spot. The case reported in case 2 occurred in Dilion, Montana, USA in 1943. As per the report the victim was struck by lightning and was killed instantly while elephants in the group around were paralyzed temporarily. The incident given in case 3 took place in Kandy, Sri Lanka in 2001, in which a sacred elephant belonging to the Temple of Tooth was killed by lightning. In this case the scenario of lightning impact was different to the two cases described above. The elephant was tied to a tree by a hind leg. There was visual evidence that the tree has been struck by lightning. There were no signs of a side flash entering the body, however, as we have described earlier it is quite possible that lightning current can enter the body by a side flash or direct strike without having evidence of entry point. The damage to the chain verifies that current had entered the leg through touch potential. A possible mechanism for the current transfer is depicted in Fig. 4. The amplitude of current through the body depends on various parameters: amplitude of original current, surface arcing, contact resistances between tree and chain or chain and leg, body resistance and contact resistance between feet and ground. Among the four feet, contact
Fig. 4 The possible paths of current due to touch potential as an animal is tied to a tree by a metal chain
resistance of the hind feet, to which the chain was tied, played a vital role in determining the magnitude of the body current. Most often elephants are seen either lifting or loosely resting the chained foot on ground, most probably due to the itchy feeling. Furthermore, in the event of a newly started rain, the hind legs, which are closer to the tree, may be on relatively dry ground. Due to both of these reasons, the contact resistance (with ground) of other feet, especially the front feet, may be considerably less than the chained hind foot. Such condition may lead lethal currents driven through the elephant’s vital organs. The death of five wild elephants (case 4) was reported in 2007, in the village of Kumargram, West Bengal, India. The elephants were found dead in the dry bed of Raidak River in the morning which followed a night of intense thunderstorm. There were speculations of animal poisoning as the cause of death but the necropsy revealed that there were no traces of poisonous substances in the bodies or any other external wounds. Hence, the cause of death had been confirmed as lightning. Our experience in the soil resistivity measurements of dry river beds in Sri Lanka (a country adjacent to India) shows that in such locations the soil resistivity is very low, in the range of few Ohm meters (unpublished data pertinent to an ongoing project). The resistance may be even lower in the above case as the incident occurred in heavy stormy conditions with intense rain. Hence, the chances of step potential killing the five elephants are remote. This leaves the only possible mechanism as direct strike with multiple terminations (fork lightning) or a direct strike to an elephant followed by several side flashes (due to their proximity). The death of a giraffe (case 5) took place in Glen Afric reserve in South Africa in 2010. The victim was a popular character in a tele-drama series and was regarded as a very valuable asset. The giraffe has been struck by lightning while it was ambling through the trees of the nature park while the rest of the TV crew was filming another part of the television show. It was probably subjected to a side flash of a lightning that struck a tall tree as per the description of the accident environment. The event record presented in case 12 (Žele et al. 2006) describes the pathological and histo-pathological examination of two female roe deer that had been found dead after a severe thunderstorm in an open field in Slovenia. The two animals were found about 1.5 m apart. As per the conclusion of the researchers, one of the deer was killed by a direct strike whereas the other was killed by step potential (ground current as they term). As per their description the trachea and bronchi of both deer contained aspirated light red foam. The proximity of the bodies of the animals and the red foam in the breathing system suggest that multiple-termination direct strike or direct strike/multiple side flash combination was more likely the event rather than a direct strike/step potential combination.
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The forensic diagnosis presented in case 8, with regard to 48 pigs affected in Ontario, Canada (Brightwell 1968), three pigs affected in Indiana, USA (case 7, Van Alstine and Widmer 2003) and 64 pigs affected in Manitoba, Canada (case 10, Best 1967) shows that the animals have been subjected to step potential rather than direct strike or side flash. The hind limb paralysis shown by all surviving victims and evidence of lightning striking nearby objects are evidence of step potential. The animals in each case were found in a bunch. The small height of swine reduces the probability of having side flashes. The situation described in 29 shows that the lightning had struck the power system which had destroyed a nearby transformer and a part of the current had been transferred to the vicinity of the swine by a power line of which the insulation had been burnt. The deaths of bighorn sheep reported in Montana, USA (case 20) demonstrate copybook style step potential hazard. In this event, there were signs of damage in a large Ponderosa pine tree due to lightning and six of the rams were found dead in a circle of about 15 feet (about 5 m) around the tree. Two other dead bodies were found a few meters away from the circle. In homogenous ground, the maximum potential gradient can be seen in a direction radially away from the point of strike. In this case, unfortunately, the animals happened to be in this ideal direction to receive the maximum surface current driven through their bodies. The death of 11 sheep, reported in case 19, is another incident that resembles the above. The accident took place in a small wood in East Coventry, USA. In this incident too, the sheep were found dead in a circle and a tall tree within the circle bore signs of a lightning strike (burn marks and split branches). The sheep may most probably have been killed due to step potential. However, there are chances of side flashes as well, due to the close proximity of sheep to the tree in contrast to the previous incidents. In an incident somewhat similar to the above, in a field in East Lothian, Florida (case 17), 15 cattle were dead after a thunderstorm. The bodies were found almost touching each other. The animals were in an open field, however a solitary not-very-tall tree could be observed in the photographs issued, about several tens of meters away from the animals. A lightning expert visited the scene and suggested the cause of death as a direct strike. Although a multiple-termination direct strike is not impossible, a direct strike/multiple side flash is more likely due to the close proximity of the animals. Note that once an answering leader, which will eventually be successful in meeting the lightning stepped leader, is formed, it is highly unlikely that many such similar successful leaders are formed within a small area. In the case described in case 17, the step potential hazard due to lightning that struck the nearby tree can also be a possible cause of deaths. The incidents reported in cases 14, 15 and 18, may be either due to side flash or step potential as in all cases the animals were very close to tall trees.
The incident reported in Wisconsin, USA (case 11) is an interesting event where step potential hazards were evident as the causes of deaths. In this accident seven deer were found dead in a large open field. Six of them were huddled in a circle and the seventh was found some distance away. One of the newsfeeds has described that there was a hole of depth about 5 inches and diameter of the same size situated in the middle of the circle; thus, it seems that the incident is most probably a step potential hazard. The communication that we had with two eyewitness of the aftermath (Mr. Randy Lantz and Ms. Jennifer Niemeyer), revealed some accurate details of the incident which were slightly different from several descriptions in the newsfeeds. The bodies of six deer were in a near circle (more of an oval) as shown in Fig. 5a. As a witness of the dead animals suggested, lightning may have struck the deer shown at point Y in Fig. 5a and b. However, as there were no burn marks in the fur (due to flashover), or any other signs such as red patches, it is not very convincing to conclude that the deer has been affected by a direct strike. On the other hand, the disturbance of soil from point X to point Y reveals that the lightning may most probably have hit the ground at X and a heavy component of the surface current has flown in the direction of the deer at Y. Thus, the deer had been subjected to a large step potential due to which a considerable current had been driven through its body. The degree of soil disturbance between X and Y hints that if the deer had been struck by the lightning it should have left at least a few marks on the body of the animal. It is believed that it was raining by the time of strike and the deer were wading in standing water of a few centimeters deep. Figure 5c shows the marks of hooves deeply embedded in the ground. The seventh victim seems to be in the same circle by the time it was affected but had managed to walk for about 100 m before it collapsed. This deer was bleeding from its eyes still on the following day when the incident was brought to the notice of the authorities (Fig. 5d). In general, the description shows that the seven deer had been subjected to step potential due to the lightning that struck inside their circle. The firm contact of their feet with ground had reduced the contact resistance, enhancing the chances of a large current flowing across their bodies. Unlike in the case of the two-legged animals, the animals with four legs are subjected to almost the maximum potential gradient across one of many combinations of two legs irrespective of the position of the lightning. Most of these current paths cross through the vital organs of the body reducing the chances of survival of the affected animal. This explains the mass-scale deaths of animals, depicted in Table 1. In a herd of hundreds of animals one cannot expect all the animals in a single direction at the time of strike, still each may get enough dose of electricity that exceeds lethal energy. The deer which was bleeding from the eyes may have the current path through or close to the eyes so that
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Int J Biometeorol (2012) 56:1011–1023 Fig. 5 The death of deer in the incident in Kenosha County. a The circle of six deer carcasses after the incident. b The disturbance of soil due to the lightning strike. c The marks of deep embedded hooves. d The seventh deer which had walked about 100 m from the circle before it collapsed 1019
capillaries are crushed due to the impact of heat dissipation (personal communication with Prof. Diana Žele, University of Ljubljana). One probable scenario may be the entrance of current through the legs and leaving through the face as the deer is keeping its face in contact with or close to ground (e. g. drinking water). There is a possibility that the arcing had taken place through its eyes to ground. Both mass-scale deaths of sheep reported in cases 21 and 22 occurred in Utah, USA in the first half of the 19th century, in 1918 and 1939. The earlier incident had taken place at the peak of Mill Canyon, in the American Fork Canyon. The later was reported at the top of Pine Canyon in the Raft River Mountains. Our experience in many countries (during the inspection visits) reveals that soil resistivity of mountain pinnacles is much higher than the same at the mountain base. This is due to the soil erosion that exposes the high resistive rocky parts. Hence, the deaths of animals may most probably be due to step potential. As it was discussed earlier there is no need for the four-legged animals to be in one direction to experience high ground potential gradient. Furthermore, any other lightning injury mechanism giving rise to such large number of deaths of animals, spread over a vast land area, is highly impossible. The hind limb paralysis, visionary imparities and other neurological deformities detected in the surviving victims given in the diagnosis reports in case 9 on the 18 HolsteinFriesian cattle and in case 13 on the two horses show that the majority of animals had been subjected to step potential, effects of intense light and shockwave of lightning that struck in the proximity. The photographs issued by several sources with reference to the incident described in case 16 show that the 52 cattle were resting (or in contact with) their faces on the wires of
the metallic fence during the lightning strike. They were freely gazing in a large landscape on a mountain slope which is bound on one side by the fence with metallic wires (on wooden poles). This is an ideal example of death due to touch potential. As there are many parallel paths with reasonable conductivity for the lightning current to flow into ground (through the bodies of cattle), surface flashing to ground may have not occurred once the lightning current entered the wired fence. It was surprising to observe that the entire herd of cattle (which were free to move away from the fence) was in contact with the wire fence at the time of strike. To understand this behavior of the cattle, we communicated with several dairy farm owners. As per the information we received, it is a common observation that during the thunderstorm periods, the animals either crowd themselves under large trees (if such trees are at reachable distance) or move towards the peripherals of the landscape until they press themselves into the boundary lines. This behavior seems to be common among horses, sheep and goats, etc., as well.
Discussion Accuracy of reporting The number of peer reviewed research papers available on lightning accidents of animals is somewhat rare. As many of the lightning incidents reported in popular media are compiled by writers of non-scientific background (at least nonlightning experts), sometimes the reports are distorted to enhance the amusement. One such case is the attribution of the cause of death of 84 sheep to ball lightning (information
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extracted from “Ball lightning kills 84 sheep in Tuva”, Tuva Online, 27 July 2011). The incident occurred in Tuva, Russia where the animals had been killed while they were seeking shelter under a 15-m tall pine tree. The tree had been split into parts coinciding with a huge explosion, which the writer describes as due to the ball lightning. It is very much evident that such incidents are possible only with lightning strikes (Heidler et al. 2004) and the sheep had been killed by step potential or side flashes. The same article also states that in a similar incident in 2007, in Dagestan, Russia a herd of 300 sheep and the shepherd were killed; most probably another incident of step potential hazard similar to the examples given in Table 1. Economical impact It is evident from over 1,000 papers published on lightning protection of equipment and systems, most often people are more concerned about the damage (financial losses) to buildings and equipment. However, our investigations reveal that sometimes loss of animal may cause much higher economical impact than property damage. For example, the deaths of domesticated and trained elephants and the giraffe specified in Table 1 may have caused a loss of about USD 20,000–50,000 in each case. Especially, in the case of the death of the giraffe (case 5) there were many consequences that led to financial losses as the animal was playing a main character in a television series that had been televised during the time of tragedy. The death of cattle described in cases 14, 15 and 17 cost the respective farmers over USD 20,000 or equivalent in each case as per the claims. In another event that was not included in Table 1, Sunburnt Land, a race horse who earned nearly $380,000 in prize money, was killed by lightning, in Newham, Australia in 2008 incurring heavy losses to the owners (information from “Newham horse struck down by lightning”, Mecedon Ranges Leader, 14 November 2008). These few examples were given to emphasize the gravity of the situation that, as all other incidents discussed in this paper, they may have incurred similar or heavier losses to the respective animal owners. The analysis given in many research papers discussed earlier shows clear evidence that even when animals survive after step-potential and near-lightning effects, most often their commercial values are either lost or degraded due to various post-event disabilities. Safety procedures It is difficult to prevent animals that graze in herds in large fields from being subjected to lightning effects. According to the reports on mass deaths of animals in farms (such as in cases 16, 21 and 22), they were most often in open mountain
tops or slopes, underneath large trees or close to metallic fences during the time of occurrence of lightning. Animals affected in large numbers, while they were grazing in flat, low terrains are rare compared with similar fields in highly elevated or sloped locations. The low probability of lightning to such flat terrains (compared to the probability of striking to surrounding mountains) and the high content of moisture in low-lying fields (that reduces the surface soil resistivity) may be the reasons for these observations. Therefore, if the movement of herds can be controlled, there should be a mechanism to lead the herd away from mountain tops and open slopes towards flat terrains in the lowlands. As we have discussed earlier, it is a natural behavior of herding animals to move towards fences or take shelter under trees as a storm approaches. Hence, there should be a preventive mechanism of animals approaching the metal fences and large trees during thunderstorm activities. However, in most of the cases such preventive mechanisms are not practically feasible. In the case of fences with metal wires we propose the following defenses: 1. The wires should be grounded at regular intervals; at least at the supporting poles (which are usually placed 3–5 m apart). This can be done by stapling a vertical wire together with horizontal wires at the pole. As the lightning current distributes along many parallel paths each wire can have a minimum cross section of about 6– 8 mm2 (diameter of about 1.5 mm). Most barbed wires available in the market are suitable for this purpose. 2. If the fence encloses the animal field, then an additional round of wires should be buried about 50 cm beneath the ground surface (IEC 62305-3 2006). This is termed a ring conductor. The vertical wires at the poles should be connected to the ring conductor at the depth of 50 cm. The connection should better be done with exothermic or thermo welding. If such welding incurs too high a cost, then the vertical wire should be twisted with the ring conductor at least for 20 cm. 3. If the fence is open ended (not completely encircling the animal field) then, in addition to the procedures given in part b, it is advisable to have a wire, extending for about 3–4 meters outwards from the ring conductor at regular intervals (at the points that the vertical wires are connected to the ring conductor). The connection of these extensions should be done in the same way as the vertical wire is connected to the ring conductor. 4. A strip of about 2 m of ground surface from the fence (inside the animal field) should be covered with a 10– 20 cm layer of gravel or any other earth material that has an extremely high resistivity. This is a common practice in electrical switchyards that prevents workers from
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being electrocuted due to undesirable earth fault currents that may flow accidentally. The width of the strip may be adjusted so that it is slightly larger than the span of front and rear legs of the animal (2 m is most often sufficient for cattle farms). 5. If the fence is made on a concrete foundation and vertical metal poles, the poles should be welded to the steel reinforcement during the construction. The wires should be tightly stapled (if not welded) to the poles. The procedure described in part 4 should be implemented in this case as well. 6. In the case of fences with wooden poles and metal wires, it is advisable to check the condition of the buried parts at most once in 5 years and do the necessary replacement before the thunderstorm season begins. In regions where the salinity of the soil is high (coastal sites) the inspection needs to be done more frequently. In many animal farms or kraals it is a common site to have a solitary tree with large span of branch shade. The tree provides the needed shade for the animals during hot daytime. However, the same tree may bring death to the animal during thunderstorms. If there is no mechanism to avoid the animals taking shelter under these trees during thunderstorms it is advisable to cover the ground surface (at least the part of ground underneath the branch span) with a 10– 20 cm layer of gravel or any other earth material that has extremely high resistivity. The greater the area of coverage with gravel, the better the safety of the animals. Furthermore, the following procedures are also proposed to reduce the possibility of side flashes (refer to Fig. 6): 1. A metal wire ring (wire of cross section about 8 mm2) should be installed around the tree trunk at about 3 m above ground level. Most of the barbed wires available in the market satisfy this condition. The spikes of the barbed wires should be removed before the installation. 2. Connect 3–4 wires with similar cross section, each of length about 10 m, to the ring at nearly equal spacing.
3. The wires should be extended vertically down towards the base of the tree. 4. Tie up the vertical wires by metal wire rings at about each 1 m interval. These tie rings can be made similar to the metal wire ring described in part 1. 5. At the base of the tree, wires should be buried at about 50 cm below the ground level and extended radially away (for about 6–7 m). 6. The above steps should be carried out before the area is filled with gravel. It is advisable to cover at least the entire area of buried wires with gravel (and extend a few more meters if the cost permits). In contrast to the agricultural animals herded in large fields, animals in captivity or domesticated animals, which have greater chances of being inside shelters, can be better protected. Mainly, stallions, elephants and animals in zoological gardens fall into this category. Among the domesticated/tamed animals, elephants have a higher risk of getting injured or being killed due to lightning as they may be subject to step potentials, touch potentials and side flashes. The situation can be even worse if the elephants are tied to large trees or stumps with metal chains. As the elephant is quite tall it may get a side flash when the tree is struck by lightning. In this case the lightning may most probably jump to the head of the animal from the tree, killing it on the spot. Even if it escapes from a side flash the lightning current may automatically be brought into his body by the metal chain. Another way of elephants receiving a dose of lightning current when it is underneath a tree is through touch potential as it was described earlier. A special place should be prepared to tie up these animals under thunderstorm conditions. They should never be tied up to large isolated trees. The area, within which the animal is allowed to move, should be laid with a mesh of copper
Fig. 6 The proposed safety mechanism to protect animals that seek shelter under isolated trees in the field
Fig. 7 The proposed safety mechanism to protect captive animals
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strips (of minimum cross sectional area 8 mm2) underneath the ground surface. As copper is costly, GI pipes, GI tapes, barbed wire, etc., can also be used for the purpose. For elephants, a mesh of maximum dimensions 3 m×3 m is suitable whereas for horses, donkeys and cattle it should be less than 2 m×2 m. The mesh should be buried about 0.5 m below the ground level. Four metal poles should be installed and well grounded at the ends of the area (to have an earth resistance of less than 10 Ω). GI pipes of about 2.5-cm diameter and 3-mm thickness will be adequate for the purpose. The metal mesh should firmly be joined to the grounding of the metal poles (better to be thermo welded). There should be a facility to connect electrically the chain of the elephant to the grounding system, which is an essential part of the protection system. If a low cost option is adopted instead of copper, then it is advisable to inspect the condition of the underground mesh at least in every two years. Figure 7 shows a diagram of such protection scheme. The calculation has been done by assuming a protective angle of 45° which is applicable to the protection of an object of height up to 10 m even at Level I protection (IEC 62305-3 2006). The height of the poles above ground level (h) can be decided according to the formula below. Let the height of the animal be x. For rectangular areas with side lengths a and b, four poles pﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ ﬃ ða2 þb2 Þ should be installed at the corners: h ¼ þx 2 For circular areas of radius r, four poles should be installed at the ends of two perpendicular diameters; h 0 r+x, wherex can be taken as 3.5 m for elephants, 2.5 m for horses and 2 m for donkeys, cattle, etc. The cost of the above protection system will be much smaller than the value of these animals. The elephants and other valuable animals should never be allowed to stay in open waters in thunderstorm conditions. This advice will be very valuable to the officials at elephant orphanages, elephant and horse owners, temple authorities where elephants are housed and authorities of zoological gardens. Another concern is the open performing arena of elephants, horses, bears, etc. at zoological gardens and circuses. These arenas should be given the above protection even if the area is roofed. When the animals are provided with shelter (such as elephant lodges, stables, etc.), the structure should be given the same protection scheme.
higher side. Such situation demands comprehensive analysis of lightning-caused injury mechanisms with the view of developing protection schemes for the animal safety against lightning hazards. Many of the lightning injury mechanisms of the animals are similar to those of human beings. However, the effectiveness of each mechanism in affecting the body organs and the exposure probabilities are somewhat different in the case of animals. Step potential plays a vital role in the deaths of 4-legged animals due to two reasons: 1. The large span between the feet 2. The passage of sizable current through vital organs irrespective of the direction of lightning strike (many foot combinations across which the current may flow). In the case of tall animals such as elephants and giraffes side flashes and touch potential hazards are equally probable as the step potential effects. Large herds of cattle and other domesticated animals have been reported dead due to touch potentials as they rest their parts of the body on ungrounded metal fences. Side flashes and touch potential hazards of such animals are common as they gather around tall trees. Low cost solutions are available to minimize the lightning related injuries of animals. These techniques have been discussed in detail in the paper.
Acknowledgement The authors thankfully acknowledge the invaluable information and materials provided by Mr. Randy Lantz, Ms. Jennifer Niemeyer and Prof. Diana Žele. The Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia is greatly acknowledged for providing all required facilities to complete this study successfully.
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