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Wits hosts international lightning conference - a first for Africa

- Wits University

Lightning protection research is paramount in order to safeguard people, animals, and infrastructure against one of the biggest weather-related killers.

The 2022 International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP)

For the first time in its 71 years history, the International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP), one of the most prestigious international lightning protection conferences, is coming to the African continent.

Celebrating its centenary this year, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) in Johannesburg, South Africa, will be hosting 36th International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP) from 2 – 7 October 2022. The Conference will take place at the Cape Town International Conference Centre (CTICC) in Cape Town, South Africa.

Registration is still open to researchers, academics, industry and alike who have an interest in lightning research, protection, and safety.


With some of the most spectacular thunderstorms in the world, South Africa’s long history of lightning research, such as the work being done at the Johannesburg Lightning Research Laboratory (JLRL) at Wits University, and our experienced lightning protection industry, ICLP 2022 and South Africa are a natural fit.

"Lightning is one of the biggest weather-related killers in the world, claiming the lives of more than 24 000 people worldwide each year. In South Africa alone, more than 250 people are killed by lightning annually and thousands more are injured, while insurance claims are estimated to be more than R500 million each year.

“Southern Africa as a climate change hotspot is likely to see increased lightning activity, making the study of lightning in the Global South paramount to mitigate the dangers to human safety and economic sustainability,” says Dr Hugh Hunt, Head of the JLRL at Wits and Technical Chair of ICLP 2022.

ICLP 2022 offers a platform for the exchange of scientific and technical information related to lightning phenomena and protection against these phenomena.

“The Conference will have technical presentations from more than 150 lightning protection experts around the world, looking at everything from how to better protect renewable energy systems to how to predict approaching storms using artificial intelligence," says Hunt.

The ICLP, first held in Germany in 1951, has become the largest biennial conference that forms a global platform where the academic and industry giants of lightning protection come together and exchange scientific and technological knowledge through presentations, discussion, workshops and exhibitions. Typically, it has an attendance of more than 300 participants representing over 40 countries.

Lightning and lightning protection research at Wits University

Professor Ian Jandrell, registered international professional engineer renowned for his scientific work over 30 years that focuses on lightning injury and the risks associated with lightning, and the current Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Systems and Operations at Wits University, has lobbied for many years to bring ICLP to South Africa.

As the 2022 Conference Chair, Jandrell leads a team of leading lightning researchers from Wits University in organising and hosting this year’s ICLP.

"Our interest at Wits is the impact of lightning on humanity and, not only on human lives but industry, society and how we manage the risk associated with lightning. With Wits' critical contribution to our changing environment, I cannot think of a more appropriate place to hold the 36th International Conference on Lightning Protection for the first time on the African continent. Significantly, this opportunity to host the ICLP is in our Centenary Year – and forms part of the University’s celebrations,” says Jandrell.

One of the significant lightning research entities in Africa is the Johannesburg Lightning Research Laboratory (JLRL), based in the School of Electrical and Information Engineering at Wits University.

“In Johannesburg we are exposed to an average of 15 to 20 flashes per square kilometre per year - a high flash density for a country’s main economic centre,” says Hunt, JLRL Head. The JLRL aims to harness this flash density and continue South Africa’s rich history of lightning research, making measurements of ground-truth lightning events to better understand the physics and behaviour of the lightning phenomenon with an aim to improve lightning protection systems and human safety.

The JLRL’s latest research includes finding the ‘smoking gun’ in forensic lightning pathology that can help forensic teams understand whether people or animals were the victims of fatal lightning strikes, based solely upon an analysis of their skeletons. Read more.

The JLRL has also turned Johannesburg into a ‘live lightning laboratory’ in collaboration with the private sector to install a lightning current measurement device on the Sentech Tower in Brixton, Johannesburg. Read more.

About #Wits100

The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) is a leading African university ranked in the top 1% of universities in the world. In 2022, Wits celebrates 100 years of academic and research excellence, social justice, and the advancement of the public good. In our pursuit to positively impact humanity, our innovative technology-driven research aims to transform and prepare society for a collective and common digital future. Our research output has doubled in the past five years and offers new ways to impact society for good, as well as astounding ‘moonshot moments’ that give us hope and inspiration. Visit #WitsForGood