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Deaths by Lightning in Mexico (1979–2011): Threat or Vulnerability?

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  • 1 Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, México
  • | 2 Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Colonia Tlalpan, México
  • | 3 Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, México
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Abstract

This paper presents evidence of the geographical distribution of deaths due to lightning over Mexico for the period 1979–2011. Over 7300 deaths occurred during this period, an average of 230 per year, which translates into an average fatality rate per million inhabitants of 2.72 (1979–2011). A total of 60% of the fatal victims occur in only 7 out of the 32 states in Mexico, with the largest fraction occurring in the state of Estado de México (24%). The largest death toll is found in the young male population, in rural regions of the states of Estado de México, Michoacán, and Oaxaca, where the population density is low. The results have indicated a clear bias in the fatal victims toward boys and young males (under the age of 25), with more than 45% of the total deaths in that segment of the population. While female deaths constitute a small fraction of the total number, the under-25 age segment also has the largest number of fatal victims.

A county-level analysis of socioeconomic indicators clearly suggests that the geographical distribution of deaths is not correlated with population density nor with the maximum lightning density, but rather with vulnerability. The spatial distribution of deaths is better correlated with exposure to thunderstorms, agricultural activities, and low education levels. The large social vulnerability of those regions combined with the lack of recognition of the problem by society and the government are more likely responsible for the large death toll.

Corresponding author address: Graciela B. Raga, Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Circuito Exterior s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Delegación Coyoacan, Mexico City DF 04510, México. E-mail: raga.graciela@gmail.com

A comment/reply has been published regarding this article and can be found at http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/WCAS-D-14-00046.1 and http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/WCAS-D-15-0006.1

Abstract

This paper presents evidence of the geographical distribution of deaths due to lightning over Mexico for the period 1979–2011. Over 7300 deaths occurred during this period, an average of 230 per year, which translates into an average fatality rate per million inhabitants of 2.72 (1979–2011). A total of 60% of the fatal victims occur in only 7 out of the 32 states in Mexico, with the largest fraction occurring in the state of Estado de México (24%). The largest death toll is found in the young male population, in rural regions of the states of Estado de México, Michoacán, and Oaxaca, where the population density is low. The results have indicated a clear bias in the fatal victims toward boys and young males (under the age of 25), with more than 45% of the total deaths in that segment of the population. While female deaths constitute a small fraction of the total number, the under-25 age segment also has the largest number of fatal victims.

A county-level analysis of socioeconomic indicators clearly suggests that the geographical distribution of deaths is not correlated with population density nor with the maximum lightning density, but rather with vulnerability. The spatial distribution of deaths is better correlated with exposure to thunderstorms, agricultural activities, and low education levels. The large social vulnerability of those regions combined with the lack of recognition of the problem by society and the government are more likely responsible for the large death toll.

Corresponding author address: Graciela B. Raga, Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Circuito Exterior s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Delegación Coyoacan, Mexico City DF 04510, México. E-mail: raga.graciela@gmail.com

A comment/reply has been published regarding this article and can be found at http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/WCAS-D-14-00046.1 and http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/WCAS-D-15-0006.1

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