Beijing faces lightning threat during 2008 Olympic Games

By Xinhua

Beijing : Two meteorologists have warned that the Chinese capital would possibly encounter a high frequency of lightning strikes during the Olympic season next summer and protection should be made in particularly vulnerable areas.
In an academic paper submitted Thursday to the ongoing 13th International Conference on Atmospheric Electricity, Guo Hu, head of the Beijing Meteorological Observatory (BMO), and his fellow researcher Xiong Yajun concluded, after studying the 11-year lightning disaster data from 1995 to 2005, that Haidian District was the area most seriously affected by lightning disasters.

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Haidian was among the high-frequency regions of natural lightning with lots of universities, research institutes, tall buildings and electric equipment based there, they said.

Most of the 31 Beijing Olympic venues are located in Haidian and some are open-air.

The China Meteorological Administration also revealed that lightning disasters resulted in 12 deaths, 30 injuries and 246 damage reports from 1997 to 2005 in Beijing.

Compared with other parts of northern China, Beijing is more likely to be hit by thunderstorms and lightning due to its geographical and meteorological conditions, the experts said.

The sky over Beijing has been monitored by the country’s best facilities. There are four lightning monitors covering most areas of Hebei province adjacent to Beijing. A Doppler radar takes the mission of scanning 300 square km surrounding the capital. In addition, a satellite surveys most part of north China.

Guo said the prediction and warning system is able to produce the next 24-hour thunderstorm potential objective forecast and the next two-hour thunderstorm warning.

The real-time radar and other parts of the monitoring system would collect lightning data, which are automatically categorised by the BMO neural networks. Meteorologists then use the data to analyse the approaching thunderstorms and forecast areas that would be possibly affected.

The BMO tested its contingency plan for thunderstorm forecast service Aug 8, exactly one year before the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It reported three possible thunderstorms, gales or lightning to the Olympic organisers during the test.

At least six additional observation points have been built around the Olympic venues for weather surveillance.