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IMPORTANCE OF LIGHTNING THUNDERSTORMS MAPPING FOR THE


GULF AREA CASE STUDY; SAUDI ARABIA

M. H. Shwehdi and Jamil M. Bakhashwain

Electrical Engineering Department


King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
mshwehdi@kfupm.edu.sa
consistent way with rainfall. There appears to be no
ABSTRACT evidence of any widespread temporal trend in
thunderstorm frequency [1]. Lightning phenomena has
The objective of the paper is highlight the drawn interest by PME of Saudi Arabia and also to
importance of establishing Gulf region data base and SEC, PME has been gathering lightning data at 28
developing the actual Iskruanic level (IKL) maps, locations around the country for about 30 years, while
which is the number of annual thunderstorm days SEC has recently initiated outages recording of its
(Thunders days (TD)); both annual and seasonal power system.
maps will be developed for the Gulf. This
importance of TD maps and database development In Saudi Arabia, no data, records, and information
for the region stems from the fact of the global concerning TD lightning maps has been developed or
climatology changes, and the rapid industrial archived, this leaves utilities with no actual figure for
development in the region. This paper also is to Iskruanic level (TD) for transmission and distribution
stimulate concern amongst the GCC countries to lines shield wires, and protection design In the South
begin collecting of all available data from all sources which is apparently has the highest lightning frequency
in the region, to record all lightning incidence and there seems to be very little information on lightning
help in assuring safe lightning protection devices. activity. The world Iskruanic map established in 1964
indicates that the Iskruanic level in the southern Saudi
On the basis of these maps, the distribution of Arabia is between 5 and 10 thunderstorms days per
thunderstorms over the region can be analyzed in year.
terms of its development factors required for One of the major incidences of lightning effects was
determining lightning performances of transmission reported in the Southern area city of Abha where a
lines and power systems, safety measures of tremendous amount of distribution transformers were
industrial plants. A full case study of the burned. Based on the reported transformer failure rate
thunderstorm days (TD) in different areas of Saudi in the Southern electric company (SCECO) [1], the
Arabia specifically those where lightning strikes are Iskruanic level data used for lightning protection design
more likely to occur can then be easily found is for this region seems to be low and obtained from old
presented. Results of what has been established in map of figure 1.
this paper are based on database and records
available on lightning incidence in Saudi Arabia at
Presidency of Metreology and Environment (PME).

This new Saudi Arabian maps will be a great tool in


assisting electrical engineers in general, also, such
information is very valuable for designing an
optimum quality lightning protection systems for the
entire transmission and distribution , and industrial
systems in the country.

1. Introduction
Thunderstorms are spectacular but hazardous weather
phenomena which, together with high temperature,
winds and safety; top the list of concerns in the
Presidency of Meteorology and Environment of Saudi
Arabia (PME) as well as Saudi Electric Company
(SEC). Thunderstorms are most frequent over the Figure 1 World Isokeraunic Map
southwest of the country, and generally decrease as A report recommended that SCECO-South should track
going to west direction. North and central also have keep data records on lightning, and consider installing
recently more frequent thunderstorms. Thunderstorm lightning detection network. Many utilities in world
frequency does not, in general, appear to vary in any have justified the cost of lightning detection network
2
system based on operation & maintenance crew moist weather time are in general accompanied by
scheduling costs. Such acquisition of detection thunderstorms and lightning.
networks are valuable for correlating with transmission
and distribution equipment failures and outages [2, 8]. Worldwide, lightning accounts for most of the power
supply interruptions in power lines and are one of the
PME do not use any detection and monitoring networks leading causes of disturbances in transmission and
it still uses human observation on its twenty nine sites distribution systems. In the U.S.A. alone, an estimated
location scattered all over the country. This has been 30% of all electric power outages are related to
started since 1951 and data are accumulated until lightning every year, with total costs approaching one
present time. This method of observation may have billion dollars. This includes equipment damaged, loss
some unrealistic records. PME does not archive of lives etc. during thunderstorms. In most area of the
lightning caused losses. Some reports from some world, an indication of lightning activity may be
farmers and public individual who reported the loss of obtained from Iskruanic data (thunderstorm days per
human lives as well as camels, and palm trees burning year) [9, 11-13]
in different areas of Western Province (TAIF). .
In the Central Province (Al-Qaseem) lightning struck The Iskruanic level (IKL) is an indication of regional
some livestock and were dead, and valuable distribution lightning activity based on average quantities derived
equipments has been damaged in different industrial from historically available ground-level observation.
location due to lightning, this large amounts of surfaced
losses, and reported, has initiated the idea of this More detailed depiction of lightning activity may be
lightning research project, and lightning mapping. obtained from lightning ground flash density (GFD)
maps, which are created from information obtained via
Old Iskruanic (Thunders day) maps, although able to lightning detection networks, or by historical lightning
provide an overall idea of lightning incidence at some incidence records that include, current, time, frequency,
locations, yet are not reliable enough for modern date, intensity, etc, from online lightning detection
lightning protection design needs. Damages inflicted by stations [12].
lightning to power lines, structures, buildings, sensitive
installations, dwellings, livestock, etc. can be 2.2 Saudi Arabia Geographical facts and
considerable reduced if Ground Flash Density (GFD) thunderstorms
data based on the newly developed thunderstorm days
maps obtained from the reliable PME observations are
Saudi Arabia is located in Middle East, bordering the
used instead [2-7].
Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of Yemen. Its
geographic coordinates: 25 00 N, 45 00 E, with a total
On-line monitoring of lightning can facilitate improved
land area of 1,960,582 sq km, with a coastline: 2,640
weather forecasts that can, for instance, assist operators
km, and it is slightly more than one-fifth the size of the
of airport control towers for reducing risk of accidents
US.
during landing and take off operations. Reduction of
risk of lightning-caused incidents at sensitive
Climate: harsh, dry desert with great extremes of
installations like those existing in the oil and
temperature, Extreme heat and aridity are characteristic
petrochemical industry can also be achieved [8].
of most of Saudi Arabia. The Arabian Peninsula is one
of the few places in the world where summer
Data has become available from PME sources; where
temperatures above 48° C (120° F) are common, while
the author feels there is sufficiently long period
in winter frost or snow can occur in the interior and the
of data on which to base reliable averages.
higher mountains.
Thunderstorm occurrence at a particular location
is usually expressed as the number of days in a
Precipitation is sparse throughout the country. Annual
calendar year when thunder was heard, averaged
rainfall in Riyadh averages 100 mm (4 in) and falls
over several years.
almost exclusively between January and May; the
average in Jeddah is 61 mm (2.4 in) and occurs between
2. METREOLOGY OF SAUDI ARABIA
November and January. Because of the general aridity,
Saudi Arabia has no permanent rivers or lakes. Terrain:
2.1 Introduction
mostly uninhabited, sandy desert, elevation extremes:
lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m, highest point: Jabal
Many weather and atmospheric centers as well as
Sawda' (south) 3,133 m [1].
astronomy scientists’ recent publications and prediction
indicate the fact that there are global climate changes in
3. LIGHTNING FREQUENCY IN SAUDI ARABIA
the amount of solar, rain, temperature, moist and
dryness amounts of many geographical regions. It is a
3.1 Weather & Thunderstorms of Saudi Arabia
fact that many cold regions had become less in
temporal, rain, and length of such cold period, while
The location of the Saudi Arabia is in the orbital
those of deserts climate is experiencing more rain, and
overheated region that has low clouds which cause
cool periods. This increase in rain amounts and cool
3
thunderstorm. The clouds accumulate on the land of the (June - August). The number of thunderstorms in
Kingdom usually in the winter and spring seasons, and different areas are about 3-8 day in the West and the
rarely in the summer season except in the southern north part 3-10, in the East 5-10 day in the north-east 1-
region because of the southern west winds carrying the 5 day and north-west part about 2-6 days in the South-
clouds. west about 3-10 day, and in the South 5-15 day and
The average of the annual thunderstorms doesn’t exceed South-east part about 8-15. It is interesting to note that
thirty (30) thunderstorm on the majority land of the thunderstorms seem to concentrate around the southern
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia except in the Southern West mountain areas more than other places.
region that reach on some mountain to about ninety
seven (97) thunderstorm in a year while about nine (9) Winter thunderstorms in Saudi Arabia are mainly
thunderstorms on the beach of the Red Sea. In the associated with cold and very unstable air that has been
winter, the average of the thunderstorm on the beach of flowing over relatively warm sea, high CB-clouds
the Arabian Gulf is five (5) thunderstorms while twice develop and occasionally thunderstorms follow.
(2) on the shore of the Red Sea. Thunderstorms during the summertime are on the other
The weather of Saudi Arabia characterizes in summer hand mainly formed inland. As the sun warms the land
season by a clear vision and no thunderstorm except the the air above it also becomes warmer, thus the air may
Southern West region. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia become so unstable that thunderstorm may develop.
the seasons are defined as follows: The frequency of thunderstorms in Saudi Arabia is
lower during spring (April-May) and fall (September -
1. Winter Season months are (December, January, .November), May being the quietest month [1]
February).
2. Spring Season months are (March, April, The data collected from PME locations twenty eight
May). (28) stations during the past (19) years in some stations,
3. Summer Season months are (June, July, twenty four (24) years for other stations and many years
August). for the rest, the average complete data for all is ten (10)
4. Autumn Season months are (September, years.
October, November).
3.2.2 SEC
3.2 Lightning/Thunderstorm days Data Sources in
Saudi Arabia The need to collect as many records of outages of the
SEC transmission lines systems, and their
3.2.1 PME classifications may assist in the validation of PME
lightning records. Utility outages records are usually
The PME has no On-line lightning detection records on detected on a real time and direct protection devices,
the number of thunderstorms (or more precisely thunder which give such data more reliable automatic detection
days), it has kept weather stations around Saudi Arabia over that of human observation. This is an alternative
that cover the period from 1951 year of its validation of the human observed records of PME data
establishment up to present time. The way of PME obtained. The target is to collect from different SEC
detecting the lightning data depends on a human regions all available records as follows:
observation and hearing a thunder and lightning as
observed by the man on charge. Such way may loose 1. Center region from SEC which includes
some of its accuracy due to many human factors error. Riyadh, AL-Qassim, Hail, Dawadmi, Around
At every station in the country and twenty four hours a Riyadh, and AL-Kharj.
day there is a human, who records what he heard and 2. West and South region from SEC.
what he sights as an occurrence of the lightning. Then, 3. East and North region from SEC outages for
all data are added and considered as a summation of the the eastern area which includes Al-Hasa,
lightning during that period (monthly) and accumulate Dammam, and north area.
all the records throughout the year. Each station then
sends this data to PME in JEDDAH which is the center The requested outages data are usually classified in a
in the country where it is gathered and stored in table which contains information such that; the type of
.computer database fault, equipment type, date of fault and restart line, fault
The need for some validation is quite clear for more area, number of circuit in which fault occurs, cause of
accurate mapping. Thunder and lightning observations fault and category, duration of fault and finally the
are more during winter season on many PME locations description of cause. In the causes category faults are
in Riyadh & vicinities AL-Qaseem, Dhahran & classified as the following:
vicinities, and cities of Abha, Taif, and Al-Baha. The a) Equip.’s Problem, b) Relay Problem, c) Human
PME records of the observations show, that Error, Known, d) Unknown, contact and e) Weather.
thunderstorms are most frequent over southern, Eastern,
and central and especially during the winter months The criterion which will be used in this research project
(December-February), also, in the northern region, and for sorting and collecting lightning caused outages from
northwestern parts. The inland central and eastern the utilities outages records would be using each utility
thunderstorms occur also during the summer months classification as follows:
4
sighting locations in Saudi Arabia) heard thunder or
i. if the fault is clearly listed fault due to lightning this seen lightning.
will be taken as a solid first lightning incidence.
ii. if it is classified as transient cause, this will be also This information is published in formal map using
taken as lightning caused fault. Arcview GIS, Figure 2 illustrates the new map of the
iii. the third categorization of lightning caused outages total number of thunderstorms days expected annually,
are those of the weather related faults which are rarely averaged over a number of years. Other seasonal maps
added to lightning. were produced in both color and lines/number contours.
Such maps indicates which of the seasons have more
Any weather related fault is not primarily caused by lightning and at what region of the country.
lightning and higher evaluation and consideration of all
the atmospheric condition, when it occurred etc…is It is obvious that, the highest concentration of Iskruanic
implemented. It is clear from the outages classification level (IKL) during the whole year located in the
that the weather includes many types of forms like southern and mountain regions such as in the city of
foggy, rain, winds and lightning, but the lightning is the Taif, and Abha, while it is very low on the shore sides
clear direct detection. Yes, the lightning possesses of the Red Sea such as Jeddah. Moreover, the seasonal
special characteristics of the weather, and by default the average within the same period was published in map
number of lightning may be increased due to form using GIS as shown in. Such a map is called an
considering its accompanying storm conditions. Iskruanic level (IKL) chart. The chart does not give
information on the severity of lightning, but it supplies
Once those lightning caused faults are collected per valuable data on the relative probability of lightning in
year discussions with utility engineers and PME different regions of Saudi Arabia. Table 1 illustrates that
mythologist to check all faults considered as a lightning the highest average of IKL happened in spring season.
will take place. While, the lowest average happened in summer season.

5. Conclusion and Recommendations


From SEC records only the faults occurring due to the
lightning will be recorded in this project and the rest  Developed maps of the IKL (TD) are the first to be
outages are not of interest to this research and are established in the history of Saudi Arabia. These
neglected. maps are essential for PME, SEC and transmission
and distribution lines designer.
4. RECORDS AND OUTCOME  Need to make validation of the PME data of the
average lightning for nineteen years (19) years with
4.1 Mapping of the thunderstorm days: some other Saudi Arabian lightning data records.
 It is obvious that, the highest concentration of
PME data was collected personally from the central Iskruanic level (IKL) during the whole years
office in Jeddah. Data was received from PME for located in the southern and mountain regions such
twenty eight (28) locations all over the Kingdom and as Taif, Abha, and Al Baha while it is very low on
during different periods range between twenty four (24) the beach of the Red Sea such as Jeddah.
years and nineteen (19) years. All data was received less  The average of the annual thunderstorms doesn’t
than one month ago. A Microsoft Office Excel, exceed thirty (30) thunderstorms on the majority
Microsoft Office Access and statistical methods were land of Saudi Arabia except in the Southern and
used to massage and evaluate how such huge data West regions. However, it reaches in some
would be analyzed. Tabularization and plotting using mountain to about ninety seven (97) thunderstorms
the Microsoft Office Excel program was useful to days per year, while it is very low, around nine (9)
determine the approach of analysis. Moreover, previous thunderstorms, on the shores of the Red Sea.
research that made possible for establishing USA IKL
 Table 4.1 illustrates that the highest average of
level map was also helpful to look into the seasonal
Iskruanic level (IKL) happened in spring season.
categorization as one method for analysis and observing
While, the lowest average happened in summer
the highest lightning density [9-14].
season.
Then the annual lightning flashover per year (Td/yr)
 As a future recommendations, and based on the
was statistically calculated. This will determine the
refined Saudi Arabia IKL maps one can do the
density for one year and at certain PME location. The
following:
total annual average lightning flashover along with the
1. Collection through Lightning detector network all
total seasonal average lightning flashover was
lightning incidence for more characteristics of
determined in tables and plots forms for further use by
lightning types as well as establishment of a
the Simulation GIS software.
national Ground Flash Density Ng equation for
Saudi Arabia, this necessitate to acquire on-line
Table 1 illustrates the seasonal and the annual average
detection network to collect data for a sufficient
data obtained from PME all locations as classified.
time period to obtain more accurate estimation for
For a long time now, PME has collected data for the
lightning, prediction, and parameters beside more
number of days that observers (located throughout
metrological and geographical data.
5
2. Coordination and correlation of outage records if [10] Lightning Ground Flash Density Measurements in
obtained from SEC with lightning location network Canada: 1990-1996’, W. Janischewskyj, J. Beattie
data if acquired to be established, which identifies and W.A. Chisholm, Final Report for Canadian
lightning events that cause flashovers, from other Electrical Association Contract 179T382A, Sept.
causes of outages for the transmission lines. 1998.

Acknowledgements [11] D.J. Boccippio, K.L. Cummins, H.J. Christian


and S.J. Goodman, “Combined Satellite- and
The author appreciates the full financial support by the Surface-Based Estimation of the Intra-cloud-
City of King Abdul Aziz of Science and Technology Cloud to Ground Lightning Ratio over the
(KACST), also continued support of KFUPM. My Continental United States”, Monthly Weather
Sincere Appreciation to my EE students of the Capstone Review Vol.129, pp 108-122
Project Group A of 2004 for excellent participation.
[12] De la Rosa et al, “Lightning Characteristics
6. REFERENCES Relevant for Electrical Engineering: Assessment
of Sensing, Recording and Mapping Requirements
[1] http://www.pme.gov.sa/,Presidencyof Metrological in the Light of Present Technological
& Environment (PME). Advancements”, CIGRE TF·33.01.02, Report No.
94, July 1995.
[2] The IEEE Working Group," Guide for Improving
Lightning Performance of Electric Power Overhead [13] De la Rosa, F, Nucci, C.A., Rakov, V., “Lightning
Distribution Lines," Approved as IEEE Standard and its Impact on Power Systems”, CIGRE SC33
P1410, 2001. International Conference, Zagreb, Croatia, 1998.

[3] Atlas of Saudi Arabia, Ministry of Higher [14] H. Torres, et al “Experiences and first results of
education, 1989 Saudi Arabia Colombian lightning location network”
Proceedings 23rd International Conference on
Lightning Protection, pp. 186-190, Firenze, 1996.
[4] Anderson, R.B., Eriksson, A.J., Kroninger, H.,
Meal, D.V. and Smith, M.A. 1984. Lightning and
thunderstorm parameters, IEEE Int Conf
Lightning and Power Systems, London, UK.

[5] IEEE STD. 1243-1997, IEEE Design Guide for


Improving the Lightning Performance of
Transmission Lines.

[6] De la Rosa et al, “Characterization of lightning for


application to electric power systems”, CIGRE TF
Report, Electra, December 2000.

[7] CIGRE Lightning flash counter. Part 1


Specification. Part 2 Guide for estimating ground
flash density CIGRE lightning flash counter.
Electra, 22, 149-171.

[8] W.R. Burrows, P. King, P.J. Lewis, B.


Kochtubajda, B. Snyder, V. Turcotte, “Lightning
Occurrence Patterns over Canada and Adjacent
United States from Lightning Detection Network
Observations”, Atmosphere-Ocean, 13 Aug 2001.

[9] F. De La Rosa, W. Chisholm, A. Galván, F.


Heidler, V. Rakov, “Lightning Characteristics
Relevant for Electrical Engineering: Assessment
of Sensing, Recording and Mapping Requirements
in the Light of Present Technological
Advancements”, CIGRE Task Force 33.01.02
Brochure 94, 1994
Table 1 the total annual and seasonal average TD for the 19 years

TOTAL AVERAGE
CITY
SUMMER AUTUMN WINTER SPRING ANNUAL
ABHA 42.54 10.25 3.541 41 97.33
ALBAHA 21.05 11.16 2.63 32.58 67.42
ALAHSA 0.26 0.79 6.26 9.74 17.1
AL JOUF 0.16 4.25 2.04 5.54 11.96
ARAR 0.29 5.54 3.13 6.17 15.13
BISHA 3.89 4.05 2.11 25.16 35.21
DHAHRAN 0.04 1.67 5.88 8.58 16.17
QASSIEM 0.21 5.53 5.47 12.63 23.84
GURAYAT 0.05 5.58 2 3.89 11.53
HAFR 0.23 3.31 5.92 10.54 20
HAIL 0.58 8.92 4.25 15.46 29.21
JIZAN 17.14 16.38 1.1 4.14 38.76
JEDDAH 1.17 4.08 1.92 1.83 9
KFIA 0 2 7.75 5 14.75
KHAMIS 29.83 7.33 3.42 35.52 76.13
KKIA 0.13 0.83 2.67 8.33 11.96
MADINAH 2.83 7 2.67 7.71 20.21
MAKKAH 2.89 9.95 2.95 3.68 19.47
NAJRAN 3.74 0.47 0.79 11.11 12.75
QAISUMA 0.37 5.4 8.12 11.58 25.5
RAFHA 0.13 4.54 2.67 5.96 13.29
RIYADH Old 0.25 1 4.46 10.04 15.75
SHARORAH 3.37 0.89 0.74 5.05 10.1
TABUK 0.79 6.54 2.63 4.54 14.5
TAIF 16.86 29.59 6.55 43 96
TURIEF 0.32 6.95 1.68 6.95 15.89
Wadi Dwaser 0.78 0.5 0.89 5 7.17
WAJH 0.04 1.38 2.1 0.96 4.46
YANBU 0.47 3.82 1.77 1.14 7.14
Figure 2 The Annual Average Thunderstorm/days/year of Saudi Arabia in lines contour