Flying Through Thunderstorm Equivalent to Getting 400 Chest X-rays?


Photo via: D'Arcy Norman/Flickr

Here's one that motivates me, Miss Wanderlust, to pack away my passport and more seriously consider that staycation.

Recent findings from scientists at the Florida Institute of Technology, UC Santa Cruz and the University of Florida are estimating that airplane passengers and crews traveling through just one thunderstorm of lightening-emitted X-rays, gamma rays and high-energy electrons could be exposed to radiation amounts equal to 400 chest X-rays--the maximum safe radiation exposure over a person's lifetime. Ouch.How often does this shocking phenomenon occur? They're uncertain.

Joe Dwyer, professor of physics and space sciences at Florida Tech said,

"We know that commercial airplanes are typically struck by lightning once or twice a year. What we don't know is how often planes happen to be in just the right place or right time to receive a high radiation dose. We believe it is very rare, but more research is needed to answer the question definitively."

Another variable in the on-going study is that the scientists didn't measure the radiation using airplanes but used satellite and ground-based observations.

This would leave a little more room for hope, but as it turns out, all airplane passengers are apparently exposed to slightly elevated radiation levels due to cosmic rays.

Just more reason for me to keep my carbon footprint low by making a greater effort to find cosmic experiences right here in my hometown.

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