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Practical calculations of lightning strikes frequency
Practical calculations of lightning strikes frequency (on photo: Lightning striking behind the new Manitoba Hydro Building by jolenetara via Flickr)

Frequency of lightning strikes

We distinguish between the following frequencies of lightning strikes which can be relevant for a building or structure:

  • ND – Frequency of direct lightning strikes to the building or structure;·
  • NM – Frequency of close lightning strikes with electromagnetic effects;
  • NL – Frequency of direct lightning strikes in utility lines entering the building or structure;
  • NI – Frequency of lightning strikes adjacent to utility lines entering the building or structure.

The calculation of the frequencies of lightning strikes is given in detail in Annex A of IEC 62305-2 (EN 62305-2).

For practical calculations it is recommendable to take the annual density of the cloud-to-earth flashes Ng for the region under consideration from Figure 1.

If a finer grid is used, the local values of the lightning densities can still deviate noticeably from these averages. Owing to the relatively short time of seven years the map has been recorded, and to the large area averaging according to licence plate number areas, the application of a safety factor of 25 % to the values given in Figure 1 is recommended.

Lightning density in Germany (average of 1999-2005)
Figure 1 – Lightning density in Germany (average of 1999-2005)

For the frequency of directlightning strikes ND to the building or structure we have:

ND = Ng · Ad · Cd · 10-6

Ad is the equivalent interception area of the isolated building or structure (Figure 2), Cd a site factor so that the influence of the surroundings (built-up, terrain, trees, etc.) can be taken into account (Table 1).


Similarly, the frequency of close lightning strikes NM can be calculated:

NM = Ng · Am · 10-6


Table 1 – Site factor Cd

Relative site of the building or structureCd
Object is surrounded by higher objects or trees0.25
Object is surrounded by objects or trees of the same or lower height0.5
Free-standing object: no further objects near by (within a distance of 3H)1
Free-standing object on top of a moutain or a rounded hilltop2
Equivalent interception area Ad for direct lightning strikes into a stand-alone structure
Figure 2 – Equivalent interception area Ad for direct lightning strikes into a stand-alone structure

Equivalent interception areas Ad, Al, Aa for direct lightning strikes into structures
Figure 3 – Equivalent interception areas Ad, Al, Aa for direct lightning strikes into structures / supply lines and Am, Ai for indirect lightning strikes near the structures / supply lines


Table 2 – Equivalent interception areas Al and Ai in m2

Overhead lineUnderground cable
Al[ Lc – 3 · (Ha + Hb) ] · 6 · Hc[ Lc – 3 · (Ha + Hb) ] · 6 · √ρ
Ai100 · Lc25 · Lc · √ρ

Table 3 – Environment factor Ce

EnvironmentCe
Urban with high buildings or structures (higher than 20 m)0
Urban (buildings or structures of heights between 10 m and 20 m)0.1
Suburban (buildings or structures not higher than 10 m)0.5
Rural1

Nl = Ng · Ai · Ct · Ce · 10-6

The area Ai (Figure 3) is again a function of the type of line (overhead line, underground cable), the length LC of the line; in the case of cables, it is a function of the earth resistivity ρ; and for overhead lines it is a function of the height HC of the line above ground level (Table 3).

The same worst-case scenario applies. The area Ai is usually significantly larger than Al. This makes allowance for the fact that surges resulting in faults or damage to electrical and electronic systems can also be caused by lightning strikes further away from the line.

The correction factors Ct and Ce correspond to those already stated above. The frequency Nl must then also be determined individually for each utility line entering the building or structure.


Close Up Lightning Strike Compilation (VIDEO)


Reference: Lightning Protection Guide – Dehn

About Author //

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Edvard Csanyi

Edvard - Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, buildings and industry fascilities. Designing of LV/MV switchgears.Professional in AutoCAD programming and web-design.Present on

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