What are the real odds of being killed by lightning, if you are outside in a field during a storm?
July 17, 2009 7:54 AM Subscribe
What are the real odds of being killed by lightning, if you are outside in a field during a storm (i.e. factoring OUT all the people smart enough to stay inside)?
posted by Jim Biancolo to science & nature (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I realize this is unanswerable with any precision, and perhaps even in ballpark figures, but thought I'd give it a go. I have a hard time convincing some of my teammates to stop playing when a thunderstorm approaches (or is overhead!). Invariably somebody points out that statistically you're very safe, with only a handful of people killed each year out of 300M in the US. I looked up the stats...
... and the 30-year average is 62 deaths per year. So, sure, 62 out of 300 million are pretty good odds.
I looked at the locations for all the people killed in 2006-2009 at the site above, and sure enough they were all outside.
So really, the odds are not "62 in 300 million" they are "62 in X number of people unfortunate or stupid enough to be outside during a storm."
A long shot, I know, but is there any good way to ballpark X in a way that makes the "definite fun" vs. "possible death" tradeoff more ominous? Again, the conditions are standing out in a field, storm a mile away or closer (sometimes much closer).