A new report from the Atmospheric Electricity Group (ELAT), a division of Brazil’s Ministry of Science and Technology found that Peru ranked third for lightning-related deaths in South America, according to the news publication Peru 21. The study found that lightning-related fatalities are much higher in the developing world, roughly 17 times more than in the US and Europe.
The study also analyzed data from ten different countries in the region and tallied the number of deaths due to lightning strikes. Brazil led the way in terms of lightning-related deaths, followed by a tie between Cuba and Panama.
According to a BBC report, researchers cited the prevalence of droughts caused by El Nino as one partial reason for the increase in lightning deaths, with warmer, drier air resulting in more lightning storms.
Another reason could be the conversion of rainforest land to open urban areas, which also contributes to rising temperatures according to ELAT research. Osmar Pinto Junior, the coordinator of ELAT, told the BBC that in the Brazilian city of Manaus, there had been a 50 percent increase in lightning strikes in the past 30 years, with a current rate of 13.5 strikes per square kilometer. Pinto Junior also noted that the majority of lightning activity occurred over the city instead of the surrounding, less-developed areas, according to satellite images collected at ELAT.
Overal, the ELAT study reported that of all lightning strikes that occur worldwide, 70% occur in the tropics and subtropics Brazil had the highest number of lightning fatalities in the region.