Each day across the world, there are as many as 40,000 thunderstorms and in Odisha state alone about 3,218 people lost their lives in lightning strikes between 2011 and February 2020.
Seeing this, India Meteorological Department (IMD), Ministry of Earth Sciences, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) are jointly working on the project to establish the country’s first thunderstorm research testbed at Balasore or Baleshwar, a city in the state of Odisha, about 194 kilometres north of the state capital Bhubaneswar.

Expected to be fully operational in next 5 years, the research facility will aim to reduce fatalities and loss of property due to lightning strikes in Odisha and the eastern states (Balasore is152 kilometers from Kolkata).

DRDO Chandipur, ISRO Balasore and Bhubaneswar met office will jointly implement the project, said the media reports. The IMD, ISRO and DRDO already have their units in Balasore. Observatories will be set up to cater to nearby areas and studies on thunderstorms will be conducted on the testbed.

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Advanced observational systems will also be installed in north Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand. Top academic institutes like IIT Bhubaneswar, IIT Kharagpur, Fakir Mohan University, NIT Rourkela, Maharaja Sriram Chandra Bhanja Deo University at Baripada, University of Calcutta and Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi will be involved to conduct research on the data which will be shared to them by the testbed.

In more contemporary times, thunderstorms have taken on the role of a scientific curiosity. Lightning is detected remotely using sensors that detect cloud-to-ground lightning strokes with 95 percent accuracy in detection and within 250 metres (820 ft) of their point of origin. Radio pulses produced by cosmic rays are being used to study how electric charges develop within thunderstorms

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