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2020 lightning and tornado numbers were down -- but not tornado fatalities

January 16, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 20.3%. 1 min read.

There was some good news to come out of 2020: fewer lightning strikes and fewer tornadoes across the United States. But sadly, fewer tornadoes did not mean fewer fatalities.

(CNN)There was some good news to come out of 2020: fewer tornadoes and fewer lightning strikes across the United States.

Some of the strongest tornadoes every year occur in rural parts of the country, so damage can be limited, but if a tornado, even a weaker one, strikes a major metro area, damage and fatalities can be extensive," he says.

Another potentially deadly weather phenomenon -- lightning strikes -- also saw tallies drop in 2020.

"The decrease in counts from 2019 to 2020 is the greatest change year-over-year in our data, and 39 (of the) 48 (states) saw below-average lightning," says Chris Vagasky, meteorologist and lightning applications manager at Vaisala, which specializes in weather, environmental and industrial measurements on Earth and Mars.

Sometimes a single event can account for a large number of lightning strikes.

Preliminary numbers show lightning killed 17 people across the US in 2020, the second-lowest total since 2010, according to the National Weather Service.

Oftentimes as thunderstorms develop out West, the surrounding air is so dry that any rain that falls actually gets evaporated before it reaches the ground, a phenomena called "virga. " Lightning can still occur within these storms, which don't have the benefit of moisture to extinguish any fires a strike might set.

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