It's Twitter for lightning strikes

June 10, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

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Quick, how many lightning strikes have we had in the United States through June 3?

If you said 5,589,686, come on down, because you obviously know your thunderstorms. And you are probably already aware that for the same time period a year ago, we had 6,517,381 lightning strikes.

I know what you're thinking: Now that I know that, what do I do?

I'm pretty much thinking the same thing. The news is brought to us by, which theorizes that colder weather up north has led to fewer thunderstorms and fewer tornadoes than a year ago. In fact, some experts are concluding that for the Northeast, this might be a "year without a summer" because the jet stream is "suppressed abnormally south."

Aside from the fact they obviously have ignored the cloud-seeding factor, I don't like the sounds of a suppressed jet stream. Sounds as if it might pop up at any moment like a can o' snakes and do who knows what. Suppress the jet stream at your own risk, I say.


But the more pressing issue at the moment is this: Who in the world sits there and keeps count of lightning strikes? And how? And might there be a better use of his time? Come on, Wal-Mart's hiring. You can come down off that watchtower now and become a contributing member of society.

But it doesn't stop there, although I wish it would. Apparently -- well, there is no way I can put this into my own words, so I will quote directly from AccuWeather:

"Keep track of lightning in your area by using MapSpace on Lightning Strikes will debut next week, which is the best lightning data available for free on the Internet.

"You can also have lightning alerts, including real-time lightning strikes, delivered straight to your e-mail and mobile by signing up for our LightningPlus subscription service, at"

A third of me is thinking this is really cool. A third of me is trying to figure out why the first third of me would be thinking that. And the final third is convinced this is the most insane thing I have ever heard of.

Lightning hits a sycamore in Rohrersville, and I know about it in real time. Great. I'm unclear as to whether you get a separate e-mail for each lightning strike, or if they have some kind of map with pushpins.

Whatever, I actually went to sign up, but soon discovered to obtain LightningPlus, you had to subscribe to RadarPlus, and RadarPlus is a fee-based service, and you have to upgrade from the Bronze Service to the Silver Service to get your lightning strikes in real time (I hardly think "recent strikes" does me any good at all) and it all was getting too complex.

If you're at all tempted though, I recommend you go for the Platinum Service, which "includes technical details such as polarity, multiplicity, amplitude and flash/stroke determination."

Really, if you don't know a lightning strike's polarity, what's the point? I'm a little disappointed they don't give us its ethnicity and favorite foods.

If nothing else, I suppose this information will give geezers something to talk about 60 years down the road: "Yep, I remember that lightning strike like it was yesterday. A multiplicity like nothin' you ever see. And amplitude? Hmph, don't mention it. Don't reckon a lightning strike will ever come around again like what that was."

Don't knock it. It makes small talk about the weather slightly more interesting.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or by e-mail at Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under, on or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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