Having been swimming a few times recently when a thunderstorm developed, I've started wondering what the actual dangers are (please note - I'm more interested in this from a science perspective; I get out of the water if a storm develops, and would advise anyone to do the same). Here's what I think I know of the matter, from some reading on the Internet as well as my own (basic) scientific knowledge, and some questions. Any pointers to research on this would be appreciated.
- As a swimmer, you're a bit higher than the surrounding water, but not by much, particularly if there's waves. So the risk of a direct strike is probably not significantly increased.
- The electric current dissipates outwards, near the surface of the water, and can spread some distance (not sure how much)
- Fresh water is a worse conductor than salty water, so swimming in a lake/pool is more dangerous (in a storm, than in seawater), since the electric current will prefer better conductors.
- Lightning is extremely loud at the strike zone; the noise alone could cause deafness/ear damage.
- Being on land (exposed) during a storm is probably more dangerous than being in the water - you're taller, and not surrounded by a conductive medium.
- How much does the temperature of the water/air increase near a lightning strike?
- My main question is, if you are in the presence of a direct lightning strike at sea, would the sea water all around you act like a Faraday cage, and take the electric current around your body rather than through it?